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April 19, 2013

'13, '14 classes bring major talent injection

We've previously discussed that the best way to evaluate recruiting classes is not within the individual evaluations themselves or in trying to determine how a class met a team's needs (which is usually based on how many players are graduating at a position). Instead, rather than looking at them as independent entities, we should examine consecutive classes that when taken as a whole are balanced. Ideally, this should result in a program being virtually two deep at every position.

For example, Texas A&M's 2013 class included 31 signees but is a much bigger class than that at most programs because the Aggies signed just 16 prospects in 2012. However, that means that the two classes combined include 47 signees in all (one did not qualify) which basically comprises a two deep roster and compares favorably in numbers over a two year period with those of other programs.

We've already examined the 2012 and 2013 classes together and with 2014 recruiting in full swing, it's now time to turn our attention to the 2013 and 2014 classes together by position:

Quarterback: Kenny Hill and Kohl Stewart (2013 signees) Justice Hansen and Kyle Allen (2014 offers)

The Aggies are set to take just one quarterback in the 2014 class regardless of whether or not Stewart signs with a major league baseball team or not. That's because the Aggies will have no less than two quarterbacks between the two classes but also because it's a down year in the state of Texas at the position…both Hansen and Allen are out of state prospects and Hansen has already gone off the board. Allen recently visited A&M for the spring game and probably has A&M in his top five but he's a national prospect being courted by schools across the country and may take a while to make a commitment. Louisiana product Brandon Harris was scheduled to make it to Friday Night Lights but did not so has yet to be offered by A&M. The Aggies had Whitehouse's Patrick Mahomes in for a junior day as well as San Antonio East Central's Jeremy Jones. Those are some names to keep in mind down the road or the Aggies could skip over 2014 and go straight to the 2015 class.

Running back: James White (2013 signee), Varshaun Nixon (2014 commit), Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Terence Williams, Kevin Shorter, Damian Richardson(2014 offers)

Since the Aggies are predominantly a spread offense, it would make sense that they would take just one running back per class. In addition, Nixon would appear to be the perfect spread back given his productivity in Lake Travis' spread offense as a runner and receiver. However, the Aggies have moved toward using more two back sets in the spring. Fournette is probably down between Alabama and LSU and Mixon is a national recruit from California. Williams committed to Baylor early and despite multiple invitations has yet to make to A&M's campus for a visit. Shorter is down to A&M, Arkansas, and LSU but probably won't make his mind for a while. Any of the potential additions to the 2014 class would be bigger backs that could block and would be at home in the I formation as well as the spread. The odds are that A&M closes out its class with at least one more back and it's hard to see Shorter going to LSU if the Tigers land Fournette.

Outside receivers: Kyrion Parker, Ricky Seals-Jones, JaQuay Williams (2013 signees); K.D. Cannon, Davion Hall, Demarre Kitt, Mark Andrews, Trey Quinn, Dallis Todd, Jeffrey Mead (2014 offers)

The Aggies don't need to load up at receiver after taking six of them last year. In addition, it's a down year for talent at the position within the state of Texas which means only one in state offer (Cannon) has been extended so far. Williams still needs work, although he flashed his potential at every spring practice. Parker is technically the most proficient of the group coming out of high school and is really good at yards after the catch for a 6 foot 3 guy. Seals-Jones didn't play much receiver in high school and he's got to learn to become more of a natural pass catcher.

Right now, the Aggies are on the outside looking in for most of the 2014 prospects since they are from out of state and they have not been able to get any of them on campus this year. The spring evaluation period may be able to enable them to find some more prospects both in state and out of state that they could bring in during the summer when they hold their camps. Also, keep in mind that a couple of the 2013 slots could wind up playing outside.

Inside receivers: Laquivionte Gonzlaez, Jeremy Tabuyo, Sebastian Larue (2013 signees); Jamal Jeffrey (2014 commit); Armanti Foreman (2014 offer)

Again, due to the number of receivers that A&M signed in 2013, they can afford to be particular about who they offer in 2014. Gonzalez is the big play guy of the group but like Seals Jones is working from the ground up in terms of learning how to run routes, etc. Tabuyo and Larue are basically ready to go in terms of their development. Larue is very polished in terms of getting separation and is a natural receiver in terms of his hands and catching the ball in the air.

Jeffrey and Foreman are big play receivers (Jeffrey had four touchdowns and 250 yards in front of the A&M coaches last fall while Foreman averaged 20 yards per reception). In addition, you've got multiple guys who could play outside in Tabuyo, Larue, and Foreman. Unless the A&M staff feels the need to move most of these guys outside, someone else is really going to have to catch their attention to earn an offer.

Tight end: Cameron Clear (2013 signee); Bryce Dixon (2014 offer)

Clear has already made his presence felt during the spring, allowing A&M to use the tight end position to run the ball more and using size to create mismatches in coverage. Dixon (a California product) is more of a receiver and would allow A&M to take one tight end a year to be able to maintain the matchups it wants with that type of player at the position.

Offensive line: Joas Aguilar, Jeremiah Stuckey, Ishmael Wilson (2013 signees); Kealvin Davis (2014 commit); J.J. Gustafson (2014 enrollee); Braden Smith, Garrett Brumfield, Casey Tucker, Andy Bauer, Joseph Paul, Roderick Johnson, Demetrius Knox

The Aggies lose four players from this position group after the 2014 season. In addition, it's a position that demands the biggest level of physical and mental maturity to be effective and doesn't lend itself to playing true freshman. On the surface, that demands that A&M needs to sign a large offensive line class and there's only one Rivals 250 prospect in the state this year. However, A&M already has one commit at the position and Gustafson effectively gives them another. The Aggies main target at tackle is Martin and they feel good enough about him, Gustafson, and Davis that they have no other offers out within the state at that position. In addition, the Aggies currently have no offers out at guard except for Brumfield and this will probably start changing this month.

Defensive tackle: Isaiah Golden, Justin Manning, Hardreck Walker (2013 signees); Deshawn Washington (2014 commit); Josh Frazier, Chris Williams, Courtney Garnett (2014 offers)

As of right now, the Aggies are basically set with what should be at worst a three man rotation even if attrition rears its ugly head. If someone the quality of Frazier wants to come to College Station, A&M will be more than happy enough to take him.

Defensive end: Jay Arnold, Daeshon Hall, Jordan Points (2013 signees); Myles Garrett, Qualen Cunningham, Solomon Thomas, Gerald Willis III, Deondre Clark, Justin Thornton, Andrew Williams, Chad Thomas, Jarrett Johnson (2014 offers)

Hall is an accomplished edge rusher that's going to fill out and become an every down player. Arnold is a strong side end who should be able to hold up against the run. Points played inside this spring and could get big enough to play there, but the coaching staff said at the end of the spring they intend to move him back outside this summer. Garrett is a freak athlete who is probably going to be big enough to play strong side end and Cunningham has a great first step and the Aggies are the odds on favorites to sign these two right now. Landing four of these guys means that A&M will have a rotation that will be set for years to come and it's the best set of pass rushers that the Aggies will have had on campus since the Wrecking Crew days of the early 90's. You've also got a couple of other guys like Thomas and Willis who could grow into tackles and A&M is in very good shape with Willis.

Linebackers: Reggie Chevis, Darian Claiborne, Jordan Mastrogiovanni, Tommie Sanders, Brett Wade, Shaan Washington (2013 signees); A.J. Hilliard (transfer); Hoza Scott, Josh Walker (2014 commits); Zach Whitley Jr., Kenny Young, Clifton Garrett, Dillon Bates, Nyles Morgan, Vincent Jackson, Otaro Alaka, Cameron Hampton (2014 offers)

Sanders, Chevis, and Wade are on campus now and all three saw significant time in the spring. Longer term, Mastrogiovanni is a heady linebacker who can drop in coverage and has better range than you think and he and Chevis will be competing for the Mike linebacker position. Wade and Hillard look to be a long term solution at Will and Claiborne and Washington can play in the slot.

You could argue that Scott and Whitley are the state's top Will and Mike linebackers for 2014. In fact, almost all of A&M's outstanding offers right now are for prospects who could play Mike with Whitley being the number one target. Throw in Walker as a fast, athletic Sam backer who can play over a slot and A&M will be going three deep as a group with violent battles for playing time.

Cornerback: Victor Davis, Noel Ellis, Tavares Garner, Alex Sezer (2013 signees); Cedric Collins, Armani Watts, Nick Harvey (2014 commits); Tony Brown, Adoree' Jackson, Quincy Wilson

You almost always have to sign three corners per class because so many teams play three and four receiver sets these days. A&M was theoretically two deep at the position in the 2013 class and now adds two more four stars along with Watts to be nickel player. Davis can play either safety or corner and Sezer was gaining valuable experience in the spring. Overall, teams that fall behind A&M in the coming years are going to be hard pressed to play catch up throwing the football even if they fail to land someone the caliber of Brown or Jackson…and they will probably be in on those guys until the end.

Safety: Jonathan Wiggins, Kameron Miles (2013 signees); Dylan Sumner-Gardner (2014 commit), Jamal Adams, Steven Parker, Edwin Freeman, Edward Paris (2014 offers)

The Aggies could look at Shaan Washington and Victor Davis with this group as well. Wiggins had over 100 tackles this season and could grow into a linebacker while Miles is a SEC free safety if there ever was one…he can come up in run support or cover people in the deep zones with his length. One of A&M's problems in the last few years was a lack of size at the position and that has been cured with the emergence of Howard Matthews and the signings of Wiggins and Miles as A&M now has people that can play in the box. The Aggies have pulled into a tie for Adams with Texas and landing he and Sumner-Gardner means that A&M will have landed the top two safeties in the state.

Overall, the 2013 and 2014 classes (as a whole) offer long term balance except at offensive line. The Aggies need some numbers at the position in the 2014 class and it will help when J.J. Gustafson enrolls next spring. Even so, another trend is taking shape: the Aggies continue to get bigger and more athletic across the board, especially in the front seven. In a conference where teams like Alabama, LSU, and Florida live on running the ball right at you, that quality may be even more important down the road as A&M builds not just for 2013 but beyond.



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