Texas and Oklahoma might have vastly different strategies and long-term trends when it comes to recruiting, but the rivals can at least agree on this: The Metroplex is big business.
A review of every recruiting class signed during the tenures of Mack Brown and Bob Stoops shows the staggering volume of talent both programs have signed from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. There’s truly no disputing the importance of this fertile territory for these foes.
At Texas, 90 percent of signees since Brown’s first full class in 1999 have been in-state prospects. The DFW area produced nearly one-third of those recruits. The Sooners, meanwhile, have signed nearly as many DFW-area prospects (72) since 2000 as prospects from Oklahoma (76).
All this is really no surprise. So many schools, so much talent and, you know, that one big game in October. No area of the state or the country has fed more talent to the Red River Rivalry than Dallas-Fort Worth and North Texas.
“They do a great job of recruiting and how they present themselves and their colleges,” said Reginald Samples, the football coach at Skyline High School in Dallas. “They do a real good job. I don’t think it’s anything I can describe, what they’re doing. I just think for some reason, a lot of our kids grow up saying 'I want to go to Oklahoma' or 'I want to go to Texas.' "
In most other aspects, the recruiting record of Texas and Oklahoma under their current head coaches goes in widely different directions.
Longhorns comfortable close to home
The Longhorns’ philosophy is easily understood. Mack Brown has signed more than 290 players who hail from Texas during his tenure. He has inked only 29 from outside Texas (four from Oklahoma) and six more from the junior college ranks. And that’s it.
He seeks to sign the best players Texas has to offer every year. His staff offers plenty of elite out-of-state recruits, but primarily when they can’t find what they seek inside state lines. Colorado (eight signees) and Louisiana (five) have been two of the more productive states for UT away from home since Brown took over.
As for inside Texas? The Metroplex is the top provider of talent, with the Greater Houston area contributing about 21 percent of signees. Those two hotspots, plus East Texas and the Austin area, account for nearly 80 percent of the Longhorns' in-state signees since 2000.
Texas’ No. 1 high school in terms of signees, coincidentally, isn’t found in any of those recruiting territories. That would be Brenham, the high school located halfway between Austin and Houston that has produced seven future Longhorns.
A total of 11 other schools have sent four or more recruits to Texas, led by DFW powerhouse DeSoto and Brownwood -- located in West Texas -- with six and five, respectively.
Lone Star talent still critical for Sooners
There's no question Stoops understands the importance of recruiting Texas. During his tenure, Oklahoma has signed almost twice as many Texans as in-state prospects. Dallas-Fort Worth accounts for the strong plurality of those signees, at 47 percent.
The Sooners also recruit well in Houston and East Texas, and they’ve found a small niche in San Antonio with as many signees (14) as UT has there under Brown. OU has never signed fewer than six Texans in each class since 2000.
But Texans make up only slightly more than 40 percent of Stoops signees. OU’s strategy for securing the remaining 60 is intriguing in its fluctuations.
In recent years, a reputation has developed that Oklahoma is shifting its out-of-state attention and efforts to California, Florida and other talent-rich parts of the country. The rep was strengthened by the classes of 2010 and 2012, when OU signed eight and 10 recruits, respectively, from states other than Oklahoma and Texas.
While California, Florida, Louisiana and Kansas have been solid recruiting territories for OU during the Stoops era, what doesn’t get nearly enough attention is his investment to junior college recruiting.
The Sooners have signed more than 40 juco transfers since 2000. That’s a serious investment in immediate-impact talent, especially considering OU landed seven times more juco transfers than Texas did in that period.
As for the native Oklahomans, no school in the nation has sent more prospects to OU than Jenks High School's seven. In his first two years in Norman, Stoops went heavy on in-state talent with a combined 20 signees. Since then, he’s had only two more classes (2006, 2007) with eight or more Oklahomans. The average for the other 10 classes? Four per year.
That says plenty about the Sooners’ commitment to recruiting outside of their comfort zone. That native Oklahomans make up only 22 percent of all Stoops signees also speaks to his understanding that recruiting Texas is a must to compete for Big 12 and national titles.
The football factories that feed them
Which high schools are the best providers of Lone Star State talent for both Texas and Oklahoma? On sheer numbers alone, the Metroplex has produced a combined 169 players for the two programs. But there are football factories all across the state that have sent players to both.
Since Brown and Stoops joined the rivalry, only three high schools have had three or more recruits sign with the Longhorns and with the Sooners. Each one is a respected recruiting powerhouse: Coppell, Dallas Skyline and Gilmer, an East Texas program.
Skyline has produced five Oklahoma signees, more than any other school in Texas since 2000. Samples doesn’t think OU recruiters are different in their approach from any other school. To him, it’s all about a kid’s personal preference.
“I think one of the things is they’re just a successful program, period,” he said. “I don’t know what attracted more of them to Oklahoma. I just know Oklahoma is very successful, close as far as proximity and they do a good job.”
Texas and Oklahoma are both in the top eight for Coppell ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas this year. Coppell coach Joe McBride said neither school has talked negatively about its rivals during this process.
“They just do their own job,” McBride said. “They don’t ever bring up the other school or anything. They just talk about what he’d bring to their program and what he’d get out of their school.”
Seven other Texas high schools have sent multiple recruits to both Texas and Oklahoma since then, and six are located outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area: Cibolo Steele, Houston North Shore, Houston Westbury, Longview, Pearland and West Orange-Stark.
Texas landed its third Longview product this summer when three-star receiver Dorian Leonard chose UT over OU, but the two Lobos who ended up in Norman were future NFL draft picks Trent Williams and Malcolm Kelly. Longview coach John King said there’s an undeniable difference when those two programs recruit his players.
“They’re very similar in their presence,” King said. “Anytime Mack Brown and Bob Stoops have been on our campus, it’s been like Christmas for our kids and our student body. To some of them, it’s like seeing a rock star.”
Brown and Stoops might play different tunes and tour different parts of the country in their quests to return to national titles games, but the biggest stage doesn’t change.
Neither does the venue, a Cotton Bowl stadium located right in the middle of both programs’ most critical recruiting base.
“Whoever is winning that game,” King said, “is probably winning the recruiting battle, too.”