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January 22, 2014

How the Aggies end with a top 3 class

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about how Texas A&M stood sixth in the Rivals.com team rankings and what they could do to finish in the top five. Now, the Aggies currently sit in the top five on the basis of their 13 commits ranked as four and five star caliber prospects. However, in order to stay in the top ten, they'll have to close strongly but unlike other programs in the top ten they'll have the opportunity to do so. That's because schools such as Tennessee (33 commits) and Florida State (25 commits) are close to being maxed out in terms of potential signees while the Aggies only have 20 commits at the present time. However, there's other schools such as LSU, Auburn, Florida, and Georgia who have between 18 and 22 commits as well and so could pose a challenge to the Aggies down the stretch. This is especially true of Auburn which is playing for a national title and should close strongly (and also have now become a direct competitor for some of A&M's targets).

Last year, A&M had 16 commits that were rated as four stars or higher and to finish in the top ten it appears that a program will have to sign approximately 15 four star plus prospects. The Aggies are in position to do that and here's a look at the four stars that they have the best shot at going into into signing day.

Cy Falls outside linebacker Otaro Alaka: the Texas commit visited the Aggies this past weekend and is slated to visit LSU on an official visit this upcoming weekend. However, this appears to be an A&M/Texas battle based upon several factors, most notably that he picked Texas over the Aggies back in the spring, he's taken official visits, and currently has the two programs tied per his most recent update.

Alaka has yet to de-commit from Texas and in the old days if a committed prospect took an official visit to a competitor and came out of the trip saying that the two programs were tied, that would be good news for the program where they were committed. However, there has been an increasing tendency on the part of prospects to remain committed while looking around and in many instances they don't stick to their original choice. In addition, they don't ever de-commit…they just sign with another school (case in point being A&M defensive end Daeshon Hall, who signed with the Aggies last year despite never having de-committed from Washington).

A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and Texas head coach Charlie Strong are stopping by Alaka's high school Thursday. For Strong, Alaka has to the primary focus of his class right now for two reasons. First, he is one of seven four stars currently committed and one of the most highly thought of prospects in the class. Second, he has already lost multiple in state prospects who decommitted including Longview defensive tackle Zacoven Henderson who flipped to A&M just hours after he told Strong that he was coming to Texas. If Sumlin can take a second prospect away from Strong -- and at a need position in the class for the Aggies -- then it really sends a message to everyone that Strong isn't the recruiter that Sumlin is.

Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman offensive lineman Nick Gates: upgraded to a four star in the most recent Rivals.com rankings, he visited A&M in October, Nebraska in November, Oregon in December, and Arizona last weekend. He was supposed to visit UCLA this upcoming weekend but the Bruins added another offensive lineman and appear to be done at the position and so Gates is no longer considering them.

Gates hasn't said a lot and prior to the UCLA offer earlier this month he had the Aggies, Ducks, and Huskers running neck and neck. He stated that he would let coaches come in and do in homes and then decide nearer signing day and with UCLA out of the picture not much has changed as far as his top three go.

Jenks (Okla.) safety Steven Parker: he's been on official visits to A&M and Arkansas and he's scheduled to go on one to Auburn later this month. He took an unofficial visit to Oklahoma this past weekend and the Sooners are considered to be A&M's chief competition at this point in time. Parker's father admitted that A&M led until former secondary coach Marcel Yates left to go to Boise State but new secondary coach Terry Joseph and Sumlin met with Parker the other night and he appears to be looking for reasons to keep A&M in play. Parker is playing everything close to the vest and probably won't announce until closer to or on signing day. The Aggies could use another safety with the decommittment of Dylan Sumner Gardner and Parker fits the bill perfectly with his range and athleticism.

River Ridge (La.) safety Mattrell McGraw and linebacker Kenny Young: Young was formerly going to announce at the Army All American Game but is still taking official visits to UCLA and Oklahoma State. He repeatedly tweeted during last weekend's official visit to A&M and teammate McGraw seemed to be having as good or better of a time than Young. Right now, it looks good for A&M with McGraw (who tweeted Tuesday that his top two teams are Oregon and A&M) and still has a visit to Oregon coming up. That should help with Young (who can't help but look at A&M's depth chart at linebacker and believe that he can play right away) as the two have an opportunity to play together that they have nowhere else. McGraw is rated as a three star but on film looks to be bigger, faster version of Toney Hurd.

Olathe (Kan.) South offensive lineman Braden Smith: this one remains a mystery. He doesn't do interviews and his high school coach doesn't talk much either. His sister attends TCU so at one point or another the Horned Frogs have been anointed the leader but no one really knows. Smith is taking an official visit to A&M this weekend and people think the Aggies are still in this one and may even be the leader (if not one of them). However, he has an official visit set up with Auburn and he will be announcing on signing day.

Marrero (LA) John Erhet running back Darrel Williams: Williams committed to LSU in early December not long after the Tigers offered him (he was previously committed to Arizona State). However, with the commitment of five star Leonard Fournette to the Tigers, Williams has opened things back up. He took an official visit to LSU this past weekend but is slated to visit Florida over the next few days, Tennessee on January 24, and A&M on January 31. Williams is a powerful runner who would be a great complement to current commit Varshaun Nixon. In addition, the Aggies now have new secondary coach Terry Joseph on the case and Joseph is well in Louisiana circles as a recruiter as he is from the state and has recruited consistently during his career.

The Aggies are in good shape to land at least three of the preceding four star prospects. That would give them exactly 16 four and five star prospects which would be equal to last year and certainly enable them to stay in the top ten. In addition, every school that finished in the top five last year had at least one five star signee and most schools in the top ten had two of them. With three such prospects in Kyle Allen, Myles Garrett, and Speedy Noil who are committed or already enrolled, the Aggies now have higher goals and should challenge for a top three slot.

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