The state of Texas produces some of the finest football talent in the nation, and increasingly, Boise State is tapping into that pipeline. In this article, we look at the Texas high school football power structure, why recruiting in Texas is important and the future outlook for Bronco recruits from Texas.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on BroncoCountry in July of 2010.)
Nobody seems to know when the obsession started.It doesn't seem to have a clear beginning.In fact, there's no single event like a big bang that seemed to have
caused its birth. Old timers just shrug and say it's always been that way.Skeptical newcomers quickly learn it's safer to question religion or
politics.It is simultaneously
divisive and unifying for young and old alike. Over lattes in glass skyscrapers
and frosty Shiner Bocks in tiny country stores, the tales and talk that are
evidence of the fixation can be heard from August to January every year.
What is the object of this obsession? What subject
could possibly pit entire communities against each other? Yes, it is high school
wind in west
Texas or the pines in the east, the passion Texans feel for high school
football seems as much a part of the state as are legends about the Alamo and Texas Rangers (the lawmen,
not the bankrupt baseball team). Is it really as big as the legends would have
us believe? If it is, what the heck
does it have to do with BoiseState football?Is there anything
behind the "Texas Recruiting Pipeline?"
The answers are simple:Yes, high school football is that big in Texas and because of it, the
potential as a recruiting ground for Boise State is enormous.And yes the Texas recruiting pipeline is not only a reality--when it's
flowing, it can be tougher to stop than a BP oil well.
When looking for proof of the Texas Recruiting
Pipeline's value it's tempting to focus on the great and near-great players
Texas that have already found their way to BoiseState.You really don't have to look much further than the current squad which
has some present and future impact players: Aaron Burks (Mansfield Timberview in
Grand Prairie), DJ Harper (Cypress Creek in Houston), George Iloka (Kempner HS
in Houston), Brenel Myers (Westfield in Houston), Chris Roberson (Katy HS in
Katy), Quaylon Ewing (Kempner HS in Houston) and Chandler Koch (Flower Mound HS
in Flower Mound).Recently players
like Kyle Stringer (Humble HS in Humble) and Dennis Ellis (Cleveland HS
Cleveland) have made an impression on and sometimes off the field.
featured defensive end Faddie Tillman (Hamilton Park HS in Dallas)), running
back Chris Jackson and receiver Rodney Smith (Ball HS in Galveston).Tillman was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1971.Jackson (HP Carter HS in Houston) is fifth
all-time with 1,273 yards rushing in 1987 and is second with 5.97
yards-per-carry over his career.Smith
is 13th all-time with 117 catches in two years at BoiseState.
However the true test of the Pipeline's performance
may not be the number of past or present players from
Texas.Rather it is the potential that remains untapped for BSU, particularly as
the school prepares to move to the Mountain West Conference.To understand that potential, it helps to understand why the Texas obsession
with high school football produces so many impact players each season.
Friday Night Lights
Its been said that football is the national religion of Texas and that Friday
night high school games are where the weekly services are held.In isolated towns and bustling cites Friday nights glow with stadium
lights as they have for decades.Generations
of marching bands have played as countless little brothers toss footballs in the
parking lots to imitate their big brothers battling for bragging rights on the Texas fields of
honor. AM radio stations still
crackle with the sounds of hometown announcers extolling the virtues of their
local gladiators and the Ace Hardware that sponsored the night's broadcast.So powerful are these rituals—so engrained in the fabric of life that
for young men in Texas, playing
football is the norm rather than the exception.And that means lots of players entering the pool.In fact to put the size of Texas high school
football into perspective, consider these facts:
·There are an estimated 1,500 high
school teams in Texas
·The UIL is the state's largest
sport governing body and they categorize schools from 5A (2,000 or more
students) down to 1A (less than 200 students).
·On any give Friday during football
season TexasHSFootball.com estimates 1 in 15 Texans is attending, playing,
coaching or taking part in activities at a high school football game.That means there are over 1.6 million people at a high school football
game in Texas on those
Friday nights—100,000 more people than in the entire state of Idaho!
the Dallas Morning News conservatively estimated that fans spend at least $275
million a season on game tickets, programs, concessions, booster club
merchandise, travel, meals and lodging.
same article noted a 30-70% increase in business at the state's 629 Dairy
Queens during the football season. DQ and football, it doesn't get any more Texas.
·Texas has 12 high school stadiums with
16,000 or more seats.That's a
dozen high schools equal or larger than the Kibbiedome!And there are another 61 stadiums that hold from 10,000 to 16,000.In fact according to the football site TexasBob.com, the total seating
capacity at Texas high school stadiums is nearly 4
million—enough for every man, woman and child in Oregon to attend a game with a little
elbow room left over.
·It would be tempting to think that
46, 399 fans packing into Texas Stadium in 2006 to watch Southlake
Carroll vs. Euless Trinity reflected the growth of the state's population.But it doesn't.Imagine
45,790 fans from Highland Park and Waco in the Cotton
Bowl watching their teams play to a 7-7 tie in the 1945 state championship game.Big games draw big crowds in Texas.
So football is big in
Texas but does
bigger mean better?It's hard to
say but the sheer numbers indicate the volume of Texas players entering college
each season is enormous and the level of competition means the players are well
trained and motivated.In many
public schools football is a class, replacing PE for the players.They eat, sleep and train football or football-related conditioning
throughout the school year.Skill
positions continue into the off-season, participating in countless camps and
7-on-7 tournaments.All these
activities produce players better prepared to play at the next level which may
account for large number of Texas players on
Nurture vs. Nature
With so much potential in the state, how does BoiseState land Texas players?How do the Broncos ensure the Pipeline is pointed northwest and flowing? Basically
there are two primary ways prospects are landed: 1. College coaches forming and
nurturing relationships with high school coaches who recommend players for
consideration. 2. Players naturally and proactively seeking out a school.
There is no doubt about the value of coaching
relationships.Three years ago I had
a chance to speak with legendary Head Coach Mike Johnson who coached the
powerhouse Katy Tigers for 22 seasons.He
told a group of parents, including myself, that a large part of his job was to
help match senior players with colleges where their skills, personalities and
potential could be fully realized.Johnson
said he'd never recommend a player that wasn't a good fit for a school
because ultimately everyone would lose. He
relied on a network of coaches and past experience to identify possible colleges
because ideally Johnson would like every player to be offered a chance at the
next level. Promoting his players
was a part of his job.
Coaching is a fraternity.Coaches build relationships with others and that network is vital in the
recruit recommendation and identification process.It may be as simple as recommending a summer camp or as serious as
encouraging a college to attend games to scout a particular player.
BoiseState coach Pease
with his Baylor coaching background appears to have a well-established network,
particularly among Houston-area coaches, and that has undoubtedly been
instrumental in helping land some of the players.
Then there's the natural part.High school players want to play college ball and they like the internet.Plus their parents like college scholarships.Nature takes its course which means today's players and their families
are amazingly proactive about marketing.They
post videos on YouTube.They reach
out to colleges.They seek out camps
to showcase their skills and they work.Not
surprisingly they often seek the higher profile schools, which is where the
exposure Boise State has enjoyed in the media pays dividends.The "buzz" around
BoiseState and Texas players who
have gone to the school seems to be creating an environment where the Broncos
are increasingly a candidate for players who a generation earlier might have had
trouble finding Boise on a map.Credit the media.Credit the coaches.Credit
the success of BoiseState.Or credit all those factors and a few others but the net effect is the
Broncos have become a viable choice for players from the Lone Star state.And that speaks well for the future of the Pipeline.
The Future for
Break out the shades because the future looks bright for BoiseState.The team has a solid pipeline flowing; coaches that have established
relations within the state; and awareness among the high school players.But best of all, we have the MWC.It
is safe to assume that the move to the Mountain West will increase our exposure
and presence within the state.Our
future conference-mates are already milking the pipeline.Look at the number of Texas players on
the MWC teams:
• New Mexico has 15• Air Force has 21• ColoradoState has 21
• Utah has 13• UNLV has 11• Wyoming has 8
• BYU has 4• San DiegoState has 2
And all but 24 TCU players are
Put it all together and the potential for Boise State
looks very promising.Will
Texas replace California as a breeding
ground for future Broncos?It's
doubtful.But there's no doubt it
will grow in importance as the Texas Recruiting Pipeline continues to flow.