Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Football [Print without images]

Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Updated: September 8, 12:07 PM ET
'It becomes SEC country'

By Mitch Sherman
ESPN Recruiting

Will Muschamp, the 40-year-old Georgia native and first-year coach at Florida, offers a word of caution to his counterparts in the Southeastern Conference who might think it's open season in recruiting the fertile high schools of Texas if and when Texas A&M enters their prestigious football league.

"At the end of the day," said Muschamp, the defensive coordinator under Mack Brown at Texas from 2008 until his hiring in Gainesville this past December, "in the state of Texas, there are kids ... who are going to be Longhorns.

"There are kids who are going to be Sooners. And then Texas A&M's going to sign their share of players."

In other words, just because conference realignment is close to gashing the Big 12 -- if A&M does leave for the SEC, it will be the third conference institution gone in a 15-month span -- don't discount the league's current and former programs that traditionally stock their rosters with Texas talent.

Dooley What we hope is that [the A&M move] generates more exposure in Texas, which generates more players who are interested in leaving that part of the country. But we won't be the only ones.

-- Tennessee coach Derek Dooley

Regardless, SEC coaches are salivating at the idea of a more attractive recruiting environment in Texas. The state's high school programs traditionally produce relatively few SEC signees, considering the league's proximity to Texas.

Might that all change soon if A&M can clear its legal hurdles and join the SEC?

Yes, according to Les Miles. The seventh-year LSU coach, who worked at Colorado and Oklahoma State in the former Big Eight, said he's saddened by the apparent dismantling of the Big 12.

But it won't stop him from trying to capitalize on the carnage.

With A&M in the SEC, media and fans in Texas will turn their attention east. Recruits in the Lone Star State might prefer the SEC, Miles said, to the West Coast, perhaps a future destination for Oklahoma and Texas as the Pac-12 looks to expand.

Texas prospects who once watched Big 12 games on television now will get a steady diet of the conference that has won the past five Bowl Championship Series titles.

"It becomes SEC country," Miles said Wednesday.

Baton Rouge, La., sits just 160 miles east of the Texas-Louisiana border, but until last week, LSU hadn't played a regular-season game in Texas since 1995. The Tigers opened Saturday with a 40-27 win over Oregon on Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The game generated visibility for the Tigers in Texas at an opportune time. LSU lists 13 players from Texas on its roster, including starters Jarrett Lee at quarterback and Michael Brockers at defensive tackle, plus standout wide receiver Russell Shepard and prize freshman linebacker Trevon Randle.

The Tigers' group of 18 commitments for the recruiting class of 2012 includes two Texas prospects in Katy Morton Ranch defensive end Danielle Hunter and DeSoto defensive back Jalen Mills.

And, of course, there's room for more.

Westernmost SEC programs Arkansas, with 20 Texans on its roster, and LSU figure to benefit most from the increased exposure.

Others want in on the party, too.

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, with extensive experience in recruiting Texas, said the Volunteers already have upped their efforts in trying to mine the state. Not a single Texan plays for Tennessee this season, although its 2012 class already features linebacker Dalton Santos (Van, Texas/Van), No. 92 in the ESPNU 150, and safety LaDarrell McNeil (Dallas/Wilmer Hutchins).

"What we hope is that [the A&M move] generates more exposure in Texas," Dooley said, "which generates more players who are interested in leaving that part of the country."

He paused to consider his words.

"But we won't be the only ones" to target Texas, Dooley said.

At Ole Miss, coach Houston Nutt said he wants to add at least one and maybe two coaches to the one member of his staff who already recruits Texas. Alabama added a second assistant last year, coach Nick Saban said.

"There's a lot of programs there," Saban said. "There's a lot of good football players."

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said the Bulldogs won't recruit Texas differently but that recent developments "might make us a better option for kids in that area."

Saban compared the effect of the Aggies' jump to Penn State's move into the Big Ten. After the Nittany Lions began competition in the conference in 1993, other Big Ten programs enjoyed new success in recruiting Pennsylvania and the East Coast.

And it wasn't just the schools in closest proximity to Penn State that benefited, said Saban, who worked at Michigan State as an assistant in the 1980s and as head coach from 1995 to 1999.

He said he suspects the same will hold true today.

"I don't know that any specific team will benefit more than another," Saban said.

One team that won't benefit in recruiting from the addition of A&M?

South Carolina. So says coach Steve Spurrier.

The Gamecocks rarely recruit Texas.

"I don't think it'll have any factor with us," Spurrier said. "We try to recruit our state and the border states, and that's about where we are."

In this age of repositioning in college football, leave it to Spurrier, the most veteran of all SEC coaches, to stand still. Perhaps he's been talking to Will Muschamp.

Mitch Sherman is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mshermanespn@gmail.com.

Follow Mitch Sherman on Twitter: @mitchsherman