let's start with numbers in the 2014 class. By my count, there are currently 66 non-senior scholarship players on the roster. That means the Class of 2014 starts at 19. It's no secret that Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans will likely go to the NFL, so that number bumps up to 21. Then there are players like Cedric Ogbuehi, Deshazor Everett, and Jarvis Harrison who may or may not go. For argument's sake, let's say that one of these three skips off to the NFL. Now we're at 22.
You keep hearing from pundits that the 2014 class will be under the maximum allowed of 25, but it's only October and natural attrition (back-ups looking for pt and transfers, academics, career injury, etc.) is good for another three. In fact, while I don't like speculating publicly on specific names, I look at the roster and I see at least one candidate that will likely retire and another 3-4 sophomores and redshirt freshman that have already been passed up on the depth chart by true freshmen and will likely transfer sometime in the offseason. So I still believe that if the staff wants to sign 25 prospects, they will have the room. Currently, the commitment count for the Class of 2014 sits at 14. There have now been some public reports indicating that Cedric Collins' may have a career-ending injury, suffered in the playoffs last season. We've heard the whispers and rumors for months, but we did not want to speculate about a sensitive subject. So if you take him off the list and add back greyshirt mid-termer OL J.J. Gustafson, then you still have 14 commits.
So give or take a spot, it appears that the Aggies have about 10-11 scholarships left to fill.
Latest News From The Past Week
Several new storylines have emerged this week, with three major highlights taking center stage. First, Arlington Martin DE and consensus Top 3 player in the state of Texas,Myles Garrett, has set his announcement date…and it happens to be the same date that he'll be in College Station for the Auburn game next weekend. In recruiting's worst kept secret, the Aggies should finally land a much-needed defensive pass rusher in the class. In fact, you can bet that watching A&M's struggles in rushing the QB sealed the deal for the Aggies who have been the horse to beat since last spring. Garrett has a chance to play immediately as a freshman, and provide Mark Snyder with a viable pass rushing playmaker that he doesn't have at his disposal at the moment. If his commitment comes as expected, it will mark the most important pick-up in this class.
Second, the aggies identified another viable juco tackle prospect after Dontavius Blair committed to Tennessee last weekend. Fahn Cooper, a 6-foot-5, 310 pound tackle from a JUCO in Illinois was actually an All-MAC OL last season for Bowling Green after redshirting his freshman season. When I spoke to him, he was quite blunt that he didn't enjoy his stay at Bowling Green and wanted to find a higher profile D-1 school with a big-time game day atmosphere, high level players he can go up against in practice, and face elite competition on Saturdays. He aspires to play in the NFL, so he felt he needed to transfer to a JUCO and then move on to another D-1 program. As he told me, Texas A&M ticks every item on his bucket list and he's very interested in the Aggies. The issue boils down to his transcripts and if the necessary credits are accepted at A&M that will allow him to enroll at mid-term. While OU and Texas Tech are involved (he's actually on an official visit in Lubbock this weekend), he made it clear that an A&M offer would be a game changer for him…and after speaking to Sumlin a couple of nights ago, the Cobra told him an offer would be extended immediately upon getting the green light from academic people.
I've watched his tape, and frankly i think he has the best footwork of any Juco OL that A&M has recruited (including Blair who is considered one of the top 2-3 OL's in Juco ball). Cooper could stand to get a little more upper body strength, but that can be somewhat corrected under the tutelage of Black Death in the weight room for eight months. Cooper told me he was taking 18 credit hours and that A&M told him Wednesday that everything looked fine with his transcript so far but they had a couple more classes to verify. Yes, both sides feel optimistic, but academics are always a fuzzy thing. Until the staff gets the final thumbs-up from the university, you can't count your chickens before they hatch. With that being said, the odds of Cooper wearing maroon are higher than any other school's colors at this point. This is in addition to the promising status of JUCO tackle Avery Gennesy from Mississippi. He will be at the Ole Miss-A&M game tomorrow night, but from what he told me, he's there to see the Aggies as much as he is Ole Miss.
**Update** FYI, he just called me from Oxford as I was typing up these Tidbits. He said he still feels the same way about A&M and they lead, but he needs to make an informed decision and give Ole Miss and Tennessee a look. Tennessee just entered the picture. They are telling him they are losing all five OL's this year and they need a lot of immediate help. So, despite the Vols already landing several JUCO OL's (including Blair), the immediate playing time angle has piqued his interest. He knows very little about their program and has never been to Tennessee, so he's curious about the trip. He plans to attend the UT-S. Carolina game, and he plans to have a decision shortly after that visit. I think A&M is still the odds-on favorite to land him, but I wouldn't say it's a done deal like he told me off the record a week ago. A&M did help itself when Coach Price showed up for his game last night, and Gennesy saw him on the sidelines. He said it means a lot for Coach Price to take off from his team's game preparations to check up on him.
The third major development was a bit of a surprise I guess. In this age of HUDL and multiple recruiting networks, the thought of a very good high school football player in a major metropolitan area going under the radar until October of his senior year sounds almost foreign these days. But as I tell y'all every year, there will always be 2-3 seniors that jump out of nowhere and become highly-recruited prospects. The latest senior to "pop" is Houston Westside wide receiver Frank Iheanacho, who did not even play football a year ago. At 6-foot-6, he decided to drop football after his sophomore season and focus on basketball. Well, as he approached his senior season, he was told that his chances of earning a D-1 scholarship may be better in football than basketball so he put the helmet back on. And when his three-week highlight tape hit the D-1 school mailboxes, many schools were immediately interested, especially with a pretty weak 2014 crop of pass catchers in the state. For the Texas A&M staff, his tape came at the perfect time. The Aggies really need a difference maker at the outside receiver spot, and their Louisiana targets are looking more and more like they will stay in-state and play for LSU now that Zach Mettenberger has brought back the forward pass to the Tigers.
Thus, I think that's why the A&M staff quickly offered "nacho" a scholarship. Plus, they saw the writing on the wall and wanted to jump to the front of the line. TCU, Houston, and a few smaller schools had previously offered, but the Aggies got their offer sent on Wednesday along with Florida State. Texas and other major D-1's are inquiring about the big man, and there will certainly be more offers. I briefly texted with Frank earlier today and he confirmed the A&M offer, and he confirmed strong interest in playing for the Aggies. He will be at TCU this weekend, but he has already scheduled a visit to College Station for the Auburn game. And just based on his response and what I'm hearing, I wouldn't be surprised if he pulled the trigger if his visit goes well.
Other Miscellaneous Notes
Keep an eye on Texas commit Jermaine Roberts. The A&M staff looked hard at him as a target early in the spring and did not offer at the time, and he eventually committed to Texas. With the uncertain status of Cedric Collins along with the fact that Tony Brown seems to leaning more and more to LSU, the staff still has an eye out for a corner prospect. And, it just so happened that Roberts recently called the coaches, inquiring about their interest in him as he's starting to call around with a coaching change in the air in Austin. From our understanding, the staff welcomed the call and indicated that he will go back up on their board as a target. For what it's worth, in talking to Longhorn sources, their staff was aware that Jermaine is calling around and they are not very concerned at this point. They believe Roberts is simply developing a contingency plan in case there's a coaching change. Well, we could know by 3:00 PM Saturday about that coaching change, so stay tuned.
Given the struggles of Taylor Bertolet, the staff has opened up recruiting at the kicker position, and they have shown strong interest in Cole Hedlund, kicker from argyle who is currently committed to Arkansas. I need to follow up on his recruitment and will provide an in-depth update as soon as possible.
Speaking of Argyle, the Aggies are getting closer to offering linebacker Sam Sizelove. He's currently committed to Kansas State and he's getting courted heavily by Texas Tech. From what I can tell, the staff is divided on the athletic linebacker, so he's been on the edge of receiving an A&M offer since the summer, but ultimately Sumlin hasn't pulled the trigger. With Zach Whitley looking more solid to Alabama by the day, I think the staff will eventually authorize that offer. Now, when A&M first started showing interest in Sizelove, he indicated at the state 7-on-7 tournament in July that he would strongly consider switching to the Aggies once offered. But these situations have a window of opportunity, and you have to wonder if he'll still be excited about an A&M offer 3-4months later. Personally, I like Sizelove because he showed me the speed, quickness, and athleticism to drop in coverage effectively. Is he on the level of Hoza Scott or Whitley? No….but he's a quality prospect nonetheless and his motor never stops.
Speaking of Scott, he returned to the field for Laporte last week and had a nice game despite the rust. On the academic front, LaPorte officials and people close to Hoza's situation, who were pessimistic last May, are now somewhat hopeful he can qualify after a productive summer school and a renewed commitment to his schoolwork. He's not out of the woods by any stretch but at least the boat is going in the right direction.
5-star OL Casey Tucker from Arizona cut his list to five and the Aggies made the cut along with Arizona St., Stanford, Oregon, and Washington. A&M is the only non-Pac-12 school on his list. He will visit for one of the upcoming home games, but I think this one will be an uphill battle. It will take a great campus visit to overcome Arizona St. and Stanford who many think lead for his services. Braden Smith is still a possibility, but to be honest, his stock has dropped from his 5-star grade last spring. He's still a very, very good prospect, but several of the bigger programs have slowed down his recruitment. TCU is the likely leader as A&M has been focusing in on the JUCO market at OL.
Whether it's the new digs for the players at Olsen Field or the Aggies moving to the SEC, but Coach Childress is bringing in a different caliber of athlete. Gone are the days of fast, undersized scrappy players filling the roster and welcome in the big boys….the 6-foot-2, 220-pound broad-shouldered athlete who can hit the ball to all areas of the park. Here's a list of some new hitters:
1b/of G.R. Hinsley 6-foot-2, 220 lbs.
of Nick Banks 6-foot, 190 lbs.
3b/ss Logan Nottebrok 6-foot-3, 215 lbs.
3b/c Ronnie Gideon 6-foot-3, 240 lbs.
Throw in the 6-foot-2, 240 pound Hunter Melton and the 2014 Aggies will be playing with plenty of power. And there's a good chance at least three of those big boys start. All four will see the field. I went out to Thursday's scrimmage and here were the batting orders for both split squads.
1. Blake Allemand
2. Logan Taylor
3. G.R. Hinsley (Newcomer)
4. Mitchell Nau
5. Nick Banks (Newcomer)
6. Ronnie Gideon (Newcomer)
7. Jonathan Moroney
8. Jace Statum
1. Ryne Birk SS (Newcomer)
2. Patrick McLendon 2B (Newcomer)
3. Logan Nottebrok 3B (Newcomer)
4. Troy Stein C
5. Cole Lankford 1B
6. Hunter Melton DH
7. Krey Bratsen CF
8. J.B. Moss RF
9. Caleb Goodell LF (Newcomer)
If you notice, there are a lot of newcomers at the top and middle of the order. It's not like the Aggies lost a lot of players at the top and middle of the order. Newcomers like Nottebrok, Hinsley, and Banks are #3, #4. #5 in the order, while last year's middle of the order guys are #5, #6, #7. Basically, the new hitters have already moved in and established themselves in prominent roles.
You heard me talk about Hinsley all summer where he set the all-time record for RBI's in the TCL (55). He's a power guy with a great eye with doesn't strike out…just an overall good hitter. In the scrimmage Thursday, he swung at the first pitch each time resulting in two hard hit singles up the middle and an effortless RBI sac fly. He makes it look easy.
As a freshman, Logan Taylor scuffled at the plate hitting about .200 and eventually faded from the lineup late in the season. Well, he had a great summer leading the TCL in several offensive categories. He's now playing shortstop and his bat is still on fire. He had two doubles and two RBI's on Thursday in the No. 2 hole. He'll likely be the replacement for Mikey Reynolds.
Logan Nottebrok is battling Ronnie Gideon for the 3rd base chores, but the Temple JUCO will likely win out with his big arm and nice gap power at the plate. The staff played Gideon at catcher where I think he's serviceable. He'll get plenty of playing time but will start off platooning at 3B, DH, and catcher.
Freshman middle infielder Ryne Birk has really impressed the coaching staff and he's pushing veteran Blake Allemand. Birk is much thicker with a little more punch than Allemand, but Blake has a very good eye at the top of the order. He walked twice and scored both times. The staff has a tough decision, because they really like Birk.
I think you'll see Krey Bratsen back at the bottom of the lineup. With some productive bats in front of him now, the Aggies can afford to trade a better bat for his extraordinary speed and glove in centerfield. Freshman Nick Banks will likely take the right field pot, but left field could be a hodge podge of players that could include Lankford, Hinsley, Moroney, etc. The coaches will have to find a way to get both Hinsley and Lankford's sticks in the lineup even if it means giving up a little in defense.
On the mound, I saw Daniel Mengden square off against Parker Ray. Once again, Ray was as dominant as he was in the TCL league this summer. The pitchers aren't throwing curves and sliders, so Ray is making these hitters look silly on fastballs and changeups only. If he continues on this pace, he'll be special. I'd also consider him for the Friday night role. That's no knock on Mengden who pitched on Fridays last year. He was sharp as well on Thursday, but Ray has taken his game to a different level.
I didn't see Grayson Long pitch, but the staff is feeling very good about his stuff this fall coming off a very good summer season. That's a very salty weekend rotation right there. Jason Jester and Jason Freeman pitched effectively in relief on Thursday. Redshirt freshman Rex Hill was roughed up, but nothing compared to sophomore Gandy Stubblefield who couldn't register an out while surrendering seven runs on four walks, two doubles, and a single. A high draft pick out of high school, Gandy just hasn't figured it out for whatever reason. On the other hand, his left-handed younger brother has impressed and he should see himself in the rotation. Freshman Ryan Hendrix and JUCO transfer Hayden Howard are also getting good reviews from the coaching staff.
It won't be an incredibly deep pitching staff, but there should be sufficient arms to go as far as this team wants to go if the three veteran weekend starters perform as expected.
so…as many of you know, I'm the truth detector when it comes to analyzing any of A&M's athletic programs. I've been somewhat pessimistic with the baseball team because of the quality of hitters and the physical stature of hitters on the roster. Well, that issue has been addressed and most of those big guys look like natural hitters. Last year, I said A&M was one good three-hole hitter away from having a pretty decent lineup. Well, that void will be amply filled by Hinsley. Add in some of the other impressive newcomers to go along with what is usually a pretty good pitching rotation at the top-end, and I must say I'm bullish on the 2014 team. A lot of things can change between now and late February, but I like what little I've seen so far. I'm going out to Olsen again in the morning for another scrimmage. The Fall Series will be October 23 (3:00 PM), October 24 (3:00 PM), and Friday October 25 (6:00 PM).
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