Franchione, Aggies address needs with stong class

Wednesday marked a monumental day for the Texas A&M football program, as 28 top-notch athletes from around the country signed letters of intent to play football for the Aggies. "I think we won some battles that will help us win some wars down the road," said Head Coach Dennis Franchione. Franchione held a press conference at 2pm this afternoon in College Station.

With only one season under his belt at Texas A&M and a frustrating 4-7 2003 record, Franchione's recruiting effort speaks volumes about the direction in which this young program is heading. By most accounts, the caliber and talent of Texas A&M's signing class exceeded expectations.

The Aggies were able to meet many of their needs and goals. "This class touches every position, which we feel good about," said Franchione. "We ended up signing 28 people in this class. I know we have a couple, or three, who may not qualify. Hopefully they'll be able to work hard to come back and be Aggies in the future." Texas A&M had 25 scholarships to offer.

The class headliner is high school standout quarterback Stephen McGee of Burnet, TX. "McGee is going to get a lot of work in the spring with Reggie not being able to do much," said Franchione. Starting quarterback Reggie McNeal underwent shoulder surgery in January and will likely see limited playing time in the spring.

On defense, the Aggies targeted speed. "Speed is always a priority, but speed in this class was certainly a purpose for us," said Franchione. He stated that when viewing player performance tapes this year, if any question about speed was raised, the coaches "moved on."

The university's new athletic facilities were a strong selling point for many of the signees. Franchione opened today's press conference by commenting on this particular aspect of recruiting: "So many of [the recruits] talked about our facilities," he said, referring to Texas A&M's newly opened Bright Football Complex. "It's hard to describe how big of an impact it had. It was overwhelming to recruits and parents. Eighteen-year-olds need to see it, feel it, and touch it. And it made a big difference to them." The $27 million facility includes a new locker room, athletic training room, rehabilitation complex, meeting rooms, coaches offices, players' lounge and academic center.

The Aggies also signed six junior college players. When asked to comment on the thought process behind signing these players, Franchione simply responded, "We needed them."

Franchione praised his staff several times, crediting them for their accomplishments this year. "Our coaches worked hard. We were well started on this class before the last signing day." He also pointed towards previous coaching stints at Southwest Texas (now Texas State) and TCU as well as his staff's recruitment of Texas athletes while at Alabama and New Mexico as a major factor contributing to their current strong relationships with Texas high school coaches and players.

Texas A&M begins spring football practice on March 22.

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