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Texas A&M Football

Cover Story: A&M's rise to power takes root on Signing Day

February 6, 2013
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Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin on Wednesday announced a 2013 signing class that earned near-unanimous national top-10 acclaim.

A&M’s extra-large and talent-laden 33-man haul is, without question, one of the best recruiting classes in program history. The second-year Aggie head coach also knows it’s the type of class he’ll have to sign every February if A&M is to maintain its overnight status among the power players in the mighty Southeastern Conference.

After all, for as great as this year’s class looks on paper, Nick Saban’s haul at Alabama is the consensus national No. 1 and four other SEC groups compare favorably to the class the Ags assembled.

There are plenty of college football analysts — myself included — who believe that Sumlin’s first top-10 Signing Day grade is merely the tip of the iceberg. The Aggies appear poised for an extended run at the top of college football’s most dominant league.

Andrew Cagle With a top-five team returning in 2013, a top-10 class now signed and another in the works, A&M's ascension is nowhere near over. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"With a top-five team returning in 2013, a top-10 class now signed and another in the works, A&M\u0027s ascension is nowhere near over.","MediaItemID":26654}
For proof, all one need do is study what’s transpired in College Station over the past three months and with the Class of ’13 in general.

In addition to dominating recruiting in Texas, the Ags are riding a wave of momentum after an unforgettable first season in the SEC. A&M compiled 11 wins, a rousing victory over the back-to-back champs in Tuscaloosa, a Cotton Bowl win, an Outland Trophy, a potential No. 1 NFL Draft pick and a Heisman Trophy.

Sumlin’s Aggies seized control of the landscape in the nation’s most fertile recruiting ground. They surpassed Oklahoma and Texas and re-emerged as the power player in the Lone Star State.

Texas coach Mack Brown and OU’s Bob Stoops rode rosters loaded with Dallas, Houston and East Texas talent to national championships, and neither had the year one success — on the field or on the recruiting front — that Sumlin has enjoyed in Aggieland.

Throughout Sumlin’s first few months, the Aggies quietly built recruiting momentum leading up to the season due mainly to the SEC move and the excitement generated by a staff of young, energetic and proven recruiters. As the season progressed, however, a seismic shift occurred in a state that had been run by Mr. February and Big Game Bob.

The Longhorns didn’t win a single game of note and dropped four games against an embarrassingly easy schedule. Oklahoma danced around defensive deficiencies to go 10-2, but the Sooners drew the one opponent that the Brothers Stoops did not want to see in the Cotton Bowl.

A&M’s thoroughly convincing, 41-13 beatdown of Stoops’ Sooners at Cowboys Stadium was an emphatic message delivered on national television to every noteworthy recruit in Texas: There is a new sheriff in town who is known to occasionally survey the Friday Night Lights in a candy-painted maroon helicopter and whose tweet game was on par with that of most of the players the Aggies were targeting.

Andrew Cagle Top recruits jump at the thought of playing with Manziel, while others see where A&M will sit in the national hierarchy even after he leaves. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Top recruits jump at the thought of playing with Manziel, while others see where A&M will sit in the national hierarchy even after he leaves.","MediaItemID":26642}
Sumlin and the Aggies served notice that for the first time in about 15 long years, Texas A&M was not only an on-field bully but also the “cool” destination for Texas high school prospects.

The shift began early in the season, but didn’t fully take hold until November 10 — a day Aggie fans will remember forever. With Johnny Manziel leading the way (and vaulting himself into legitimate Heisman contention), an inspired A&M team toppled Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in front of 100,000 rabid Tide fans.

The Ags' defeat of the defending and eventual repeat national champs sent shockwaves throughout the college football world and vaulted Manziel, Sumlin and Texas A&M into the national conscience.

Since that fateful afternoon, Manziel and the Aggies have been the hottest thing going.

A&M has enjoyed the following: Manziel hoisting the Heisman and then becoming the most talked-about and celebrated athlete in the country; Johnny Football or A&M being mentioned what seemed like 20 times during the national championship game; Sumlin joining Urban Meyer on the Gameday set for the BCS title game; NFL Draft talk centering on Luke Joeckel and Damontre Moore; and talk of a preseason No. 1 or No. 2 ranking.

In other words, the Aggies’ Q-Rating is as high as any program this side of Alabama. Hell, Sumlin is even making Saban look over his shoulder. If you think Saban and the Tide don’t have September 14, 2013 circled on their schedule, you’re not paying attention to what next year’s A&M-‘Bama game at Kyle Field truly represents.

There isn’t a bigger threat to break up the Alabama dynasty than Texas A&M. Saban is fully aware of this fact. That’s why the Aggie-Tide rematch is going to be college football’s most highly-anticipated and most-hyped regular-season game since the Alabama-LSU ‘Game of the Century’ two seasons ago.

Last November’s 29-24 win was a perception-changer as much as it was a season- or even program-changer. For proof, look at the four weeks following the Ags’ first-ever road win over No. 1.

Skill-position stars are drawn to the offense like moths to a flame — as evidenced by the Ags inking the state’s No. 1 quarterback, second-rated tailback and six highly-regarded wide receivers, five of whom were recruited nationally. {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"left","Quote":"Skill-position stars are drawn to the offense like moths to a flame — as evidenced by the Ags inking the state’s No. 1 quarterback, second-rated tailback and six highly-regarded wide receivers, five of whom were recruited nationally.","Author":""}
During that span, Sumlin tweeted his now trademark “Yessir!” following commitments from the state’s two best players in two separate classes. Picking up commitments from Ricky Seals-Jones and Justin Manning in the same week represented a watershed recruiting moment in the post-Jackie Sherrill/R.C. Slocum Era.

The Ags also managed to land 2014’s best in La Porte LB Hoza Scott and Lancaster DB Nick Harvey.

Since the win over ‘Bama, the spotlight has also been shining brightly on Manziel and an offensive system that is exciting and appealing to prospects around the country.

Skill-position stars are drawn to the offense like moths to a flame — as evidenced by the Ags inking the state’s No. 1 quarterback, second-rated tailback and six highly-regarded wide receivers, five of whom were recruited nationally.

The attractive style of play, star power, dynamic and engaging head coach and big season in the SEC have made the Texas A&M brand bigger than ever. While recruiting under Stoops as an OU assistant coach, Sumlin learned the importance of striking while the iron was hot on a national level. This year’s Aggie haul included nine non-Texans and the Ags came close to landing several other blue-chip out-of-staters.

Sebastian LaRue was one of California’s highest-ranked prospects, Jeremy Tabuyo was a top-10 player in Hawaii, Ja'Quay Williams was Georgia’s No. 1 player in 2012 and A&M inked three Louisiana defenders. The Ags are already casting a wide net in the ‘14 race and appear positioned to recruit nationally for the first time in ages.

Speaking of the 2014 class, Sumlin and his staff have exploded out of the gate with seven outstanding commits and three or four more not too far off.

Nobody wins the SEC without successfully stack classes. A&M’s 2012 haul was a top-15 group, Wednesday’s class earned top-10 acclaim and, though it will be smaller, the 2014 class might be even better.

Brice Jones, TexAgs.com In Manning (pictured), Golden and Walker, A&M has difference-makers inside who can make a day-one impact. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"In Manning (pictured), Golden and Walker, A&M has difference-makers inside who can make a day-one impact.","MediaItemID":26438}
Another ingredient to sustained Southeastern Conference success is signing game-changers along the defensive front. A&M inked five of the state’s six most coveted defensive linemen, including three of Texas’ four best defensive tackles and a pair of nationally-recruited ends.

Four of the Ags’ seven signees up front are state top 20 prospects. Position coach Terry Price has coached some great ones during his 18 years in the SEC and he considers this year’s A&M group possibly the best he’s been a part of signing.

Justin Manning and Isaiah Golden have what it takes to quickly emerge as dominant inside forces, along with heavily-recruited Westfield DT Hardreck Walker. At end, the Aggies missed on pass-rushing ace Torrodney Prevot, who chose Oregon, but did land the promising Daeshon Hall, who chose A&M over Washington.

With one of the nation’s best defensive line hauls setting the tone, Defensive Coordinator Mark Snyder, Price and Marcel Yates put together an 18-man class as good as any since the Jackie Sherrill/R.C. Slocum-led glory days of the Wrecking Crew. Seven defensive backs and five linebackers join the blue-chips up front to provide across-the-board depth.

The Ags also recruited bona fide playmakers at all three levels of the defense, with ballhawks like Noel Ellis, Kameron Miles and Tavares Garner looking like very early contributors on the back end. At linebacker, Tommy Sanders was the nation’s No. 1 OLB from the JC ranks and the Ags were able to bolster the middle with SEC size in 250-pound Reggie Chevis and 6-3, 230-pounder and late OU defection Jordan Mastrogiovanni.

The Aggies were known more for their thrill-a-minute offense in 2012, but, whether shutting down Alabama’s vaunted ground game or holding OU to a single touchdown, Snyder’s defense was rock solid. Even so, Sumlin and his staff entered the 2013 recruiting race determined to “increase the team’s profile” on that side of the ball by signing a group representing an upgrade in size, talent and athleticism.

Wednesday’s signees represent a significant step forward for the Aggie defense. While roughly half of the conference celebrated equally impressive defensive hauls, A&M’s offense is better than anyone else's. If the Ags continue to climb the talent ladder on defense, an SEC Championship trophy will soon find its way to College Station.

TexAgs At every position of need, A&M loaded up on talent and depth; at others, it hand-picked prospects like James White (pictured) and Cameron Clear. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"At every position of need, A&M loaded up on talent and depth; at others, it hand-picked prospects like James White (pictured) and Cameron Clear.","MediaItemID":18582}
In addition to adding elite-level talent at several spots, the Aggies addressed every need — large or small — by loading up at more than one position. Need an impact signee at defensive tackle? How about three? The Ags lost three starting receivers and signed six.

Depth was a major concern in the secondary, so Yates brought in seven new faces. Tight end was a major need; the nation’s most SEC-ready player at the position was the answer. Kenny Hill or Kohl Stewart may very well be who takes over after Manziel becomes an NFL signal-caller.

Sumlin also targeted several players who weren’t quite as highly-regarded by the recruiting services because he was convinced they fit into the system and filled a need. Coaches of even the most successful programs know that evaluation and “a feel” for when a player fits is far more valuable than any type of star rating.

David Beaty and Clarence McKinney paved the way in Dallas and Houston, respectively, and the Aggies inked 20 players from the state’s two largest cities and raked in well over half of the state top 50 prospects in the two hotbeds. The Ags’ dominance in Big D and ability to flex their muscles in H-Town is of paramount concern to Big 12 coaches, including the guys who get together at the Cotton Bowl every October.

The Aggies clearly got the best of their two primary recruiting adversaries, owning Oklahoma every bit as badly as they did on the field last month and hitting Texas where it hurt by landing Manning and RS-J.

Here’s the painful truth for Texas Longhorn fans to try and digest: During January’s stretch run, Lake Highlands OL Kent Perkins was probably the only member of Brown’s 15-man haul that Sumlin and his staff would have taken.

Facing them on the field or not, decisively beating natural recruiting rivals is another key ingredient to remaining in the SEC’s upper-echelon. Examples include South Carolina/Clemson, Ole Miss/MSU, Alabama/Auburn and Florida/FSU/Miami.

The in-state head-to-head battles weren’t the only ones Summy and the Aggies were winning. One of the most remarkable notes from this year’s A&M class regards the seven players the Ags signed who were previously committed to another school.

TexAgs The Aggies took one-time Texas commits and highly-ranked prospects from OU and LSU, putting the exclamation point on their top dog status. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"The Aggies took one-time Texas commits and highly-ranked prospects from OU and LSU, putting the exclamation point on their top dog status.","MediaItemID":20849}
Seals-Jones (Texas), LaRue (USC), Williams (Auburn), Kyrion Parker (LSU), Mastrogiovanni (OU), Garner (Tech) and Miles (Tennessee) all chose to play at Texas A&M after seemingly finding a home elsewhere.

I’ve always liked to judge the strength of a recruiting class on some of the high profile battles won and lost. This year’s A&M haul features a lot of high-profile heads-up wins … especially when it comes to guys who Sumlin and Co. were able to flip.

As you might expect, several of those changes came following the Ags’ breakthrough win at Alabama and the Heisman, Cotton Bowl, 11-win season, etc. Further proof of how Aggieland has become one of college football’s ‘it’ destinations seemingly overnight.

And to think, the Aggies managed to not only hold things together but also put the finishing touches on a top-10 class while losing three assistant coaches during December and January…

For years, if you mentioned Texas A&M to a college football analyst, fan or even BCS conference coaches, you might get a two-word response — “sleeping giant” — followed immediately by a “If they ever get the right coach in place down there … watch out.”

Watch out, indeed.

A&M finally had that long-overdue breakout season, and they did it on the game’s biggest stage. While momentum continues to build, the members of the Ags’ Class of 2013 may very well find themselves contending for multiple championships (SEC and/or national) during their time in College Station. These guys are that good.

Just like recruiting top-10 classes, that level of excellence will no longer be the exception but, rather, the norm.
Discussion from...

Cover Story: A&M's rise to power takes root on Signing Day

14,951 Views | 18 Replies | Last: 9 yr ago by Catfishfoereal
Liucci
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Staff
AG
Cover Story: A&M's rise to power takes root on Signing Day
maxag42
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Paradise Ag
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AG
Great write-up and great times to be an ag.

We were due.
04TXAg007
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evinoblanco
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Agit8r
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Slother93
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AG
Nice.
timoteo
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Great article, thanks for sharing.
Falcor
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NorCalAggie
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AG
Nice work
FatZilla
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aged78
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AG
EXCELLENT!












































VIR-Ag
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12th Ag
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Halong
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whatthehey78
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AG
Well, need I say that I enjoyed that read! Had to pinch myself afterwards.
BenFiasco14
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abroumley
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AG
I got chill bumps reading that- what a great year and can't wait for the next one to start.
Catfishfoereal
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