In this era of the 12-month recruiting cycle, this 2-3 week stretch in December is the only slow period left in recruiting so it's a good time to take stock and see where A&M stands in this class. What complicates the decisions of a few last remaining targets is the coaching vacancy in Austin. It does not appear the Longhorns are in any hurry, or must I say that the "homeruns" that Texas is pursuing are either saying "no" or have other more pressing matters such as competing in the NFL playoffs or preparing for the national championship game. As long as the job is vacant, some targets such as Edwin Freeman will likely keep the door open until we know who will be the Texas coach.
Also, many of the remaining high profile targets plan to announce their decision at one of these high school all-American games in early January. Add in the fact that the Aggies are also waiting on a couple of mid-termers to make their decision, and early January looks like a very important time for this A&M class. If the staff can land another 3-4 four-stars down the stretch in this class, they should be able to hold onto a Top 5 national class ranking. If they manage only a couple of commitments from their priority list, then the class will slide back to top 10 status…still not too bad, but behind at least three SEC programs.
Here is the participation list for both committed and targeted recruits in these all-star games:
U.S. Army All-Star Game
Davion Hall (Baylor)
Semper fi Game
Let's briefly talk about the remaining mid-termers in play. The biggest name is Edna Carr (New Orleans) receiver Speedy Noil. Sources on the A&M side feel surprisingly optimistic after the last in-home visit in December. They feel the message from Coach Sumlin was well-received and he loves the offense. I've also been told that Sumlin made some bold promises to Noil in regard to his opportunity to earn immediate playing time as a freshman. That has played well into the LSU narrative with question marks at QB next season and the overall offensive system. In fact, LSU has even mentioned the possibility of playing DB at one point. Look, I know the Louisiana stuff and the history of Louisiana prospects going to LSU. I also know about the storyline that Gerald Willis and Speedy want to play at the same school, and Willis isn't coming to A&M. But in the end, most recruits go where they think their skills can best be utilized and where they can get the most exposure. As of two weeks ago, Noil felt Texas A&M was the school that gave him the best opportunity. Add in the powerful Louisiana factors, and I think A&M has a 50% chance here which is about as good as can be expected with a New Orleans kid holding a firm LSU offer.
There's been some buzz over Dylan Sumner-Gardner not being included on the university's mid-term signee press release last week. To be included on the list, the recruit must have all paperwork and application fees submitted and everything signed off and approved. Just because he didn't have all of the criteria completed as of mid-December doesn't mean he won't be good to go in mid-January. It also doesn't mean he's backed out on his commitment. There's been some rumors that DSG plans to follow Coach Yates and a recently hired West Mesquite coach (grad asst.) to Boise State. DSG is considered a little quirky for an 18 year-old football player, so some close to the situation feel that if there's somebody that would make such a decision out of left field, it's this kid. Still, the odds of something like this happening are still very low. He's given no indications to the staff that he's wavering and the plan is still in place for him to show up in College Station in January. Is it something to keep an eye on? Yes. Is it something to lose sleep over? No.
Internal sources have consistently stated that Davian Hall is a target that can be flipped from Baylor and we've run with that news since Hall has gone underground in the past couple of months. Well, it's Christmas Eve and the receiver is still committed to Baylor. He has filled out his scholarship forms (non-binding) and it's three weeks until classes start. At some point you have to look at the facts at hand and not so much the internal sources. If something is to change, it needs to start changing pretty soon. My projected odds are down to 30%.
I'm not even going to try to tell you I know what Tony Brown is going to do. Surprisingly, he didn't commit on his recent LSU visit and his mother keeps telling people A&M is a serious contender because of the track program. We'll find out soon enough when he announces at the UnderArmour Game in early January. I'll throw my dart at the board and give A&M a 25% chance.
Closing Out the Class of 2014
So who's left on the board after the mid-termers? Here are the realistic options.
Frank Iheanacho 75%
Nick Gates 60%
Braden Smith 40%
Kenny Young 40%
Edwin Freeman 60%
Chris Weatherd 20%
Otaro Alaka 40%
Jimmie Swain 10%
Ishmael Murphy-Richardson 20%
Steven Parker 60%
If you look at the percentages, A&M doesn't sit in a dominant position with many remaining targets. But, there are at least 10 targets that list A&M in their top three and seriously considering the Aggies. While some analysts believe Frank Iheanacho's visit to Oregon has changed things, I did not get that feeling during our conversation last week. In fact, I sensed that the trip to the Pacific Northwest may have solidified his decision to stay closer to home. Thus, I still believe that "The Nacho" is the most likely of all targets to end up in College Station.
Linebacker recruiting still remains the most critical in terms of numbers and offers the most drama going forward. The coaching change in Austin has probably had the most impact with LB Edwin Freeman. Publicly he's staying open and wants to wait until the Longhorns hire a new coach before he decides. Privately, he's told a few people that he's leaning to the Aggies at this point. He had originally planned to make his announcement at the UnderArmour game, but I don't know if he still plans to do that given the uncertainty in Austin. If he decides to pick a hat at the event, I think that bodes well for A&M. Anyway, I'm now giving A&M a slight edge in this one.
Texas commit Otaro Alaka is another intriguing prospect that has considered opening up his recruitment as a result of the coaching upheaval in Austin. In fact, while Alaka is downplaying his situation in public, he actually contacted the A&M staff before Mack Brown was fired and asked if they are still interested in him…which they were. Texas should have a new coach in place by the time the dead period is over, and Alaka will need to visit and re-engage with A&M since he's been a Longhorn commit so long. For that reason, I think Texas has a pretty good chance to bring him off the ledge in time which is why I have A&M's chances at under 50%.
Another big-time LB prospect still up in the air is John Curtis product Kenny Young. This one will hinge on the situation with LSU. A couple of months ago, LSU stopped communicating with Young and apparently parted ways with him after Young didn't pick up their calls for a period of time. That seemed to open the door for the Aggies and Seminoles. However, LSU re-engaged about a month ago and are back in the race. But it will be interesting to see how LSU moves forward when the contact period resumes after they received a huge commitment from one of the top LB's in the nation, Clifton Garrett. Will they back away again? I'm hearing LSU will continue to go after him, but who knows what they will do. A&M does have a prime January 17 date for his official visit and I see that as a big positive. Still, with LSU involved and a potential national champion (FSU) in pursuit, I'm going to give A&M less than a 50-50 chance...in the 40% range which isn't bad odds for such a coveted prospect from Louisiana.
Some services continue to say that JUCO LB Chris Weatherd could be in play if A&M pushes for a switch from Tennessee. Again, I say look at the facts of the situation and not the buzz. Weatherd has been very active on Twitter pumping up his commit to Tennessee and by all accounts seems very enamored with the Vols. It's late December and there's no more contact until mid-January. Time is running out and I don't see anything that leads me to believe that A&M is making a strong push, or that Weatherd is ready to listen. With that said, the fact that his mom is an A&M graduate is intriguing, but until I see more activity on the ground, the odds of a switch remain relatively low. Same goes for Jimmie Swain, and I think A&M will have to miss out on a few other LB targets before they push the Ishmael Murphy-Richardson kid from Arizona.
The A&M staff has done a very nice job of filling needs at the offensive line position, but they are looking to fill one last spot among two four stars – Braden Smith and Nick Gates. I talked to Gates last week and it sounded to me like a coin flip between Oregon and the Aggies. I haven't spoken to Braden Smith, but I spoke to a couple of network sources and they feel Smith is truly undecided going into his January visits. He has a sister at TCU, but he also covets playing in the SEC which bodes well for A&M. Missouri is also making a late push and they provide the SEC angle while staying closer to him, but they may have come to the dance too late. This one could go either way between TCU or A&M.
Finally, A&M must finish strong at defensive back, especially now that Cedric Collins won't be playing football due to a back injury. The staff needs immediate help at safety where Floyd Raven and Howard Matthews struggled in 2013. It appeared Steven Parker would be a very nice addition after a successful visit in November. He nearly committed to the Aggies, but his parents wanted him to complete the process and give OU another look. What we've also heard is that some personal matters have developed that is compelling Parker to consider staying closer to home. The fact that he's still very much up in the air tells you that he really wants to be at Texas A&M. What used to be a heavy A&M lean has become another toss-up with a struggling Sooners program. In talking to a few people with knowledge of the situation, A&M is still where his heart is, and that's why I think A&M has a slight advantage here…but anything can happen with this volatile situation. I think the fact that he's going out west for an all-star game and getting away from friends and family helps A&M's chances. This kid was a beast in the Oklahoma State title game and is a special talent that will push A&M's veterans if he comes.
There's still a possibility that Argyle kicker Cole Hedlund could switch from Arkansas, but the depth chart could be a stumbling block for the Aggies with Taylor Bertolet still on scholarship and Lambo holding down the starting spot.
I have A&M with a greater than 50% with four 4-star prospects….Iheanacho (75%), Nick Gates (60%), Edwin Freeman (60%), and Steven Parker (60%). If A&M were to land those four and nobody else, that should be good enough to remain in the Top 5 on Signing Day.
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