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February 6, 2014

Ags get right mix on offense in '13 & '14 classes

According to Rivals.com, Texas A&M's 2014 class was ranked sixth nationally on signing day. However, recruiting rankings for stand alone classes rarely tell the whole story because every class is different in terms of needs and available prospects. Instead, we need to (but rarely do so) look at consecutive classes which tend to tell a much bigger story.

For example, although Texas A&M needed linebackers in the 2014 class, the Aggies wound up signing just two of them. On the surface, it would appear that A&M didn't meet its needs. However, if you know that A&M signed six linebackers in its 2013 class and also had another transfer in, that tells a totally different story.

College coaches want to put together classes that complement one another and also account for attrition so that by the time the players are upperclassmen, they effectively comprise a two deep roster all by themselves. That's because you win in the Southeastern Conference with upperclassmen who have been in a program for three years and are physically mature and experienced and that's regardless of star rankings in many instances. For example, Missouri won the SEC East last season with a roster full of three stars but a starting lineup comprised almost entirely of players who were juniors and seniors (and many of the juniors had been redshirted as well). Not only that, it was a balanced group with no discernible weaknesses and younger players were asked to play complimentary roles rather than carry burdens beyond their years.

As such, it's time to look back at the 2013 and 2014 classes together to get a much better picture at how A&M did and today we'll start with the offense.

Quarterback: Kenny Hill (2013) and Kyle Allen (2014)

You want to recruit one quarterback per class on average and A&M has not only done that but has brought in players that would arguably be the best passers in the state the past two classes (Allen was higher ranked than any quarterback in the state of Texas this year). That's important considering that A&M runs a version of the Air Raid where accuracy is paramount and you've got two quarterbacks with great footwork and mechanics that don't need a lot of tutelage. It's also important because former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has declared for the NFL draft and one of these two will in all likelihood become the starter this season. Hill already has some experience as a freshman and Allen had a sensational Army All American game.

Summary: A&M couldn't have done any better at the position.

Running back: James White (2013)

You would also like to take a couple of running backs every year but with A&M running the spread it's not so important. Although there is a deficit here (and especially with Varshaun Nixon defecting to TCU at the last minute), keep in mind that A&M added transfers Brandon Williams and Tra Carson who can tide them over for the next couple of seasons until the 2015 class hits town and that talent rich group already includes a couple of commits in Rodney Anderson and Jay Bradford. White himself combines Carson's power with better speed and could wind being better than any of the four and five stars that A&M currently has on campus.

Summary: A&M could have done better but they have the luxury of numbers at this position and a 2015 class superior in both quality and quantity to choose from.

Tight end: Cameron Clear (2013)

A&M only made use of Clear in short yardage situations and he didn't get a lot of playing time until the bowl game. In addition, the Aggies sometimes play offensive linemen as tight ends. Many colleges have trended away from using a tight end (going to a second slot of H back) and most of them don't offer anything in the passing game (they're basically useful in short yardage and running outside). Unless A&M has a significant change of heart and gets away from being a 10 or 20 personnel offense, it's never going to be a need position.

Summary: It's nice to have a tight end on the roster but again unless A&M changes up its offensive philosophy, the position itself won't have an impact on the utility of the program.

Outside receiver: Sebastian Larue, Kyrion Parker, Ricky Seals Jones, Jeremy Tabuyo, JaQuay Williams (2013) Frank Iheanacho, Speedy Noil, Josh Reynolds (2014)

Being a spread team, A&M needs a lot of outside receivers that can play both the X and Z and also move inside to the slot if need be. The Aggies have gone four deep at the position over the last two classes and even though Larue left they still have seven players in the system. In addition, guys like Noil and Tabuyo have the quickness to play inside. Finally, A&M has gotten much, much bigger at the position in response what this staff has seen out of its first two seasons in the SEC with regard to the size of opposing defensive backs and the press man coverage often employed. Not only does A&M have five players at 6 foot 3 or better who have a size advantage over smaller corners, they also have guys like Seals Jones who can move inside in the slot to cause matchup problems akin that of a tight end. It's just a big, versatile group.

Summary: A&M couldn't have done much better at the position, especially considering the lack of four star talent in the state in 2014.

Inside receiver: Quiv Gonzalez (2013), Jamal Jeffrey (2014)

A&M plays two slots most of the time so signing just two of them at the position would appear to indicate that there's a deficit at the position. However, there's multiple outside receivers in the two classes who can move inside either as traditional slots or bigger H back types. In addition, both of A&M's signees were probably the best pure slot prospects in the state in their classes with Gonzalez offering world class acceleration and vision and Jeffrey having extremely quick feet.

Summary: I probably should have combined both inside and outside receivers for a better picture but as long as A&M is taking one pure slot per class, they're doing well.

Offensive line: Joas Aguilar, J.J. Gustafson, Jeremiah Stuckey, Ishmael Wilson (2013) Kealvin Davis, Jermaine Eluemunor, Avery Gennesy, Koda Martin, Zach Ledwik (2014)

There was a sense of urgency for 2014 because the 2010 class of linemen (which may wind up producing three high NFL draft picks) was fast running out of eligibility which left A&M facing the prospect of playing the 2014 and 2015 season with a dearth of both quantity and experienced quality. In addition, the 2013 class was having issues (Aguilar had injury concerns, Gustafson grey shirted due to injury, and Stuckey redshirted). Also, initially the 2014 class in the state of Texas was not strong in offensive linemen (although Ledwik emerged as a four star after his camp work during the summer).

Fortunately, A&M hit the JUCO ranks for Eluemunor and Gennesy who will compete for the starting right tackle spot in spring practice and more importantly provide large, experienced bodies for the 2015 season. It also helped that starters Jarvis Harrison and Ced Ogbuehi decided to come back for their senior seasons. Between those four prospects, the Aggies now have the capability to redshirt high schoolers in the 2014 class and provide the 2013 class with an additional year in the weight room before they are called upon to play significant roles.

Finally, the 2014 class is a SEC quality group in terms of size…none of them are under 6 foot 4 and Martin tops out at 6 foot 6. It's a versatile group that has the length to play tackle and the feet/size to play inside as well. When combined with the high school products in the 2013 class, the Aggies have linemen that can pass protect and use their length in zone blocking schemes in the running game.

Summary: A&M needed to get numbers, get bigger, and get some immediate help in the two classes and did so.

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