1) I spoke to my sources in Louisiana about some of the major A&M targets and which of these prospects will give A&M a legitimate look and which are basically LSU locks assuming the Tigers have room for them.
The situation is especially interesting at wide receiver where the aggies are going hard after John curtis hs 4-star wr Malachi Dupre and Edna Karr WR Speedy Noil. What makes this interesting is that Les Miles and crew have been going hard after receiver targets in the state of Texas…recruits that A&M has not offered. As you know, LSU already has a commitment from Pearland's Tony Upchurch and at last week's spring game the staff was aggressively recruiting Alief Taylor WR Keenen Brown. Both prospects are consensus Top 30-40 prospects in the state, rated behind Davion Hall and Kd Cannon by most services although I disagree. I like both Brown and Upchurch ahead of Cannon because of their height and size.
Lsu is also heavily recruiting 4-star Lake Charles WR Trey Quinn who A&M recruited and offered months ago, but have backed off this spring. In addition, LSU leads for Saeed Blacknall. That's six WR prospects that have LSU in their top 2-3 at worst. In fact, talking to Louisiana sources, they feel Malachi Dupre ad Trey Quinn are close to locks and they are confident in landing Blacknall. That is four likely or confirmed commits right there, and I was told the Tigers will likely sign just four.
I also asked about Speedy Noil since the source didn't mention the 4-star receiver whom I think could be the best of the bunch. This same source told me back in late February that Noil was likely going to LSU. He has backed off that prediction and thinks A&M has a decent shot at landing him and possibly DL teammate Gerald Willis.
I asked if LSU landed Blacknall, Quinn, and Dupre to go along with Upchurch if that would leave Noil on the outside looking in, and he said "no". The LSU staff would likely walk away from Upchurch in that scenario.
But the take away here is that the Aggies may actually have a puncher's chance with Speedy Noil and the consensus does point to this being an A&M-LSU battle, although other sec programs are working to get into his visit list.
2) Sticking at the receiver position, the other primary targets on A&M's list with offers include Davion Hall, KD Cannon, Armanti Foreman, and most recently JUCO D'haquille Williams with Mississippi Gulf Coast CC. With Jamal Jeffery already in the fold, expect to see A&M take at least two more commits and possibly three if the staff hits several homeruns near signing day.
I spoke to Armanti Foreman last night, and despite the road block that he wants to go to school with his twin brother Donta and it will be unlikely that A&M offers, Coach Sumlin pulled Armanti out of the stands at the spring game and put the hard sell on the 6-foot-0, 180-pound Texas City product. That impressed Foreman, and I think he would commit to A&M in a heartbeat if he wasn't trying to solicit an offer for his brother. In the end, I think he goes elsewhere because I do think an OU, Tech, or Baylor will eventually offer both brothers.
I also spoke to Davion Hall after the A&M spring game and Coach Sumlin made it perfectly clear that he wants the no. 1 WR in the state as a receiver. That really helped as Coach Anderson initially visited him and discussed safety which didn't go over well. Now, ever since Hall broke up with his girlfriend at Baylor, people assumed he would quickly de-commit but that hasn't happened. In talking to him, he still likes Baylor and it will be tougher than expected to pull him away from Baylor. I do think that can happen, and with his brother Tra Carson at A&M, I think the Aggies have a decent shot at eventually landing who I think is one of the top 2-3 overall prospects in the state.
D'haquille williams was a high school teammate and friend of Floyd Raven at east reserve-st. john's hs (la) and they still talk. The Raven has been putting in the good word about A&M. That along with the Aggies' offensive success in the SEC has A&M near the top of his list after an offer earlier in the week that was announced on his twitter. This guy is a Jaquay Williams clone but slightly taller. Auburn appears to be the primary competition. Expect him to visit A&M in the summer and he's supposed to be a mid-term graduate.
There are some other out-of-state WR's that the staff is visiting during this two week evaluation period, but until any of these prospects shows up for an unofficial visit, I'm not going to get too excited about it and I won't clutter these updates with names that are longshots at best and not serous targets at the moment.
So that leaves Davion hall, D'haquille Williams, Speedy Noil, and KD Cannon as the major, high value WR targets. IF A&M can land two from this list, I think they would shut it down. If they can any three of these four, I think they would take all three if the opportunity exists.
3) Let's talk about another position of importance in this 2014 class…offensive tackle. With Jake Matthews graduating after the 2013 season and the possibility of fourth year junior Cedric Ogbuehi going pro with a strong 2013 campaign, there is exposure at this important position for 2014. Joseph Cheek will likely assume the right tackle spot in 2014. After that, there are questions at the left tackle spot and then depth. That's why the staff is determined to sign a mid-term JUCO tackle, and the identified targets are:
Carter Wall, Navarro CC, 6-foot-5, 290 lbs.
Dontavius Blair, Garden City cc, 6-foot-8, 300+ lbs.
Chad Mavety, Nassau cc, 6-foot-6, 300 lbs.
Jermaine Eluemunor, Lackawanna cc, 6-foot-6, 320 lbs.
Wall and Blair haven't been offered yet and there's some question as to how strongly the aggies are pursuing Eluemunor, so the direction A&M will go with these JUCO's is a little uncertain. I'm also a little pensive relying on this route for immediate front-line JUCO help. JUCO's need a significant transition period, many times as much as a true freshman. And as Luke Joeckel proved, talent overcomes experience and physical maturity. Luke was the starting left tackle within two weeks of hitting the A&M campus. In addition, when watching their film, I see issues with each of the JUCO targets.
That's why I'm not sold on going the JUCO route just yet, especially with the Aggies seriously contending with Olathe (ks) 5-star tackle Braden Smith and high 4-star and recent USC de-commit Casey Tucker from Arizona (and teammate of A&M lean Qualen Cunningham). Both prospects list A&M in their top 2-3 and with early playing opportunities on the horizon I think Sumlin can close the deal on one of these big-time tackles who I think could step in and contribute immediately.
This is a critical tackle class for the staff. Commit Kealvin Davis is a nice Top 30 prospect and A&M lean Koda Martin is a quality, long-term prospect, but neither will be ready for 2014 when help will be needed.
4) Let's talk a little hoops for a brief moment. Alief Elsik guard Da'Shawn Robinson tweeted yesterday that he was visiting Texas A&M today and that sparked a lot of Internet speculation from other A&M services that Robinson could be the guy A&M wants to fill the final scholarship spot. I have confirmed that's not the case. Robinson will not qualify and he'll go the JUCO route. This is a courtesy visit and the staff will provide guidance on his next steps. If in two years Robinson has developed into a stud JUCO recruit, then A&M may have the inside track. That's really all this is today.
I was told the last spot is still in limbo. I think there is some smoke with the Antonio Barton transfer. For those that missed my posts on Barton, he's a highly-regarded senior guard that saw his playing time reduced due to a few nagging injuries and the emergence of 5-star guard Joe Jackson last season. Last week, Jackson announced that he would forego the NBA Draft and return for another season at Memphis. Since Barton is scheduled to graduate this summer, he will take advantage of the NCAA rule that allows graduates with remaining eligibility to transfer and play immediately. Glynn Cyprien recruited him to Memphis and speculation from Memphis is that Barton is looking at Pitt, Texas A&M, and Northern Arizona. He's originally from Baltimore and once again Mark Turgeon is short on point guards, so some are speculating that Maryland could be a serious player.
But there seems to be some debate on the staff in terms of what direction they want to go with that last spot….whether to add another ballhandling guard or a post. To be honest, I was a little shocked when I heard this given A&M's struggles at the point and the loss of Elston Turner's outside shooting. When I asked about the needs at guard, my source said the staff has been pleasantly surprised with the development of J-Michael Reese, Fabyon Harris, and Shawn Smith so far this offseason. Alex Caruso is also working had this offseason on improving his outside stroke, so they expect him to be a better shooter next season. I was fishing for other names for this last spot, but my source wasn't singing yet. I get the sense that they are working hard on Barton but don't want to get our hopes up yet.
5) The Aggie baseball team is sitting at 7-11 in SEC play and have lost 10 of the last 12 conference games. It's been an underwhelming inaugural season in the nation's best baseball conference. Fans and donors are starting to wonder whether Eric Hyman, who has hired a successful, high profile baseball coach at TCU and oversaw the best college baseball program in the nation for the past five years at South Carolina will put his fingerprints on this baseball program sooner rather than later. Well, we'll have to see how this season concludes, but for a moment let's set aside the referendum on Coach Childress and simply look at the college baseball landscape for a moment.
The state of texas is going through the worst season collectively in my lifetime. Right now, there isn't one team from the state that has a resume to make it into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid. Thus, barring an upset at a conference tournament next month, the state that produces the most MLB talent could completely whiff on the 2013 NCAA Regionals. That's right, not one of the 64 spots will go to a team from this great state that plays the best high school baseball in the country.
Traditional powers texas and Rice are down. TCU is having its first bad year in the Schlossnagle era. Baylor is having its usual average season under Steve Smith, and Texas Tech is hovering in last place in the Big 12. In addition, with everything going on with Deloss Dodds and President Powers, I'm hearing that Augie Garrido is the least of their worries and he's safe this season. The ever-aging Wayne Graham recently said he's not ready to hang up his cleats, and Rice will let him name the time and place when he leaves the Owl baseball program. So the program are down and the coaches likely remain for another year.
Will Hyman see this as perfect timing and a unique opportunity to make a big change, hiring a high profile baseball coach like Brian O'Connor of Virginia who has had the Cavaliers parked in the top 5 for the better part of three years? Hyman has been at Texas A&M for almost a year and has yet to put his stamp on the athletic department with no coaching hires to date. If there was ever an opportunity to put a stamp on a program, it would be baseball because the program has every ingredient to be a powerhouse national program with new facilities, robust fan and donor support, incredible amount of talent within a three hour radius of Texas A&M, playing in the best collegiate baseball conference, and now being in a state with no dominant baseball program.
In addition, the transaction cost to make a switch in baseball is so much lower than in both football and basketball. Where a basketball coaching change will cost upwards of $15 million, a coaching change in baseball will come in under $3 million.
So the question before Hyman with baseball is….will his decision be based on a referendum of coach Childress's record which is solid, or will it be based on the unique opportunity and timing to make a splash hire in a year when every other program is down and staying with a pat hand? I don't know. We'll see. In all likelihood, Texas will be shopping for a new coach after next season and with Wayne Graham pushing 80 years old, his coaching time horizon can only be judged one season at a time. There is a window of opportunity this summer if Hyman so chooses to be aggressive here. I think what Hyman does will give us a sneak peek at how he'll start running this athletic department after observing and absorbing this first year.
6) I've heard from several sources both within the university administration and through the donor network that President Loftin will be stepping down at some point after the end of this legislative session. I have no idea why and I'm just passing along what I've heard in the grapevine. While the energy to pursue the SEC originated with Regents Stallings and Wilson along with Chancellor McKInney, President Loftin certainly carried the torch and became the face of the SEC movement. After the disaster of Elsa Murano, Loftin came in and steadied the ship in various areas of the university. Whether he departs shortly or stays on for many years, he'll be forever known as the SEC President.
7) Let's talk defensive line recruiting quickly before I finish. With a large haul of interior DL's in the 2013 class and what looks to be a quality group in 2015, the A&M staff seems satisfied to stick with DeShawn Washington as the only defensive tackle in this class unless the Aggies are lucky enough to land the New Orleans Edna Karr duo of WR Speedy Noil and DT Gerald Willis who was in Alabama for their spring game last week. If Willis dropped into their lap, they would definitely take him, but don't look for the staff to be uncovering any new DT prospects in the near future.
Defensive end is another story. The staff is still looking strong with Myles Garrett and Qualen Cunningham. And despite Jarrett Johnson disappointing man A&M observers by not committing at the spring game, he's still telling people that A&M is the team to beat. However, it seems his parents are pushing the Longhorns a little bit and at the very least have delayed his decision a couple of months. From what I hear, the staff really likes Johnson and they are staying on top of his recruitment and pushing hard, despite recruiting several other options out of state. Justin Thornton from Alabama visited yesterday and lists A&M as a strong No. 2 behind LSU, but grades are a concern at the moment. But the fact that A&M is still actively recruiting other defensive ends with Garrett, Cunningham, and Johnson listing A&M No. 1 shows you just how important it is for the staff to fill a minimum of three spots at DE.
Hop's Tidbits and Musings
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