Hop's Tidbits and Random Musings

Spring break is over and it's back to the grind as Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a look at top performers and A&M targets at last weekend's Under Armour Combines in Houston and Dallas. He also discusses the latest in hoops recruiting and the magic of Miami Marlins customer service.

1) I spoke to St. Augustine (LA) cornerback Jermaine Roberts yesterday. First of all, A&M is still recruiting him and he has a top three of Alabama, Texas, and Texas A&M. Technically, all three have offered, although there is some debate whether the Tide's offer is committable. He participated in the Under Armour Combine in Houston over the weekend and he received high marks. Roberts told me that he wanted to make a statement that despite his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame he can play physical and do it effectively. He said he did a great job and he DID make that statement in one-on-one drills battling receivers off the line of scrimmage. In terms of recruiting, he said he will definitely attend both Alabama's and Texas' spring game. He also wants to make it for an A&M spring practice event but nothing is scheduled yet. I asked him if playing in the SEC was important for the Louisiana native, and surprisingly he said no. His biggest focus is finding a place where he feels most comfortable with his position coach and the university, not conference affiliation.

He said he likes Alabama because they are winners, the staff develops its players, and they work hard to be the best. He likes Texas because of his relationship with Coach Akina. He likes Coach Yates at A&M and he thinks A&M is an up-and-coming program. It does make you wonder that he is "definitely" going to Bama and Texas spring games, but "will try" to attend an A&M spring event. Playing time is another factor he mentioned, and that may be playing against the Aggies at the moment.

However, there's a reason why the Aggies are still recruiting cornerbacks. When it's all said and done, A&M will need another corner with signing day more than 10 months away.


2) With school (and practice) back in session, recruiting activities are heating up again. Well, it took about 40 years, but OU is finally getting a taste of its own medicine with the Aggies threatening to take a couple of Sooner state prospects.

Four-star QB Justice Hansen from Oklahoma will be at practice today. He arrived last night and will be in College Station a couple of days. He's telling pundits that he's not ready to end the process and likely won't commit, but I can tell you that he'll be pushed and he'll be tempted to take the offer. A&M will have one (possibly two depending on Kohl Stewart/future transfers) QB spot in this class and that's a very valuable scholarship given what has happened with Johnny Manziel and even Ryan Tannehill before him. QB's are committed prior to their senior seasons and typically make their choice in the spring, so I think A&M's 2014 QB will be known sooner rather than later even if Hansen doesn't pull the trigger this week.

The Aggies are also expecting a campus visit this week from four-star safety Steven Parker. The 6-foot-2, 180 pound DB has good length and nice footwork in coverage. In fact, he's more of a cover guy than a run support safety. He accelerates nicely coming downhill toward the ball, but he isn't a hard hitter or physical presence in run support. He's fairly efficient in making the stop, but he's not going to cause any fear going over the middle. He has offers from a lot of schools including OU, OSU, Nebraska, and Alabama in addition to A&M. He fits what Coach Yates seems to like in his safety targets….length and feet over power and bulk. He could play nickel or even corner in a pinch.

Finally, offensive tackle prospect Koda Martin is coming back to Aggieland this week along with father and coach. Alabama, LSU, and a few other high quality offers slowed down what I thought would be a quick A&M commit after a great junior day. The quality offers have delayed the decision, but based on my conversation with Koda, I think he wants to stay close to home and I think A&M fits his personality and lifestyle. I wouldn't rule out a commitment this week, but the smart money thinks he'll make a decision in the next month after spring practice.


3) 2014 A&M commits and targets did well at the two UA combines this weekend. Dylan Sumner-Gardner received high marks and was a consensus Top 5 defensive performer at the Dallas camp. I spoke to A&M commit Armani Watts who attended the camp with DSG, and he said what sticks out about Dylan in the camp is his overall technique and footwork. Even for somebody that is slated for safety, he has the coverage skills of a cornerback. I asked Watts to grade his performance on the day and he said he did a good job and felt he more than held his own against some of the region's best receivers. Again, he credited advanced technique for his success. He mentioned that both he and Dylan workout 3-4 times a week with a coach strictly on technique and footwork, and the hard work paid off this weekend because he thought technique is where the two separated themselves. Watts also told me he measured 6-foot, 175 pounds at the event.

Other 2014's in Texas that received high grades from observers at the two camps included Hoza Scott (invited to 5-star Challenge), CB Jermaine Roberts, S Arrion Springs (SA Roosevelt), and S Jamal Adams (Hebron).


4) The 2014 talent from Louisiana is off the charts. In Houston, the Bayou state dominated the combine especially some intriguing prospects along the defensive line. DE Davon Godchaux of Plaquemine (LA) won the defensive MVP award and was unstoppable in one-on-one drills. He's mentioned A&M among other SEC schools, although he hasn't been a top priority for the staff. I'm sure they will take a closer look. DT Gerald Willis from Edna Karr (LA) is definitely at the top of A&M's list, and he did not disappoint. He was a consensus Top 3-4 player from the Houston event. Another DT that garnered a lot of attention at the Houston event was Garrald McDowell from Covington (LA). He just received an Alabama offer among others including Ole Miss and Arkansas, and the A&M staff invited him to the junior day (he couldn't make it). However, A&M is on his short list and he plans to attend the DL camp in the summer.

Edna Karr WR Speedy Noil may have been the best offensive player at Houston. In talking to some of the DB's at the event, several guys singled out Noil as the toughest receiver to cover. Based on some of the video I've seen, I'll have to agree. I'd put Noil up there with Davion Hall and Malachie Dupre as the best WR's on A&M's list at the moment. Of course, we already talked about CB Jermaine Roberts.

At the Dallas combine, Shreveport QB Brandon Harris attended and participated in the passing drills. A couple of observers and pundits graded Harris' day higher than Denton (and Texas commit) phenom Jarrod Heard. As a dual-threat QB, his passing skills were very impressive. As you know, he's my top A&M target at QB, but that doesn't mean he's the staff's top target (i.e. Justice Hansen). This Harris kid has the potential to be special, so it will be interesting to see how the A&M staff approaches the QB spot in this class. Will they push for Hansen today or wait to further evaluate Harris and a few other QB prospects?


5) Let's briefly talk about some 2015 recruits that did well over the weekend. There were quite a few, and I'll probably have a more detailed 2015 watch list in the next few days. But I don't want to overload you on a bunch of names here, but I do want to list a few special players that have particular interest in the Aggies (and vice-versa). At the top of the list is the projected No. 1 player in the state in 2015, Daylan Mack, a stout 300-pound DT from Gladewater. Observers were describing him as one of the best DT's to come out of Texas in several years. Despite quite a few top older guys at the Dallas combine, Mack took home defensive MVP honors. Oh, he lists A&M as a solid leader.

In talking to Quiv Gonzalez and Quincy Adeboyejo last year, they always brought up a talented sophomore WR in their group they said was going to be a superstar. They were talking about DaMarkus Lodge. Apparently, they weren't joking around, because of all the top 2014 receivers at the camp, pundits and DB's singled out Lodge as the second best WR at the event behind Noil. The 6-foot-2, 180 pound pass catcher is still growing and will likely end up 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4, but it was his route running and acceleration that had observers impressed. It's early, but he's also listing A&M as a leader.

Other 2015's to keep an eye on going forward that performed well over the weekend include Ennis DE James Lockhart, Mesquite Poteet LB Malik Jefferson, Sulphur Springs safety Larry Pryor, and DB Jalen Campbell from Corpus Christi Flour Bluff (home to Andy Matakis for those keeping score).


6) I mentioned last night that Keith Frazier's AAU coach called Coach Kennedy and informed him that Keith was cancelling his official visit and was ready to pick his school. How do I know this? Ironically, Coach Davis called me by mistake thinking I was Coach Kennedy. No, I didn't use my Cajun accent and go along with it. But I did quickly ask him the deal and he told me they leaning toward cancelling the visit but that he needed to have one last conversation with him before deciding whether to officially cancel or not.

If you ever see me inside a bottle of Woodford Reserve at a football tailgate this fall, ask me about his recruitment. Maybe you can get some details out of me, but I'm not going to discuss the behind-the-scenes stuff on this recruitment. All I will say is this one was messy, and it got messier late in the process. SMU emerged as the favorite when Frazier switched mentors, and it appears that's where the 5-star guard is headed barring last minute dealings with Texas Tech.

The A&M staff had seen the direction this one was taking the past couple of weeks and has already been out scouring the countryside for a point guard/combo guard. They really want a deadly outside shooter that has enough handle to help out at the point. I've been mentioning Kendal Harris and Trey Dickerson as targets. They are...but the staff is not simply sticking with those two. They are casting a wide net, offering a really nice prospect who was just released from his LOI and attending the national JUCO Tournament looking at some JUCO's. Originally, I think the staff was looking to fill this spot with a longer outside shooter like a Jamal Jones of Lee College. But given the unforeseen struggles at point guard, they simply have to address ballhandling while also looking for a 3-point shooter all rolled up into one. Chad Frazier helps in that area, but they need one more.

Keep an eye on New Jersey point guard Jaren Sina who was released from his Northwestern LOI after the coach was fired. He was recruited by many solid northeast programs like Georgetown, Temple, Seton Hall, etc. before deciding on going west for the education at Northwestern. He's about 6-foot-2 and has a very quick, efficient stroke. He has some handle as well and he's one of those high IQ players. He's already getting some serious D-1 inquiries so I don't know how much of a chance A&M has with this one…but they did call to inquire and the initial response was positive. There will be other names pop up, and I'll keep you updated. Spring signing is just around the corner so expect things to happen quickly.


7) I'm hearing that A&M is close to getting Arizona DE Qualen Cunningham. In fact, the kid seems ready to make a decision, but dad (former A&M player) is wanting him to take a little more time to make sure he's 100% comfortable with the decision. I think dad is wanting to make sure this is his son's choice and not simply him feeling pressured to make a quick decision because he's a legacy.


8) OK, I know some of you saw my mini-rant on Astros owner Bob Crane when he went out of his way unnecessarily to insult Houston fans in a recent interview by telling them he must be smarter than them because he made $100,000,000, and that if fans want to see a top dollar player they can write him a $10,000,000 check directly….hmmm, for such a smart man, Crane didn't realize that the question asking about the Astros' low payroll was actually a softball question to give him the opportunity to explain why the organization must rebuild the farm system first…something most Astros' fans were already on-board already.

But just to show you I'm not picking on the new Astros owner, I give you exhibit B….the Miami Marlins. You know, the South Florida franchise that has had a horrible time filling up its new stadium. Check that…they've had a hard time filling up the field level seats much less the upper deck seats of its new facility. So you'd think they would be customer-friendly and do everything in their power to make sure the existing season ticket holders are satisfied customers and hopefully providing some nice references to other Floridians via word of mouth, right? Nah.

Jan and Bill Leon were one of the few diehard Marlins fans to buy a two-year seat license just outside the third base dugout along the railing. About halfway into season one, the Marlins decided to place a large advertisement billboard along that railing and the billboard actually extended above the top rail and into the line of sight of the Leons. They contacted the Marlins organization via phone but never received a response or call back. They wrote numerous letters to the Marlins ticket office requesting that their seats be relocated to an unobstructed view…no response. Finally, the Leons wrote a letter saying that due to the obstructed view and the lack of cooperation and response from the Marlins, they would not pay the year two seat license fee they were obligated to pay under the contract they signed.

Well, within days the Leons received a letter from the Marlins attorney saying that the team would sue for damages as a result of the broken contract including penalties and interest…nothing about the obstructed view. Nothing about the numerous phone calls and letters that went unanswered. No wonder LSU has more people attend a college baseball game than the Marlins.

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