The coaching staff has assembled one of the best (if not the best) signing class in Aggie Football history (at least in the last 20 years). The major focuses in this class on the defensive side of the ball were pass rushers and ball hawks in the secondary. Let's take a look at some of these key defenders who signed with the Aggies and discuss what they will bring to the Aggie defense in the future.
Travis High School, Richmond, TX -- 5'10" 180 lbs., 247 Sports Composite 7th Ranked CB, 8th Ranked Player in Texas, 57th Player Overall, Billy Liucci's Top 44 Member (#2 Overall)
One glaring need for Texas A&M is adding playmakers to the secondary. Nick Harvey out of Richmond, TX is the best in the state of Texas and a future star. What makes Harvey so special is his pure athleticism -- there isn't a current player in the secondary on the A&M roster with this type of skill set.
Nick Harvey - #1 - Fort Bend Travis (TX) (via MaxPreps High School Sports)
Strengths -- When I watch Harvey's highlights, the first thing that sticks out to me is his footwork. It's among the best I have seen for a high school prospect. He keeps his feet perpendicular to the line of scrimmage and is exceptional in planting and then exploding, giving him an unique burst out of coverage and also in tackling. He has smooth hips allowing him to easily turn and run with any receiver lined up across from him.
Weaknesses -- Two things will be crucial for Harvey if he plans to play early in his A&M career: 1) tackling and 2) use of his hands. In some games, Harvey shows great tackling fundamentals while at other times he tries to tackle with his arms. Not lining his head up squarely and instead moving it to the side will lead to missed tackles on the next level. Harvey also needs to learn how to use his hands if he is asked to play press coverage and will need to develop a better punch to the receiver after the snap to knock the receiver off his route.
Outlook -- I see Harvey staying at corner during his A&M career and not moving up to safety. Specifically, I believe Harvey will be a boundary corner in our current defensive scheme. Usually (and by usually I mean there will be some disagreement on this and it depends on the opponent) the boundary corner plays on the short side of the field and is matched up 1-v-1 on the opponents receiver, allowing for safety help at other positions on the field. Harvey has the ability to be a lockdown corner, but will need to get physical against SEC competition. Harvey could play early if Deshazor Everett moves to safety in the offseason.
North Forney High School, Forney, TX -- 5'11" 180lbs, 247 Sports Composite 14th Ranked S, 24th Ranked Player in Texas, 207th Player Overall, Billy Liucci's Top 44 Member (25th Overall)
Armani Watts is a defensive prospect who hasn't attracted much attention since he committed to Texas A&M in March of 2013. Watts is a very talented prospect at one of Texas A&M's biggest positions of need and could see the field early on in his career. He is another exceptional athlete as evidenced by his kick return capabilities, returning a missed field goal and also a kickoff for a touchdown in his senior season. Watts collected 9 interceptions in 2013 showing he has a knack for playing the ball and creating turnovers, something Mark Snyder's defense desperately needs.
Armani Watts (DB) Senior Highlights (via DFW Top Plays)
Strengths -- Making plays on the football. Watts has a reported 35" vertical and is willing to go up for the football over a receiver. He also has good vision coming up from his safety position to make interceptions on underneath routes. Watts has the ability to cover the field and even covered a running back out of the backfield on a wheel route. Seriously!
Weaknesses -- Technique. Watts will need a lot of coaching once he arrives on campus to become a sound player. Watching his highlights, you'll see he stands up most of the time and doesn't show much bend. He also really lacks any sort of back pedal and instead just plays on instinct.
Outlook -- While some recruiting services have Watts listed as a corner and others at safety, I believe Watts will play safety at Texas A&M just due lack of numbers at the position. This is especially likely since the Aggies weren't able to close on another safety in this class. Watts will make a very good free safety in the middle of the field. How early could he play? That depends on the development of other safeties such as Kam Miles. I think Watts is a little too raw to play immediately as a freshman.
Woodlawn High School, Shreveport, LA -- 6'1" 190 lbs, 247 Sports Composite 119th Ranked S, 49th Ranked Player in Louisiana
A lot of A&M fans may not recognize the name of this young man because he is a new and relatively unknown addition to the Texas A&M class. But make no mistake, just because we didn't know about Donovan until a month before National Signing Day doesn't mean he isn't a player. After watching some of Donovan's highlights I am a believer in this prospect. He may not be as athletic as Harvey or Watts, but he is a turnover-causing machine. You just don't intercept 13 passes and cause 5 fumbles by being lucky. This A&M defense needs players not afraid to make plays on the football and Donovan does just that. He also has a bigger frame right now than the two other prospects signed to play in the secondary, meaning he will be an SEC-ready safety.
Donovan Wilson (via Pac-12 Recruiting)
Strengths -- Size and vertical jump. I've seen it recorded as 36" which is phenomenal for a high school athlete and by watching his film I believe it. Wilson is also two inches taller than Harvey or Watts and carriers more weight. He isn't afraid to lay a hit either.
Weaknesses -- Ability to cover a receiver one on one. I don't see him as a guy that should be asked to cover a receiver one-on-one in coverage. This limits the creativity of defensive scheme and blitz designs. Wilson is great in free range coverage, but may be susceptible to a smaller, quicker receiver running a double move deep down the field. Wilson may not be able to recover on the next level if he does get beat.
Outlook -- I see Wilson coming in and being an immediate backup at the boundary or strong safety position, behind Howard Matthews. This A&M roster has a lot of able bodies to play at field or free safety but lacks big-body types who can play the run. Wilson can. Strangely, I have a feeling Wilson could be the first out of the three secondary signees to see the field in the fall. How's that for a shocker?
Texas A&M will most likely end up with a boundary corner, boundary safety, and field safety from this group of three players. They signed one of the best in Texas and super athlete Nick Harvey along with two turnover machines. These are the type of players A&M currently doesn't have and they will make a difference in an SEC West title race. Unfortunately, you can't help but think what might have been if A&M could have kept Dylan Sumner-Gardner and/or signed either Steven Parker or another impact Texas safety such as Jamal Adams. I would give this group a B to B+, just one more star player shy of an A.