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Texas and Michigan lead for Rice graduate transfer OT Calvin Anderson

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The recruitment of Anderson is arguably more important than that of any prospects who signed yesterday.

Florida International v Rice Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

With former Stanford Cardinal offensive tackle Casey Tucker headed home to the Arizona State Devils, landing former Rice Owls graduate transfer offensive tackle Calvin Anderson is all the more important for the Texas Longhorns.

The good news is that Anderson has a preliminary list and the Longhorns and Michigan Wolverines at at the top, he told Sports Illustrated last week. That’s the “first tier,” with Auburn, Oklahoma, and then TCU. Texas A&M also offered on National Signing day, but the Aggies are entering his recruitment kind of late.

The hierarchy of programs on Anderson’s list is fluid, according to the Austin Westlake product, who plans on visiting Auburn this weekend. In recent weeks, he’s also taken official visits to Texas and Michigan. When the Longhorns played the Sooners last weekend, Anderson was in attendance after honoring his father, who became a colonel:

Anderson seems to be enjoying his second recruitment — his first didn’t feature nearly as much attention. An undersized lineman at Westlake, Anderson committed to Rice as a junior when he was only 210 pounds. When he continued to grow and improve as a senior, he turned down interest from Kansas State and Texas Tech.

“At the time, I was just so committed to Rice, I told them I’m not talking to anybody,” Anderson told SEC Country. “If anybody comes, just tell them I’m going to Rice. I didn’t go to any camps. I didn’t do any of that. So I didn’t really have a recruiting process.”

In contrast to Tucker, who went dark on social media while he sat out at Stanford and conducted his recruitment entirely behind the scenes, Anderson has been much more forthcoming, giving numerous interviews and sharing information on Twitter about visits from coaches.

For fans of the numerous programs pursuing Anderson, there’s also plenty of information to parse and digest as a result. Plenty to appreciate about a young man who can do a Rubik’s cube behind his back and is ready to graduate from Rice with a degree in mathematical economic analysis.

Good for Anderson for enjoying the process, too. Why not have fun talking football with Jim Harbaugh and Tom Herman and a host of successful offensive line coaches? Anyone would appreciate the opportunity to build relationships with those position coaches at Top Golf and bowling. Or grabbing some Uchiko with players from your high school alma mater who could become your teammates in your home town.

When Anderson went to Rice, any NFL dreams he had probably didn’t include what’s happening now.

Despite all of that, and despite all the obvious connections to Austin that helped establish the Longhorns in the first tier, Anderson has been adamant that this is a business decision. Preparing for the NFL is the focus.

Texas has certainly helped itself. Former offensive line coach Derek Warehime managed to make first contact with Anderson after he announced his intent to transfer by getting in touch with his high school discus coach. Resourceful.

Then Herman hired Herb Hand, the first coach to visit Anderson when he was at Auburn. Given Anderson’s focus as a graduate transfer, Hand was never selling either school — he was talking business.

“His pitch really didn’t change,” Anderson told SI. “From the beginning he’s talked very specifically about why he wants to coach me. He really sold me on why he thinks I’m a good player and on the things he can help coach me to get better at. It was not as much of a recruiting pitch change as you might think. He said he can help fix my stance, get it more square, help me play with better pad level, teach me some technique things as far as double teams and stepping off the ball which will help me to maximize my ability to use my leverage.”

On the football side there are two major factors working in favor of Michigan — Harbaugh’s experience in the NFL that lends a professional feel to the Wolverines program and the quality of defensive linemen in the Big Ten.

“I think it fits me perfectly,” Anderson told Maize N Brew after his official visit to Ann Arbor. “My goal is obviously to get preparation for the next level and that’s an added bonus that this program is run very similarly to how they do in the pros. They have a lot of guys on staff, Harbaugh/Drevno included, and a bunch of other guys that have been in the pros, both played and coached, and worked behind the scenes too, so all of that is crucial I think to how they’re presenting themselves as a professional environment. I think I’ll fit in great on that front.”

Drevno is part of Harbaugh’s professional lineage, having worked with him at Stanford and with the San Francisco 49ers before landing in Ann Arbor. Anderson likes that, too.

Researching the different leagues showcases the differences — the Big Ten has bigger defensive linemen to showcase in run blocking in Harbaugh’s conservative offense. Playing left tackle for Texas would require going against smaller, quicker defenders.

And, of course, playing against SEC West competition would provide the biggest challenge overall, so the visit to Auburn this weekend could have a significant impact on Anderson’s recruitment. With quarterback Jarrett Stidham returning, the Tigers will almost certainly be a better team next year than Michigan or Texas. Perhaps better than Oklahoma, too.

The Longhorns have some definite build-in advantages, but unlike in normal recruitments where each school has a varying level of need, every school on his list needs Anderson to step in immediately at left tackle. And those built-in advantages are also negated by the circumstances of being a graduate transfer preparing for the NFL.

Between Anderson’s top four schools, he can’t make a bad decision — each staff has a credible claim to developmental ability. In that area, having hired Hand could be a difference-maker for Texas.

Through the first month of Anderson’s second, he’s planned on deciding on his birthday, March 25, at the latest. To hear Anderson tell it publicly, there’s that level of fluidity between the top four schools. Picking against Texas in this one doesn’t seem like a great bet and the staff likely feels confident about landing him, but it would hardly be shocking if he picks Michigan or Auburn or even Oklahoma if the Sooners manage to procure a visit.