The Texas A&M Aggies are riding the success of their strong first season in the SEC and the meteoric rise of quarterback Johnny Manziel to superstardom to a quick start on the recruiting trail for the 2014 class.
In the early 247Sports composite rankings, A&M sits at no. 2 nationally with seven commits, just behind the Texas Longhorns, with a group that includes composite five-star Hoza Scott, a linebacker from La Porte (Texas). In all, the Aggie class boasts two of the top seven prospects in the state and five of the top 25.
So far, Scott is the jewel of the class as the second-ranked player in the state for 2014. A 6-2, 220 pounder who is at his best in high school as an edge player, Scott was sold on becoming the next Von Miller by the A&M coaching staff, though it's not clear if he will stay at linebacker and work as an occasional pass-rushing specialist or move to defensive end full time in college. The deciding factor may be how much weight he gains -- if he reaches 240 pounds, it would make sense for him to become a defensive end.
However, Scott also showed during the Fox Sports Southwest 7-on-7 State Championship last summer in College Station that he can excel in coverage, jumping and intercepting one pass thrown in the flat and then calling out the offense's play on another that led to an interception for his teammate. And even late in the game when the outcome was determined, Scott was hustling around the field despite battling cramps at the end of a long, hot Texas summer day.
Not far behind Scott in terms of star power is Richmond (Texas) Bush defensive back Nick Harvey. While some services list the consensus four-star prospect as a cornerback, Harvey has the overall physicality to end up at safety if cornerback doesn't work out in college for whatever reason.
The 5-9, 175-pounder is a consensus four-star prospect and the seventh-ranked prospect in the state of Texas, the do-it-all prospect who just moved from Lancaster to the Houston area held offers from Arkansas, Baylor, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, and Virginia before committing in late November. In retrospect, it's somewhat astonishing that Harvey doesn't have offers from virtually every major program, but he did commit following his junior season -- the process hasn't quite sped up that much. Yet.
Two other defenders rank among the top 25 players in the state and round out the defensive side of the class for the Aggies.
Dallas (Texas) Skyline cornerback Cedric Collins is a 5-10, 175-pounder who became the first pledge for 2014 in late August last year, while Gilmer (Texas) linebacker Josh Walker saw his stock pick up at the start of his junior season, but ended his recruitment in October over offers from Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech.
Collins is now a three-year starter at state power Skyline, which produces as much high-level talent as any school in the state -- starting there as a freshman is no easy task. He held nine other offers, including Notre Dame and Oklahoma.
On the offensive side, the Aggies picked up one of the top running backs in the state in Austin (Texas) Lake Travis standout Varshaun Nixon, who has been a fixture in the Cavalier backfield since his sophomore season. He chose the Aggies over offers from Clemson, SMU, TCU, and Texas Tech after picking up 1,000 yards combined through the air and on the ground.
While he's considered an all-purpose back, Nixon has the size at 185 pounds to eventually become a feature back in college, though there should be plenty of depth in front of him when he arrives on campus.
At wide receiver, the Aggies loaded up in 2013 and decided to take a slot receiver in the 2014 class in Lufkin's Jamal Jeffery, a 5-11, 170-pound sparkplug who is considered a three-star prospect, though a rise in the rankings could come about when more of his film gets out. While Jeffery didn't have any other offers at the time of his commitment in December, the Longhorns like him enough that they invited him to their first Junior Day, which he declined the attend.
The latest commitment on the offensive side came from Garland (Texas) Lakeview Centennial offensive tackle Kealvin Davis, a 6-5, 265-pounder who looks more like a strongside defensive end at this point than an offensive lineman. His frame and upside were enough to earn offers from Baylor, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State before receiving an A&M offer at the late January Junior Day and committing on the spot.
The offers from Baylor and Oklahoma State, while not quite classifying as regional powers, are illuminating for offensive linemen because the position coaches for both of those schools have an excellent track record for developing talent along the offensive line -- if Baylor and Oklahoma State have offered a prospect there, the kid probably have some talent that can be molded into a starting-caliber player.
Looking at the current group, what stands out other than the overall level of success is the fact that Scott, Walker, and Harvey were all top Texas targets, representing three major head-to-head victories over the Longhorns. With Arlington (Texas) Martin defensive end Myles Garrett holding a Longhorn offer and leaning to the Aggies, there will likely be at least one more 2014 prospect to opt to head to College Station instead of Austin in the near future.
More than an increased in-state presence with the top recruits in the state of Texas, A&M also finished strong in 2013 with some out-of-state players like California wide receiver Sebastian Larue and former Auburn signee JaQuay Williams.
In 2014, the targeted state at the moment is Louisiana, which features 10 prospects already offered by the Aggies.
Moving forward, the interesting storyline in regards to national recruiting for A&M is just how much the 2012 season continues to help those efforts and whether or not the Aggies can win some battles in the Bayou State against the likes of Les Miles and the Tigers. Sumlin and staff won a head-to-head battle for Ricky Seals-Jones, but it isn't quite as easy to steal prospects out of Louisiana.
Regardless of what happens beyond the borders of Texas, there's no denying that the Aggies are challenging the Longhorns for state supremacy. In fact, there's a strong case to be made that they already have moved ahead of their longtime rival, though the class ranks slightly behind the 'Horns at the moment due to the extra member of the Texas class.
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