FORT WORTH, Texas - A Texas kid who could have gone anywhere but elected to move to Ohio to play college football does not hold back in his feelings about why we here in this great state can't win a national title.
Demetrius Knox is an expert. He attended All Saints in Fort Worth and had his pick of any major program around, yet he chose to play for and attend Ohio State.
He just finished his college career, earned his degree and is off to the NFL. Why can't Texas, or Texas A&M, or Texas Tech, or Baylor, or TCU - any of them - win a national title?
"I'd say I wish it wasn't that way," said Knox in a recent phone interview. He was signed by the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted rookie free agent. "I'd have to say it would take a while for Texas, the state, to keep up and adapt to the standard of football elsewhere. Like Alabama and Ohio State."
Harsh. Knox is not saying that out of a place of anything other than honesty.
As college football season nears its beginning, every ball coach here in Texas should look inward. We are doing something wrong.
We should be Alabama. Clemson. Ohio State. We should be better, and some of that starts by never letting a kid like Demetrius Knox go to Ohio State. He should have been an Aggie, a Horn, a Frog, a Bear, a Red Raider, a Pony, an Eagle or a Cougar.
"I wanted to stay in the state of Texas, actually," Knox said. "I was committed to Texas A&M, which was my first offer. That was my sophomore year in high school. But when I went there, it just looked like College Station and nothing was around it. The environment threw me off."
For the sake of self-protection, please note that those are words of Demetrius Knox, who is 6-foot-4, 324 pounds, not Mac Engel, part-time Instagram hand model and aspiring beer product influencer.
"TCU was great, but it was four minutes from my house. It wasn't like I was leaving," he said. "I committed to Texas, but when Mack Brown was fired, it didn't feel stable. I'm a big Texas guy, and I wanted to go there."
During the Steve Patterson and Charlie Strong era, Texas was as stable as an active earthquake.
"Like, with UT and TCU being in the Big 12, there is a perception their defense isn't up to par," Knox said. "That's the outside perception of the Big 12 is that it's not strong. That it's not a Big Ten or SEC defense. That's what the public perceives."
A highly ranked kid who leaves Texas because he wants to get away from home can't be knocked. It's the staggering amount of great players who flee the Texas borders for other destinations specifically because they think their shot to win the title should be a concern.
They are not wrong, for we as a state have but one national title since 1971.
That and the brand of football we play here suggests something is missing.
Talking to a retired head football coach who coached in the Big 12 and SEC, he said the single biggest difference between the Texas kids and the SEC talent is simply in the defensive lines.
"They are all big," he said, "and they can all run."
He emphasized "run" emphatically.
"The rest there is not that much difference," he said.
Even TCU coach Gary Patterson has referenced this notable contrast.
Watch the college football playoff games and the difference between the good and great team typically is in the defensive lines. The teams that win a playoff game, or two, have the big kids who can out-run a sneeze.
We simply don't grow 'em up the same way here, and we have to know by now that scoring 40 points a game isn't going to do it. We can have the best 7-on-7 players in the world, and they don't result in national titles.
The onus is essentially on Tommy Boy Herman at Texas, and Jimmy Fisher at Texas A&M, to change this. Herman has stressed it before, and watching his team play in the second half of last season, they started to push people around.
A&M is in the right league to do it; now it just needs a few more guys. It would also help if A&M didn't play Alabama and LSU every year.
As much as offense now flourishes in football, to be at the top of college football requires not necessarily the best quarterback, but rather the biggest, fastest and meanest defensive linemen. We here in Texas don't have enough of those guys.
Raise 'em, and guys like Demetrius Knox won't think there is a perception problem with football played in Texas.
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