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November 14, 2013

'13 LB haul reduces need for '14 additions

Texas A&M originally targeted three linebackers in the 2014 class: Gilmer's Josh Walker, LaPorte's Hoza Scott, and Galena Park North Shore's Zach Whitley. The Aggies garnered commits from Walker and Scott prior to the end of 2012 and all they needed was Whitley to complete a linebacking trifecta that would have been one of the country's best.

However, Scott missed spring practice due to off the field issues and he's missed multiple games this season. In addition, Whitley committed to Alabama in May. Thus, the A&M staff was suddenly faced with the possibility of having just one linebacker in the class rather than the three that they had planned on. A&M also had offered Cy Falls' Otaro Alaka who committed to Texas. The staff shifted gears and brought in Klein Oak's Josh Mabin and Argyle's Sam Sizelove who were Mike linebackers into their June camps but neither picked up an offer.

Now, A&M is still seeking to add another prospect to Walker and Scott in the class. Arlington Bowie's Edwin Freeman is listed as a safety but has since grown out of the position and is now being recruited as a linebacker by programs across the country. The 215 pound four star is the highest rated uncommitted linebacker prospect in the state and is being chased by LSU, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, and Texas A&M. He was supposed to have decided by the start of the 2013 season but has put off his decision and will take multiple official visits. In all likelihood, he will not make a decision until closer to signing day. The Aggies remain in his top three along with Texas and TCU.

The A&M staff has also widened its focus to a national level. One prospect that's somewhat close to home who the Aggies have been pursuing since early in the year is River Ridge John Curtis' Kenny Young. The 6 foot 2, 220 pound four star has offers from all over the country and has A&M in a top six that includes LSU, Oklahoma State, UCLA, Miami, and Florida State. Young has reportedly developed a good bond with A&M secondary coach Marcel Yates who recruits Louisiana for the Aggies. Although in state LSU would normally be considered the favorite (he's only 45 minutes from Baton Rouge), Young told AggieYell.com's Courtney Roland that he would have committed already if he ultimately wanted to stay in state. Young has yet to take any official visits and probably won't until after his high school season is over with.

In addition, the Aggies are attempting to get an official visit from Illinois four star Nyles Morgan. Morgan has set up officials to Vanderbilt and Florida after taking a couple to Ole Miss and Notre Dame. A&M is fighting with Tennessee for Morgan's final visit and they have come on lately for the 6 foot 1, 222 pound backer.

However, what's lost in the discussion of the 2014 class is the fact that the Aggies brought in one of the better linebacking classes around 2013 and many of them have already played. For example, Darian Claiborne is starting at middle linebacker and has 69 tackles with 6.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and two forced fumbles. Outside linebacker Shaan Washington has 15 tackles as a backup including three sacks. However, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder has also mentioned that he would prefer to move Claiborne to Will which would allow Claiborne's backup Jordan Mastrogiovanni (who has already started a game this year) to start there. There's also Reggie Chevis and Brett Wade from the 2013 class who played significant minutes last spring after enrolling at mid term. Juco transfer Tommie Sanders has been useful against spread teams. Finally, former Klein Oak linebacker A.J. Hilliard transferred in and is playing on the scout team this season. Hilliard is 6 foot 3 and has SEC length and speed.

Instead of looking at the 2014 class in isolation, it makes more sense to look at the 2013 and 2014 classes together. Overall (and excluding Scott from the equation), the Aggies will have brought in eight people at the position and is virtually two classes worth of players even if most of them came in during one class. In addition, Wade and Chevis have redshirted which means that they still have four years of eligibility remaining just like someone in the 2014 class would. Finally, adding Young or Morgan to the class would enable the Aggies to close strongly and find another prospect that could perhaps contribute right away if necessary.

Although the Aggies originally planned to bring in a trio of linebackers for the 2014 class, their inability to do so does not qualify their efforts as a failure. The needs in the 2014 class have centered around defensive end and offensive line and for the most part the linebacking needs were filled in the 2013 class.

It was critical that the Aggies found freshmen who could play this season due to a lack of experienced players returning from the 2012 team. However, regardless of whether or A&M signs another linebacker in this class, there should be enough talent on campus so that the focus will be on developing the product in the pipeline instead of playing more freshman in a league where playing experienced personnel is the key to playing better defense.


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