Dustin Garrison was overlooked.
OK, so it wasn’t hard to do. He is 5-foot-9.
But the fact that he played and produced for the top team in Texas -- Pearland -- and still remained below the radar was a recruiting head-scratcher. The fact that he ran for 292 yards in his first college game was indication that West Virginia, which offered after the bowl season, has an early lead on how to successfully recruit Texas.
“When I first got the job 18 months ago, we had already started recruiting a little bit, recruiting Texas a little bit,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Got a great boss in Oliver Luck. Understands college football, understands geography. He had already expressed some interest in wanting to recruit some in Texas, because everybody else recruits in Texas.”
But Holgorsen didn’t need the West Virginia athletic director's advice to know the importance of the Lone Star State. He spent nine years as an assistant coach at Houston and Texas Tech, plus another year at Oklahoma State recruiting Texas kids.
So he knows there is talent. And he knows he has to get some of it to be successful.
“We will recruit Houston, we will Dallas,’’ said Holgorsen, who already has one Texas commit, guard Tyler Tezeno (Spring, Texas/Klein). “I think we've got to be careful a little bit about how much manpower we put here. Because it's so competitive. Like I said, everybody's recruiting this.”
That includes the Big 12’s other newcomer, TCU. Sure, the Horned Frogs maintained their run with home-state talent. And while their location hasn’t changed, their status certainly has.
“They might elevate their level a little bit by being put in the Big 12, you know, next to a name, as opposed to the Mountain West, because of the, first of all, major conference and, secondly, by being more regionally located,” Baylor coach Art Briles said.
Briles, a constant schemer on the offensive side of the ball, not so surprisingly already has game plan in place to deal with TCU’s arrival into his fertile recruiting grounds.
“Really one of the toughest things I had to do when I was coaching at the University of Houston for five years is to get the players to stay in Houston,” Briles said. “… it's hard to get those guys to stay home, because when you were 17 1/2 years old, 18 years old, I mean, you were thinking, ‘Boy, if I could only live next door to mommy and daddy.’ You know what I'm saying?
“So, no, those guys want to get away. And Waco is a perfect location because it's an hour-and-a-half away. It's far enough away, but it's close enough that they can come see them, they can enjoy them at the same time.”
Ah, Briles. Always the salesman.
But Briles, even on the heels of the most successful year ever for Baylor athletics, now has to deal with a more learned buyer who has pocketfuls of options. And it is not just West Virginia and TCU encroaching. USC, always a national brand, has inched into Texas this year. The Trojans, who currently do not have a Texan on the roster, have two commitments from the state in the 2013 class -- wide receiver Eldridge Massington (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) and defensive end Torrodney Prevot (Houston/Alief Taylor). Ohio State has grabbed quarterback J.T. Barrett (Wichita Falls, Texas/Rider). Texas A&M moving to the SEC has opened the door even wider for Alabama, Arkansas and LSU.
All that activity has Holgorsen playing his cards closer to his vest. While he knows he has to recruit Texas, he also knows the states surrounding West Virginia are fertile, as is Florida.
“Florida's been fantastic for us,” he said. “I think we signed 13 kids out of Florida last year. Our deal in Texas, which if in a perfect world would be the way everybody did it, but just recruit kids that become really good senior football players.”
Kids such as Garrison who proved, after four years of high school, they have what it takes to be successful at the next level.