Recruiting is a never-ending turf war between college football programs. Texas A&M’s announced Week 1 starting quarterback, Kyle Allen, is in the middle of a burgeoning rumble for territory between SEC and Pac-12 programs.
The 5-star prospect Allen had offers from dozens of programs. A&M’s Week 1 opponent, Arizona State, was among them.
In that regard, his Week 1 matchup with the Sun Devils isn’t unique. Kyle Allen and Texas A&M share a division with Alabama and Ole Miss, both of which also pursued him.
Of course, those other programs to recruit Kyle Allen weren’t a 20-minute drive from his high school. Allen went to Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, a short jaunt northeast up Loop 101 from Arizona State’s campus.
None of those other suitors were invoked as reminders of the heated recruiting turf wars that cross over state and conference borders.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin touted his track record recruiting the Grand Canyon State at a fundraiser this summer, saying:
“I’m sure Todd Graham will be real excited to come here. He’s the head coach at Arizona State, and we just snatched the two best players out of their state two years in a row.”
Kyle Allen was the first in 2014. Wide receiver Christian Kirk, of Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School, signed with the Aggies this past winter.
Sumlin shouting-out Texas A&M going into Arizona State’s backyard for two, top-level recruits isn’t entirely unprovoked, though. His turf is under duress from Todd Graham and the Sun Devils.
Graham, a native Texan, made the Lone Star State a recruiting priority upon his arrival at Arizona State in 2012. Nine Texans are on the 2015 Sun Devil roster, and one of Graham’s best players in his time in Tempe — running back Marion Grice — was recruited out of Houston.
Arizona State’s Sept. 5 matchup with Texas A&M in Houston fits in Graham’s Texas strategy. It’s the Sun Devils’ second nonconference game in the state in the last three years — they played Notre Dame in Arlington in 2013 — and they’ll return for a date with Texas Tech in 2017.
Establishing a presence in recruiting battleground areas is essential for those programs seeking to make inroads. A winning presence is all the more important. Beating Texas A&M in its neck of the woods plants Sparky’s fork and sends out a beacon to the prospects of the talent-rich state.
But don’t expect Sumlin to cede his region quietly. The allure of playing for a fast-building program, in front of 110,000 fans for home games and in the most publicized conference speaks to recruits outside of A&M’s region — without the Aggies having to leave their geographic footprint, no less.
Scoring a win over one of the two programs in an increasingly important outlying state furthers Sumlin’s reach. That ASU represents the Pac-12, a conference challenging the SEC for supremacy, is all the more meaningful.
If Kyle Allen, an Arizona-raised quarterback can raise the flag for A&M in this turf war, it’s all the better for Sumlin.