COLUMN: The Aggies are here to stay

Texas A&M hasn't been much of a threat to LSU when it comes to recruiting in the state of Louisiana. But with the Aggies now one of the hottest programs in the country, they've moved into The Boot with hopes of planting a maroon and white flag. How much longer can the Tigers hold off A&M on their home turf?

Texas A&M is no stranger to Louisiana. For years they've recruited The Boot with hopes of supplementing their Texas crop with the elite athletes that come out of this state.

The Aggies aren't afraid to cross the Sabine River and head east down Interstate-10 or north up Interstate-49 to raid Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Monroe and the state's other hot beds of recruiting.

They've had their success too. The Aggies currently have nine players from Lousiana in their defensive two-deep, three of those brought in the last two classes — Kevin Sumlin's first two at the helm of the program.

Port Allen freshman Darian Claiborne ranks second on the Aggies in tackles and leads in tackles for loss. Brother Martin sophomore Julien Obioha has five stops behind the line as he's emerged as a starting defensive end.

But the argument LSU has, at least for now, is that those were players the Tigers essentially passed on. Neither Claiborne nor Obioha ever received offers. Neither did other starters like Gavin Stansbury (Franklin), Deshazor Everett (DeRidder) nor Floyd Raven (East St. John).

"I know they're five of our better players," Sumlin said this week during his weekly press conference. "Whether they were offered by LSU or not is irrelevant. They're starting for us."

The feeling since Nick Saban took over the LSU program — and Les Miles has carried the torch — is that the Tigers took whom they wanted in Louisiana and left the rest for other schools. That's still the case for the most part. LSU rarely loses an in-state prospect it wants, though Saban has proven the walls aren't impenetrable.

Now Sumlin's trying to have that same success by invading through the Western Front.

So far that hasn't exactly yielded results. Texas A&M made strong runs at 2014 commits Trey Quinn and Jacory Washington. They also continue to try to pull Speedy Noil or Gerald Willis, though they seem closer to LSU by the day.

The Aggies haven't landed that signature recruiting victory yet against LSU to signal their move into Louisiana. Until Texas A&M accomplishes that feat, LSU can continue to sit back and sell kids on staying home and suiting up in purple and gold, the formula that's worked for the better part of the last decade.

But how long can LSU hold off the Aggies?

The Tigers used to have one big advantage. Back in the Class of 2009, five-star Craig Loston was committed to Texas A&M before flipping to LSU because he wanted to play in the SEC. Now A&M's in the same fraternity, evening the playing field somewhat as they move further into their conference rivals' footprints.

And there's no denying that Texas A&M is one of the country's hottest programs right now. Johnny Manziel reenergized an already passionate fan base that clings to tradition like it's a maroon pair of cowboy boots. Those alumni have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate Kyle Field, a financial commitment necessary to keep pace in the SEC.

Also factor in their biggest leader. Sumlin is the ultimate player's coach, and he's getting teenagers excited at the prospects of playing for him. His pass-happy offensive style lures kids in with the thought of putting up video game numbers.

And you can see for yourself how excited he gets his team just by presenting the idea of an off day.

But Sumlin won't be there forever. He may not even be in College Station this time next year. Program's aren't built in one year or even by one man. Texas A&M will have to continue growing from the success of 2012 and 2013 in order to really enter the level of the SEC's elite.

But Texas A&M has a solid start and they're only carrying forward from here. Miles said this week that they have in fact "run across them" on the recruiting trail.

Well, LSU will likely "run across them" many more times in the coming years. The Tigers still have a decisive advantage when it comes to recruiting in Louisiana. But that won't stop the Aggies, and if they've proven one thing in the last two years, it's that they're here to stay.


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