Aggies’ move to SEC isn’t hurting recruiting

Signing day will come and go at Texas A&M on Wednesday just like it would if the Aggies had decided to remain in the Big 12 this fall.

Whether the move to the SEC will impact the Aggies in the future remains to be seen. But one thing seems clear – A&M’s decision to leave for the SEC isn’t going to hurt the Aggies this year.

“I haven’t seen a negative impact at all,” said Billy Liucci, who is the owner/editor of Texags.com, the popular A&M site for recruiting and all things athletics related to A&M. “I seriously doubt there’s a kid who would have come but didn’t because of the SEC. I do think there are several who weren’t going to come to A&M and that was the push over the top to get them there.”

Business has actually picked up at A&M since the SEC announcement. What remains to be seen is if that’s because the team is SEC bound or if it’s because the school is bringing in a new head coach in Kevin Sumlin.

Since the conference move was announced, the Aggies have picked up commitments from defensive back DeVante Harris, wide receiver Sabian Holmes and offensive lineman Germain Ifedi. Holmes had been committed to Baylor but changed to A&M. Harris was an early commitment to Oklahoma. The Aggies also picked up Brandon Williams, a running back who is transferring from Oklahoma to A&M.

Despite the change in conference and coaches, the Aggies have the 11th-ranked class, according to Scout.com with their 22 commitments. Only one Big 12 school (Texas, 1) has a higher-ranked class than A&M. There are four SEC schools (Alabama, 2; Florida, 5; LSU, 7; South Carolina, 8) with better classes than the Aggies.

Liucci has talked to all the Aggie recruits, and the SEC is always a topic.

“Most of the kids we talk to reference the SEC and they bring it up,” Liucci said. “That’s part of their answer of why A&M. Virtually every one references the SEC. That tells me two things. One, they’re excited. Two, the A&M coaches are doing a great job of selling it and getting it in their heads.”

Getting the SEC into the heads of recruits is key because as much as the Aggies want to talk up the SEC, other coaches vying for the same recruits can use that against the Aggies.

The logic there could be flawed though.

Despite A&M moving conferences, the Aggies will still play seven home games this fall and another at SMU, giving the Aggies eight games in the state. The Aggies also have two road games in Mississippi this fall. That kind of schedule blunts the talk of recruiters who would bring up the fact that if you go to A&M, your family would never get to see you play.

A&M can also bring up the size of crowds at SEC games as a positive factor. Counting Texas A&M, eight of the top 20 teams in attendance are now in the SEC. The Big 12 now has two.

“A&M has the numbers to support that stuff if they want to use it with recruits,” Liucci said. “The reality is that A&M is still going to play seven games in the state of Texas every year. Right now that’s about eight or nine. It could end up being a one-game difference.”

It’s not going to be all smooth sailing for the Aggies, and it may have more to do with their new conference than anything else. While most every team in the Big 12 puts an emphasis on offense, most of the SEC teams go with traditional offense and powerful defenses.

A&M doesn’t seem too concerned about that.
    
“You sell what your scheme is, what you’re going to run,” said Justin Moore, A&M’s associate athletic director for football. “A lot of teams in the SEC are pretty simple. We’re going to spread it out, get guys in space. Our offense will be different. We sell that. It’s always about us, what we can control, what we do. We can’t be concerned.”

It could also hurt the Aggies that winning could be a tough task no matter who is coaching. The SEC has produced the past six national champs.

That has turned off some recruits.

“It’s kind of 50-50 with the kids I’ve spoken too,” said William Wilkerson, who covers the University of Texas recruiting for Hornsnation.com. “A lot of them are intrigued about playing in the best conference, but some are also hesitant. I don’t know if they want that style of competition. But I really think it’s going to help in the long run. We’ll see with the 2013 kids.”

As solid as the Aggies’ class is now, it was better. Before Mike Sherman lost his job with the school, A&M had the fourth-ranked class, according to scout.com. But the drop from four to 11 likely has more to do with the coaching change than the conference switch.

Moore doesn’t think the difficulty of the SEC will deter recruits and if it does, they probably aren’t the kind of players A&M is looking for anyways.

And while signing day is Wednesday, that doesn’t mean the Aggies are standing pat.

Whether it’s because the SEC or the Sumlin regime, the Aggies added two more commitments this weekend from players who originally planned to play elsewhere. Carthage athlete Edward Pope was in College Station this weekend and changed his decision from TCU to Texas A&M. Defensive end Polo Manukainiu, who was thought to be headed to Oklahoma, also changed his mind and is coming to A&M.

Moore said there will be a couple of surprises when the fax machines start up Wednesday morning.

“This is a fun thing to be part of,” said Moore, who attended A&M. “There could still be a couple of surprises on signing day that were going elsewhere. I don’t know if it’s the conference or the new staff, but there are a lot of guys who want to play here.”

That may be even more evident next year. Kevin Flaherty, the publisher of Longhorn Digest, said the Aggies already have to commitments for 2013 from players who would have received offers from Texas.

The SEC is the big lure for them too.

“I’ve heard from a couple of them (recruits) who said they would like it or that it was interesting,” Flaherty said. “Where you’ll really see the impact is in 2013 in terms of the guys coming in.”