As the nation watched Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Saban’s latest title team duke it out for the crown of top dog, there was plenty of Texas high school talent on display. The four playoff participants had a combined 52 Texas on their rosters. Twelve played for Alabama.
“The Herman hire shook things up, and he has them sold on bringing Texas back,” hookem.com recruiting guru Mike Craven told me. “I’d imagine Fisher can do the same for a cycle or two. That said, eventually you got to win or guys will go find programs that are.”
So why not keep that running talent in Texas, where he had a drawer full of scholarship offers?
He eventually chose the Trojans over Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor. It turned out to be the right decision. Jones, nicknamed the Texas Tesla by teammates, joined an elite group of USC backs to rush for over 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons — O.J. Simpson, Anthony Davis, Charles White, Ricky Bell, Marcus Allen and LenDale White. Had he run for another 13 yards his freshman year, it would have been three straight 1,000-yard seasons.
Stidham attended. He played high school ball at Stephenville and started at Baylor before leaving for Auburn amid the sexual assault scandal. The SEC newcomer of the year holds the distinction of beating both Alabama and Georgia this past season.
At Wednesday’s Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award banquet in Tyler, the five finalists — Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, USC running back Ronald Jones II, Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham and Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington — were lauded for their on-field exploits in a room full of college football fans and their families. Five great players. All starring for schools outside of Texas.
Jones grew up in McKinney and dreamed of playing for the Longhorns.
Barrett was unable to attend the ceremony, but his dad, J.T. Barrett III, told me his son was never offered a scholarship by Texas coach Mack Brown, although Brown had his son throw for him and the offensive staff. Barrett, a Wichita Falls product, eventually signed with Ohio State, where he led the Buckeyes to 38 wins in his 44 starts. He leaves college as the only three-time team captain in the program’s storied history.
Poor coaching? Superior recruiting outside the state? Nick Saban?