If you've followed the 2012 recruiting class at all, you've likely noticed a recurring character in the story: Texas A&M. In fact, it seems every new commitment either was committed to the Aggies or listed them as one of their top schools. Sure, there's always been some natural recruiting overlay in East Texas/North Louisiana, but rarely do LSU and A&M go head-to-head this frequently for recruits. So, what gives? Are the Aggies starting to make some serious recruiting inroads into the state of Louisiana? And what tactics are they using to lure boys from the boot to the wonderful trappings of College Station?
As mentioned, in some respects, the recruiting territory of LSU and A&M will naturally overlap, particularly in East and South Texas, where A&M loads up on the bulk of their recruits. Additionally, A&M typically takes a player or two from Louisiana (typically players LSU passes on - no, I don't mean that in a derogatory way, to our friends at I Am the 12th Man). Yet, the occasions when both schools rank as a player's no. 1 and no. 2 choice typically happen once, maybe twice a year... at best.
Yet, in 2012, we've already seen two players (Davante Bourque and Jerald Hawkins) initially commit to the Aggies, only to flip to LSU later. Lorenzo Phillips was considered some sort of a commitment to A&M at one point, and is now open, likely deciding between LSU and A&M. LSU commits Lamar Louis, Derrick Raymond, Ronnie Feist and Torshiro Davis all sport A&M offers and expressed interest in the school at one point or another. Finally, Alonzo Williams and Darion Monroe are both Aggie commits from the State.
All in all, the Rivals database shows 14 Louisiana players with scholarship offers, which is a fairly high total in June. In fact, LSU has offered only 3 more scholarships than that in-state. Obviously, LSU can afford to be a bit more choosy, since most in-state players are going to prefer LSU to anywhere in the country... and by a wide margin. But still, you see the point. Further, in 2011 the Aggies offered only 11 total LA players, in 2010, only 9, in 2009, only 9 as well. 2012 isn't exactly considered a banner year in the state of Louisiana either, so it's not as if there's just a surplus of talent to go around.
To me, this marks an obvious shift in A&M recruiting philosophy. I'm not going to do the work to see if perhaps A&M is simply casting a wider net in general when it comes to recruiting (the whole "throw out a million offers, see what sticks" philosophy). It's no secret A&M is in the process of rebuilding, and it seems they are finally investing the money into facilities/recruiting necessary to make them a competitive program again. There is perhaps no better way to do this than get your name burned onto the minds of 16-18 year old kids across the country. Maybe it is that simple.
But I still think there's more to it. There's an obvious and emphatic interest on going after recruits from Louisiana. The boot produces some of the finest recruits in the country, undoubtedly, and A&M is regionally close to Louisiana, which gives them a built-in advantage with parents. But this isn't just about regional recruiting... to me A&M is specifically coming after LSU.
The comments from Davante Bourque are a pretty strong indication of what type of bill Sherman and co. are selling Louisiana recruits. "We care about academics... we care about you... we care about YOUR success... All LSU cares about is it's football program." I'll withhold from giving a diatribe on this pitch, because recruiting is recruiting, and I'm plenty sure our staff has used similar tactics in the past. Detractors can mock Miles all they'd like and for various reasons which could be proved with visual evidence even, but trying to sell recruits on the fact that Miles doesn't care about them or family strikes me as odd. That's one thing you seen routinely praised about Miles both by recruits themselves and even members of the media. Regardless, Bourque isn't the first player to visit A&M and return with such rhetoric.
Secondly, there's murmurings that A&M may be attempting some sort of a deception in effort to lure LSU into doling out offers they weren't really intending to give. The process here being: A&M comes in early and hard with offers, knowing they have the flexibility as an OOS school to back away/not be considered a top option, all in effort to lure LSU into offering players sight unseen they otherwise may take their time evaluating. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked. Davante Bourque is a prime example of this. Yet, we refused to extend the offer until having him in camp and evaluated in person.
Don't take this wrong. I'm not trying to cast aspersions onto the Aggie program or their recruiting tactics. They are still building up, while LSU ranks amongst the kings of the college football world. Recruiting is a dirty, ugly world and we've all seen the extent programs will go to lure in top-flight athletes. But, there is an interesting trend developing here and one to monitor.
Yet, for the time being, A&M isn't breaking into LSU's recruiting territory, and I won't believe that until I see them take 2-3 players from the state that LSU strongly covets.