Football Recruiting - Class of 2014 Overview
Let's take a look at where things stand as far as closing out the 2014 class. First, let's talk numbers. The thinking during the offseason was this class would be on the small side. First, we were thinking 18-20. Then as a few players transferred for various reasons, that number expanded to 21-23. But with recent departures from Matt Davis and Shaun Ward, I think the A&M staff can take 25 if they wish. If you break down the roster and project a few more veteran players that aren't seeing the field, the roster can definitely absorb taking 25. The question that must be answered is the coaching staff willing to fill 25 spots, and is there enough elite prospects to get to that point? I say that because it's clear that the staff has decided to bypass some solid prospects to focus on the big fish. Just last night, Houston Lamar low four-star safety John Bonney committed to Texas over offers from most every school in the region including LSU. But the A&M staff showed little interest in Bonney, choosing to focus on high four-star and top 5 prospect Jamal Adams. We'll see if it pays off in the long-run. The "go for broke" strategy makes the Alabama game that much more important as a majority of the remaining elite targets (roughly 15-20 recruits) will be at that game. It's the game of the century for more reasons than simply determining the SEC West front-runner in the 2013 season.
Here's a breakdown of the remaining targets by position:
Unless a big fish like Leonard Fournette suddenly jumps into the picture which is highly unlikely, I expect the Aggies are done at this position.
The depth in the 2013 recruiting class has affected the ability to get a lot of interest at WR this year, which is surprising given Sumlin's offense. Noil released a top three of Texas A&M, Florida, and USC. We can throw in LSU for good measure as this has been a common theme for Speedy Noil…he tweets out a list without LSU on it, and then insiders say privately that LSU is not only in the mix, but they could be at the top of the heap. We'll know soon enough as Noil and teammate Gerald Willis are planning to officially visit A&M for the Alabama weekend. I think a lot depends on how the LSU offense performs this season and if the passing game looks healthy. If there are any questions about LSU, I think A&M is the clear choice. Otherwise, it will be a fight to the end…and until I see A&M win one of these battles, I'm not going to get my hopes up just yet. Maybe I'll change my mind if A&M looks good beating Alabama.
Davion Hall has scheduled an official visit to College Station for the Alabama game. The Baylor commit really isn't committed as he's been clear he'll visit A&M, Arkansas, Baylor, and Alabama before making it official. I think A&M could have been in better shape had the staff gone all in on the Top 5 player in the state, but they've been cautious with Hall from the start…and I'm not sure why because he looks like a pretty good ball player to me. I'll keep listing Malachi Dupre for now, but I'd be shocked if he went anywhere other than LSU.
Avery Gennesy (JUCO)
Dontavius Blair (JUCO)
Chad Mavety (JUCO)
Well, for those that said I was being Chicken Little when I saw the offensive line in the first week of fall camp, it looks like the narrative from other pundits is starting to echo my sentiments because the staff has turned up the heat on JUCO offensive tackles that will likely graduate in December and will be available for spring practice. In fact, the staff has moved on offers with two JUCO tackles since fall camp began, and it appears that both will be in town on official visits for the Alabama game. But A&M jumped in late and they have ground to make up against some pretty good SEC programs like Auburn, Ole Miss, and a surging Kentucky. Avery Gennesy grew up about 60 miles from Oxford and he grew up a Rebel fan and we know Hugh Freeze is hot right now with recruiting, but on the flip side le Miss didn't offer him out of high school and they were the last to offer him recently. Let's see what happens on September 14. The same goes for Dontavius Blair who lists Auburn as his top school going into visits.
The Aggies are still in the hunt for longtime high school targets Braden Smith and Casey Tucker. While Tucker's stock has soared and he's now a consensus 5-star recruit, it seems that Smith has lost his 5-star shine but he's still a solid 4-star prospect by most accounts. Tucker is probably the more prototypical tackle while some experts see Smith as a hybrid guard-tackle type. Smith is effectively down to A&M and TCU (sister goes there), and he's coming for the big game in eight days. Tucker won't be coming in next week because of his team's schedule, but has repeatedly told services that he will officially visit College Station. A&M would love to land one high school tackle and two JUCO tackles. As the season moves forward and more JUCO tackles emerge, expect to see the A&M staff jump on these guys. They simply MUST sign a minimum of one JUCO tackle, and possibly two if the opportunity is there to take two quality tackles.
Alfonzo Hampton (JUCO)
Jordan Wells (Hop's sleeper)
The Aggies finally have a decent stable of young interior defensive linemen and they already have the No. 1 DT in the state committed in DeShawn Washington. But they still aren't where they need to be with the pipeline and Josh Frazier would also bring some length to the interior that A&M lacks right now. He's originally from Texas and mom wants to come home, but he's also attached to his new home in Arkansas and looking at the Hogs. I know this sounds like a broken record, but we'll know a lot more about Frazier after his official visit during the Alabama game weekend. I'm hearing A&M is right there, but his friends have been pulling him to the call of the hogs recently. Let's see where he is on September 15. Gerald Willis is definitely coming for the Alabama game, and we're hearing it could be an official visit. Remember, his brother plays for Alabama and there was that scene on ESPN when he announced for the Tide over LSU. Momma wasn't happy. The LSU people were a bit upset over the news and said a few choice words before calming down. That may play into A&M's favor now. While it's too close to call, I think A&M is at least a 50-50 shot if not more which is about the best you can expect in this circumstance with a top Louisiana kid.
Scout's JUCO expert Scott Eklund alerted me to a 6-foot-5, 315-pound Califiornia JUCO (Southwestern) named Alfonzo Hampton who doesn't have an A&M offer but he claims the Aggies have started pursuing him on a regular basis. I'll try to give him a call Sunday night and see where things stand. Finally, I added Jordan Wells from Navasota. No, A&M isn't recruiting him but he's my super sleeper. He may have some grade issues, but man can this kid play some D-line. He's better than some DL's in the state rated a lot higher. All he does is make plays and win championships. If I'm A&M, I'd keep track of him if he winds up at a JUCO.
Qualen Cunningham and Myles Garrett are making me nervous, not because I've heard anything that says A&M has fallen off their radar. But history shows time and time again that these kids that are big leans for a long period of time don't pull the trigger for a reason and have questions in the back of their mind. History may or may not have anything to do with these two specific cases, but the sooner the better on their decisions. It sounds like Garrett may be tiring of the recruiting process and could be a month or so away from a decision. He visited for the LSU-TCU game last week and he's been talking up the Horned Frogs enough to make you wonder. Still, sources seem to think A&M is still the team to beat. It would be nice for A&M fans if he had a good time at the Alabama game and decided to end it with a commitment.
I mention Trey Carter of Dallas Pinkston because he told TCU publisher Jeremy Clark that he's starting to hear regularly from the A&M staff along with TCU and several big schools. No offer yet, and I'm sure A&M will wait to see what happens with the two big fish before they offer, but it's something to watch. At 6-foot4, 250 pounds, he provides needed size on the end.
Chris Weatherd (JUCO)
This position is in flux because of the uncertain status of La Porte's Hoza Scott. He's not practicing and certainly not playing. I spoke to someone who had a conversation with a La Porte staffer and they said he'll be back toward the end of September. This was a coaching deal, and it was done to wake him up and realize that he's letting a great opportunity slip away. I was told that Hoza has seemed to see the light and signs now point to him taking care of his academics and his responsibilities, but to think he'll be eligible after the school year is way too soon to know. I've been told that the door hasn't closed on his path to College Station, but that's about as far out on the limb sources will go.
I'll be honest with you. I'm most excited about the potential of Navarro JUCO LB Chris Weatherd. I love his film and he would give A&M that high-energy pass rusher that can go sideline-to-sideline. He has incredible footwork….as I said a couple of weeks ago, he's the closest I've seen to Von Miller since Von Miller. He's currently committed to Tennessee and that's where he'll be this weekend, but his mom is an Aggie and when the dust settles, I like A&M's chances here. He would be a great addition.
When I saw LB Sam Sizelove at the state 7-on-7 tourney, he surprised me. He's not a wow guy, but he grows on you. He has surprising athleticism and he did a good job covering in a format that is almost impossible to cover. He's committed to Kansas State, but all signs point to College Station if the Aggies offer in the next few weeks, and it appears they just might do so after watching his first three games this fall.
People keep thinking Zach Whitley might switch to A&M in time, but I won't be convinced until I see some more interest from the North Shore LB. Yeah, he's coming to the game next Saturday, but is he there to see A&M or Alabama?
A&M is still in the hunt for Edwin Freeman, but I think A&M's window of opportunity was last fall when he listed the Aggies at the top, but a late offer allowed Texas to jump up and grab the lead. Until I see something different, I wouldn't count on him. Otaro Alaka picked Texas over A&M in the spring, but he showed up at Kyle Field to watch his brother who plays with Rice. The A&M staff feels Alaka did respond to the game day atmosphere and appeared open to re-evaluating the Aggies, but that's probably the high of the trip. I'll try to call him early next week to see if there are any changes after giving his visit a week to wear off.
I'll be honest. I have no idea what Tony Brown will do. One week you hear that A&M has emerged as a slight leader, and then a week later you hear it's Alabama. This one will go down to the wire and you can flip a coin. I do think the Alabama game weekend will be a huge factor for Jamal Adams' recruitment. It sound like he's getting weary of the process and is ready to finish off these official visits and make a decision. I know he says he'll definitely take all visits, I have a feeling that if A&M wins and that environment explodes, that could have an immediate impact. I'm not saying he's going to pull the trigger, but if everything breaks A&M's way and that atmosphere is electric and pandemonium erupts, I could also see some surprising commits erupt as well…and I'll put Adams in that group….even though the pundits still think Florida has a slight lead at the moment.
Well, I've got some encouraging news and some not so encouraging news. Let's start with recruiting where the hoops staff has taken a few body blows to its recruiting efforts in the 2014 class. Originally, Philly point guard JaQuan Newton was scheduled to visit last weekend along with big-man Elbert Robinson. Newton committed a couple of weeks before the visit, and Robinson cancelled his visit and is unsure whether he'll visit the Aggies. But, those two were going to be longshots anyway, so no big loss really.
Then in a bit of a surprise, about two weeks ago one of A&M's secondary targets at point guard, JaQuel Richmond, committed to Houston. They were hoping to keep him uncommitted until his official visit date in late September in case their top priorities went elsewhere.
Other than Ben Lammers, A&M's best shot at a big man was Piermont, Alabama 7-footer Isaac Haas and he was scheduled to visit starting last night. Purdue, Wake Forest, and another mid-level D-1 program that is skipping my mind were involved and getting visits along with A&M, and the staff felt his southern country roots would give them a leg-up. Well, he surprised everyone and committed on his visit to Wake Forest and he cancelled his trip to College Station.
That's not great news all around, but this class revolves around the recruitment of point guard Alex Robinson. Get him and the staff can build a few pieces around him. I spoke to Robnson about a week ago, and he's still scheduled to officially visit A&M next weekend for the big Alabama game and that will help. He's been offered by Pittsburgh and Josh Pastner at Memphis has jumped into the fray about 4-5 weeks ago. But, even after Alex visited Memphis and Vandy unofficially in early August, he was still pretty high on A&M as he likes the opportunity to step in a play immediately at both point guard and the No. 2 guard. So I still think A&M has its best chance to land a quality 4-star point guard with Robinson, so A&M hoops fans will be holding their breath next weekend. If he goes elsewhere, this class will be behind the curve and the staff will be left for a second year scrambling for point guard help.
But there's good news on the team front. I spoke to some sources close to the team, and apparently the staff is almost giddy with what they've seen with the British post Dylan Johns. They were expecting to redshirt him, but as one source quoted a staffer (actually, it's a paraphrase), "the kid can ball. He's much stronger and has a better offensive game than we thought when we signed him. He'll definitely play for us."
In addition, the staff seems upbeat with what they have so far with JUCO and former Ole Miss' guard/wing Jamal Jones. They also say that Devante Fitzgerald can be dominant on the offensive end when he's hot, but as a freshman he's still streaky so they are hoping to coach him up to be more consistent.
But the most positive note concerns sophomore point guard J'Myke Reese. Sources have told me he's the most improved of all the returning players and that he's back to his old self playing with confidence. In fact, when the staff tested the team on an outside shot standardized timed drill for outside shooting, Reese (who's not known as an outside shooter) graded out the highest and his score placed him into a "draftable" category. That's not to say that he's draftable, but that his shooting numbers in this one drill puts him into the same performance area as they see with guys that are in the NBA Draft discussion. Of course, his shooting won't make this team better, but sources indicate that Reese is much better with his handle and he's finding scoring opportunities for teammates in open gym games.
As far as the status of Tony Trocha, he went back to Colombia over the summer. He's not on the roster. I've been told by several sources that they expect his paper work to be completed before the spring semester and he should be good to go from an eligibility standpoint. The issue becomes what Trocha decides to do. Will he come back, or will he decide to play internationally and move on? They think he'll come back, but who knows at this point?
Aggie Websider Tidbits
Aggie Digest Top Stories
Evans Leads Defensive MaturityTexas A&M senior safety Justin Evans met with the media Tuesday in advance of the Aggies Saturday road match-up with South Carolina.
Aggie DigestTuesday at 10:15 AM
Game Week Media: South CarolinaThe Texas A&M Aggies have solidified themselves in the top 10 heading into their week's SEC road game with South Carolina. The Aggies met with the media Tuesday in advance of this…
Aggie DigestTuesday at 9:52 AM
Post Game Media: ArkansasThe Texas A&M Aggies moved to 4-0 on the season with a 45-24 win over Arkansas inside AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Kevin Sumlin and several players spoke with the media afterwards.
Aggie DigestSunday at 7:22 AM
Game Balls: ArkansasThe Texas A&M Aggies squared off with the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday in their annual game in Dallas. The Aggies came away with an impressive 45-24 win.
Aggie DigestSunday at 5:45 AM
No. 1 DT Trying to Chop Down Recruiting ListWith scholarship offers from coast-to-coast Scout five-star and No. 1 rated defensive tackle Marvin Wilson is trying to find that right combination for his final three official…