Unlike in-state recruiting rival Texas, the Texas A&M Aggies haven't suffered from a rash of decommitments in the 2014 class, but head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have now lost Austin (Texas) Lake Travis running back Varshaun Nixon to the TCU Horned Frogs the day before National Signing Day, according to Brian Perroni of 247Sports.
The 5-9, 185-pound all-purpose back committed to A&M in November of 2012, never appearing to waver until taking a surprise official visit to Fort Worth over the weekend to visit with head coach Gary Patterson and his staff, fueling speculation that Nixon would flip his commitment, which happened late Tuesday morning.
A consensus four-star prospect, Nixon is rated as the No. 5 all-purpose back nationally, the No. 22 player in the state of Texas, and the No. 182 player in the country by the 247Sports Composite rankings. He also held offers from Clemson, SMU, and Texas Tech and likely would have had many more had he not originally shut down his recruitment so early.
Now the highest-rated commitment in the TCU class and the only running back pledged in the 2014 class for the Horned Frogs, Nixon is a huge addition with just hours left until Signing Day. Here's the scouting report on the talented ballcarrier:
The classification of Nixon as an all-purpose back is somewhat surprising because he has the size at 5'9 and the mass at 190 pounds to handle more carries in college than would typically be considered possible or prudent with a change-of-pace or all-purpose back. In fact, Nixon should be able to handle at least 15 carries per game in college and not run too high a risk of injury, a projection limited mostly by the fact that Texas A&M will have a loaded running back corps when he gets on campus, assuming that he does end up signing with the Aggies.
Many recruiting analysts predicted a similar future for former Texarkana star LaMichael James when he graduated high school and headed out to Oregon -- with the advent of deeper running back rotations across the country, even load backs tend to receive fewer carries than they did in the past, so prospects who may not have the greatest size, but are still well over 170 pounds and have reasonably ideal builds should not be classified as all-purpose backs.
A strong fit for the zone running game employed by every spread offense, Nixon is a decisive one-cut runner who is willing to plant his foot and get upfield, where he can take it the distance with his high-effort running style, though his top-end speed is not good, but not great. He's not a player who will dance and attempt to juke defenders, preferring instead to impact defenders with subtle shoulder fakes and small changes of direction, though he also has the lateral agility to take the edge on off-tackle runs.
Running with a low center of gravity, strong balance, and above-average lower-body strength, Nixon can break tackles at the high school level due to all those factors, the type of pure running back skills belied by his classification. In fact, for his size, Nixon is probably as good as there is in the state of Texas in his class at foiling arm tackles.
The one area that probably drives the projection of Nixon as an all-purpose back is his work on third downs. As a sophomore, he had nearly 400 receiving yards out of the backfield and is effective on flare passes that get him the ball in space and on screens where he can use his vision to pick his way through traffic. However, Nixon will have to work hard on his blocking to become a third-down back in college because he is a little bit on the small side to take on blitzing linebackers.
The Lake Travis product has also flashed those receiving skills in high school at 7-on7 tournaments, where he is consistently an effective pass-catcher.
However one wants to classify Nixon, the bottom line is that he's one of the top running backs in the state, has played against some of the top competition, and comes from a program that defines knowing what it takes to win championships.
The Horned Frogs have now added 11 prospects to the 2014 recruiting class in less than a month, not counting Dallas (Texas) Skyline offensive tackle Ty Barrett, who decommitted and then recommitted in the space of about two weeks in January. Now with 23 pledges, the class ranks No. 40 nationally and No. 7 in the Big 12 in the 247Sports Composite team rankings.