Aggie Football Recruiting
We've hit a lull in terms of recruiting. The spring games and junior days are over, and the spring evaluation period is just getting started. Let's take stock in where A&M stands with the 2015 class.
Positions where A&M is already in great shape - OL, RB, TE
The staff already has its two running backs in this class. Rodney Anderson has been a scoring machine at powerhouse Katy and a consensus four-star slasher and playmaker who can also split out in the slot in a versatile role. Jay Bradford confirmed his world-class speed running the fastest 40-time at the Houston Nike Combine last week with a 4.44 forty electronic time on a wet turf. His stock has been rising and he was already a mid-four star.
At offensive line, the Aggies have already secured commits from guard/tackle Connor Lanfear and tackle Trevor Elbert. Despite missing out on tackle Toby Weathersby to Texas, the state's OL class is deep and the Aggies have their eyes on a couple of rising tackles in Keaton Sutherland and Josh Jones along with a few out-of-state longshots like Keenan Walker from Arizona. The staff won't have any problems filling the last spot in this class, and with the promising play of Germain Ifedi and Avery Gennesy at tackle in the spring along with athletic tackles Kealvin Davis and Koda Martin entering the program later this year, the OL not only looks solid in 2014, but 2015 looks just fine also. That's a far cry from what the pipeline looked like just a year ago. Kudos to BJ Anderson.
Jordan Davis is hands-down the best tight end prospect in the state and could push for one of the best in the nation. He's already pushing past 250 lbs., but he can beat DB's off the line in the slot which he displayed a couple of weeks ago at the Houston Nike Combine. It's hard for a tight end to get 5-stars because it's not a glamor position, but if there's a pure tight end that deserves a fifth star, it's Mr. Davis. He gives you a legitimate blocking asset and pass catching asset. Obviously in this offensive scheme, there's little need to take more than one at the TE spot so the staff is done.
Positions where A&M is positioned to close strong – WR, QB
After enduring the Eric Winston saga a decade ago, I've learned to never take anything completely for granted in recruiting which is why you always hear me say this about a heavy Texas A&M lean... "at this time I expect him to be an Aggie." You can't make factual statements in this business. But if there's a prospect that is close to being an Aggie lock, it's soon-to-be 5-star QB Kyler Murray from Allen. Yeah, he visited Oregon. Yeah, he's moving up the MLB Draft charts. But we know that his dad Kevin is pushing his son to go immediately to college and play football, something he didn't do and still regrets to this day. And as far as Oregon and a few other schools he's flirting with, he's simply enjoying the experience. In fact, we've heard the Murrays have given the A&M staff an informal verbal commitment and the timetable to make it official and public is before the summer. That's last week's intel, mind you. I learned from Winston to always give myself an out for that 1 in 25 chance something strange happens. There's been discussion of A&M taking another scholarship QB in this class, but I don't see it. With a young Kyle Allen already looking good and 5-star Murray set to join A&M, it's going to be tough for any QB to want to step into that competition. Sumlin's best chance is to land a talented preferred walk-on who wants a degree from Texas A&M.
The Aggies currently don't have any receiver commits and will be looking for three prospects to sign. Normally, that would raise some early red flags, but if you look at the number of top-end receivers listing Texas A&M prominently, it should make you feel pretty good that the staff will eventually lock down a salty wide receiver class. There are the usual names you here pop-up when talking about 2015 receivers….DaMarkus Lodge, Kemah Siverand, Christian Kirk, Tyron Johnson. Lodge seems to be down to the Aggies and Baylor. I'm hearing the most recent buzz about LSU is overblown, and that this will be a battle of the Brazos that I think will ultimately be won by A&M. That's the school he favored going into the recruiting process, and when A&M waited to offer, the old staff at Texas swooped in and gained the inside track with a quick offer…but Charlie Strong gave that advantage away when he arrived in Austin. Baylor will always be a tough competitor for receivers as long as Art Briles is in Waco, but the Aggies have a good shot here.
Had A&M offered Siverand during the first junior day, I think they could've snagged a quick commit. But the offer finally came, and A&M jumped back in the top spot. It will be interesting to get his take this weekend when he attends the Longhorn spring game, but with Strong's track record with offensive skill players so far, I think A&M will remain in the lead spot. In fact, I wouldn't rule out a commitment announcement in the next few weeks into early summer possibly. Sometimes timing depends on whether these made-for-TV all-star games snag these kids to hold off on their announcements for TV purposes.
Christian Kirk out of Arizona is an electric playmaker that has always listed A&M very high, along with several elite programs. In talking to one of Scout's west coast analysts, he seems to think that A&M and Ohio State are in the best shape right now, but you can be assured that Pac-12 schools will push hard to get in the mix. But A&M has been a constant so far and there's a pretty decent chance the staff will make a serious run at him, but I expect this one to play out a little longer for the high 4-star receiver.
A&M is trying to establish a pipeline at Warren Easton High School in New Orleans. They already have a commit from Deshawn Capers-Smith and are listed high on LB Arthur McGinnis' favorites. The best of the Easton recruits though is receiver Tyron Johnson. A&M has been high on the list for a long time, but he didn't come up with his teammates on a couple of visits this spring, and listening to Scout's Louisiana analysts, they seem to feel that LSU has overtaken the Aggies although it doesn't appear he's close to ending the recruiting process. Derrick Dillon is another bayou product that has been offered by the Aggies. Surprisingly(or maybe not after last year's class), he seems to be looking strongly at UCLA. Kirk Merritt from Louisiana is another A&M offer. He wowed observers recently with the nation's best SPARQ rating and you probably remember the still photo of his vertical jump that was mind boggling. He issue though is where does he fit on the field for A&M? He's a running back by trade, but his moves and vision don't match his athleticism. Is he a receiver? Possibly…but he's not yet accomplished in that area. Those questions may not matter anyway as it appears LSU is the hometown favorite with Merritt.
The kid from Louisiana that excites me and frankly hasn't gotten the national attention that he deserves is new orleans holy cross receiver Micheal Chigbu. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he's the perfect size at receiver. He's big enough to be physical and fight for balls in the air. He's fast enough to easily split corners and safeties, although admittedly he doesn't have world class speed. He's quick enough to run very effective stop-routes, which I think is one of his biggest strengths. Finally, he had good hands and nice body control. Honestly, I have no idea why Scout has him as a three-star prospect. Maybe it's because LSU hasn't been as aggressive in his recruitment in recent months. I don't know why, but A&M will gladly take the ball and run with it on Chigbu. In fact, my sources indicate that Chigbu is the No. 1 target on the staff's WR board and I may agree with that evaluation. It also appears that A&M is the leader at the moment, and probably the surest bet of any receiver I've listed (well, Siverand is right there with him). Here's his highlights:
It's not out of the question that this receive class could end up being Chigbu, Siverand, Lodge with Kirk also a strong possibility. As I said earlier, that would be a salty signing class right there. And frankly, it's not that far-fetched. Finally, let's say A&M misses out on a couple of these prime targets. Wide receiver has become a position of numbers across the country. The best high school athletes want to play receiver, so other prospects will emerge next fall. With this offense, A&M will have no problems finding a very talented plan B. In fact, there will be a couple of new receivers pop-up that will quickly move from the plan B list to the plan A list which is why I think you'll start to see the dominoes fall at this position very soon…too many good prospects for only a few spots in this A&M class.
Positions where A&M still has work to do – DL, LB, DB
Is it a coincidence that the three positions where A&M has work to do happen to all be on the defensive side of the ball? No.
I actually think A&M has a chance to assemble a special class on defense. 5-star DT Daylon Mack is already in the fold. The Aggies are the early leader for 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson, and presumed leader for 5-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield. While I'm not as concerned about Charlie Strong's message to recruits on the offensive side of the ball, his presence will be a factor on the defensive side. What does that mean for Texas A&M's chances to land an elite defensive class? It means Mark Snyder and the 2014 defense needs to show significant improvement…at least a move into the Top 50-60 in most major statistical categories. In regard to Strong, I do think A&M controls its own destiny in defensive recruiting. Take care of business on the field and show improvement on defense, and I think the Aggies have a better than 50-50 chance at landing all three 5-star elite defensive prospects. If they do that, this class will challenge for the top spot nationally.
On the DL, getting the job done starts with holding on to Daylon Mack. Aggie fans must come to grips with the reality that the Gladewater phenom will take some visits. Why? Because he's a five-star and he wants to have fun taking visits. 5-stars can do that, so they do it. Of course, anytime a player is visiting, anything can happen. But for now, all sources are confident he'll remain an Aggie. They do not feel he's truly wavering on his verbal commit. He's just "circulating" and keeping his name out there in the recruiting beat. In fact, I've heard he's still actively recruiting prospects to join him in Aggieland. Nothing I've heard should have A&M fans concerned at this point.
As I've been saying since last recruiting season when A&M was pursuing Josh Frazier, the Aggies have done a good job of landing some great nose tackle-types like Golden, Manning, and Mack. But for me, the Holy Grail of DL recruiting is landing a big-framed, big-bodied 6-foot-4 defensive tackle that has some length and a wingspan to both stuff the run and be a legitimate pass rush threat. Those prospects don't grow on trees and are hard to find in this region. You see more of these types in the southeast from Mississippi down to Florida. It appears the Aggies are looking at a few of these guys. First, they've re-engaged with Cy-Falls DT DaVonta Lampkin who committed to OU after both A&M and Texas backed away earlier this spring after a ho-hum junior season that didn't match the fire he displayed his sophomore year. It appeared he put on some bad weight and looked too big and sluggish. But the big man showed up at the Houston Nike Combine in much better shape…in fact, he was ripped. He came in at 6-foot-4, 305 lbs. A&M jumped back on him and he came to the final spring scrimmage. If A&M decides to offer soon, I think they can be a big factor in his recruitment.
Another big DT that looked promising as a sophomore but also fell flat his junior season was 6-foot-4, 290 lb. Cy-Fair product Ross Donnelly. He committed to Rice earlier in the spring because schools backed away after the 2013 high school season. However, word is getting out that Donnelly played with a significant injury and that's what held him back in 2013. Anyway, Mississippi State just offered this week after stopping by to watch him this spring, so it will be interesting to see if Donnelly's spring gets more schools to jump back in the picture. I would think the only way A&M offers is if Donnelly goes back in June for a camp and impresses. I loved his sophomore tape and felt he was a candidate for an early offer until his disappointing 2013 season.
The Aggies are also going national in their pursuit of the big-framed defensive tackle. They just offered Fresno (CA) DT Jacob Daniel who is a mammoth young man who explodes off the ball and is in the opponents backfield more times than not. He has 20-something offers from national programs so you know he's the real deal. As reported by Scout's Brandon Huffman, A&M's offer very much intrigued Daniel and he says A&M is in his top group of schools. He hopes to visit College Station in the near future. There are others who will emerge as it appears the staff is determined to land a "big boy" at DT in this class….and I approve this message.
I'm just not sure where A&M will go in 2015 to match the talent already on the roster at defensive end. There's just no difference makers at DE. Keke Kingsley is a recent offer from Cy-Ranch and it appears to be down to A&M and Texas. He has a nice motor, but he's a hybrid DE-DT who probably fits best as an end in a 3-man front. The staff brought in James Lockhart for a visit for the spring scrimmage, and he's probably the highest-rated DE in the state, but I'm not sure he's offer-worthy, especially when you have Myles Garrett, Qualen Cunningham, and Jarrett Johnson set to join the veteran ends Daeshon Hall and Julien Obioha. Unless Kingsley wants to commit, I think the staff will take it slowly and see who emerges in summer camps and the first month of the 2014 season. I'm sure they will also try to cherry-pick a few elite prospects nationally. But the staff has the luxury of being picky in this class.
Let's be honest here. This linebacker class will rise and fall on the decision of 5-star LB Malik Jefferson who is the only sure bet elite LB in the state, and probably the best prospect at that position in several years. The state simply doesn't produce linebackers like it used to…probably because those 6-2/6-3 athletes are playing receiver in high school when they used to play LB a decade ago. The staff has a few other offers out at the position, most notably Cedar Hill rush specialist Richard Moore and Plano LB Landis Durham. The Aggies are also in the hunt for Warren Easton HS backer Arthur McGinnis and Anthony Wheeler of Skyline. Those last four are solid prospects (Top 40-50 caliber) and would complement a jewel of the class in Jefferson. Without Jefferson, there will be questions about the star power of this 2015 linebacker class. I also expect to see a few swings at some national caliber recruits like Ricky DeBerry of Virginia, but he doesn't have the Aggies in his top 5 at this time.
But with good depth in the pipeline currently, the staff should focus on trying to land 1-2 elite playmakers. Jefferson is the obvious choice…and the easiest choice because going into the summer A&M is the leader. He won't decide until after the 2014 season, so once again the burden is on Mark Snyder and the Aggie defense to show Jefferson that he'd be coming into a good situation on defense.
The biggest need in the 2015 class may be at defensive back with the expected loss of senior starters Deshazor Everett, Floyd Raven, and Howard Matthews after the 2014 season. And there's little depth behind those starters, especially at safety where young prospects like Kam Miles exited the program recently. That's why we are starting to see the A&M staff hit the JUCO ranks this summer. We've heard that the staff offered Gulf Coast CC mid-term safety Justin Evans after seeing him this week. In looking at his film, he looks like the real deal. Great in run support, but also great in coverage. I didn't count, but in the game clips I watched he seemed to have an INT or fumble recovery in every game. He's just always around the ball. Here's one quick clip for your viewing pleasure. I really like the first play.
I expect there will be many more Juco's evaluated and offered with the hope that they can land at least one mid-term safety…possible two. Maybe a hybrid type with the second one. On the high school side, we've talked about Sheffield at corner. He's had A&M as his leader for several months now, so I think the Aggies have a good shot with the caviat that he's another 5-star that will look around and flirt with other national programs along the way. Once again, a good defensive showing in 2014 will help solidify A&M's current lead position.
Others high on A&M's list that hold an offer include Lamar's Holton Hill (safety), P.J. Mbanasor (who was just offered by Florida), Xavier Lewis (cb), Roney Elam (cb), Jaylon Lane (cb), and Josh Butler (cb) to name most of the headliners so far. While most services list Hill as a cornerback, I'm told the A&M staff likes him at safety and has the 6-foot-2 DB very high on their wish list. Lewis was hot on A&M earlier in the spring, but it appears he's gravitating closer to his original home at LSU. Lane is the teammate of future 2016 Top 10 prospect Brandon Jones, and many feel Lane could be just as good. He's a big corner (that the A&M staff likes) with average speed.
Mbanasor seems to be the fast riser on the national scene. I think A&M has a legitimate shot with all of these targets, but the leaners at this time appear to be Evans, Sheffield, and Lane. With Deshawn Capers-Smith already in the fold, that likely leaves one more high school spot, and then possibly another JUCO DB. Hill will be one the staff throws the kitchen sink at, and it will come down to A&M and Texas in the end. It will be a very heavy DB class in 2015, but with so many graduating, it's desperately needed.
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