Posted on: January 19, 2012 12:39 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 12:41 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Texas A&M has not been a regular occurrence in the top 10 team rankings after Signing Day but the school has still done fairly well all on the recruiting trail all things considered. The Aggies are currently 11th in the Maxpreps team rankings and have a good shot to move up and be yet another SEC team within striking distance of the top spot with their class of 2012. New head coach Kevin Sumlin has been on a whirlwind, non-stop march to grab some of the best and brightest in the state of Texas since taking over the program last month and hopes to bring a little more consistency to A&M's recruiting efforts over the coming months and years.
Although most of the leg work for this year's class was done by Mike Sherman and the previous staff, Sumlin has kept things together remarkably well and is even adding a few new recruits here and there. He sat down with CBSSports.com for a wide-ranging Q&A.to discuss his recruiting strategy, how he plans to transition the school to the SEC and why his familiarity with players from being at Houston is an advantage.
CBSSports.com: You're bringing Kliff Kingsbury with you as offensive coordinator, what kind of coach and recruiter is he and how much of an advantage is it to have a guy a lot of recruits grew up seeing play?
Sumlin: "Kliff has been around us for the last four years at Houston. He's done a great job with the quarterbacks, not just Case Keenum but the others. I think we were 13th in the country (in passing) two years ago with a true freshman, 4th string quarterback. He's a great mind and a great player and the kids bond with him.
"It doesn't hurt (in recruiting). There are a lot of kids who know who he is, a lot of parents in the state of Texas who know who he is and remember him for what he accomplished (at Texas Tech). So it doesn't hurt us at all in recruiting, particularly among quarterbacks."
Have you been able to figure out what you have to work with at A&M already and how do you see the transition going?
"Winning helps in recruiting. What you want to do is, and what we've done wherever we've been, is utilize the talent that is there and recruit more. We didn't have some big fullbacks at Houston, we had a couple of midgets who were fast. Your job is to win games.
"Some people will look at it as, 'Well, you're losing your quarterback, losing receivers, losing running backs.' But sometimes when you have a young quarterback it's better because you're not having to break somebody down. We've got a freshman that's coming in January (Matt Davis), Johnny Manziel is a redshirt freshman and Jameil Showers is a sophomore. That's three young guys coming into the spring competing. We tried to recruit those guys at Houston too."
How big is it that you know a lot of the roster from recruiting them at Houston?
"We did try to recruit a lot of those guys at Houston so obviously we thought highly of them as prospects. It's going to be fun. Those kids look at is as being fun and they're comfortable with us because they know us."
What's the reception been like in general?
"It's been great. The biggest question I think was what was going to happen to recruiting. For about two weeks, we really just held it together until the Dead Period. We'll have another huge recruiting weekend coming up, the next two weekends will be critical. For the better part of a month, I've been recruiting players and coaches. Coaches are a heck of a lot harder."
Did you make it a point to look for coaches with SEC experience?
"Somebody said that to me, that you have to have coaches with SEC experience. I look at it this way, I've seen it and I know what it looks like. I've coached in two national championship games and every BCS bowl game there is. There's nothing higher than that in college football. We beat Mississippi State in Starkville a couple of years ago with a little bitty team. We'll be alright."
Do you expect some growing pains with the staff transition and the move to a new league?
"There's always growing pains. People forget that at Houston, we started out 1-3. I like the fact that people have forgotten about that. But it gets to a point where the players have a feel for you and you have a feel for them and then you can feel comfortable and handle adversity. I think I'm a better coach now then I was then.
"It helped me to be able out to practice and get a feel for personnel. It helped to go clean up the recruiting board because here are the numbers but here's where we're deficient maybe talent-wise. We've adjusted some of the numbers in recruiting because of that."
A lot of people have questioned the move to the SEC, is there any worry in regards to the level of competition?
"Why isn't it a positive? What's bad about it? You're playing in the best division in the best league in the country. I knew that before I took the job. It's not something they sprung on me. I look forward to it.
"It hasn't hurt (recruiting). We walk around with (SEC logos) on shirts and stuff like that and it hasn't hurt recruiting at all. There are certain kids that just like to compete against what they think is the best league and the best players and be a part of that. Sure it's going to take some work but it also is an opportunity, it gives you a clear choice in the state of Texas right now. It really gives you a division of schools, not just the universities but leagues. You've got the Big East, the Big 12 and the SEC and I think kids pay attention to that."
Of the six straight BCS titles, four teams have won them. Does that parity, if you can call it that, lend encouragement that you can play at a high level in the league?
"If I were to tell you, just five years ago, that Florida or Tennessee were not in the SEC Championship Game and you're talking about South Carolina and Georgia, that's just how much the league has changed. Five, six years ago, the argument was the East was the dominate side. When you look back at it, it's gone back and forth. It's hard to say Tennessee and Florida won't be back. South Carolina was in the game last year for the first time and won 10 or 11 this year. There's been some shifts in power over the last 10, 15 years. From that stand point, you've got to feel good. We're not coming into the league with a short stick, we've got resources. I think we've got a talent pool in the state of Texas and, to a certain extent, Louisiana, that we can draw on and help us and sustain us. So you've got to be encouraged.
Does it help that you coached at A&M before and know the lay of the land there?
"It does. It's a unique place and it has a lot of tradition. A university where, from the outside, you might not understand it but it such a unique environment. I think when we travel and play in some of the venues in the SEC, there may be some people who may be a little shocked when they walk into (Kyle Field) the first time. It is a great place to play, passionate fans, students that stand the whole game. I've come out of both locker rooms there and sometimes you can't even hear anything. As a player and coach, that's the kind of environment you look for. I think that's why we'll be a good fit in the SEC."
Do you worry about other SEC schools invading and recruiting Texas?
"No, I don't worry about that. They came to Houston before this. It's just part of it and it's not going to change."
Did your last game at Houston and the way you went out stick with you a bit?
"It gets under my skin a little bit. I did a poor job. Anytime you play like that, it gets back to you as a coach. Nobody played well, nobody coached well. It was just a poor performance. We've learned from everything. Positives, negatives, handling adversity, that's what you do. Every time, win or lose, we go back and evaluate ourselves and we evaluate ourselves just as much in a win as a loss. You can't take anything for granted and it's damn hard to win every game. We got close but it's hard to do."