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December 11, 2013

How long can recruiting boost from Bama win last?

With all of the drama occurring in Austin right now, is it time to figure out how those events will impact Texas A&M?

Not really. Mack Brown is still the head coach (for a few more days at least). Nick Saban is still out and about recruiting for Alabama. In fact, until we find out who takes Brown's place, it's going to be hard to figure out what the impact of a new hire will be at Texas on A&M.

So instead, we bring you a look at how much impact one game has had on A&M's recruiting under head coach Kevin Sumlin.

When Sumlin arrived in College Station in December 2011, he immediately had an impact on a class that was rated in the top 25 at the time but had stagnated on the heels of a 6-6 regular season. Sumlin's first order of business was to start poaching highly regarded prospects committed to his main rivals. He flipped De'Vante Harris from Oklahoma (considered too small to play in their scheme by the previous staff) and eventually Thomas Johnson from Texas (who had grown disenchanted during the season with the Horns' passing game). New receivers' coach David Beaty had coached in the Metroplex and recruited it at past stops and his efforts paid off with two prospects who never seriously considered prior to Sumlin's hire.

It had been years since A&M had done that to Oklahoma and no one could remember the last time someone had decommitted from Texas and eventually to the Aggies. The Aggies also flipped four star athlete Edward Pope from TCU. In fact, it had never happened in the Mack Brown era and potentially signaled a change in how things were done in the state in recruiting.

However, A&M did lose Corey Thompson (son of former A&M player Tony Thompson) to LSU and Bralon Addison to Oregon down the stretch. A&M finished 15th nationally but the overall ranking wasn't much different than it had been in past years. The perception WAS different because A&M had struck a blow at two long time rivals.

The 2013 recruiting class wasn't much different. The Aggies were limited by numbers in 2012 and could only take 19 commits. They also carried some scholarships over the to the 2013 class that they could use to take December enrollees. Thus, A&M was set to sign a large class and with the momentum from Sumlin's new hire it was shaping up to be a good one.

However, for the most part, the class reflected those from previous years. The Aggies did beat out Texas for Dallas Bishop Dunne offensive lineman Ishmael Wilson and Oklahoma for athlete Quiv Gonzalez and defensive tackle Isaiah Golden. During the summer, they flipped the Manvel duo of corner Tavares Garner and receiver Kyrion Parker from LSU as the A&M staff added the Tigers to their growing list of regional victims. The staff was able to use the move to the Southeastern Conference to sell to prospects being recruited by Big 12 and also in state prospects who previously had signed with SEC programs.

Even so, by the start of the 2012 season, the Aggies' average star ranking of prospects that eventually signed with them in the 2013 class was 3.38 and their average star ranking was 3.38 for their last eight commits after Sumlin was hired in the 2012 class. That wasn't much different than the 3.42 of the 2012 class or the 3.29 average of the 2010 class although it did beat out the 2.95 to 3.17 grades than former head coach Mike Sherman had posted. A&M's top 20 to 25 classes were now around the top 15 nationally. Incremental improvement was occurring.

Then came the seminal moment of Kevin Sumlin's career….the win over number one ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. It propelled A&M into an eventual top five ranking. In addition, it propelled A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel into a Heisman Trophy and eventually made him the coolest athlete on the planet.

A&M finished out its class with ten commits and an average star ranking of 3.60. Six of the ten were four stars which was a little bit better percentage than the numbers previously posted prior to the Alabama win.

The overall effect was greater than the numbers, however. The Aggies continued to effectively flip prospects from their regional competitors. Justin Manning, the Dallas Kimball defensive tackle who was related to former Oklahoma five star Demarcus Granger, wound up committing to A&M as did Sooner commit Jordan Mastrogiovanni. After decommitting from Texas, four star athlete Ricky Seals Jones committed to the Aggies. Long time Washington commit Daeshon Hall never even decommitted but chose A&M on signing day and West Mesquite safety Kameron Miles flipped to the Aggies in November after decommitting from a Tennessee program that eventually fired head coach Derek Dooley at the end of the season.

Also, the Aggies' winning ways enabled them to strike out of state for prospects they never would have been in on without the 2012 season. A&M nabbed four star receivers Sebastian Larue from California and JaQuay Williams from Fork Union Military Academy over offers from colleges closer to home.

With the momentum from a 11-2 season and talk of A&M competing for a national title, the Aggies used all of that as a springboard to become the dominant recruiting force in Texas. A&M currently has a star ranking of 3.67 in the 2014 class (even better than how they did down the stretch in 2013) and is rated fourth in the country with 11 four and five star commits. They ranged out of state to take Arizona products Kyle Allen and Qualen Cunningham and jucos Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eleumunor, all of them four stars except for Allen who was a five star and the top rated drop passer in the country. They grabbed Arlington Martin defensive end Myles Garret who just recently received his fifth star per Rivals.com.

And yet, A&M's 2013 season didn't quite lived up to expectations. The Aggies did virtually all of their damage so far prior to their last two games of the season, both losses. They finished 8-4 and at the far end of the top 25 going into a very winnable bowl game. Since the season ended, they've gotten a commitment from Tyler Junior College receiver Joshua Reynolds and most of their other targets will wait to commit in January or at all star games. Since A&M currently has 19 commits, even due to attrition within the program or losses within the class, the Aggies can probably have no more than ten new commits down the stretch. Right now, Rivals.com lists 27 prospects with A&M offers that remain uncommitted and there's about ten of them that the Aggies have a realistic shot at. The good news is that the vast majority of them are four star rated recruits. The flip side is that they definitely lead for probably just one of them in Houston Westside receiver Frank Iheanacho and perhaps another in Oklahoma safety Steven Parker.

They've also gotten off to a very strong start in the 2015 class as well with five commitments and all of them being Rivals 250 prospects. They're also in on many more such prospects within the state of Texas and even nationally already. In fact, the 2015 class is shaping up to be as good or even better than the 2014 class.

But even so, A&M may not be on the same pace to close as fast in 2014 as they did in 2013. Part of that is purely numbers as the Aggies have already garnered the majority of their 2013 class. However, it looks like that they're not going to close on out of state prospects like they did last year in Louisiana and other portions of the country which would enable to close out the class at the same high rate. In addition, with Texas making a move to hire a new head coach, that person will certainly target some of A&M's existing class much like Sumlin did the Horns when he arrived in College Station. Also, junior days will crank up early in 2014 for the 2015 class and new challenges will be laid down at that point as well.

But most importantly, the momentum from the Alabama win in 2012 is dissipating as time goes on. As evidenced by the before and after rankings from that win, no matter how good of a recruiter a staff is, nothing sells like winning. Although Kevin Sumlin has far more to sell than he first got to College Station and there's turmoil in Austin that will help in the short term, the evidence indicates that no matter what else happens A&M has to continue to win at a high level to recruit and any down time in that regard has to be short. That's particularly true in a conference like the SEC where A&M's 11th ranked finish nationally in 2013 was just sixth overall in the conference.

From a perception standpoint, the Aggies can afford for 2014 to be a transition year. They can't afford for it to be a down one.


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