1. I guess you've all seen by now that JUCO DE Za'Darius Smith signed with Kentucky today. For those scratching their heads about that one, his JUCO position coach took a similar job with the new Kentucky regime. It became clear a few days ago that Smith was confused and not comfortable with the situation. He wanted to stay close to home in Alabama, but Auburn never offered. For some reason Mississippi State didn't seem to capture his heart. Texas was never a real player. It was obvious that he really liked Texas A&M, and if College Station were a little closer to home and he had some people he knew at A&M, I think it would have been a no brainer. Despite all of these non-football factors working against the Aggies, the staff was still in the thick of it until the end. But I started to get a bad feeling about this one when after being down to MSU and A&M, he put out feelers to Auburn again and then the UK suddenly popped onto the radar. After covering recruiting for nearly 20 years, you see that the process many times has a rhythm and a flow. On Friday when Smith basically eliminated MSU but didn't commit to A&M, I knew something was up. He was looking for a situation that was more comfortable for him personally, and having his coach at UK provided that comfortable blanket. Had it been a business decision, the choice would have been an easy one…A&M.
2. A few of you took exception with my last blurb on Notre Dame and their future. One thing you need to know that's unique to Notre Dame and conference affiliation that other schools don't have is the luxury of a contract with few exit fees and penalties. I read where Notre Dame is under no risk of penalty for leaving the Big East early, and speculation from what I've read is they will not be subject to the $20 million exit fee from the ACC. Thus, the Irish can pretty much weigh the current environment of realignment and choose where they want to go. It's in that context that I discussed the possibility of a move to the Big 12, assuming the ACC gets raided by the Big 10, SEC, and Big 12. Sure, if the ACC can secure its remaining members and nothing changes, Notre Dame is happy in the ACC. That was their choice to go. But if the dominoes start to fall where the SEC takes UNC and Virginia Tech, the Big 10 takes Virginia and Georgia Tech, and the Big 12 annexes FSU and Clemson, then you better believe Notre dame will book it out of there and into the awaiting arms of Deloss and the boys. OK, Deloss will be gone by the time the next round of realignment plays out, but you get my drift here. Texas does not bend over backward for anybody, but they would sell their soul to get Notre Dame into the Big 12 and in the process sign a long-term home-and-home that will be televised by the LHN. That's about the only path the Longhorns have in trying to get the LHN widespread distribution through the satellites and major cable companies.
3. I've had some people ask who I thought were some of my top sleepers in this 2013 class. That's a tough one because there really are so few committed/signed prospects that are reaches. To be honest, only Alex Sezer can be put in the true sleeper category. Everybody else has been recruited by many of the top schools in the region and the nation. So instead I looked past the national headliners like Ricky Seals-Jones, Justin Manning, and Jaquay Williams and came up with my top 5 recruits that will surprise coaches early in their careers.
5. Joas Aguilar, OT, Birdville – Joas was an early commit in the spring before other schools could get on him. Word is quite a few schools including Oklahoma have inquired about the 6-foot-5, 290-pound lineman but he remains a solid A&M commit. In watching his tape, I love how flexible he is, especially at the knees in his stance. He has very nice footwork and good reach. He has all the tools to be a very good collegiate OL in a couple of years.
4. Brett Wade, LB, Kennedale— As Daddy98 and others can attest, I was not a huge Brett Wade fan going into the 2012 high school season. After an incredible senior season, I have changed my opinion to the point where he makes my Top 5 sleeper list. Wade has always been a big hitter and a productive high school linebacker, but he showed this fall improved footwork and acceleration that I think will translate well at the collegiate level. His instincts and ability to find the ball are quite good. I'm anxious to see how he performs in the spring since he's a mid-termer.
3. Darian Claiborne, LB, Port Allen (LA) -- It's been so long ago, but the Aggies beat out several SEC programs for the versatile athlete. It sounds good on paper when you hear that your linebacker commit is so athletic that he plays QB. Well, I usually cringe when I see this cross-training. It usually means the player gets by on his athletic ability and doesn't have the mindset of a linebacker. Claiborne does not fall in that category. He plays with reckless abandon on the defensive side of the ball. He has reportedly gotten bigger and is pushing 225-230 pounds. I'm excited to see what he brings to the practice field next fall. He's one of the most underrated athletes in this class.
2. Quincy Adeboyejo, WR, Cedar Hill -- Here's another early spring commitment that I was curious why the staff took him at the time. He had the physical tools in terms of length and vertical leap, but his production in 2011 was almost non-existent. While physical measurables are important in evaluations, I also think high school production is critical. If a recruit can't dominate inferior players in high school, how do you expect them to excel against equal athletes on the field? But Adeboyejo has answered my questions and then some in 2012. His production through the regular season went way up with several 100+ yard games. But what I loved to see was what he did in last week's state semifinal against Westlake. With the game tied in the final minute, Adeboyejo made two critical catches including a 21-yard jump ball grab on a 3rd and 11…reminiscent of Mike Evans' jump ball grab against Ole Miss that saved that game.
1. Tavares Garner, DB, Manvel -- I fell in love with Garner at the state 7-on-7 state tournament. He is my perfect prototypical cornerback. He's a fast, fluid, and loose athlete with a nice medium, muscular build. Thus, he's very good at man coverage but he's physical for run support and also for contact with the receiver at the line of scrimmage. He could also slide over to the safety spot if needed much like Deshazor Everett. Then, when I spoke to him he's a very confident young man which is a requirement for corners in this era of passing offenses and rules slanted toward scoring.
4. Butler CC LB Tommy Sanders committed to the Aggies last night and signed his LOI this morning. So how does this affect the team going forward? Sanders will step on campus as the fastest and quickest linebacker on-campus. His value comes with his ability to get into the backfield and make big plays, and he uses his speed in coverage where he had 12 pass break-ups last season. When you watch his film, he does have a tendency to get caught up in traffic and at times struggles to shed blockers when engaged. Still, this kid can fly to the ball and come off the edge as well as anybody we've seen in an A&M uniform since Von Miller.
5. Despite six receivers already in the 2013 class (or mid-termers) and only a few spots remaining, the Texas A&M staff is still hotly pursuing a couple of high four-star national recruits. Florida State commit Tony Stevens and USC commit Sebastian LaRue are still strongly considering the Aggies. In fact, LaRue scheduled his official visit for mid-January. In talking to West Coast analysts, they believe LaRue is shaky on his commit and there's a good chance he ends up switching before signing day. Texas A&M appears to be the logical choice if a spot is still available. If you recall, he took an unofficial visit to College Station last summer with his assistant high school coach and former starting A&M DB Sean Weston. He loved the trip, but at the time USC was sexy and A&M was still an unknown entity. Well, things have obviously changed. Stevens is still talking up A&M and is a possibility, but I think LaRue is the more likely to pull the maroon trigger if you ask me. He also compliments the rest of the WR class that is built on size, and he's more of a smaller burner type. Also, the fact that the staff is still recruiting receivers is a sign that there will likely be attrition at the position. I'll leave it at that for the moment.
6. Former ABC news correspondent and political pundit Sam Donaldson was arrested last week and charged with DUI after the 78 year-old was pulled over for erratic driving and failing a field sobriety test. Police officials did not release any details on whether his hair piece also failed its sobriety test and taken into custody. TMZ sources also confirmed that Cokie Roberts was not in the back seat of Donaldson's car at the time of arrest.
7. The basketball team beat a struggling Texas A&M-Corpus team 64-52. The Ags were up by as many as 26 points early in the second half but they lost focus and played sloppy basketball the rest of the game. This team can't afford 10 minute brain farts. The game was never in doubt, but you always want your team to finish out on a high note that can carry over into practice. In the first 30 minutes of the game the team did a nice job of moving the ball in the half-court with some nice inside-out sequences. Andrew Young will always be vertically challenged in the post at this level, but there's a sense that he's starting to find his niche on the court and starting to help this rotation. Freshman guards J'Mychal Reese and Alex Caruso are making some nice plays, but they are also inconsistent and creating bad turnovers. They need to play more within themselves and value possessions more. But overall, this team goes as the post play goes. Corpus Christi didn't have a lot of presence and size in the paint and A&M took advantage of it, but they still had issues rebounding the ball. This will be a huge deal heading into SEC play in two weeks. I can see this team squeaking into the NIT. They will finish non-conference at 11-2, so a 7-11 SEC record should be good enough for post season play.
8. The hoops staff keeps churning away on the recruiting trail. Another name to remember that has popped up is 6-foot-10 post Payton Drastrup from Phoenix, AZ. I'll be talking to him shortly. He's a 4-starand the overall No. 4 center in the 2014 class. Many school have offered but I'm hearing A&M has worked their way into his top 4-5.
9. Sorry, your fellow Websiderites prefer to remain completely in the dark on this topic.
10. Coach Sumlin announced today on his Cotton Bowl conference call that RB coach Clarence McKinney will be calling plays in the Cotton Bowl. Also, David Beatty is also assuming QB coach duties for the bowl practices. Sumlin meets with the local media today at 3:00, so hopefully we'll get some more team information.
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