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July 23, 2013

Switching leagues a clear boost to Aggies

MORE: Team rankings 2014

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

At the recently completed SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., the word "recruiting" was used 49 times while coaches and league officials were at the podium.

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin uttered it four times in his opening remarks. Conversely, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel did not discuss recruiting in his address, nor was he asked about it by reporters while he was in front of the masses.

The two coaches are not the only examples after conference realignment saw six programs switch leagues last season. All expected a major boost in the living rooms of prospects across their footprint. However, only Texas A&M and West Virginia capitalized, while Colorado, Missouri, TCU and Utah did not.

Sumlin gave a nod to the fans for boosting the excitement level surrounding the program and helping with the run.

"That momentum has translated into positive things in recruiting those 31 young men to come to our campus, which was a highly rated recruiting class," Sumlin said. "It's translated to where we are right now in terms of this year's recruiting class, some of the recruiting classes down the road, a number of young men who have committed to us."

The current Texas A&M class is ranked No. 9 in the country, and it is poised for a top 10 finish.

The group of future-Aggies is headlined by a trio of players with a Rivals.com-ranking of 6.0.

Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain quarterback Kyle Allen moved up from the No. 9 pro-style passer in the country into a discussion for the top overall quaterback, and potentially a five-star player based on his performance at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour. Richmond (Texas) Travis defensive back Nick Harvey and LaPorte (Texas) High linebacker Hoza Scott round out the group but there are five more four-star players currenly in the class.

After landing Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest receiver Dorial Green-Beckham -- the nation's top player -- in the class of 2012 the Tigers recruiting efforts took a step back in 2013.

The current class has 14 commitments but is without a single four-star player.

Pinkel said there is a process for improvement but that the SEC is what he expected, even if the results were not what he wanted.

"The SEC is what I thought it was going to be," he said. "It's a line-of-scrimmage league. I knew that coming in. Great football teams start at their line of scrimmage.

"Certainly, it's remarkably competitive. We had six games that went down to the last drive of the game. We won three, lost three. We're used to winning in the fourth quarter."

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said that for the team to take that step on the field it will need to increase its focus in recruiting.

"I think Missouri needs to get both feet into SEC territory and start getting SEC-caliber players on the roster -- not just on the lines, but everywhere -- kids who can make spectacular plays all over the field," Farrell said. "Geographically, I think Missouri is at a disadvantage, but no one in that conference is going to feel sorry for them because of it.

"To win in the fourth quarter, you need to have a playmaker or two and you need to not wear down. That is just a fact in that conference, and it starts with getting those players into the program."

Whether any of the four teams that fell back -- or moved laterally -- can rebound will only be determined in time, but none is inside the top 25 of recruiting.

Here is a breakdown of what each has done historically versus what it did in its first year playing in its new conference:

The Buffaloes moved from the Big 12 to the Pac-12 and continued their downward spiral. The program limped to the finish and fired Jon Embree, replacing him with former San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre. The program finished with 1,095 recruiting points, which is considerably less than its historical achievements.

Colorado has eight commitments and just 420 recruiting points for 2014, giving the Buffaloes a No. 73 national ranking.

There are more than seven months until National Signing Day, and Farrell said the program needs to exercise patience to regain its former self.

"I don't know if the move to the Pac-12 was the best for this program, but they thought it would boost recruiting in California, which hasn't paid off just yet," Farrell said. "Colorado has a good tradition, a good fan base and good facilities, so I think that if they give MacIntrye five or seven years instead of three to turn it around, then they will be successful.

"The bottom line is that it is hard to go into California with any kind of swagger and get kids out when you are playing terrible football. Things need to change, but I think the Pac-12 is a conference that can be had."

While Missouri was never truly a recruiting juggernaut, it was consistent in the Big 12. However, the Tigers dropped nearly 300 recruiting points from their average during the first year in the SEC.

Just beyond the midpoint of July, the Tigers have 13 commitments for 675 points, which is right on pace for a similar class to the one they had last year.

Farrell believes that Pinkel is a good coach, but the rumors of him consistently being on the hot seat will work against the program much more in the new conference.

"If they suspected negative recruiting against them in the Big 12, it will be exponentially worse in the SEC," Farrell said. "It is like kindergarten in the Big 12 for negative recruiting when compared to the SEC.

"I think that Pinkel has been a good coach at Missouri, but sometimes there needs to be a change, even if it is just to get consistency. I don't want to say that he deserves to be fired at all, because I don't think he deserves that, but either the questions about his job security need answering or he needs to be let go because otherwise every kid they recruit who overlaps with an SEC school will hear all about how Pinkel won't be there for four years."

The true shining stars in the conference realignment boost were the Aggies.

Texas A&M finished the class of 2013 with 2,332 recruiting points, which is 300 more than the previous season and roughly 400 points higher than the program's historical rankings.

The current class has 1,659 points and still figures to take 10 or more players. It should easily eclipse the point total from last season.

Farrell said Sumlin and the program took full advantage of everything that was working in their favor.

"The force was with them last year," Farrell said. "It wasn't luck, but it certainly wasn't expected. The move to the SEC was going to give them a little bump, but then getting Johnny Football and beating Alabama and all the exposure took it to another level.

"Even with all of that, you still have to do the job and recruit, but I don't think even the most passionate Texas A&M fan would honestly tell you they anticipated what happened last year. It was the perfect storm, and they capitalized and are still moving forward.

"This could be the start of something really great," Farrell said. "I look at what Florida was able to do with Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow and all the success and draw the parallels. Those guys made the success under Steve Spurrier look just pretty good. I think Texas A&M can do the same thing to its former glory days."

There is no need to panic here.

TCU lost an entire seven points from one recruiting class to the next, but the lateral movement was not what Horned Frogs fans were expecting going from the Mountain West to the Big East (for a hot second) and then into the Big 12.

The current group has eight commits and 570 points. With the current offers out and positions of need, there is no reason to think that the class is going to be on par with the historical averages or be in line with what happened last year.

Farrell said TCU could have seen a boost had it not been for what was happening elsewhere.

"TCU ran into a situation where every other school it recruits against -- save for Texas -- has improved," he said. "Texas Tech made a splashy coaching hire last year, Texas A&M moved into juggernaut status, and Baylor has seen a boost with RGIII and what has been happening there.

"I don't think that its leveling off last year was indicative of anything that TCU did, but rather those other schools. The move will still help TCU in the long run because they are in a major conference and can sell a lot of those same things that the other programs in the state are selling."

Utah was in line with TCU in that it took a slight step back, but relatively speaking, it was the difference of one four-star prospect.

The program dipped to 1,455 points last year, which was about 150 off its previous year's results, but a negligible drop compared to its historical average. Currently, Utah has nine pledges and 565 points.

Farrell said the move to the Pac-12 was not expected to do much for Utah because of its long-held philosophy in recruiting.

"When you study Utah recruiting, it is a different kind of program," he said. "They will take kids from within the state that no one else is recruiting to keep those pipelines going and try to develop players, and then they will work into California for more players.

"Nothing about their philosophy has changed and I suppose it shouldn't because the team has been pretty successful, but I don't know if it is a sexy enough place to sell to every recruit who wants to play in the conference. There are always going to be limitations for recruiting because a lot of kids will just not want to go college in Utah."

West Virginia took a small step forward as it moved to the Big 12 last season, when its recruiting class improved just 30 points over the previous year, but that was nearly 200 points better than its historical marks.

The current group is a little slow getting out of the gate. The program has only six commitments and is ranked No. 67.

Farrell said he expects the Mountaineers to take even greater advantage of the change of scenery.

"Honestly, getting away from the Big East was like being cured of a deadly disease, and the conference change is only going to make things better for West Virginia," Farrell said. "The offense that they want to run is perfect for the conference, and their defense is awful, which also fits in just fine.

"Kids are going to want to play in that system, and they will be able to recruit better. West Virginia was a program that had to expand its footprint for recruiting regardless, because it cannot fill a roster with homegrown kids, and this move makes it more attractive to many."



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