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February 28, 2012
"My dad was born in Jacksonville," the Celina (Texas) High offensive tackle explained, "and he's been a Florida fan forever."
Yet when it was time to decide where he wanted to play football, Raulerson didn't hesitate. The nation's No. 51 prospect took pride in becoming Texas' first verbal commitment for the Class of 2013.
Raulerson's decision shouldn't come as much of a surprise. He's merely the latest in a long line of Texas players who chose to stay close to home.
There's plenty of debate over which state produces the most football talent. Is it Texas, Florida, California or somewhere else?
But there's no doubt that schools from Texas rely more on home-grown prospects than any other state in the union. The numbers back it up.
Rivals.com analyzed the last five recruiting classes from each of the 117 FBS non-academies to find out which schools had signed the highest percentage of in-state players during that stretch. Texas led the way, as 91.3 percent of its signees came from within its own state.
"That doesn't surprise me," Raulerson said. "When you're born and raised in Texas, you're going to want to go to Texas and be in the state. When you're born and raised here, you love it here. It's not really a place you want to leave."
Other schools in Texas have followed a similar strategy.
In fact, six Texas teams had among the 10 highest percentages of in-state recruits over the last five years. Baylor ranked second (88.1 percent), Rice sixth (85.3), Houston eighth (84.3), Texas A&M ninth (81.2) and TCU 10th (78.8). The only non-Texas teams in the top 10 were No. 3 Fresno State (87.8), No. 4 San Jose State (87.5), No. 5 San Diego State (85.7) and No. 7 Florida Atlantic (84.4).
Every single FBS program in Texas relied on in-state prospects for more than 60 percent of its signing classes over the last five years.
For the purposes of this study, we counted the last school a recruit attended before he signed with a four-year college. For example, a Florida high school player who spent two years at a California junior college before joining an FBS program would count as a California player. Also, players from Washington, D.C., who signed with Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech were counted as in-state recruits.
The fact Texas schools topped the list didn't surprise coaches in the Lone Star State.
"There are 10 or 11 Division I-A football teams in the state of Texas [UT San Antonio and Texas State will make it 12 this fall], so there are a lot of choices for those players to stay in state and allow their parents and the people who are kin to them stay and watch them play," Baylor coach Art Briles said.
"And you'll play a high brand of football. There's no reason to jump out of your back yard when you've got everything you need in it."
For comparison's sake, in-state prospects have made up about 65 percent of the signees at Miami and 55 percent of the recruits at Florida State and Florida over the last five years. California players have comprised over 70 percent of the recruiting classes at USC and UCLA over that time span, while California has gone out of state for 43 percent of its signees.
"Kids in the state of Texas choose to stay more often than not," Houston coach Tony Levine said. "You look at the Atlanta area, there's a lot of kids there, and a lot who leave the state of Georgia to go to other schools. You tend to see these high school kids in the state of Texas wanting to stay in state and closer to home than you do kids in other states."
Brian Perroni, the Texas recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, cites another factor.
Perroni noted the preponderance of schools that aren't far away from Florida or California. Many of them are within driving distance. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, LSU and Arkansas are four major powers in neighboring states to Texas, but there aren't that many other out-of-state programs in similar proximity.
"With Florida, you have Georgia, Alabama, the Carolinas relatively close," Perroni said. "Texas is a huge state. Texas and Texas A&M are sort of in the middle, centrally located to recruit kids. Other [out-of-state] schools are so far away, other than the Oklahoma schools and LSU, so there's more incentive for Texas kids to stay in state. Every school in the country recruits the state of Texas, but I don't think schools hit it quite as heavily as they do Florida."
The University of Texas has made the most of the situation.
Perhaps no team in the country annually has more of a head start in the recruiting process. Texas typically gets the majority of its verbal commitments in the wake of Junior Day events that take place close to a year before National Signing Day.
"Texas is a great place and a great product," Texas co-recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers said. "It doesn't take a whole lot to sell that product. From an academic standpoint and from a tradition standpoint and the alumni ... those are all positives. Couple that together with a winning program that has withstood the test of time, and people want to be a part of that. Then throw in the fact that you don't have to go outside the state of Texas to play in BCS games, win a national championship or get television exposure. All those are things young athletes look at."
As of Tuesday, Texas already had 11 verbal commitments for 2013, all from the state of Texas. Each of the five previous years, the Longhorns had at least 12 commitments by the end of February.
Virtually all those early February commitments during that stretch came from Texas residents. The exception was Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral quarterback Connor Brewer, the first player to commit to the Longhorns from the Class of 2012.
And most of those commitments weren't offered until a recruit participated in a Junior Day event at Texas.
"They've made their offers somewhat prestigious to kids," Perroni said. "If a kid gets that offer after going on campus, it's hard for them to turn down. Their friends will be saying, 'Oh, you turned down Texas? Why did you do that?' It's because they've made their offers so prestigious. The last few years, Texas has gotten pretty much whoever they wanted in the state."
But the other Texas schools also have gotten their share.
The most notable examples may be Baylor and Rice, since many other private schools don't rely as much on in-state prospects.
Over the last five years, over three-quarters of Stanford's recruits have been out-of-state players. The same is true at Northwestern. Other private schools with low percentages of in-state recruits over the last five years include Duke (28.8), Vanderbilt (17.0), Wake Forest (16.1) and Notre Dame (9.7).
But only Texas has signed a higher percentage of in-state recruits than Baylor over the last five years. The in-state recruiting percentages at Baylor and Rice even dwarfed that of Miami, a private school located in a metro area with perhaps the largest concentration of high school talent.
Briles, a former Texas High School Coaches Association president, won four state championships at Stephensville (Texas) High before moving to the college ranks. He had a successful five-year tenure at Houston while relying mainly on Texas prospects. A similar formula just helped Baylor post its first 10-win season since 1980.
"Every day I've lived and every day that I've coached, it's been in the state of Texas," Briles said. "I know what I'm dealing with and know who I'm dealing with and know what to expect when I get those people. I'd say that's probably the main reason."
Perhaps it all goes back to a comment Briles made at the news conference introducing his 2012 signing class. Riverside (Calif.) Community College linebacker Eddie Lackey was the only player in that 23-man class who didn't hail from Texas.
"You don't have to look over the fence to see what you're looking for sometimes," Briles said at the time. "We feel pretty good about what's in your back yard."
Most Texas high school players apparently feel the same way.
(Olin Buchanan and David Fox of Rivals.com contributed to this report).