Texas college football coaches work to strike balance in transfer portal, HS recruiting


SAN ANTONIO — Rhett Lashlee was very clear. His team spirit will always start at the secondary level.

And, in his position, why shouldn’t that be philosophy? The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is as fertile recruiting ground as any coach could hope for, and for SMU, it’s in the schoolyard. Of the 12 high school players he signed in the Class of 2022, eight are from the Dallas area.

But here’s something else you’ll see when you look at newcomers to the program: SMU signed more college transfers (16) than players out of high school before the 2022 season.

Hello, transfer portal.

For college football purists, who believe in something closer to a grassroots, recruiting and development strategy, the reality of college football (where over 2,000 players have entered the transfer portal over the past the last offseason) is undeniably there. And now people like Lashlee will seek to strike a balance between the two.

“It affects recruiting high school athletes to college,” Lashlee said Sunday night at the Texas High School Coaches Association coaching school in San Antonio. “You have to adapt and you have to do what’s best in real time for your team and your roster. Sometimes you lose an older guy in the portal, you have to find a quick fix. to be out of taking a high school kid who would have been taken if it hadn’t been for that. That’s how the game is played.”

After Ulysses Bentley IV – the AAC’s main rusher of 2020 – was traded from SMU to Ole Miss in March, the Mustangs bolstered their backfield through the portal, with the addition of Camar Wheaton (a move from Alabama) and Velton Gardner (a transfer from Kansas). Both, at the very least, have some sort of experience at the college level. The team has not signed any high school running backs in the Class of 2022, and of the 20 Class of 2023 running backs offered by SMU, 14 have already committed to other programs.

But, in that same incoming class for 2022, the Mustangs also signed a four-star tight end (RJ Maryland of Southlake Carroll), the nation’s fastest 100-meter sprinter who played high school football at a national powerhouse. (Duncanville safety Pierre Goree) and a Texas State champion quarterback (Kevin Henry-Jennings of South Oak Cliff).

“That’s the landscape we find ourselves in,” Lashlee said. “You have to be able to do both well. You need to be able to recruit the portal, but don’t forget where you can build your roster in the high school ranks.

Lashlee, in his first year as SMU’s head coach, was one of many Division I coaches to support the high school building strategy at THSCA’s coaching school. in San Antonio. It was a brace for Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire, who said the same at the Big 12 media day last week in Arlington.

The growth of the college football transfer portal has not necessarily made this process seamless. So, at the THSCA training school in San Antonio, the former Cedar Hill coach appealed to the state’s high school coaches.

“The guys in the portal?” You coached them in high school,” McGuire told a crowd of Texas high school football coaches Sunday night. “I think that’s more important than ever during the recruiting process – not sending them to Texas Tech because you’re one of my buddies – but sending them where you’re going to send them, because you know the guys who recruit them. , you know the roster, and that you are more involved than ever in the recruiting process.

Take it from TCU freshman coach Sonny Dykes, who has done a great job recruiting Dallas-area high schoolers for the past few years and surely wants it to continue: the prospect of recruit, recruit, sign and developing a high schooler – anything for them one day might transfer – isn’t the easiest pill to swallow.

“For years and years and years we sat down and projected our roster,” Dykes said. “You look and say ‘Man, we’ve got this great freshman, he’s going to be with us for four years, we can count on him. Well, all of a sudden, that kid you put all that work into is gone.

Maybe that’s just the reality. And in the Class of 2022, the Dykes Horned Frogs signed more college transfers (14) than high school recruits (10).

“Either you adapt,” Texas State coach Jake Spavital said. “Or you die.”


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