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January 14, 2014

Different methods, same results in recruiting

Texas A&M has parlayed their 20 wins in two years, location in a talent rich state, and a staff comprised primarily of former recruiting coordinators with a charismatic head coach into a class that is currently rated fifth nationally by Rivals.com. However, there's been a couple of other factors that have played large roles in the compilation of the 2014 class. On the surface, they should be at cross purposes with each other to an extent but in reality they work well because they impact opposite sides of the ball.

The first premise is that great prospects want to replace great players because those great players win awards and go on the become high NFL draft picks. In addition, prospects often don't consult depth charts because they are sold on being able to play right away. The most obvious one is the race to replace quarterback Johnny Manziel who declared for the 2014 NFL Draft just a few days ago. Arizona five star product Kyle Allen is already on campus and ready to go for spring ball but committed to A&M last summer because the staff had sold him on the chance to follow in Manziel's footsteps. However, it wasn't the first time that A&M utilized this tactic to lure a top notch quarterback. Current freshman Kenny Hill committed to A&M in the spring of 2012 and when offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury left for Texas Tech, Hill began to look around. One of the things that kept him in the fold was that the staff sold him on the opportunity to come in, gain some experience during his freshman year, and emerge as something of a front runner for his sophomore season.

As a result of this tactic, the Aggies now have two fine prospects on campus who will provide competition for each other in the spring and continuing into August.

The Aggies also lost left tackle Jake Matthews to the draft after losing Luke Joeckel from the same position a year earlier. The Aggies didn't have an immediate need as Matthews declared that he was staying in order to slide into Joeckel's spot. The opening provided by Matthews' graduation was enough for A&M to sell not one but two junior college prospects on taking his position, Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy even though right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was considered to be Matthews' natural successor at left tackle. However, from the depth chart, all that anyone could tell was that Matthews was leaving and that the Aggies had to plug in guard Jarvis Harrison to play his spot when Ogbuehi was injured during the season and Matthews are switched to the right side. Not only that, Ogbuehi himself received a first round draft grade and there was talk even in November of Ogbeuhi turning pro which could have opened up not one but both tackle spots.

As a result, the Aggies were able to nab both Eluemunor and Gennesy on the premise that at least one and possible both tackle spots would be open. In fact, Ogbuehi made it easier on the staff by delaying his announcment that he would be returning until last Thursday which ironically enough was the day that both junior college signees arrived on campus (this was the biggest hint at the time that Ogbuehi was returning). Now, the Aggies again have the best possible options…a proven player at left tackle and not one but two prospects to compete at the right tackle position.

In contrast, A&M didn't produce anyone on defense that could even be considered a high draft pick as the unit ranked among the bottom units in the Southeastern Conference. However, the staff was able to sell the exact opposite situation on that side of the ball…instead of replacing the best and competing for immediate playing time, prospects could come in and compete for playing time due to the issues that the unit was having. For example, five star defensive end Myles Garrett had to see that A&M didn't get much of a pass rush all season and by the end of the year two true freshmen were starting at the position. Arizona four star Qualen Cunningham was pretty blunt after A&M surrender 45 points in a nationally televised loss to Auburn.

"I was watching the Auburn game last week and I saw that they were struggling on the pass rush," he told AggieYell.com's Fletch Whiteley. "I knew if I committed there I could make a difference early possibly and get a lot of playing time."

Four star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson flipped to A&M the same day after reaffirming a pledge to Texas. He and fellow four star Deshawn Washington had to take note not just A&M's defensive performance over the course of the season but also the fact that the Aggies were playing a true freshman at nosetackle in the Chick Fil A Bowl. Even 2015 defensive tackle commit Daylon Mack drew much the same conclusion watching the Auburn game that Cunningham did.

"I really think that I can come in and help day one" he said. "I wouldn't mind coming and competing for a starting job and think that I could win it too. I feel like that I could come in and contribute pass rushing. I thought that they needed help stopping the run."

Two different sides of the ball, two different sets of tactics…and yet the same end result which is multiple four and five star prospects providing competition at positions of need right away which is the optimal way to find the best players and build depth.


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