With the Texas Longhorns program reeling and the TCU Horned Frogs battling despite attrition and injuries, head coach Gary Patterson won his second major victory over the Longhorns in as many weeks by convincing longtime Texas commit Kyle Hicks, a 2013 running back from Arlington (TX) Martin, to switch his pledge on Monday afternoon.
The 5-10, 195-pound Hicks is recovering from an ACL injury that ended his season, but that didn't dissuade the Horned Frogs, who had been pursuing the local product for some time and received a visit for the Oklahoma game last Saturday. Hicks had publicly denied his interest ($) in TCU recently.
It seems that the TCU staff also received an assist from a current star -- freshman defensive end Devonte Fields went to high school with Hicks at Martin. Hicks said the presence of Fields made a difference for him ($):
Devonte's (Fields) is doing big things as a freshman there. He said I could too. He's like my brother. I'm excited to play with him again.
Hicks also shared several other reasons for his decision:
Hicks: " 1 I get to play for an outstanding football team. 2 I get a good education from a private school & 3 it is 15 minutes from home."— William Wilkerson (@ESPNwilkerson) December 3, 2012
A consensus four-star prospect rated among the top 20 running backs in the country, Hicks committed to Texas in February over offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and others.
The Horned Frogs had a need at running back with only Houston (TX) Alief Taylor running back Trevorris Johnson committed in the 2013 class. The opportunity for early playing time could have held significant appeal for Hicks, as well, as he is a more well-rounded running back than BJ Catalon, who is smaller and more known for his speed than his ability to run inside.
Meanwhile, Hicks was the sole pledge for Texas at running back, but with depth already on campus in the form of Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, Johnathan Gray, and Daje Johnson, there's not an immediate need to find a replacement in the 2013 class, especially with two 2014 running backs committed in Aldine (TX) Eisenhower's Donald Catalon and Fort Worth (TX) All Saints' Daniel Gresham.
However, the decommitment from Hicks could be one of the early signs in a major shift in recruiting in the state of Texas. A&M is already providing a major challenge with their move to the SEC, and some believe that the move to the Big 12 could end up paying similar dividends for the Horned Frogs:
Been saying it since TCU joined. Frogs being the only metroplex team in the Big 12 will allow them to recruit on par w/ UT, OU eventually.— David Ubben (@davidubben) December 3, 2012
Success on the field this season against the Longhorns has probably already helped in that regard, while improvements to the facilities and Amon Carter stadium in particular now put them on a much more level field with the Longhorns, which was not the case in recent years -- the Horned Frogs do not have a single player currently on the roster who received a scholarship offer from Texas, though freshman tight end Griffin Gilbert was offered a grayshirt opportunity.
Even then, one longtime observer of recruiting in the state was surprised to see Hicks make the move:
Heard rumblings Kyle Hicks was thinking of flipping to TCU, but never did I think a kid committed to Texas would switch to TCU..wow— Matt Stepp (@Matt_SteppTOC) December 3, 2012
The Texas program is in trouble on the field and it's starting to have an impact off the field as well.
As the Longhorns try to land offensive line targets like Andrew Billings and Caleb Benenoch and pursue some new JUCO targets, Brown and his staff will have to overcome negative recruiting tactics from other programs seeking to take advantage of perceived weaknesses.
As a result, it may be just as hard to hold onto all the current pledges as it will be to convince uncommitted players to join the fold.