Here's this week's edition of the AggieYell Mailbag:
Q: If Saban becomes the new coach at tu, do you see any our commits switching to texas? Also, have there been any new offers the staff has made to close out the 2014 class? (Ag20)
A: When Ulysses S. Grant came from the West and took over the Army of the Potomac in 1864, he had to deal with a bunch of guys under General George Meade who had routinely been curbstomped by Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. In one of the first confrontations between Lee and Grant in the Battle of the Wilderness, Meade's staff was very skittish about engaging Lee. Grant became, in his own words, "heartily tired" of hearing the whining and said, in effect, "it's time to stop worrying about what he's going to do to you and make him worry about what you're going to do to him."
That's the situation A&M finds itself in with Texas, no matter if Mack Brown, Nick Saban or Robert E. Lee is coaching there. Kevin Sumlin is being paid $5 million a year and has assembled a staff filled with former recruiting coordinators for a reason, and that's to go get talent and keep it. If Brown resigns or "gets resigned" and someone else -- even Saban -- comes in, they're going to be in a tough position as far as 2014 goes. When Sumlin was introduced as A&M's head coach, it happened on Dec. 11, 2011 -- already 48 hours earlier than where we are now with respect to Texas. Saban is not infallible, and there's no guarantee he'll be able to bring all of his staff along with him. So, not only will the new coach have to hire new assistants (or squabble with a ticked off former employer to get them), he's going to have to learn about the current recruiting class, keep it together, AND try to get his own guys. The easiest way to do that, if you're Saban, is go cherry-pick from the Alabama class -- Zack Whitley immediately comes to mind. Other opportunities would be guys who his staff scouted and offered at Alabama -- that would include Kyle Allen, Jermaine Eluemunor, Koda Martin and Myles Garrett in A&M's case. Allen and Eluemunor are early enrollees and Martin and Garrett are solid to A&M. In any event, Texas' issues are more on offense than on defense as it is (though everyone could use a Garrett). Nick Harvey is a target of the current Texas staff; Alabama did not offer him.
So, if Texas dumps their coach and goes out after another, this is where A&M should be the aggressor, not the other way around. The Aggie staff knows Texas' commits well and offered several of them, so here's where you take a serious shot at Otaro Alaka, Jermiane Roberts and maybe Armanti Foreman and see if you can flip them. Texas won't have a real voice at this point, and you can bring all your weapons to bear. So do it.
This is the life of recruiting in Texas and in the SEC. You want to win? Don't sit around and wait on the other guy. Take it to him.
Q: Is 2015 another down year for OL in Texas? Is that why Teheuma is rated so high?
Since it is a deep year for DL, should we expect to see A&M loading up? (Reecol)
A: I don't think it's that bad of a year for OL next year, really; Teheuma is a guy that some people like a lot, and others don't (Fletch, for example, isn't sold on him). But the Aggies are in on two guys who can also lay a claim to being among the state's elite in Trevor Elbert and Conner Dyer; in fact, they may end up getting them both. That would be a very nice pair of pickups for the Aggies if that turns out to be the case. As for the D-line: You've got Isaiah Golden, Hardreck Walker, Justin Manning, DeShawn Washington and Alonzo Williams through 2015 (and only Williams leaves then) and Daylon Mack is under wraps at defensive tackle. At defensive end, Julien Obioha, Daeshon Hall, Jay Arnold, Jordan Points, Tyrone Taylor, Garrett, Qualen Cunningham and Jarrett Johnson will all be around for a while -- Obioha's the only 2015 graduate in the bunch. So there's some depth developing there. A&M should be in a position to be selective on the line, and they have been with their offers so far. There are far more out for wideouts, running backs and defensive backs in the early going.
Q: Can you give percentages on the players that could be leaving: Manziel, Evans, Cedric (Ogbuehi), (Malcome) Kennedy, Harrison, Everett? (garymannino)
A: Manziel: 100%. He has an agent, from what we've been told. Guys coming back don't do that.
Evans: 50/50. We'll see how his evaluation comes out and if the need to provide for his daughter and family overtakes his desire to stay and try to win a national title.
Obguehi: 55/45 staying. Again, the draft eval will carry a lot of weight, but he seems like he'd rather stick around.
Kennedy: Seems to want to leave. I'd put it 80/20 that he does.
Harrison: Pretty close to 100% gone.
Everett: Pretty close to 100% staying. He didn't have the year he was capable of and he knows it.
Q: What's up with Tony Brown visiting this weekend? Why would he do that? (Richard23)
A: Because he's not 100% sold on LSU and Kevin Sumlin gave him something to think about during his in-home visit last week. Brown's mother, especially, loves Sumlin and likes A&M. He would be close to home and would have a real shot at starting as a true freshman next year, which are other selling points. Can A&M land him? It's an uphill battle, but they've got a shot.
Q: Now that Sumlin is signed, sealed, and delivered, what do you think his main focus outside of the bowl game is? (tsip despiser)
A: It had better be recruiting. He's got to put the full-court press on Steven Parker, Speedy Noil, Frank Iheanacho, Brown, Gerald Willis III, Kenny Young, Nyles Morgan, Davion Hall and Edwin Freeman -- to name a few -- and see if he can land them. The 2014 class is impressive right now, but it can be elite; that's why he's being paid some serious coin. Also, he's got to convince Ogbuehi, Evans and Kennedy to stay, and that may not be easy.
Q: Give me your biggest surprise and disappointment players this year on both offense and defense. (ClarkB)
A: Surprise on offense: Travis Labhart. Don't know how it could be anyone else. Disappointment: the running backs -- not due to their play, but their lack of use. It seemed like the were underutilized weapons.
Surprise on defense: Darian Claiborne. Again, don't know how it could be anyone else. Disappointment: everyone associated with the pass rush -- or lack of it. The linebackers blitzed poorly and were easily picked up, and the defensive line applied next to no pressure. The best performance of the year came against Missouri, when two true freshmen -- Jay Arnold and Daeshon Hall -- and senior linebacker Steven Jenkins got after James Franklin. Outside of that, the pass rush was non-existent, which made an underachieving secondary look that much worse.
Q: Who has had the biggest impact on recruiting for A&M the past two years? Johnny or Coach Sumlin? How much will Johnny leaving hurt recruiting? How much will the new look of Kyle Field help going forward? (guns-n-bone)
A: Having Superman getting you on national television all the time doesn't hurt, but let's be honest: Manziel deserves tons of credit, but the ultimate nod goes to the guy pulling the strings. Sumlin's the guy who hired the recruiters and represents the program on officials, in-home visits and everything else. He's also the guy who developed the system that made Manziel a star -- and had the guts to start him. Now, you have a coach who is as hot as any in America sticking around, guys who want to be the next Manziel (or big star) coming in and a top-notch stadium to play in. That all helps. But what will really help get guys is winning, and that's what Sumlin will have to do to remain hot and keep getting the stars. If it seems cyclical, it is; Sumlin just had the great fortune of having Manziel help him kickstart the process right out of the gate.
Q: Is Kyle Allen fully recovered from his season-ending injury? (Big Sugi)
A: He's supposed to play in the Army All-American game, so that's about as good a yes as I can give you.
Q: Sumlin has been known to flip a few recruits in Jan/Feb. Any recruits that can flip to A&M now that the uncertainty of Sumlin's contract has been finalized and recruits know he will be here at minimum of 3 more years? Also, give me a wild, out of nowhere, flip that could happen the week of NSD? (sml2007)
A: They're still after Hall, Alaka and Whitley, to name a few. Coaching uncertainty at Baylor (will the Redskins make a run at Art Briles?), Texas and Alabama could make them be a little more open to A&M's message. You want wild? Try this one: D'haquille Williams, the nation's top JUCO wideout and a 5-star, currently committed to SEC Champion Auburn. Williams has flipped once before and Gus Malzhan's run-heavy offense isn't going anywhere, so maybe the Aggies can tempt him. That's about as wild as I can give you.
Q: Besides finishing the recruiting class and naming a starting QB, what are the top 5 other issues Sumlin needs to find answers for this off-season? (Old Army 74)
A: Good question. Let's go with these 5:
1) Who's the starting running back -- and how much will they be used? Trey Williams was the primary alternate to Ben Malena down the stretch, but Tra Carson and Brandon Williams all got time. All should get a shot, but what will that shot mean? Having a new and inexperienced quarterback should mean more carries.
2) Rebuild the offensive line. Right now, you have two, maybe three, guys locked in -- Mike Matthews, Germain Ifedi and maybe Ogbuehi. If Ogbuehi comes back, you need to find a guard and a right tackle; if he doesn't, you need a guard and BOTH tackles. Not pleasant.
3) Find a pass rush. The middle of the defensive line should be fairly good next year, but the pass rush remains a key issue. You need Daeshon Hall and Myles Garrett (not either, both) to be ready to play significant roles in the fall. Otherwise, you're grasping for answers. Julien Obioha is not it. He needs to be playing on the other side where he can play his style of football, something he could do at rush end. You also need to find a linebacker or two who can blitz.
4) Get your linebacker corps settled. Who replaces Jenkins? Is Claiborne staying inside, or is that going to be Jordan Mastrogiovanni or Reggie Chevis? What role does Shaan Washington or Brett Wade play? They need to set firm positions for their guys, starting in fall camp, and drill them until the season begins.
5) Figure out your wideouts. If Evans and Kennedy go, your starting four for the second half of the season is wiped out. Can RSJ stay healthy? Is Quiv Gonzalez ready to play full-time? Who's going to replace Derel Walker, much less Evans? There's a lot of moving parts that need to be put into place.