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Dallas Confidential: Who’s recruiting the city best? We asked high school football coaches

Texas is a mecca in college football recruiting.

It’s loaded with elite players, but there is intense competition for that talent. The 13 FBS programs in the state do their best to keep the top talent at home, but pretty much every school around the country makes an effort to have a presence in the Lone Star State.


Last month,. This week, we turn our attention to understanding Dallas’ recruiting dynamics.

We spoke with eight high school head coaches across the metro area. They were granted anonymity in exchange for their candor.

Which in-state programs do the best job recruiting Dallas?

Coach 2: It’s probably Texas among the big-time guys. They do a great job as far as we’re concerned. Coach (Mike) Elko did a good job when he was (at Texas A&M the first time as defensive coordinator), but it’ll be interesting to see how that progresses now that he’s back. Sometimes guys come in and you can see right through them, but he seems pretty genuine. (Offensive line coach) Bill Bedenbaugh and Oklahoma do a great job around here. I gravitate toward the guys who are down to earth and seem like they’re more honest.

Coach 4: Texas and Texas A&M, as they’ve gone more national, they still do a good job, but it’s more positional recruiting. It’s not as much building a relationship with one guy that always comes through. It just depends on the guys you have. (Texas safeties coach) Blake Gideon was the area recruiter that always came by, but now Blake will call and say, “Hey, coach (Tashard) Choice is gonna come by because they want to send the position coach.”

Coach 6: SMU. I think they do the best job of having a presence. They are a little South Dallas-focused, but everyone is because that’s where a lot of talent is, so I get it. But in terms of having a presence and being visible, it’s for sure. Even if your school hasn’t had a college player in 55 years, they’ll send a coach (to see you). They host that mega camp. They are pretty visible.

Coach 8: . The presence of Joey McGuire, being that he was a DFW high school coach, he doesn’t just send his position coaches out. I’ve seen him (here) and I don’t have anybody right now who could play for him. You’ll always see the head coach if you have a guy. It’s the relational side when they come by and do their due diligence. I’m an old-school guy, and that sends a positive message to high school coaches when he is out and about. I see him a lot. It’s all about relationships. At the end of the day, these things can come down to who is giving the most money, but if the money is the same? That could make the difference.

Joey McGuire has made DFW a priority for Texas Tech. (Rob Gray / USA Today)

Which programs would you like to see more of?

Coach 1: Being up here, you want to see more of the schools down south like Houston, , , Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, some of the smaller schools that don’t have as big of a budget as the Power 5.

Coach 2: All the big places come through here, and the in-state schools will make their rounds, but currently UNT is all of a sudden doing a great job recruiting here. Eric Morris has done a really good job. Texas State has really improved since GJ Kinne has been there. He’s got a good, young staff and a lot of them are related to Texas high school football in some form or fashion. Rice is limited because you have to have the right academic profile. They always come through, but they have to search.


Coach 3: The new schools from the ACC. The North Carolinas, Clemsons. They might be able to stay more Southeast, but with SMU in the league now, it would make sense to try and tap this market as well because it’s so big.

Coach 5: I don’t see a lot of coaches from Texas. We don’t have guys in our program right now being recruited by schools of that caliber, but not long ago UT had a presence throughout the state whether you had a guy or not. That’s not the case anymore.

Coach 6: North Texas does the worst job. They’re just not consistent. For whatever reason, A&M and Houston are the least visible in our school. I don’t have a relationship with anyone on the new A&M staff. In the last few years, there hasn’t been a whole lot of A&M presence.

What changes in recruiting have you seen from Texas A&M since Mike Elko took over?

Coach 1: He’s trying to make a bigger imprint in Dallas. A&M, they typically do a good job in Houston and around Cypress, but Texas does a better job in Dallas than they do. He’s trying to make a bigger imprint in Dallas to try and see if they can get more kids out of the Metroplex.

Coach 3: They’ve been very aggressive about putting a footprint in the state again. They got away from that with Jimbo (Fisher) and getting guys from Florida and Louisiana. They’re making Texas a priority again. They’ll still recruit the out-of-state guys, but they’re being aggressive in the state.

Coach 6: I don’t think they’ve done a good job of reaching out. They are much more NIL-focused and only the five-stars. A lot of teams are recruiting-based and relationships matter. Some teams are just transactional-based and are going to buy whatever they want and are like, “Screw the other stuff.” I get the feeling from A&M that they are on the buying players bandwagon.


Coach 7: I just didn’t think Jimbo Fisher was ever really connected to the Texas High School Coaches Association. He isn’t a really connecting guy. We saw that. That’s part of the issue with that locker room down there. He isn’t a people and organizational magnet. I think that part he had a harder time with. With Elko, I don’t know, but the impression is that he is going to be more of a magnetic personality and to get people to buy into what he’s selling.

What have you noticed about Steve Sarkisian and Texas vs. the previous staffs there?

Coach 1: When Sark hired his staff, I thought he’d put together a great staff as recruiters and as coaches. So I figured he would be able to flip that program around with guys he brought in like Jeff Banks, Bo Davis, Tashard Choice. Those guys have great relationships around the state and I knew with the resources Texas has, they’d be able to get the guys Texas needed.

Coach 2: I compare him to Mack Brown. When you walked into the facility at UT, I was speaking at a clinic and Mack would walk in the door and shake your hand and look you in the eye and say “Hey, (Name).”

Now, he may have no idea who I was but somebody on that staff did and told him coach (name) from (school) is in there. And he walked right in and knew your name. That’s the stuff Mack Brown did and that’s what Sarkisian and his staff are doing. He called me within the first couple days he was named the coach at UT.

I had players. I’m not stupid. I know why he’s calling me. But the previous staff wasn’t doing that. The previous two staffs, really, weren’t doing things like that. Sark and his staff have a great handle on what’s going on in regard to NIL, managing all that and still trying to develop relationships. When I go watch Texas practice, Sark is coaching the QBs, sees me, walks right over and shakes my hand. “Hey Coach, how you doing?” The previous staff wasn’t doing that. Not that I need that, but that is a difference-maker with a lot of people.

Coach 3:  They have a little more swagger now. They made Texas a priority again. It’s the same thing. When Charlie Strong had the job, they were recruiting all those guys from Florida, Louisiana and really not making headway in the state. Tom Herman kind of tried to but I don’t think he did a good job of that. Now, Sarkisian realizes Texas is Texas and we’ve got the best players in the country so why not make this our priority? They’ve done it the right way. It reminds me of Mack Brown. When he won the title, he had a bunch of kids from the Metroplex and out of Houston playing. It’s like that model on steroids.

Which Group of 5 programs recruit DFW the best?

Coach 1: , you see them come around a lot. They hit this area really good. SMU, before they jumped to the ACC, did a good job. Those are the two who stuck out among that group, and I’m sure they got a little more money than a lot of the other G5 schools.


Coach 2: UNT and Texas State. Those guys are getting after it. UNT is finding hidden gems. We had a quarterback who played at another Group of 5 school and was a multi-year starter. UNT didn’t even recruit him. Now, UNT has offered some guys that are under-recruited but they evaluate them and listen to us when we say they’re great players. You’re not going to find the guy who is the perfect height or weight. Those guys are going to Texas and Texas A&M. You gotta find the guy who’s an inch shorter or 0.3 seconds slower but can play. UNT and Texas State are doing a great job of that. I’ve seen a significant change in their efforts and connection to high school coaches with this staff.

Coach 4: UTSA is easily one of the best to do it. Even with guys who are Power 5 guys, they will recruit them and build relationships because in the portal world, if they have that relationship and he wants to come back home, they remember those relationships. They might not get them out of high school, but they’ll be in a great position if they bounce back from an out-of-state program.

Coach 5: does a really good job. (Offensive coordinator) Steve Spurrier Jr. is always around. is another school that has really done a good job. (Receivers coach) Bobby Kennedy recruits our area, and even before that, they did a good job.

Coach 6: has put on a huge blitz right now. Texas State, I’ve seen a renewed effort there. There is a renewed focus on high school kids. When Jake Spavital was there, I don’t think they signed a high school kid in one class and they weren’t very visible. They are making more of an effort to come back around again.

Coach 7: I see . They pop into mind. (Quarterbacks coach) Matt Mumme, he has this area, and he’s hit me up two or three times. This is recent. People who have recently reached out and it’s like “OK, this guy is actually interested in what is going on out here.”

Who is the best recruiting head coach you’ve ever dealt with?

Coach 1: (’s) Ryan Day does a good job because he’ll come by a high school without having a coach meet him there. He doesn’t need an escort. He feels comfortable just walking into a high school and seeing who he needs to see. That’s different. You don’t really get that from head coaches a lot of the time.

Coach 3: I like Sark. He’s genuine. You can tell he’s where his feet are. He wants to be at Texas and turn them into the power they should be. I like his approach. He understands kids. He understands parents. He knows what people like. The flashy stuff, he gets it. He knows how to connect with those people. Jeff Lebby at is also doing a hell of a job.


Coach 4: (UTSA’s) Jeff Traylor and (SMU’s) Rhett Lashlee. They do great jobs coming through. Lincoln Riley has been great coming by from USC. Coach (Dan) Lanning at Oregon. Coach (Matt) Rhule at Nebraska, when he walks in the door he knows exactly how to do it. He got a big-time education when he had Joey McGuire and David Wetzel on his staff at about what to do when he got through the door and what Texas high school coaches want to see. So many of those guys who used to be assistants or high school coaches and are now in big jobs, they still remember how to play the game and how to be great when they walk in the room.

Coach 5: (Oklahoma’s) Brent Venables. Rhett Lashlee is the next one. Those guys just have a presence. They have an ability to build relationships in a short amount of time. Head coaches don’t have a ton of time to spend with everybody and they have to make that time count. Those two coaches have that gift.

Coach 6: (’s) Dabo Swinney was really good in the building. (’s) Brian Kelly was really organized. It was like the President of the United States was making a stop through here. He had a folder with everyone’s information. He had a very organized approach.

Coach 7: Jim Leonhard. He was the interim head coach at Wisconsin. You have all these head coaches roll in and it’s so interesting to see how they roll in. Do they roll in with a handler who stays in the car? Do they come with an entourage? How do they arrive? How do they connect with people. He came in by himself and we talked. He is a good dude, a good football coach and is a normal human being. He doesn’t look at his contract every day. He doesn’t say, “Look at me, I’m somebody.” That dude is the real deal.

Coach 8: It was Mack. He’d come into the room and know things about you. He’d run into your wife at the airport when you’re not with her and he remembers. She brings up your name and he remembers where you coach. He was one of the best, hands down.

Which assistant coaches stand out?

Coach 1: Khenon Hall. He just came over to Baylor from SMU. Zarnell Fitch from Texas Tech. Him and are really good over there. , he’s at Missouri now but he used to be at (Houston).

Coach 2: Bill Bedenbaugh is a great one. We really liked Tyler Santucci when he was at Texas A&M. He’s Elko’s guy but he didn’t come with him to A&M. I really like Will Bryant from Texas State. Patrick Cobbs at UNT.


Coach 3: I love Jeff Banks at Texas. Tashard Choice at Texas. Emmett Jones at Oklahoma. And Chris Gilbert being back at Texas is huge. He’s a relationship guy. He’s the glue to that whole thing down there, to be honest. Corey Jordan at UTSA. Curtis Luper at Missouri. Ra’Shaad Samples at (Oregon). Khenon Hall at Baylor, he’s a dude. Brandon Jones at Missouri.

Coach 4: Chris Hampton at Oregon. He’s one of the all-time great guys down here. Everybody in Texas loved him. Ra’Shaad Samples, he just went to Oregon also and has great connections down here. Rickey Hunley at SMU.

Kurt Traylor and Jess Loepp at UTSA. Jess has always had a great footprint here. Lanear Sampson, he was at Austin Peay and went to San Diego State. He played at Baylor and he’s from Mesquite. Josh Atkinson is at CSU-Pueblo now, but he’s been around and a lot of people around here think a lot of him. Blake Gideon does a great job. He’s a coach’s kid so he knows how things are done. Josh Martin at Nebraska is the same thing. His dad is the president of THSCA.

All the guys at Texas Tech with high school backgrounds. Kenny Perry and Zach Kittley, they kill it. (Justin) Johnson. He walks through the door and it’s like party time. UTSA just brought on Corey Jordan from McKinney (High School). He’s another guy who will be a fast-track guy like Will Stein. Hunter Rittimann is great down there, too.

Coach 5: Bobby Kennedy is an all-time favorite. When he was at Stanford, at Iowa and at Texas before. He does a tremendous job. (Wisconsin offensive coordinator) Phil Longo does a great job. Scott Symons at SMU. He’s stood out since he was at Liberty. Brian Hartline at Ohio State.

Coach 6: (Current head coach and former Georgia assistant) Dell McGee. You could tell he was super confident in what he was doing. Rented an Escalade, pulled it up in front of the school. He literally told me he wouldn’t lose a kid. “I get whatever I want.” And he did. I thought there was no way because it was down to the last days of signing day, but he started the relationship and was really good at it. He took them off campus to get a haircut. That guy knew what the hell he was doing. He was going to get the job done.

Coach 8: Patrick Cobbs. Kenny Perry at Texas Tech does a great job. Joe Bolden at Tulsa. He follows up, always being proactive, having a list of kids who he wants to see. Some coaches say they’ll come back to practice to see your kids, and when he says it, he does it. Things happen, traffic, but if he gets held up he’ll call you and tell you. He’s done a tremendous job in the area.


How will Texas and OU going to the SEC change the dynamics of recruiting in Dallas?

Coach 1: It’s going to make it harder for other SEC schools to get kids out of the Metroplex. You’re playing in that big brand of football now and it should help them. I don’t think the other SEC schools have something they can offer that OU and don’t. Texas was just in the Playoff and they’ll only get better. Everybody’s got the buildings, locker rooms and facilities. The only thing you can offer now is more money (laughs).

Coach 2: You’d like to think they’ve only recruited the very best players so I don’t think that changes unless their philosophy changes about what type of player they need. Maybe they only take a kid because they think he’ll end up being 330 or 340 instead of just 290. I’ve had schools in the SEC tell me that kind of thing will be a factor. If that becomes OU and Texas’ philosophy, I could see that tweaking some things. Otherwise, I think they’ll be recruiting the exact same players. They’ll both stay in Texas for the most part but maybe now they can dip their toe in Mississippi, Alabama or Florida.

Coach 3: It’s huge. Texas took a hit because a lot of kids were going to A&M because they were in the SEC. Now, I put this brand in the SEC and A&M is going to take a hit. I think it’s huge. Oklahoma, it’s big for them. They don’t have a big market, but they have a big brand. That helps them as well. The teams that stayed in the Big 12 are going to suffer. All the kids are going to try and bolt and play in the SEC. The Group of 5s are now junior colleges. If your kid is all-conference, he ain’t coming back. He’s gone, and you know he’s gone. They have to change their thinking for how they build their programs. They have to tell kids, “Come here, play a couple years and you’ll be gone.” They have to just be good with that. They’re not going to stay around.

Steve Sarkisian has signed three straight top-six classes at Texas. (Stephen Lew / USA Today)

Have you seen more of the Big 12 programs in Dallas?

Coach 2: I haven’t seen much of Arizona, or Colorado, but Utah has always recruited here. (Linebackers coach) Colton Swan does a great job over there. Now that they’re in the Big 12, they’ll be playing in Texas a lot and may sign more guys from here.

Coach 3: None. They better pick it up or they’re gonna get left behind. They don’t have the SEC to sell. If they don’t make a footprint, it’s going to be trouble. is trying. Colorado, nothing. I know Deion (Sanders) recently said he wants people to come to him and not go to them. Keep talking like that. I’m not against you but you’ll eventually realize that s— ain’t gonna work. These kids want to know. It’s easy to say that when you get all these guys out of the portal but if you focus on high schools and don’t visit people? I don’t see it. I really want to see his place after his kids leave, after Shedeur (Sanders), Shilo (Sanders) and (Travis) Hunter. I think he’ll leave when they’re done anyway.

Utah is here now and then. Arizona State does a decent job. has done nothing. has done nothing. has offered a few kids but outside of that, nothing. I don’t understand how you’ll play a conference that’s in this area and not recruit DFW.

Coach 7: Arizona State. I’ve seen offers. I think they are on it. Arizona, they are hustling a little bit too. Utah, that was before they were in the Big 12. Utah has always been able to come to Texas and get some good developmental guys that have gone on to be really good players. They were already bought into the state. Colorado, they aren’t around. They’re not. You can get kids to go to Colorado. Every North Texas kid takes the church bus up there to go skiing. They aren’t out hustling. They’re not on the road hustling, which is what you’d think would be (Deion’s) deal.


Coach 8: I haven’t seen Colorado.

Which out-of-state schools have done the best job recruiting DFW?

Coach 1: Probably OU. They’re so close.

Coach 2: Oklahoma’s kind of too obvious. But Missouri does a good job. is cleaning up out here right now. is doing a hell of a job.

Coach 4: Nebraska since Rhule got there has been here a ton. USC, with coach Riley’s connections here is big. Oregon is getting huge down here now. With Chris Hampton and now Ra’Shaad Samples, they have guys with major connections down here. OU, I don’t know if you count them as out of state. But they’re big. It’s hard to call them out of state because they’re here so much. I’m surprised Oklahoma State hasn’t gotten a better foothold here. It’s not that they do a bad job, but they haven’t been as successful as others here. Tulsa killed it in the Metroplex this year. They’ve made a point to come down here. And not many kids go there, but New Mexico and New Mexico State are here a ton. They’re here every single year. is trying to make waves down here with Barry Odom having ties here but especially (offensive coordinator) Brennan Marion. Being at Tulsa and being at Texas, he’s got connections here. Georgia and will dip in for a player here or there. They don’t come every year.

Coach 5: There’s no denying Ohio State. The kids they’ve gotten from this area have been superstars.

Coach 6: does a really good job. Curtis Luper does a really good job, which could be another one for assistants. The interaction is genuine. Not, you know, transactional. You can build a relationship with him.

What has your experience been with NIL?

Coach 2: I asked awhile back what people would get just for signing their name and a coach told me $300,000-$500,000 without ever playing. We had a kid go to a school and (he) comes home a few months after enrolling and he’s driving a $100,000 Porsche and hadn’t played a snap yet. That’s baffling. You come home with $1,000 pair of shoes and driving a Porsche and haven’t played a snap yet.


Coach 3: I’m a father to the fatherless, I’m a counselor, I’m a negotiator, I’m a financial planner, I’m a lawyer. I gotta do all that because these kids don’t know. I’ve got national recruits so outside of trusting me, some of them need to get representation. It’s a lot of money and they need to know what they’re getting themselves into. I do a lot on the front end to protect them. But when it starts getting close to a million dollars, s—, they need to get somebody else helping them. I’m mad I ain’t makin’ that money. I don’t have a law degree. I do watch a lot of “Law and Order,” though.

Coach 4: Mostly it’s just trying to educate parents and the kids on multiple things. I’ve had parents tell me they don’t want to sound like they’re money hungry, but at the same time, “We feel like we need to educate our kid on what’s available.” So I tell them to make sure to see what each school is saying about it. And I make sure they know that they need to reach out to somebody who can help their kid take care of their money.

The other thing is sitting our kids down to make sure they watch out for who might be coming out of the woodwork and seeing them as a meal ticket, whether it’s an uncle or a cousin or even a girl or something, as crazy as that sounds. We’ve had kids and people know they’re going to make over $1 million in NIL through their career. A lot of people can figure that out and try to get their claws in them. It’s a scary burden to put on a 16-, 17-year-old kid. But the world can be a scary, shady place. There’s bad people out there who can try to take advantage of you.

Coach 5: There’s an interesting situation where one of my former players is an incumbent starter at a D-I school and they signed another kid out of the portal and gave him exponentially more NIL money to get him there.

Now, as they go through spring football, that portal player is going to be a backup. It speaks to what universities are willing to do to get somebody into their program vs. what they’re willing to do to keep somebody that’s had loyalty. There’s a kid they covet but they know he’s not leaving because he loves it where he is so the pot isn’t as sweet (as it is) for the kid they have to try and pull out of the portal.

Coach 6: I hear, “We’re going to offer $13,000 a month. You have to show up to the running back dinner on Sundays,” and, “We’re going to offer $200K a year, but you have to play in the bowl game.” Now, I do have a lawyer that reviews all the contracts for the kids.

A lot of kids don’t realize that these contracts have language in them that gives (the other party) the first right out of refusal. So let’s say (a kid) signs with the local apartment complex — “Rent from our college apartment, you get 10k a month.” All these contracts have standard language that they have first right of refusal on other endorsements. So if you go on to win the Heisman and Gatorade wants to use you, that apartment complex has to sign off on it. In theory, they could hold the kid hostage for money. They have no idea they are signing their rights over in one little s—y ass NIL deal. Kids are stupid not to have a lawyer read these things.


Coach 8: We are just an extension of their parents. They can ask questions, too. I try not to get too involved in it. Just trying to protect them. Get it in writing. Get good representation, not a street agent, someone who knows how to navigate the waters. We are slowly getting involved in those conversations with the parents. It’s really hard. They listen to you for all four years, then money gets involved and things change. I just try to be an extension. Hopefully, they’ll feel comfortable. Money always clouds stuff.

(Top illustration: Daniel Goldfarb for The Athletic; Photo: Valerie Macon / AFP via Getty Images)