Manziel is a great high school quarterback. He simply makes plays. There is some question whether his skills can translate to the next level and he will have to adjust to the college game and improve his mechanics. But there are a lot of examples of quarterbacks that didn't fit the mold, but succeeded because they were playmakers. They found a way to get it done…period. This isn't a strong year for signal callers in the state and the Aggies are in pretty good shape at the position although they did need Manziel to provide depth in the pipeline for the future.
Running Back C-
Randolph was a nice find for the staff. The Aggies need sub-4.4 speed in the backfield and that's what Randolph brigs to the table. But, he's not an every down back. He's not the workhorse. Now, Kenny Williams could be that workhorse. He has the size and he is instinctive and can make defenders miss. There is some question about his top-end speed, and thus some have questions whether he can be that franchise back that every team hopes to have on the roster. Williams will be a good college running back and he fills a big need for the future past the 2011 season. Still, this was a big year for running backs in the state and the staff has struggled finding difference makers...which is the reason for the grade of C-.
Wide Receiver D
I'm a big fan of taking Michael Evans last week. But let me emphasize that I like the pick-up based on the Aggies' situation last week. Frankly, this current offense, which is very attractive to wide receivers, should not be shutout of the state's established pass-catching prospects in December. Thus, for this reason the position grade is low. As far as Evans goes, I think he has the potential to be as good as any prospect in the state given his 6-foot-5 frame and his athleticism and body control. But, he is raw and he's only played varsity football for one year so there is risk. Will he have the dedication to learn the game? It will be a long road and he'll struggle in his first year at Texas A&M. Does he have the intestinal fortitude to battle through his inexperience and persevere? Nobody really knows at this point, and therein lies the risk. In two years, Evans could be a huge triumph for the staff. In two years, Evans could be the face of the recruiting failures of this 2011 class.
Tight End Incomplete
Offensive Line C
This is a solid offensive line class, but it lacks the star power from the 2010 class. I've heard mixed reviews from people on Joseph Cheek. He was Sherman's first commitment from this class. He has an impressive 6-foot-6 frame and looks the part of a collegiate lineman, but he does need to put on weight and at times he was not physically dominating at the high school level. He does fit what Sherman and Turner look for in a tackle, and he certainly has the bloodlines from his father, Louis Cheek. Nate Gutekunst will likely get a first look at guard. From what I've been told, this was a Coach Sherman pick. He loved the kid at last summer's lineman camp and offered soon afterward. Ben Compton is a prospect that doesn't have the measurables for most elite D-1 programs. He's about 6-foot tall. In fact, he was already committed to Rice when the staff offered him, but he quickly switched to the Aggies. If you watch him, he's extremely quick and a gifted blocker. Had he been three inches taller, he would be a Top 30 prospect easily. At his height, the staff offered him to be a center even though Compton's athletic ability and versatility saw him playing guard and tackle at Friendswood.
Defensive Line B
Just about every recruiting analyst believes Shayvion Hatten is best suited as an offensive lineman. The A&M staff feels hatten's best days are on the defensive line. Either way, hatten is one of the highest-rated prospects in this class and the Ags switched him from TCU last summer. He has played on two state champion teams at Daingerfield and he's a first team all-state performer. Lamarc Strahan is a mammoth JUCO defensive lineman from Blinn who will graduate in May and be on-campus next summer. While Jonahan Mathis and Eddie Brown have done a good job in the middle, Strahan will give the Aggies that true physical nose guard that will allow the defense to control the line of scrimmage. Strahan was a great pick-up in terms of his ability and the needs of the defensive front. His addition also allows mathis to slip outside to his natural spot. If the Aggies can land Brandon Alexander from Brenham, this will be the strongest position in the 2011 class and the grade will move up to an A.
While the Aggies bring a lot back in terms of linebackers in 2011, Coach Toth and Nguyen do lose arguably their top two performers in Von Miller and Michael Hodges. Florida product Shaun Ward appears to be one big answer at the outside spot as he's blown up over the past two months with many elite D-1 programs inquiring about his commitment status with Texas A&M. Ward is considered the centerpiece of the 2010 recruiting class and will compete immediately for playing time at the joker position. Donnie Baggs actually played inside linebacker his senior dseason, but his natural position is on the outside. As a result, he didn't have a great senior season, but he'll have the opportunity to show off his abilities at his best position next fall. The Aggies' most pressing need is getting some reinforcements at the inside linebacker spot, and they signed JUCO Steven Jenkins who will be in College Station for the spring. He's an undersized inside backer, but he pursues the ball well and is an aggressive defender which is what Coach DeRuyter looks for on his unit. However, the glaring weakness in this class (besides a proven playmaker at receiver) is the lack of a big, physical inside linebacker that can plug the middle. A&M's last chance appears to be Denver Mullen product Leilon Willingham who is supposed to visit in mid-January. With offers from most of the Pac-10, snagging Willigham would be huge. If the Aggies miss, then they will be again short-handed at the inside position. Just before the Christmas break, the staff decided to take little known rush linebacker Tyrell Taylor from off the beaten path at Galena Park. I love this kid. He has great acceleration and explosion off the ball much like Von Miller, but he's a much taller player like Demontre Moore. Taylor is 6-foot-4, but his wingspan is enormous and he'll have the effect of a 6-foot-6 lineman. He also has the accolades to prove he can play ball...he was his district's defensive MVP.
Defensive Back D+
I still expect the Aggies to land another defensive back before signing day, but while I think this group has some talent and a lot of upside, the low grade is more of a reflection of the prospects they missed on versus what they've landed. Burns is a quality safety prospect and probably the best of the group. He should compete early for playing time at a position of need. Johntel Franklin is another recent JUCO pickup. On film, he's a playmaker and looks like somebody that can help immediately especially since he'll participate in the spring. There is some risk with Franklin as the competition in his league was very suspect and he platooned with several other defensive backs. Again, he could be a great find, or someone that struggles at a higher level of competition. Deshazor Everett is a versatile athlete from Louisiana, and the Louisiana experts on our network really like this prospect, but where to play him is the biggest question. He played a hybrid linebacker/safety position in high school, yet the A&M staff likes him at cornerback and that's where he will practice in the fall. Again, he's another great athlete but a little bit of a risk. The staff still thinks they can switch Floyd Raven From Ole Miss and they are working hard on some other options. If they are able to switch Raven and bring in a proven cornerback prospect, the position grade will skyrocket up in the B range.
These two prospects are excellent prospects. Matthews could very well be the best high school player in the 2011 class. He was the centerpiece of the Clear Springs offense running, catching, and throwing the ball. He has a knack for making the big play and finds himself involved in almost every touchdown. I even watched him return the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Bryan. But, his best collegiate position may be strong safety. He's a big kid at 6-foot-1 and over 200 pounds. There is a question about his topline speed that will probably keep him from playing on the offensive side of the ball. He may even grow into an outside linebacker over time. Jon Henderson is a cat quick playmaker on offense and he could be used as a third down back used all over the field given his speed and playmaking skills. He also has the skills to be a lockdown corner, although his 5-foot-8 frame is seen as a limitation. Personally, I don't. Ray Mickens and Aaron Glenn are both under 5-foot-8 and they were all-Americans.
He's considered by several services and kicking gurus to be the No. 2 field goal kicker in the nation. He also punts, but he is not considered an elite punter. He consistently kicks the ball out of the back of the end zone and can hit from 50+ yards on his field goals. The big plus here is that Bertolet kicks off the ground and not the high school tee that can skew the results for college recruiters. He should provide solid competition for Randy Bullock next season and push the veteran to get better. Then, it will be his job for the following three years. The grade of B is a result of the punting situation. It's hard to expect the staff to sign another punter with Ryan Epperson still on scholarship, but something must be done at the position. This is two years straight where Texas A&M has given up huge chunks of yardage in field position due to having one of the worst punting units in the country.
OVERALL GRADE: C-
If the staff can finish out the class with Alexander, Willingham, and a good cornerback prospect like Raven, then the overall grade can move into the B range. Otherwise, it appears this 2011 class will not be one of Sherman's strongest classes in his tenure. However, early indications point to the Aggies having a very strong 2012 recruiting class riding the wave of the successful 2010 season.
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