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January 28, 2014

Aggies look to get bigger on both lines

Texas A&M's lineup at its first 2015 junior day was so impressive that there were only four prospects there who weren't rated as four star recruits. Of those four, two were members of the 2016 class who have yet to be ranked and one has been offered by Oklahoma.

With much of his staff in place now for two years recruiting the same positions and areas, 20 wins in two seasons, and tactics that have rebranded A&M from hopelessly old fashioned to hip hop hip, head coach Kevin Sumlin has stepped up A&M's recruiting to another level. The pictures being tweeted out from junior day included one featuring an array of offensive linemen that were all 6 foot 5 inches or taller. Another featured some of the state's top defenders including defensive tackle Daylon Mack and linebacker Malik Jefferson.

Lost in all of the preceding is Sumlin's recognition that he needed the Aggies to get bigger in order to compete in the Southeastern Conference. Missouri's Gary Pinkel had a similar thought process after his first season in the SEC when he started his biggest players across the board and focused on protecting his quarterback more than he had in past. It paid off in an East Division title for the Tigers one year after a disastrous five win campaign.

Sumlin is taking the same approach but he's doing it from the ground up in recruiting. The offensive line prospects at the junior day all could play offensive tackle at the next level….none were less than 6 foot 5 inches in height…and had the frames to be well over 300 pounds in their college careers. In addition, there were multiple prospects capable of sliding inside and playing guard if need be.

On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Malik Jefferson is 6 foot 2, safety Justin Dunning is 6 foot 3, corner Kendall Sheffield is 6 feet, and defensive tackle Daylon Mack is only 6 feet plus but weighs in at over 300 pounds already. It's potentially a group that can come in and be ready to take on SEC West offenses based on power.

Overall, the best prospects are usually the biggest prospects and Sumlin inherently understands that A&M has to get bigger. He also knows that it's going to be easier once those prospects hit campus and spend a season or two in a strength/conditioning/nutrition program. Almost all of Missouri's starters had a minimum of three years on campus which helped fuel an 11 win season for them. A&M has to be able to recruit so that it's eventually in the same position.

-While Texas head coach Charlie Strong is still trying to hold on to what's left of his 2014 class, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops is attempting to use a Sugar Bowl win and the absence of Mack Brown to try to move back into the state of Texas and compete at the highest levels of recruiting.

Stoops had all but been pushed out of the state in recent years, first by Brown and then by Kevin Sumlin. However, the Sooners are attempting to reenter Texas and have offered most of the state's top prospects for 2015. In fact, about half of the Sooners' anticipated attendees for their junior day this Saturday are from Texas and A&M is competing head to head for many of them including offensive linemen Connor Dyer and Toby Weathersby.

With Texas' program fading just a bit and most of its staff's ties being out of state, A&M moving into the post Johnny Manziel era, and Oklahoma potentially looking at being the Big 12 favorite, the Sooners are poised to perhaps take advantage of the existing situation. The Sooners have help up well nationally by securing prospects like California running back Joe Mixon and a move back into Texas would perhaps enable Stoops to reestablish his dominance on the field over a Texas program still trying to find its feet.


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