All-American Bowl: Which program owns the state of Texas?
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- It remains unclear who the top prospect in Texas signed with at the tail end of the Early Signing Window earlier this month.
Zachary Evans, the five-star running back from Galena Park (Texas) North Shore High School, has somehow managed to keep his destination a secret, but all signs point to an out-of-state SEC team landing the All-American talent.
In fact, that was a theme inside the Lone Star State for this 2020 class.
Behind Evans in the Texas state rankings is five-star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who lifted Rockwall to a deep playoff run and reset the record books in the process this past fall. Smith-Njigba signed with Ohio State.
Both Evans and Smith-Njigba flirted with in-state teams before signing elsewhere during the Early Signing Period, but neither Texas nor Texas A&M could manage signatures with the state’s top-ranked prospects. The same goes for TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech or SMU, for that matter, but the spotlight -- and truthfully, the expectations -- are always bigger in Texas for the Longhorns and the Aggies.
MORE ALL-AMERICAN BOWL: Prospects that could earn a fifth star | Lavon Bunkley-Shelton | Jahmyr Gibbs | Dwight McGlothern | Bryan Bresee | Alfred Collins
CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State
Texas managed to sign one player ranked inside the top-10, quarterback Hudson Card, and had to fend off a late push from Georgia to do so. The Longhorns were less lucky when it came to Rivals100 wide receiver Quentin Johnston, who flipped to TCU on the Monday ahead of the signing period. The Longhorns also received letters of intent from Vernon Broughton (No. 13); Xavion Alford (No. 14), Jerrin Thompson (No. 16), Jake Majors (No. 22) and Prince Dorbah (No. 23) and Ja’Quinden Jackson (No. 27), all of who were nationally ranked prospects from the state.
The secret to the Longhorns' success centers around Director of Recruiting Bryan Carrington. In the midst of Texas' coaching changes, Carrington has made in-home visits with recruits and helped the majority of the in-state recruits inside the class stick even as new staff is finalized.
"He can get anyone if he wants to," Rivals250 cornerback Dwight McGlothern told Rivals.
McGlothern was an early Texas offer that will more than likely playing his college football out-of-state. USC, LSU and Oregon are among the favorites for the four-star from The Woodlands, Texas, who is well-aware of how critical Carrington is to Longhorns recruiting.
"He got almost all of their recruits there. It's how he is and how good of a person he is and how cool he is and how real he is. He gives it to kids straight up, talks about how it can impact you and he isn't gonna sugarcoat it. He's the heart of the team."
"Oscar Giles and Bryan Carrington ... they did a great job," added Rivals250 outside linebacker Prince Dorbah, who signed with Texas. "They do a great job recruiting Texas kids. They're always around high school football in Texas, coming to games and recruiting us. Carrington, he acts and thinks like a student-athlete better than anyone else does. He thinks like us, he acts like us and he knows what we feel. I felt comfortable knowing that and where I wanted to be."
While Texas dominated with prospects ranked inside the top-50, the Aggies fared a bit better at the top in 2020, signing two of Texas’ top-five players in Demond Demas (five-star) and Jaylon Jones. They also received signatures from Akinola Ogunbiyi (No. 11) and Haynes King (No. 15).
Texas and Texas A&M have gone head-to-head on a number of the state's best prospects, including Rivals250 safety Xavion Alford, who at one point was favoring the Aggies before pledging to Texas before his senior season at Shadow Creek. Nonetheless, Jimbo Fisher gave Alford plenty to consider before committing elsewhere.
"Coach Jimbo Fisher is a real one," he said. "I'm the type of person who likes to have fun. If it's time to have fun, if I'm playing, I'm having fun. At the Texas A&M cookout, he (Fisher) was out there shooting balls, having fun, dribbling and shooting around. Then after, in the office, it was down to business. He said, 'We need you and we want you,' so it was fun and games until it was time for business."
Like A&M, TCU made some noise at the top of the state rankings. Johnston’s late flip paired with Rivals250 tackle Garrett Hayes’ surprising decision to commit to the Horned Frogs over Texas A&M was colossal for Gary Patterson’s class.
Patterson, as we all know, is the longest-tenured college coach in the Lone Star State. He's the second-longest tenured coach in the country. He's established the Horned Frogs as a legitimate power both on the field and on the recruiting trail.
"Coach Patterson is a great coach," Alford said. He's defensive-minded, he coaches the defensive backs. I remember camping for them as a sophomore. He stayed on me the whole time in my recruitment. He texted me, my coaches about wanting me and needing me at TCU. He wanted to come make an impact early and outside of me going there, we had a great relationship and I respect him for how he recruited me."
Elsewhere in the Big 12, Matt Rhule's Bears were one of college football's surprises in 2019. Baylor's on-the-field success translated to a commitment from four-star Newton defensive end James Sylvester and fending off Texas for four-star Lamar Consolidated running back Taye McWilliams.
Baylor could continue to rise in the national recruiting rankings by landing a commitment from uncommitted four-star quarterback Malik Hornsby, a one-time North Carolina commitment that's strongly considering the Bears along with Arkansas and Purdue. The Fort Bend Marshall signal-caller has built a strong rapport with the Baylor coaches and appreciates the program's emphasis on a family-oriented environment, a theme under Rhule's leadership in Waco.
"Coach (Glenn) Thomas, Baylor, that's family," said Hornsby. "They're funny and they are all about family. They never lied to me. They kept it real and hopefully, it'll stick that way."
Texas, Texas A&M, TCU and Baylor all drew praises from the state's to prospects, but there's one out-of-state program that recruits the Lone Star State just as well as anyone in it. That, of course, is Oklahoma, the Big 12 champions who are also in a position to sign a top-10 class depending on how February shakes out.
The Sooners have routinely made noise in Texas -- historically and in the present. Nate Anderson, Seth McGowan, Bryson Washington, Jalin Conyers and Marvin Mims are Rivals250 signees from the state -- and so is Joshua Eaton, who made a last-second decision to commit and sign with Oklahoma during the Early Signing Period.
The spotlight is on Alfred Collins as February's signing day approaches. Oklahoma is battling Texas, Baylor and Alabama for the Rivals250 defensive end, who admitted Lincoln Riley and the Sooners' staff have made quite the impression on as a decision nears.
"Oklahoma, they're just constantly on me," he said., "Texting me, checking up on me. You usually don't get too many calls from head coaches, but I get a lot of that from coach Riley. They text me a lot."