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January 31, 2014

Countdown to Signing Day: Aggies load up at DE

With National Signing Day rapidly approaching, AggieYell.com looks at five points of emphasis in Texas A&M's 2014 recruiting class:

Issue No. 2: Add a pass rush at defensive end.

With the departure of Damontre Moore after his junior season, Texas A&M's coaching staff was worried about getting production from the rush end position he manned in 2012. Their fears were well-founded, as sophomore Julien Obioha never got comfortable with his new position and true freshman Daeshon Hall was pushed around until the later part of the season. Even worse, A&M's pass rush essentially vanished, falling from 31 sacks in 2012 to 21 in 2013 -- and seven of those 21 came in one game.

The task was obvious -- find multiple players who can rush the quarterback. A&M is five days from signing three players who can do just that.

The first commit of the group is Katy Seven Lakes' Jarrett Johnson, who committed to the Aggies over Texas in June 2013. Johnson had been a Texas lean before attending A&M's spring game, an experience that put the Aggies ahead to stay with him. A 6 foot, 3 inch end with a quick first step and long arms, he's now pushing 250 pounds. If he keeps his quickness and improves his technique -- particularly disengaging from offensive linemen -- he can be a real factor for several years.

The next commit at defensive end turned out to be the crown jewel of an excellent class: Arlington Martin's Myles Garrett. When he committed to A&M in October, he was in the process of destroying Dallas-area 5A offenses; since then, he's only gotten better. The 6 foot, 4 inch, 250 pound Garrett then dominated a week of practices at the Under Armour All-American Game before wreaking havoc during the game itself. Already big enough to play as a freshman, Garrett has an incredible first step that made him virtually unblockable for many high school offensive linemen. He's also got good moves to get him away and around the occasional lineman that did have the speed to stick with him. A 5-star and the number two player in the nation regardless of position, he should not only get immediate playing time but be a difference-maker in the process. If A&M finds a way to get him and Hall on the field at the same time in passing situations, a defensive line that was dormant in terms of pass rush in 2013 has the potential to be potent in 2014 and beyond.

Instead of being intimidated by the addition of Garrett, the Aggies picked up another excellent pass rusher a week later: Qualen Cunningham of Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton. An Aggie legacy, Cunningham is not as big (6 foot, 3 inches, 235 pounds) as or as fast as Garrett at this point, but brings a very impressive skill set to College Station just the same.

"Not only is his first step is lightning quick but he can accelerate through it and onto the quarterback," AY's Jeff Tarpley said of Cunningham. "He doesn't have a big frame but it didn't matter because of that first step combined with hands that never let a blocker get into him. He was also agile enough that he can step one way and then execute a move back the other and leave a lineman unable to even hold him."

The Aggies came into the 2014 recruiting class needing explosive pass rushers. They came away with two, including possibly the best player in America, and a third who could be very good with a little development. Adding those three with the likes of Obioha, Gavin Stansbury, Hall and Jay Arnold should give A&M a far more effective group of ends than they had last year.




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