For years, decades even, the wealth of young football talent in Texas has helped ensure that the state’s prestige college football programs — Texas, Texas A&M, more recently TCU and Baylor — remain among the nation’s most competitive. Now, as national recruiting combines draw top athletes farther afield and the one-time barriers to entry melt away, more and more top Texas talent is headed beyond the state border to test their collegiate mettle.
The past weekend served as a case-in-point of that exact phenomenon. Three different four-star recruits from the Lone Star State announced their college decisions. None picked a school in the state of Texas.
The highest ranked among the trio is Akinola Ogunbiyi, a 6-foot-4, 329-pound offensive tackle for Kempner High School in Sugar Land. Ogunbiyi spent the past two weeks visiting Oklahoma and then Georgia, and was eventually drawn to Athens by Georgia’s famed offensive line coach.
“It is a great program, the coaches are great, (offensive line) coach (Sam) Pittman is a great coach and I just feel like in the future they are going to be a powerhouse, just like Bama,” Ogunbiyi told 247Sports.
“(Pittman) cares, he gets to know you before the process of recruiting ever really starts. He gets to know about your family, where you come from, and he tells you a lot about him, so this thing is going both ways. I get to know a lot about my coach before I get there and he gets to know a lot about the kid he is going to coach before I get there. I feel like that is why a lot of his players are successful because they work hard for him.”
While Oklahoma lost out on Ogunbiyi, they did land another major Texas prospect in Ryan Watts, the four-star Little Elm High School cornerback. While Texans picking Oklahoma is nothing particularly new, Watts insisted that Oklahoma’s proximity to Texas, oft cited as a key drawing trait for Texans who head north of the Red River, was not a major contributory factor to his decision.
“Location and distance from home really played no part in this,” Watts told 247Sports. “I mean, I didn’t go into it with that being a deciding factor. The more I got thinking about how easy it is to get to OU, the more it became obvious that was a place for me. Every time I visited it seemed like home and I have such a strong relationship with the staff and players. Just felt like it was time to make my decision.”
The third big-time commit from Texas was Cy Creek (Houston) linebacker Josh White, who picked the Tigers ahead of Oklahoma State and a host of SEC powers including Alabama and Big XII contenders Oklahoma and, yes, Texas.
The defections aren’t a positive trend for the class of Texas’ college football programs, particularly Texas and Texas A&M. Still, they demonstrate the flip side of the coin, which is that Texas and A&M are themselves pulling in far more top level talent from far afield. It may make for a slightly strange cultural milieu, but it also makes for successful football teams.