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February 15, 2014

Aggies need LBs, safeties in 2015

Our final installment of analyzing A&M's existing and potential back to back classes covers the 2014 and 2015 groups on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive tackle: Zaycoven Henderson, Deshawn Washington (2014); Daylon Mack, T.D. Moton (2015)

A&M signed a nosetackle and three technique in the 2014 classes and both prospects were the best in the state of Texas. However, Mack (who committed to A&M last year) is probably a better prospect than either of them and can play either the three tech or the nosetackle spot. He's got a massive, powerful body combined with an extremely quick first step and because he plays at a small school he hasn't even scratched his potential in terms of technique. Moton is more of a pure nosetackle at 312 pounds and will command a double team from interior linemen to free up linebackers.

Summary: College programs running a 4-3 want to sign at least a couple of defensive tackles every year and A&M stands to meet that goal in 2014 and 2015 as they did in 2013. Not only that, A&M will have signed the highest quality people at the position within the region if they nab Moton (who attends the same high school as 2014 signee Donovan Wilson) and continue to get bigger at the position (both Moton and Mack are bigger than any of the 2013 and 2014 signees).

Defensive end: Qualen Cunningham, Myles Garrett, Jarrett Johnson (2014); James Lockhart (2015)

One of the most underrated aspects of recruiting is being able to sign multiple players in years when a position is loaded moreso than usual. A&M did that at defensive tackle in the 2013 class (which featured six four star prospects in the state of Texas) and also at defensive end in the 2014 class, nabbing not only a five star in Garrett but an out of state four star in Cunningham. That's especially important because the 2015 class at defensive end in the state of Texas is not nearly as strong as in past years in terms of numbers. In addition, a program still needs to sign a two deep but can do it with more players in that one good class than another one where you are essentially taking quantity (needs) rather than quality.

As we said in the writeup on the 2013/2014 classes, Garrett can play either end spot with Johnson being more of a strongside end and Cunningham being a weakside end. Right now, the only four star end in the state for 2015 is Lockhart and he is more of a strongside prospect at a position where pass rushers come at a premium. As with what was considered a weak crop at offensive tackle and receiver in 2014 until other prospects emerged in the spring and fall, there should be more defensive ends worthy of an offer as the spring evaluation period rolls around. Fortunately for A&M, by signing three prospects in 2014, they can afford to be choosy and still sign a two deep at the position.

Linebacker: Otaro Alaka, Josh Walker (2014); Arthur McGinnis, Malik Jefferson, Anthony Wheeler (2015)

A&M only signed two backers in 2014 and needs much more than that in the 2015 class. In addition, Alaka and Walker are probably Sam or Will linebackers and so the Aggies need to grab a Mike in the 2015 as well. As of right now, A&M is in very good shape with Malik Jefferson who may well be the best linebacker prospect to come out of the state in years. However, Jefferson is also an outside linebacker as are both McGinnis and Wheeler and it's not a deep year at the linebacker position in Texas. A&M has some offers out to potential Mike linebackers out of state (four star Ricky DeBerry out of Virginia) but there are some inside backer prospects beginning to get other offers from other programs such as Plano East's Landis Durham (6 foot 3, 228 pounds) and the JUCO ranks would have to be a consideration as well.

Summary: With more teams employing the spread, you're seeing more defenses with two linebacker sets as they bring in a nickel back who plays the majority of the snaps. However, against West Coast offenses like Alabama and LSU, you still need three backers and so A&M will spend the spring looking for other candidates across the country and also hoping that people emerge within the state.

Cornerback: Nick Harvey, Armani Watts, Cedric Collins (2014); Deshawn Capers, Kendall Sheffield, Holton Hill, Xavier Lewis, Josh Butler (2015)

2014 was a very good year for defensive backs within the state of Texas and 2015 is anticipated to be another good one. That's a good thing because A&M needs numbers at the position because they use a nickel back against many of the teams on their schedule. Sheffield is the best of the bunch with height and the ability to flip his hips and run with anyone. Lewis is from Louisiana and has former teammates on the A&M roster. Hill is tall and rangy and is a prototypical bump and run SEC corner. Butler is somewhat undersized but like Lewis and Sheffield can turn and run with people. Capers plays offense in high school but most of his offers are on the defensive side of the ball and he has the size, speed, and skill set to play either safety or corner. He's also part of the New Orleans Warren Easton trio that includes receiver Tyron Johnson and linebacker McGinnis.

Summary: The Aggies have a variety of prospects to choose from at the position in 2015 that can either muscle receivers or run with them that can complement the 2014 signees. In addition, by landing Harvey in 2014 and possibly Sheffield in 2015, A&M would have probably gotten the two best pure corners out of each class in terms of coverage skills.

Safety: Donovan Wilson (2014); Deionte Thompson, Larry Pryor, Justin Dunning (2015)

A&M missed out on a couple of four stars in 2014 but did at least manage to bring in Wilson who is a nasty, physical player on the field. However, that put a premium on landing a minimum of two prospects at the position in the 2014 class and the Aggies have already done that with Pryor and Dunning. Although Dunning is bigger, Pryor may actually be a better candidate at strong safety with his ability to cover down on slots and physical play in the running game. Dunning has size but plays centerfield very well due to his length which enables him to have great range. Thompson has some coverage skills and length but he's committed to Alabama. Despite having taken multiple unofficial visits elsewhere, he remains committed to the Tide but A&M will probably not give up on him until signing day.

Summary: A&M needed safeties in the worst way and hit a grand slam with Pryor and Dunning. However, since they signed just one prospect in the 2014 class, they could probably use another and you should expect A&M offer a number of out of state prospects and also continue to evaluate emerging prospects within the state itself.


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