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July 4, 2013

Tarp's 4th of July thoughts

The 2014 crop of defenders in the state of Texas is one of the best in recent memory. Of Rivals.com's list of the top ten prospects within the state of Texas, eight are on the defensive side of the ball. For a state that has produced more than its share of quarterbacks and receivers in recent years due to the proliferation of the spread offense at the high school level, it's a stunning turn of events. More importantly, Texas A&M is on the verge of garnering a class on that side of the ball that will be one of the better ones in school history and should perfectly complement the 2013 class.

Defensive tackle…after signing three defensive tackles last season, A&M didn't have to make the position a priority. Nonetheless, the Aggies already have a commitment from Nederland's DeShawn Washington who is the best one in the state. We've already profiled him in our list of Texas' top defensive tackles for 2014 but let's go back and review what we had to say about him:

"Washington is considered to be a little undersized by some observers. However, he's pretty comparable in that regard to Justin Manning and Hardreck Walker who were rated as four star prospects in the 2013 class and Manning played in the Army All American game and did quite well. Washington plays all along Nederland's front four. He has an elite first step and acceleration off the ball; he also understands how to attack the shoulder of an offensive lineman when he hits a gap. As a result, he's guy that doesn't have to be unblocked to make a play…he can shrug off contact and get into the backfield. He also moves well laterally and can run down people outside the tackle box better than many linebackers. He's got quick hands and when he uses them to get inside on learns to use them it's going to be very difficult for an offensive lineman to get leverage on him no matter how big they are. Washington should be able to wreck shop as a three tech in college."

The Aggies are also in on Arkansas five star Josh Frazier but face a battle with four other programs including Alabama and Arkansas. However, if they don't land Frazier, A&M will have gotten four defensive tackles rated as four stars over the past two seasons and they all complement each other in terms of their skill sets. They would be a nice rotation at the position.

Defensive end…A&M already has a commitment from Katy Seven's Lake's Jarrett Johnson. He's said that he may take an official visit to Texas but he's already been there multiple times and still chose the Aggies. He's a three star rated prospect with four star length and skill set.

However, the Aggies are far being finished. They took quite a few defensive ends in 2013 but only Lancaster's Daeshon Hall was considered to be an edge rusher. Thus, A&M targeted a few others besides Johnson including Arlington Martin's Myles Garrett, Arizona's Qualen Cunningham, and New Orleans' Gerald Willis III. Cunningham refuses to name a leader but in his most recent interview he talked about one school and one school alone…and that was A&M. His father Rick played with A&M defensive line coach Terry Price. Eventually, A&M is going to land this four star product although it may be later than sooner.

Garrett hasn't done many interviews lately and also claims to be open. Even so, he has a sister that runs track at A&M and most people are conceding (at least unofficially that the Aggies lead for him) based on the multiple visits he's taken there. TCU has recruited Martin well in the past and is probably's A&M's biggest challenger. Like Cunningham, Garrett may want to take official visits and take longer to make a decision but it's easy to imagine that he too will wind up at A&M.

Willis' teammate is A&M receiver target Speedy Noil and the Aggies are in his top three with LSU and Florida. However, Noil has USC and A&M in his top two for right now and so the Aggies are the only common denominator for the two prospects. The odds of A&M landing Willis are probably even with those of LSU and Florida at worst. They pale in comparison with those of Cunningham and Garrett simply because A&M's chances for those two are much better…but the Aggies have to like their chances at this point in time.

Overall, if the Aggies land Johnson, Garrett, and Cunningham, you've got two guys in Johnson and Cunningham that can play the weak side and Garrett and perhaps Johnson have the size to be a strongside end. Again, that's a nice three man rotation for two spots. Willis would be a big bonus as he has the size to perhaps grow into a defensive tackle.

Linebacker…A&M has already secured commitments from two of the better ones in the state with Hoza Scott (who can play Will, one of the inside positions) and Josh Walker (who can play Sam or on the outside). A&M lost out to Alabama on Galena Park North Shores' Zach Whitley who was supposed to play the middle. Thus, A&M reached out to Klein Oak's Josh Mabin and Argyle's Sam Sizelove (committed to Kansas State), both of whom are true Mike linebackers, and had them in for a June camp. So far, neither one has heard back from the A&M staff about a possible offer. Even so, if one of them gets an A&M offer, it's pretty safe assumption that they would jump on it. A&M is talking to Arlington Bowie's Edwin Freeman about linebacker but he wants to play safety and that means that A&M may finish second to schools like TCU and Texas that have promised a shot in the secondary.

The Aggies have also offered a number of out of state prospects but so far it looks like that the Aggies will have to wait on most of them and hope they get an official visit.

Cornerback…the Aggies have already locked up two four stars in Cedric Collins and Nick Harvey. In many years, they would be the best pair of corners available within the state (Harvey is rated as a safety) but it's such a deep year at the position with guys like Tony Brown and Edward Paris who are bigger and are rated slightly higher due to that factor. Nonetheless, in terms of pure coverage skills, Harvey can't be beat and Collins is close behind.

Even so, A&M is still battling LSU and Texas for Brown and this particular battle is anticipated to go down to signing day. Although many people give LSU an advantage because his sister signed with the Tigers in track earlier this year, Brown also runs track in college and A&M has a very successful track program. No matter what happens, the Aggies will hold a spot for him as long as they need to. California product Adoree Jackson is rated as a five star at corner but has indicated a desire to play safety in college.

Safety….the Aggies grabbed Dylan Sumner-Gardner and Armani Watts in March but still have a number of offers out there, particularly because they see Watts as a nickel back who will log significant playing time as teams are going more and more to three receiver sets.

The biggest name still available is Hebron's Jamal Adams who lists A&M in his top six along with Florida, Texas, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. Florida is given an advantage by many observers because of Florida assistant Joker Phillips who played college football with Adams' father George. Adams tweeted a couple of weeks ago that he was going to make a decision in August but has since told other reporters on the Rivals network that he might push it back into September. The A&M staff would love for Adams to delay an announcement until he had a chance to take in the Aggies' game with Alabama on September 14. Adams is also being recruited by a number of prospects committed to other schools including A&M quarterback commit Kyle Allen. Overall, A&M's is probably in Adams' top three but whether they are number one is really up for debate.

The Aggies appear to be long shots for Florida's Quincy Wilson and Oklahoma's Steven Parker (although Parker had a good visit to A&M in the spring). The Aggies have also offered Gulf Coast C.C. safety Josh Keys who is a December grad and can also play cornerback. It's hard to say at this point in time where A&M stands with him.

In summary, the Aggies are poised to land a defensive class with as many as 10 or more four stars in 2014….virtually an entire starting lineup. In fact, when combined with A&M's 2013 haul on that side of the ball (seven four stars), the classes suggest a talent level similar to that of the Wrecking Crew era from 1985 to 1999 when the Aggies would replace NFL draft picks with NFL draft picks. Furthermore, it would be a unit comparable from a talent standpoint to those at Alabama, LSU, and Florida which means would continue to be in the hunt for SEC and national championships even after Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel leaves for the pros.

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