It’s amazing the difference a year can make.
In the case of Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin, it means the difference between “He’ll never make it” to “He’ll never stay.”
The recruiting trails are vicious, specifically in the SEC where the titans of college football are continually slugging it out for legions of the country’s best prospects in the South. And with such close-quartered combat going on, there’s also quite a bit of fowl play.
Negative recruiting, while asinine, is simply a part of the territory of recruiting in college football and the SEC. However, what’s interesting to watch is the changing dynamic of said recruiting as generalizations are proven untrue.
When Kevin Sumlin was a newcomer to BCS football and Texas A&M was a newcomer to the SEC, recruiters told players that Sumlin’s offense was a gimmick, he didn’t know how to win at this level and that Texas A&M wasn’t built to succeed in the SEC. All he did was win in Alabama, produce a Heisman winner, win 11 games and finish the season as arguably the hottest team in college football.
Now, just one year later, as Texas A&M puts together one of the best recruiting classes in the country, those same recruiters have changed their tune. Except they haven’t bitten their tongue or eaten their crow, they’ve just altered their approach.
What they’re saying now is that Kevin Sumlin’s star is on the rise and that Texas A&M will never be able to keep him. He’s bound to take a job for money somewhere else, presumably to take his crack at the NFL, they say.
However, just as it wasn’t true a year ago to say that Sumlin wasn’t cut out for the SEC, it’s not true to say he’ll be jumping ship. At least not in the immediate future, which isn’t exactly reassuring, but it’s all we can say at the moment.
Kevin Sumlin told the San Antonio Express-News Wednesday that he had already turned down NFL offers to stay at Texas A&M after his flashy inaugural season in College Station. The report would go on to claim that NFL offer came from none other than the Philadelphia Eagles, who would eventually hire fellow spread enthusiast Chip Kelly.
The NFL is finally softening to the breakneck pace of the no-huddle, spread offenses we’ve seen in college football for the past decade-plus, and if Kevin Sumlin can field successful offenses against the speed and size of SEC defenses, it’s fair to say his system seems better-suited for the speed and size of NFL defenses than anyone. However, despite Sumlin’s success in his initial foray in both BCS and SEC football, Texas A&M did finish just third-place in the SEC West.
The Aggies still have a ways to go before they can claim SEC dominance, and Kevin Sumlin has very clearly stated that third-place in the division isn’t what he’s shooting for. He’ll return the nation’s most electrifying player in 2013, and Sumlin’s aspirations will be far loftier than raising eyebrows like he did in 2012. He wants to raise trophies.
I think he’ll be at Texas A&M until he does so.
Unfortunately for Texas A&M, that doesn’t really offer any long-term assurances.
This team could be contenders for an SEC and BCS title as soon as shit year, and if they achieve those goals, what does Kevin Sumlin have to prove at this level?
He didn’t rule out the NFL on Wednesday. As a matter of fact, he hinted that it may be an aspiration, and even if it isn’t, he won’t be freely offering any statement to the contrary.
Saying no to the NFL may silence the negative recruiting, but, ultimately, people will find things to use against him anyways. And, being able to hold the NFL over Texas A&M’s head will be a profitable chip to hold in future negotiations.
So, for now, Kevin Sumlin may not be going anywhere, but neither will the looming allure of the NFL and the dark shadow of negative recruiting that comes with it.