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Texas A&M Football Recruiting

The Grades Are In: 2013 Signing Day report card

February 7, 2013
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Liucci breaks down A&M's Signing Day haul, with a look ahead to 2014 set to come on Friday.
The scale, as always: A: Excellent; B: Good; C: Average; D: Poor; F: Fail; INC: Incomplete.

Quarterback (2): A+

This marks the third straight year that I’ve graded the Ags’ quarterback class an A-plus. Last year, the state’s No. 1 quarterback (Matt Davis) signed with A&M. Two years ago, they inked some kid from Kerrville with a catchy nickname.

This time, A&M landed two of the state’s three best at the position, including one who fits seamlessly into the Aggie offense.

The Ags had to fight for Southlake Carroll sensation Kenny Hill right up until last week and ultimately held off the scare tactics of Baylor and Kansas State. Landing the 5A Player of the Year wasn’t easy, but his was as important a signature as Kevin Sumlin received on Wednesday.

Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs In holding on to Hill, A&M secured a young man with the look of the Aggies' quarterback of the future. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"In holding on to Hill, A&M secured a young man with the look of the Aggies\u0027 quarterback of the future.","MediaItemID":19958}
When Kliff Kingsbury arrived a year ago, Hill immediately emerged as the priority target at quarterback. He’s a perfect fit because of his ability to extend plays and his background in a very similar offensive scheme. He’s a winner, a leader and very mature, which will help him compete for the starting job if Johnny Manziel leaves early for the NFL.

Hill could step in with little experience and lead a loaded, veteran football team. Ironically enough, his first college scholarship offer came from none other than Jake Spavital — then the QB coach at West Virginia, now filling that position at A&M.

An ideal fit on every level.

Then again, Kohl Stewart will have plenty to say about the Ags’ next quarterback battle if the lifelong Aggie eschews Major League Baseball for the chance to play football and baseball at A&M.

The 6-3 gunslinger is the best pure passer in Texas and has what it takes to become an NFL quarterback. The big question, of course, is whether someone considered one of the 2013 MLB Draft’s top ten prospects will enroll at TAMU this fall. Stewart's heart is all in with the Ags, so if anyone could leave the money and career opportunity on the table, it's him. Kohl and his family will have an awful lot to think about between the June draft and the August signing deadline.


Running Back (1): A

The Aggies knew they had a good one when James White chose A&M over Alabama, LSU, Auburn and several other power programs almost a full year ago. Then again, even position coach Clarence McKinney would not have envisioned White blowing up in size and production the way he did as a senior.


White not only stepped off over 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, but also added plenty of muscle to his lean, 220-pound frame. By season’s end, he was considered by many the state’s No. 2-ranked tailback behind Dontre Wilson of DeSoto.

A&M has a crowded backfield situation, but White has the potential to contribute early and one day serve as a feature back. {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"left","Quote":"A&M has a crowded backfield situation, but White has the potential to contribute early and one day serve as a feature back.","Author":""}
There wasn’t a better in-state option to meet the Aggies’ needs. They were looking for someone like White, a soon-to-be 230-pounder who can run inside or out, block and catch the football out of the backfield.

He also proved he’s capable of serving as a workhorse by carrying the rock 25-30 times in a game for Pearland Dawson.

A&M has a crowded backfield situation, but White has the potential to contribute early and one day serve as a feature SEC tailback.


Tight End (1): A

After taking an “incomplete” last February, the Ags addressed a key area of need by signing perhaps the nation’s most college-ready prospect at the position. After all, Cam Clear has already started in the SEC.

Two years ago, the nationally-recruited tight end inked with Tennessee before playing all season and starting the final two games of the 2011 campaign. The 6-6, 273-pound Clear, who played last season at Arizona Western Community College, chose the Aggies over Oklahoma, Ole Miss and UCLA.

Clear was a mid-term addition, which means he’s already with the team and — yes — already turning heads. He could be a dominant blocker and his hands, size and ability to run make him a unique threat in the passing game. He's also the kind of tight end who can stay on the field as the Ags execute their fast-paced offense, giving the A&M staff an added dimension that they didn't have last fall.  Scary thought.

The only thing keeping this one from an A-plus is the fact that Clear only has two years to play and not four.


Wide Receiver (6): A+

Brice Jones, TexAgs.com So diversely talented is A&M's receiver haul, led by overall state No. 1 Ricky Seals-Jones (pictured), that an A+ grade is a given. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"So diversely talented is A&M\u0027s receiver haul, led by overall state No. 1 Ricky Seals-Jones (pictured), that an A+ grade is a given.","MediaItemID":21581}
This is, without question, the greatest Signing Day receiver haul in Texas A&M history.

The Aggie six-pack features a little bit of everything, including the No. 1 ranked player in Texas, last year’s No. 1 player in Georgia, the state’s fastest recruit and a nationally-ranked playmaker from California.

Considering the Ags lost three starting receivers, return just two wideouts with significant experience and needed depth outside and in the slot, a big class was an absolute must. Of course, Sumlin, David Beaty and the Aggie coaches weren’t content to simply add numbers. They landed the nation’s best haul at the position.

Ricky Seals-Jones was the state’s most sought-after recruit and is the headliner of the class. He leads a group of three big wide-outs who were recruited by some of the nation’s most high-profile programs.

Seals-Jones chose A&M over LSU, Texas, USC and Oregon; one-time LSU commit Kyrion Parker, a 6-3, 185-pound playmaker cut from the mold of some of the All-Big 12 pass-catchers Sumlin coached at OU, opted to become an Aggie over Oklahoma; and former Auburn signee Ja'Quay Williams is a Justin Blackmon clone who held offers from Ohio State, Georgia and South Carolina.

Williams, a 6-2, 205-pound standout, carried the added bonus of being a mid-termer.

In the slot, Laquvionte Gonzalez might be the fastest and quickest player in pads in the country; Hawaiian Jeremy Tabuyo is a sub-4.4 burner and a polished, tough inside guy who rarely, if ever, lets a ball hit the ground; and Santa Monica (Ca.) game-breaker Sebastian LaRue was a longtime USC commit and coveted target who chose the Aggies late, giving Manziel not one (Gonzalez) but two true vertical threats.

A&M’s new wideouts have the potential to positively impact the offense from day one. There isn’t a player among them who isn’t capable of earning a starting spot as a true freshman. They are in the unique position of representing both the present depth and the future of the position in Aggieland.

Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner, needed some new weapons to distribute to while the Ags prepare for a run at the 2013 BCS Championship. That exactly what Sumlin and Co. went out and got him.


Offensive Line (4): B

TexAgs Aguilar remained committed to A&M after his stock soared, giving the Aggies a powerful blocker who very well could start as a freshman. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Aguilar remained committed to A&M after his stock soared, giving the Aggies a powerful blocker who very well could start as a freshman.","MediaItemID":23406}
This is a very solid group that wasn’t easy to assemble considering the lack of quality, SEC-caliber offensive line prospects in Texas this year. The Aggies’ ability to attract and sign high-end offensive linemen — the guys charged with blocking NFL-caliber Southeastern Conference defensive fronts — is as important as perhaps any position on the field.

For proof, look to this past season when A&M and Alabama fielded the best offensive lines in college football. They were the class of the SEC — the Aggie offense produced a Heisman Trophy winner and ‘Bama claimed its third national title in four seasons.

Joas Aguilar, Ishmael Wilson and JJ Gustafson are easily three of the five most highly-regarded offensive linemen in the state. In my opinion, shared by trusted sources, Aguilar is a ‘can’t-miss’ up front. He’s 6-5, 292 pounds, agile, athletic and an absolute mauler.

Incredibly strong and carrying an angry attitude in the trenches, Aguilar has a chance to win a starting job at guard as early as next fall. He’s that talented.

Wilson, a tackle from Bishop Dunne, has as much upside potential as any 2013 Texas linemen outside of Texas signee Kent Perkins. The 6-4, 270-pounder is a state top-20 talent who just needs a year or so in the weight room to become a high-end SEC lineman.

Gustafson’s early offer list — which included OU, Michigan, Texas, Clemson, Nebraska, Stanford, Oklahoma State and Arkansas, among others — was as impressive as any offensive lineman’s on the Ags’ in-state radar. He’s the pure tackle that the Aggies needed and could team with Wilson as future bookends of the offensive line.

Junior college transfer Jeremiah Stuckey has some weight room work ahead of him, but  with a full off-season under Larry Jackson the 6-6, 287-pounder is expected to compete with Aguilar and a couple of veterans for the starting job at right guard. With three years of eligibility, plus a redshirt season if need be, and the ability to play guard or tackle, Stuckey provides plenty of flexibility.

Sumlin and line coach B.J. Anderson would have liked another pure tackle to round out the class, especially since Gustafson will greyshirt and join the team next January. {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"left","Quote":"Sumlin and line coach B.J. Anderson would have liked another pure tackle to round out the class, especially since Gustafson will greyshirt and join the team next January. ","Author":""}
This foursome didn’t get an “A” grade for a couple of reasons. For starters, the Ags could have used one more offensive lineman in this class — someone like Oklahoma signee Christian Daimler of Stratford, an A&M legacy who the Ags tried to move back in on when room opened up very late in the process.

Or, perhaps, an even higher-profile addition. Either way, Sumlin and line coach B.J. Anderson would have liked another pure tackle to round out the class, especially since Gustafson will greyshirt and join the team next January. Secondly, the O-line haul doesn’t feature quite as much top-end talent as some other positions in this class.

That’s nitpicking a little bit, but there has to be room for improvement on the grading scale. This year’s group is good, but wouldn't rank among the nation’s top 10 (though definitely among the top 20).

There is no denying the Aggie offensive line got better with this haul. This is a group that Anderson and the A&M offense can win with. For that reason — and the fact that all four players have the potential to be very, very good SEC blockers, without a weak link in the group — this group rates at about an 8 out of 10.


Defensive Line (6): A+

Defensive Line Coach Terry Price and the Aggies may very well have signed four of the state’s six best defensive linemen. You may have to go back to the early R.C. Slocum years or even the Jackie Sherrill era to find the last time that happened.

A Signing Day haul that includes players the caliber of Justin Manning, Isaiah Golden, Daeshon Hall and Hardreck Walker could only be found in Austin and Norman since Mack Brown and Bob Stoops seized control of the Texas recruiting scene nearly 15 years ago. The SEC is a defensive linemen’s league and the Ags added a quartet of great ones, each of whom has a chance to make an instant impact on Mark Snyder’s defense.

TexAgs The Signing Day addition of Hall put a strong DL class over the top, matching the state's top DE with three of its best DTs. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"The Signing Day addition of Hall put a strong DL class over the top, matching the state\u0027s top DE with three of its best DTs.","MediaItemID":22022}
By pulling Hall, who was a Texas Longhorn pledge and was also being heavily pursued by Oregon down the stretch, away from Washington at the last minute, the Aggies were able to address all their glaring needs up front.

Alonzo Williams and Polo Manukainiu are likely to slide inside and Julien Obioha’s status is uncertain (he missed the Cotton Bowl with an undisclosed injury), so last year’s class could end up being pretty light in terms of pass rushers.

Price, area recruiter David Beaty and the Ags worked hard to convince the 6-6, 225-pound Lancaster standout and longtime Husky commit to play ball at Kyle Field. They scored a major coup by landing the state’s best pure pass-rusher.

Daeshon spent his high school offseasons and summers on the hardwood, so there’s no telling how quickly or how much he’ll fill out his long, rangy and supremely athletic frame. In two years, Hall could very well look a lot like South Carolina freak Jadeveon Clowney. Daeshon had a breakout senior season, but he’s still pretty raw, so asking him to fill the huge void left by Damontre Moore in year one is unrealistic.

However, the final addition to this year’s A&M class has every bit as much upside and should realize his potential in short order. It took a while, but the Ags capped off a phenomenal defensive line haul by adding a future impact player off the edge.

Golden and Manning — quite possibly the two best defensive football players in Texas — give the Aggies two interior linemen with the star potential of Ty Warren, Shaun Rogers and Tommie Harris. At 6-2 and 305 pounds, Golden looks and plays like a 260-pounder and could quickly develop into a dominant force.

Manning’s signing was significant in more ways than one. The 6-2, 280-pounder was the state’s No. 1-ranked defender and it’s been well over a decade since the Aggies signed Texas’ best on that side of the ball. He also chose A&M over longtime nemesis Bob Stoops and OU, despite the fact that his older brother played the same position for the Sooners. Blessed with All-American quickness and power, Justin will give interior O-linemen fits.

TexAgs Manning (55) is the group's other headliner, but not one of the six is a weak link and several programs would have killed to land any of them. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Manning (55) is the group\u0027s other headliner, but not one of the six is a weak link and several programs would have killed to land any of them.","MediaItemID":22008}
Westfield’s Walker didn’t get as much ink as Manning or Golden, but his offer list was just as impressive. The 6-2, 280-pounder chose A&M over OU, Michigan, Auburn, Tennessee and several other high-profile programs.

A&M also signed Rockwall-Heath bookends Jay Arnold and Jordan Points. They bring it on every snap and are also talented in their own right.

Arnold’s MMA and wrestling background make him a very unique prospect. His toughness, relentless style of play and ability to use his hands to ward off blockers are qualities that cannot be coached. Points was the District MVP as a junior and was a mid-term grad out of high school. A former basketball player, Jordan has added close to 30 pounds in the past year and could soon be a 6-4, 285 pounder who could play inside or out.

This pair is less-heralded, but should make the Aggies better up front.


Linebacker (5): B

Positives: The Aggies signed a mid-term transfer in Tommy Sanders who was one of the most coveted outside linebackers out of the JC ranks. He’s an instant-impact guy who should step in for Sean Porter at SAM. Both Reggie Chevis and Brett Wade are also mid-termers, increasing their odds of contributing as true freshmen.

The Aggies fought to hang on to Louisiana product Darian Claiborne, a versatile talent who, in any other season, would probably have been a primary target for the LSU Tigers. They also pulled off a significant January coup by flipping longtime Oklahoma commit Jordan Mastrogiovanni. He and Chevis give the Ags much-needed size and promising options in the middle.

Mastrogiovanni has the speed and instincts to play either of the outside spots, too. It’s not a stretch to say that the Ags landed the second-most heavily-recruited linebacker in Texas in Mastro, after Ohio State signee Mike Mitchell. The 6-3, 230-pound Mastrogiovanni held offers from A&M, OU, Notre Dame, LSU and several other big-name programs.

Negatives: The Aggies shot for a handful of national top 100 LBs but, due to a variety of circumstances, came up empty in that regard.

TexAgs Flowers' failure to make the mid-term dealt a blow, with A&M facing a numbers crunch and the JUCO LB expected to provide immediate help. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"Flowers\u0027 failure to make the mid-term dealt a blow, with A&M facing a numbers crunch and the JUCO LB expected to provide immediate help.","MediaItemID":17692}
Mitchell’s father seemingly steered his son out of state, Louisiana native Melvin Jones had A&M ties but chose to stay in state long before the Ags’ breakthrough season on the field and Hawaiian terror Isaac Savaiinaea and had the Aggies on top before delaying the process long enough to lead to a parting of ways.

Isaac inked with UCLA but would probably have signed with A&M if his primary recruiter (Brian Polian) and his future position coach (Matt Wallerstedt) hadn’t takens steps up the coaching ladder and left Aggieland in January.

Kenny Flowers was signed, sealed and seemingly delivered at the mid-term but failed to get out of Hutchinson (KS) C.C. in time. He signed with Auburn but won’t be there until summer.

A&M also held a longtime commitment in Edward Williams before the two sides drifted apart at a point where the Ags were battling numbers at the position.

Technically, transfers don’t count when grading a recruiting class. But the Aggies did get good one from TCU in A.J. Hilliard. The 2012 A&M offer/target must sit out the upcoming season but will have three years of eligibility remaining. Basically, Snyder replaced one three-year linebacker (Flowers) with another (Hilliard). The only difference being that A.J. probably won’t be eligible until 2014.

Another key point to remember in regards to how this class is ultimately graded out: Shaan Washington is a 6-3, 218-pound safety signee and Jonathan Wiggins was also recruited to play defensive back at over 6-3 and 212 pounds. If either or both of the fast, rangy and still-growing athletes make it to the 6-3, 230-235 pound range, they’d immediately inject speed and playmaking ability into new LB coach Mark Hagen’s meeting room, most likely at the SAM spot.

The Ags added five talented linebackers plus a mid-term transfer, each of whom really know how to play the game. They addressed a key area of need, upgraded the talent level, added much-needed SEC size in the middle and, most of all, built depth at the position. A couple of near-misses on instant-impact difference-makers kept this group from earning an “A” grade.


Secondary (7): A+

Brice Jones, TexAgs.com The excellent DB haul features highly-ranked corners, size and speed at safety and Kameron Miles' (pictured) polished ability. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"The excellent DB haul features highly-ranked corners, size and speed at safety and Kameron Miles\u0027 (pictured) polished ability.","MediaItemID":26436}
After suffering a couple of late defections last year and signing just three defensive backs, Marcel Yates and the Aggies absolutely loaded up in 2013. They put together a national top-10 haul.

The Ags welcome three corners and four safeties — two of whom could spin down a year or two down the road — while addressing one of the team’s primary areas of need with an exclamation point.

At safety, A&M signed two 6-3, 215-pounders in the aforementioned Washington and Wiggins. Both could eventually grow into linebackers, but that’s far from a sure thing. Tall, rangy, hard-hitting and athletic, the pair are the type of back-end defenders who tend to thrive against the power offenses of the SEC.

One of two Louisiana DBs in this year’s class, Washington reminds me of another Alexandria H.S. product: Former OU starter Nic Harris.

The Aggies committed Terry ace Victor Davis early and West Mesquite headhunter Kameron Miles late. Both are hard-hitting, heavy-headed safeties who cover lots of ground and can find the football. Davis, who was attracting serious interest from Alabama and LSU, is a ballhawk and one of the state’s most underrated recruits. The Ags pulled Miles away from Tennessee in December to add a big, physical, intimidating safety.

On the island, A&M landed Tavares Garner and Noel Ellis on back-to-back days. Ellis has star potential as a cover man and is on my short list of the best football players signed by the Aggies in 2013. He’s not only gifted in coverage, but has tremendous ball skills and is pure electricity when he touches the pigskin. LSU’s Les Miles will soon regret letting him get out of New Orleans.

It’s been awhile since the Aggies have recruited a pure corner who is as physical as Garner. Long arms, tremendous strength and supreme confidence set him apart. He was made for the SEC.

Mid-termer Alex Sezer was a complete unknown at the time of his commit, but the sub-4.4 burner is already one of the fastest and smartest members of the A&M team. Aggie coaches are anxious to see what this project with tremendous upside can do this spring.

The group oozes physicality at both corner and safety, there are a couple of spin-down candidates, two members of the class could easily play corner or safety and the seven-man haul includes a couple of bona fide playmakers. {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"left","Quote":"The group oozes physicality at both corner and safety, there are a couple of spin-down candidates, two members of the class could easily play corner or safety and the seven-man haul includes a couple of bona fide playmakers. ","Author":""}
This year’s class of defensive backs has just about everything one could ask for. The group oozes physicality at both corner and safety, there are a couple of spin-down candidates, two members of the class could easily play corner or safety and the seven-man haul includes a couple of bona fide playmakers.

The only way it could have been better would have been if Wednesday’s LOIs had included someone with national top-20 acclaim. Then again, there’s a legitimate chance A&M can add such a player to its secondary a year from now at this time.


Specialists (0): INC

For the second year in a row, the Ags sat things out at both kicker and punter. Expect to see newly-hired special teams coach Jeff Banks, who did both as a player at Washington State, add multiple recruiting walk-ons at the positions.

Gonzalez, LaRue, Ellis, Davis and Tabuyo stand out as explosive options in the return game.


Overall Grade: A+

Regardless of criteria — addressing needs, across-the-board talent level, class size, difference-makers, signees capable of making an instant impact — Kevin Sumlin’s first full A&M recruiting class merits the highest grade.

In fact, the ’13 Aggie recruiting class rates as one of the best in program history.

The Ags landed the state’s No. 1 and No. 2-ranked prospects, and it goes on from there. A&M’s haul at receiver and defensive line might be the best in college football. If the Aggies are not sitting in the top spot at those two positions, they’re at least in the conversation. The seven-man haul in the secondary was also top-10 caliber.

As far as mid-term help goes, Sumlin may have signed the nation’s top JUCO tight end and outside linebacker and also welcomed last year’s top-ranked player in Georgia.

Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs The Aggies' look hard to stop with an 11-win season behind them and a future with this borderline-elite class ahead. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"The Aggies\u0027 look hard to stop with an 11-win season behind them and a future with this borderline-elite class ahead.","MediaItemID":22423}
In addition to landing at least one, and oftentimes multiple, game-changer at virtually every position, the Aggies managed to spread out the scholarships in an extremely large class very evenly to address each and every need.

A&M's coaches are probably counting the days until the 24 February signees join the mid-term enrollees on campus.

At the end of the day, two things really stand out about Sumlin’s second Signing Day haul at A&M.

First, the Aggies recruited incredibly well on defense. In addition to landing the state’s No. 1 defender in Manning, they raked in the chips along the defensive line and in the secondary while also inking five quality linebackers. It’s been a long, long time since so many blue-chip prospects signed on to be a part of the Wrecking Crew.

The Ags desperately need that as they move forward in the SEC.

Secondly, A&M outlasted high-caliber opposition on the recruiting trail to assemble this decorated class. Just focusing on prospects who decommitted from other programs, the list of victims includes LSU, USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Auburn, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Washington.

And as impressive as pulling highly-regarded players away from other programs is, it pales in comparison to what Sumlin and Co. did to alter the big-picture recruiting landscape in the Lone Star State. For the first time since Mack Brown and Bob Stoops arrived on the scene in back-to-back seasons nearly 15 years ago, there’s a new sheriff in town … one whose Twitter game is on point and who is known to occasionally travel by maroon helicopter.

It simply doesn’t get much better than Texas A&M’s Class of 2013, but the Aggies are no longer battling it out with OU and Texas in an obviously outclassed Big 12. The Ags’ top-10 haul is comparable to about a half dozen SEC classes. And Top 10 classes must become a regular occurrence in College Station if Sumlin and the Aggies are to maintain their status as one of the Southeastern Conference’s upper-echelon teams and continue to establish A&M as a college football power.

At some point over the next four years — and perhaps even more than once — the group of 24 players that the Aggies signed on Wednesday, with the nine additions who joined the team at the mid-term, is likely to make a run at the national championship.
 
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