As Texas A&M closes out the 2013 recruiting class and looks forward to its 2014 class, it's easy to get lost in the day to day news, especially with a few uncommitted prospects still out there and junior day invites going out on almost a daily basis. People need to look at trends regarding A&M's recruiting and that within the state of Texas as a whole and those trends go beyond recruiting rankings or how a program is closing out its class versus those of its closest competitors: Texas, LSU, and Oklahoma.
We'll start by looking at the Aggies who have a top ten class per Rivals.com and already have seven commits toward the 2014 class. For one thing, those numbers alone don't tell the story of how A&M is doing vis-a-vis its competitors. The Aggies are still in on a number of prospects that are either uncommitted or are committed elsewhere to close out 2013, especially Lancaster defensive end Daeshon Hall (committed to Washington) and Alief Taylor defensive end Torrodney Prevot (committed to USC). The Aggies could use a weak side end to fill out the 2013 class and either of them would fit the bill.
A&M has picked up one commitment since receiver Tony Stevens early in January (who promptly decommitted a couple of weeks later); another receiver, Sebastian Larue. However, due to their 32 commitments, A&M hasn't needed to close with a flourish except for its defensive end targets. More importantly, A&M has done a number of things with its recruiting that set the table for the future.
First, A&M currently has 15 four star rated commits. With the exception of USC, everyone else in the Rivals top ten has at least 14 such prospects committed. The real breaking point comes with 11th ranked Ole Miss who has nine four and five star rated prospects committed. Thus, if you are going to compete for a national title…at least from a recruiting standpoint…you need to have about 15 four and five star caliber signees.
Second, if you are going to recruit the state of Texas successfully, it's imperative that a program recruit well from IH 45 eastward in the talent rich areas of the Metroplex, Greater Houston, and east Texas. With former high school coaches David Beaty (Dallas) and Clarence McKinney (Houston) working their former stomping grounds, the Aggies have 22 commits (12 of them four stars) in that region.
Third, teams that recruit well know that everything starts with the front seven on defense. The Aggies are losing multiple players in their front seven and have ten front seven prospects currently committed and all three tackles…Justin Manning, Hardreck Walker, and Isaiah Golden…are four stars. These guys are always at a premium regardless of what conference you are playing in. You can throw in three four star rated defensive backs -- safety Kameron Miles and corners Noel Ellis and Tavares Garner -- as a bonus.
Finally, A&M has seven commits in its 2014 class which is more than any other program nationally save Texas. Four of them already rated as four star prospects…Dallas Skyline CB Cedric Collins, Fort Bend Bush athlete Nick Harvey, Lake Travis running back Varshaun Nixon, and LaPorte linebacker Hoza Scott. Two others, Lakeview Centennial offensive lineman Kealvin Davis and Gilmer linebacker Josh Walker, could eventually wind up in that classification as well. The Aggies have had one junior day already in which they invited very few prospects because they already have a number of athletes committed and didn't need to bring in a large group.
In contrast, A&M's competitors aren't faring quite as well in most categories.
Texas had a restricted number of scholarships to provide this year and it's reflected in Texas' numbers: just 14 commits overall. But Texas also has just nine four star rated commits and is in that second tier of programs that crack the top 20 but not the top ten nationally. The Horns also have eight of their 14 commits from IH 45 eastward and seven of those are four stars. However, where A&M really begins to set itself apart from Texas is in front seven recruiting. The Horns have only three front seven prospects currently committed and one of them, Celina's Jake Raulerson, played center at the Army All Star game. The Horns just lost five star defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson to Alabama and, although they may be bringing in Memphis five star defensive end Frank Herron, you don't just need quality in the front seven. You also need quantity because of attrition, injuries, and in some instances a lack of development. Texas can match A&M in 2014 right now -- seven commits, five of them four star rated prospects -- but trends are important and the trend is that A&M has only offered offensive lineman Demetrius Knox while A&M beat out the Horns for Scott and Harvey and may well lead for multiple members of the class that have been offered by both programs.
LSU currently has 18 four and five star prospects committed and its class is rated ahead of A&M's. However, LSU has always made in roads into the Greater Houston Golden Triangle, and east Texas areas at A&M's expense due to its proximity to those areas -- but not this year. The Tigers currently do not have a single commitment from the state of Texas even though LSU offered 21 prospects from the state. In addition, the Aggies beat LSU out head to head for the Houston-area duo of Manvel's Tavares Garner and Kyrion Parker and flipped Parker after he declared the Tigers to be a school he had always wanted to attend and committed to them.
Oklahoma's location just three hours north of the Metroplex and winning ways have always posed a problem for the Aggies and a much greater one than even LSU has been to the south. The Sooners have lived off of Texas talent but this became more problematic for them starting in 2005 when Texas won a national title. The Horns began to win virtually all of their head to head battles which left the Sooners to compete for Texas prospects moreso with A&M. Although Oklahoma is rated 13th nationally by Rivals.com, they have just six four star prospects committed within 22 member class. Excluding a couple of junior college prospects, the Sooners have 11 commits from the state of Texas but only three of them are four stars. More importantly, the Sooners went head to head with A&M for a number of guys and struck out, none more important than Dallas Kimball defensive tackle Justin Manning whose older brother Demarcus Granger played at Oklahoma. The Aggies also flipped Dallas Jesuit linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni,who committed to the Sooners during the summer.
Overall, since A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff took over, the Aggies have managed to do the following and all of them are important in regards to A&M maintaining its top ten ranking as a college football program:
-Recruit at top ten level nationally in terms of four star caliber talent.
-Recruit well in the front seven.
-Win head to head battles versus Texas for the 2014 class and obtain more and better front seven talent than the Horns in the 2013 class.
-Recruit Greater Houston, the Metroplex, and east Texas well in both quantity and quality.
-Win head to head battles versus LSU and Oklahoma in the 2013 class within the state of Texas.
If A&M continues to do these things, then the impact on the field will be a program that competes on an annual basis for a SEC championship and so should be in the discussions for a national championship as well.