Different factors play in rivalry recruiting

DALLAS -- Taking a break from his coaching duties on a Saturday during football season is the last thing one would expect from DeSoto (Texas) coach Claude Mathis, whose team is No. 27 in the latest ESPNHS POWERADE FAB 50 rankings.

Those Saturdays are usually reserved for evaluating injuries, reviewing game film and planning for the upcoming week.

But Mathis is changing around his staff's work schedule this Saturday in order for the coaches to attend the Red River Rivalry, compliments of the DeSoto head coach.

"We are going to work Friday night and come back to work on Sunday because we have kids playing in the game and we want to watch," said Mathis, who has five former players in the game -- all suiting up for Texas -- from his time with DeSoto and Austin LBJ. "They are in our backyard and we finally get the chance to see them play."

Despite the possibility of a Texas or Oklahoma appearance in the Jan. 6 Cotton Bowl, which is now played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, the Red River Rivalry is a rare opportunity for Dallas-area coaches to see their former players.

It's also a unique opportunity for area recruits with interest in either team to stay close to home and see them play, rather than traveling a few hours in either direction to a campus.

But how much of an advantage does this game give two schools that are already well-known to most Dallas recruits? To some, the allure of fried Twinkies, Big Tex and the Texas State Fair can be a turning point. To others, not so much.

Mathis sees the game and its location as having a role in his players' decision to attend either school.

"I really do, because it is right in their backyard and whoever wins that has bragging rights and may win the Big 12," Mathis said. "I think it's a huge advantage."

Plano West coach Mike Hughes agrees, to an extent.

"I think any time one of our guys can go out to a game like that and be a part of the festivities, sure, that makes an impact," he said. "I think the main thing is, whoever can get a kid on campus and wow them with the facilities and like the coaches is the main thing. Obviously the winning helps, too."

Ah, yes, the outcome of the game. To some recruits, seeing the bigger picture about both schools is more important.

"Of course I love if my team wins," said Coppell (Texas) kicker Nick Jordan, a 2012 Texas commitment. "But it was more the academics and the coaching staff and what felt more right that I based my decision off of."

Jake Raulerson (Celina, Texas/Celina), a 2013 line prospect who holds a scholarship offer from Oklahoma, shared that sentiment.

"I mean, Texas is a very young team, and Oklahoma is a very great team," Raulerson said. "I'm trying to find the school that fits me best. I don't think this game will affect that too much. But it will be fun to see who comes out on top."

Dallas Skyline coach Reginald Samples, who has players on both teams, doesn't think the outcome of the Red River Rivalry makes or breaks either school.

"I don't know if it does that much," he said. "I don't think one ballgame is going to make a kid decide on such a great decision like that.

"It wouldn't make me make my decision."

While the final score might not ultimately decide a player's commitment, the game does give coaches on both sides more opportunity to be in contact with area recruits.

For Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, a Plano West alum, that was enough. Jeffcoat was being recruited by both Oklahoma and Texas when the Longhorns won 16-13 in his senior season, and according to Hughes, Jeffcoat's high school coach, it was Texas' approach during that period that sealed Jeffcoat's commitment.

"The main thing with Jeffcoat is he felt like, and I felt like, that Texas did a better job of recruiting him," Hughes said. "Mack Brown came on campus for about two hours, walking around the school, taking pictures with the kids. [Former receivers coach] Bobby Kennedy, who at the time was recruiting for Texas, was here all the time. They just did a better job recruiting him."

William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation.com

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