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Top recruits in Texas are avoiding Big 12 like never before

Jeffrey Okudah from Grand Prairie, Texas, has committed to Ohio State. Tom Hauck for Student Sports

The state of Texas is one of the most important recruiting hotbeds to follow in the lead-up to national signing day on Feb. 1. Ninety-seven ESPN 300 recruits have come from the Lone Star state the last two years, more than any other state. Florida is second with 95, and no other state has more than 65.

In the 12 years that ESPN has been tracking the high school recruits, never have Texas’ best players avoided the Big 12 as they are expected to on Feb. 1. Of the 25 players from Texas among the top 150 in the ESPN 300, eight (32 percent) have committed to Big 12 schools as of Saturday. Before this year, the lowest percentage of top-150 players from Texas to sign with the conference was 33 percent in 2014.

This exodus picked up soon after Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC after the 2011 season. In the 2012 recruiting class, 67 percent of top-150 players from Texas signed with the Big 12. That number hasn’t been above 45 percent (in 2016) since.

One of the schools harvesting in the Lone Star state this recruiting season is Ohio State, which had commitments from three Texans in the top 50 as of Saturday (safety Jeffrey Okudah, No. 7 in the ESPN 300; outside linebacker Baron Browning, No. 26; and running back J.K. Dobbins, No. 44).

The Buckeyes are tied with LSU and Texas for the most top-150 commitments from the state. Ohio State’s three commitments are the program’s first top-150 players from Texas since 2013.

That year, Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach was Tom Herman, who knows Texas high school coaches well after spending years recruiting the state.

Herman, head coach at Houston the last two seasons, has taken his recruiting acumen to Austin as Charlie Strong’s successor as coach. The Longhorns’ 2017 class, which includes some players who committed under Strong, is ranked 35th and does not have a commitment from a top-10 player from Texas.

If that remains true Feb. 1 – and keep in mind many expect defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson to commit to Texas, and he’s one of the state’s top 10 -- it would mark the first time that the Longhorns haven’t landed one of the top 10 players from the state in the 12 years ESPN has been ranking recruits.

At Houston in 2016, Herman signed five-star defensive tackle Ed Oliver (No. 4 in the ESPN 300), which is one more five-star recruit than the entire Big 12 has signed since 2013. The last time the conference signed a five-star player was 2012 when Texas landed running back Johnathan Gray.

Barring a commitment from defensive tackle Marvin Wilson (No. 4 in the ESPN 300) or a late change of heart from one of this year’s other five-star players, the Big 12 is expected to be shut out again Feb. 1.