Take a glance at the list of the top 2017 recruits in Texas and you’ll notice a pattern.
Ohio State earned commitments from three players in the state’s top 10. LSU has two. Notre Dame and Stanford each have one.
Texas? None. Texas A&M? Zero.
TCU, where ESPN 300 receiver Jalen Reagor is committed, is the only Texas school that currently has a commitment from one of the state’s 10 best. The rest are nowhere to be found.
Top players are fleeing Texas in this class more than any other in recent memory. The No. 1 recruit in the state -- five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson -- will go out of state, according to his list of finalists. The only other undecided player in the top 10, defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson, could wind up in-state, as Texas is among his finalists.
But of the 46 ESPN 300 prospects in the Lone Star State, only 17 are currently committed to in-state schools (36.9 percent). That is by far the lowest percentage of ESPN 300 recruits to stay in-state in the last five recruiting cycles. More than half of the state’s ESPN 300 recruits have stayed home in the previous four classes; the last two cycles saw at least 62 percent of the state’s top prospects stay in-state each year. Even if a few of the six uncommitted ESPN 300 prospects in the state stay home, more than half of them will go out-of-state in the 2017 cycle.
“I really don't understand it,” said Anthony Hines, father of Texas A&M freshman linebacker Anthony Hines III, one of the small handful of top Texas prospects who didn’t leave. “You've got all these great schools [in Texas]. … I don't know why kids are traveling across the country.”
There are some theories. One is the lack of on-field success for the state’s FBS programs in 2016: No Texas team finished the season in the top 25.
“It's always the state of the programs in Texas [that matters],” said Jeff Fleener, coach at Brandeis High in San Antonio. “With them all being a little bit down right now … some of it is the nature of kids being kids and which team's winning and which team's not.”
Texas is coming off three consecutive losing seasons. Texas A&M had three consecutive 8-5 seasons. The fallout from the sexual assault scandal at Baylor and subsequent firing of Art Briles significantly affected that program’s recruiting -- and the rest of the state’s, for that matter. Texas Tech and TCU had down seasons. Houston took a step back from its magical 2015 campaign and underwent a coaching change.
“It’s a here-and-now society,” said Kansas coach David Beaty, who has recruited Texas for his entire college coaching career. “I don't think [players leaving the state] is a trend. I think it's cyclical. I think it goes with the success of the programs. It wasn't a terrific year for Texas programs. That's probably what's causing some of that.”
Wilson -- whose top five are Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and South Florida -- agrees that the wins and losses matter in recruits’ decisions.
“Right now, Texas schools aren't like the old Texas schools back in the day,” he said. “A lot of out-of-state schools are rolling.”
Coaching turnover has a role in this, too. It matters because players begin getting recruited as early as their freshman or sophomore seasons, and those relationships are built over time.
“It's very difficult because the way the college coaching goes -- it's like a carousel,” Anthony Hines said. “You build a relationship with one guy, and next thing you know he's gone.”
Said Jon Kay, who coaches Chaisson at North Shore High in Houston: “This year specifically, I think [coaching turnover] is huge. You got turnover at Baylor, at Houston, at Texas. You have questions about A&M and Texas Tech about how long those guys are going to be there.”
In addition to on-field performance and coaching changes, out-of-state schools are more familiar to prospects now than 10 or 20 years ago for many reasons. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who has long recruited the state, said the availability of games on television might be a reason recruits are willing to leave.
“A kid in Brenham, Texas, can be at home and he can watch West Virginia games,” Holgorsen said. “There are just a lot of options out there now that kids know about where in the past, they didn't know about them.”
Fleener, who was previously the offensive coordinator at Allen High School, a factory for Division I recruits, agrees.
“Even five to 10 years ago, it used to be if you play in Texas, your parents can see you play, but otherwise they won't because your games aren't on TV,” Fleener said. “Well now every single game in America is on TV right now, so that's not really a big deal.”
Social media also closes the distance. The constant communication it allows between prospects and coaches -- not to mention the photos and videos a prospect can see to give him a peek at what’s going on -- makes a faraway school seem less foreign.
“I do think [social media] has shrunk the geographical distance between Texas kids and the schools out of state,” Kay said. “It's made communication so much easier that I feel like kids have a little bit of a closer bond with an out-of-state recruiter than they did when it was just a phone call.”
Finally, the sheer number of schools recruiting Texas is also a factor. Texas A&M’s move to the SEC continues to reverberate in recruiting, opening the door for other schools. Perennial power programs like Alabama have long recruited the state, but now SEC teams like Ole Miss and Mississippi State are seen more frequently, coaches say.
“There used to be schools that where they were located and financially they just weren't going to recruit Texas, like Georgia, South Carolina, even Ole Miss and Mississippi State. They used to never come to Texas,” Fleener said. “So many of those guys now are putting in the effort in coming to Texas now.”
Said Kay: “We definitely see a lot more of that SEC East than we did before. Without question the SEC West is a mainstay here now.”