Once upon a time, the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners waged recruiting battles across the Red River for the top recruits in the Lone Star State.
With the Sooners once again ascendant in the state and landing numerous top recruits, no other prospect better puts into the relief the increasingly competitive recruiting trail contests between Texas and Oklahoma than Plano East linebacker Anthony Hines, the No. 1 inside linebacker in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
And it’s a recruitment that could increasingly be trending towards head coach Bob Stoops and his Land Thieves, as evidenced by a recent change in momentum in his 247Sports Crystal Ball:
A visit to Norman on August 1 was seemingly the tipping point.
What’s going on?
For one, Hines has a longstanding relationship with Stoops and his staff, as well as a high level of overall familiarity with the Sooners.
“I have a really good relationship with Coach Kish and Coach Stoops,” Hines told Horn Sports over the weekend. “I’ve just been building that relationship since freshman year. I know what they are about. I’ve been there since their old facilities, and just to see how they are growing and expanding is awesome. I’ve been there so many times, and I’ve been over academics more times than I can remember.”
Oklahoma also has a potential advocate in a trainer who works with Hines and is benefiting from its close-knit group of 2017 commits, which includes Dallas-area prospects like quarterback Chris Robison (Mesquite Horn), wide receiver Charleston Rambo (Cedar Hill), wide receiver Jalen Raegor (Waxahachie), safety Robert Barnes (Southlake Carroll), and Oklahoma prospects like linebacker Levi Draper and cornerbacks Justin Broiles and Tre Brown.
Even back as far as the Dallas The Opening Regional camp, it was remarkable to notice how the Sooners pledges were never by themselves — there were always two or three of them in the group, along with 2018 cornerback Verone McKinley III.
In fact, Hines took another important trip north of the Red River in early June with Barnes, McKinley III, Reagor, and Rambo.
So it would hardly be surprising if those recruits are helping to influence Hines and convince him that Norman is the best place for him to play his college football.
With so few commits in the 2017 class, it’s extremely difficult for the ‘Horns to compete in that manner — quarterback commit Sam Ehlinger can do his best, as can the current players, but the #OUDNA is strong with those Sooner pledges.
Still, the Longhorns are hardly out of it, as the Texas staff has also done a good job of building rapport with the No. 69 prospect in the country.
“Coach Bedford, Coach Jean-Mary, and Coach Strong, I have a really good relationship with all of those guys,” Hines said. “Every single time I go they roll out the red carpet for me and make me feel welcome. Academics wise they are the No. 1 public school in the nation, so you really can’t beat that. They are really an up-and-coming program, and I believe they are going to dominate this year.”
Speaking of the red carpet — when Hines visited Austin for the Under the Lights camp in July, he was escorted around with Kennedale linebacker Baron Browning on their own golf cart.
And a late recruiting pitch from sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson could help the ‘Horns down the stretch leading up to a decision that will have to happen before Hines enrolls early next January.
It’s likely going to be a critical recruiting pitch, as the Longhorns currently feature Jefferson out of position at the middle linebacker spot and have endured misses like losing 2015 signee Cecil Cherry after three practices and failing to land David Reese (Florida) and Dontavious Jackson (Florida State) in the 2016 class.
The lone recent victory there was securing the addition of Kris Boyd’s little brother, Demarco, who was long rumored to play fullback because he’s undersized, but is currently on the defensive side of the ball after enrolling early.
Because Hines has a remarkable ability to produce at a high level in recording 399 tackles over his three varsity seasons leading up to his senior season and is equally adept at filling against the run and dropping into coverage, the Plano product is the most important linebacker target for Texas in this cycle out of need.
Yes, that also includes the aforementioned Browning, who is an absolute stud in his own right. No disrespect to him — he may be the best linebacker in the country, regardless of position — but the skill sets of Jefferson and star 2016 signee Jeffrey McCulloch overlap with Browning more than they do with Hines.
If Hines ends up at Oklahoma, he’s the type of charismatic prospect who could become a Jefferson-like Pied Piper for the Sooners in the Metroplex and North Texas, areas the crimson and cream dominated for long stretches during the 2000s.
If Hines ends up at Texas, he would immediately become the best middle linebacker on the team and help stem Oklahoma momentum in the state, which is quickly becoming a serious challenge to the rise of the Longhorns under Strong as programs like the Aggies and Bears struggle to land top in-state recruits.
Jefferson, Strong, and the ‘Horns staff aren’t known for coming up short in many of these recruitments and that of Hines may be as important as any since Jefferson himself.