While this defensive line group is low in numbers (only three signees), it has tremendous quality overall. The group is led by five star Daylon Mack, but Kingsley KeKe and James Lockhart are no slouches. This may end up being one of the better groups of defensive linemen Texas A&M has signed in some time, and that statement comes one year removed from signing Myles Garrett and company.
High School: Gladewater (Gladewater, TX)
Weight: 330 lbs
There are only a handful of high school players you'll see who have a better first step and are quicker off the ball than Daylon Mack. His ability in the milliseconds after the snap are what separates him from the rest of his peers at the position. Along with his quickness, Daylon is just a phenomenal athlete, as seen in his running back highlights. He is agile and also shows he can keep his balance which will be important when he is being battered around by SEC offensive linemen in the trenches. The one thing that might get overlooked with Daylon is the use of his hands—while his first step is phenomenal off the snap, he also usually is the first to make contact with the offensive lineman, extends, and is able to get off the block, allowing him to make the play in the backfield.
Make no mistake—Daylon Mack is one of the better defensive players to come out of the state of Texas recently. In fact, the last defensive tackle that I can recall matching the abilities of Mack is Brenham's Malcom Brown, who is getting ready to be a potential first round NFL draft pick. And Mack isn't just a good player beating up on low-level competition (Gladewater is a 4A high school, formally 3A), Daylon has shown he can play at the highest level among the nation's elite, by winning MVP at the Under Armour All-American Game in January.
There are several things I'll be watching over the course of Daylon's career—can he play well against the run without constantly shooting the gaps? Can he win against SEC offensive linemen without having to rely on his quickness? Can he hold the line with his leverage when asked by John Chavis? Can he be a lane-clogger if he is asked to do so? I think that answer can be yes, but it is something that Daylon will have to adjust to at the college level. For the 2015 season, I think we might see Daylon right away against Arizona State in one of Chavis' defensive sub-packages in passing situations. Daylon can start off as a pass rusher, where he has limited responsibilities and his only task is to pressure the quarterback. He can excel in that role early while redefining how we plays against the run to eventually become an every-down defensive tackle. He might start the season with only 10-15 plays a game, but expect Mack to be a starter by November 2015.
High School: George Ranch (Richmond, TX)
Weight: 290 lbs
What I love about this defensive tackle class, even though there are only two of them, is that both guys play with different styles, and diversity is a good thing. While Daylon Mack is the shorter player who is going to play with quickness and lower center of gravity, Kingsley is going to play with length. The interesting thing about KeKe is that he played defensive end while at George Ranch, so you know he has good athleticism for his size. While Mack was shooting the gaps at Gladewater, KeKe plays with great technique and knows how to man his gap, anticipating the arrival of the ball carrier. He knows how to stay at home without taking himself out of a play due to overpursuit. Kingsley is light on his feet, and can still add mass even though he is already at 290 pounds. He still has room to grow and should be a project for Larry Jackson and the Texas A&M nutrition staff. KeKe could end up being a monster.
Daylon Mack is more likely to be the defensive tackle who plays a true freshman, while Kingsley KeKe would benefit from a redshirt season to adjust to making the move inside to defensive tackle. However, that doesn't mean KeKe will not be a future contributor for the Aggies. He has the frame to man the middle of an SEC defensive line, and be a future run stuffer. But his impact will most likely be felt starting in 2016 or 2017, not this Fall.
High School: Ennis (Ennis, TX)
Weight: 253 lbs
James Lockhart is the lone defensive end signed in the class of 2015, but Sumlin and staff continued the trend of bringing in major talent at the position. The 2014 class saw three contributors as true freshmen -- Myles Garrett, Qualen Cunningham, and Jarrett Johnson. James Lockhart could easily join that group as a young, impact defensive end. What separates Lockhart from those three 2014 DEs is that James is already bigger at 253 lbs than any of the 2014 class was entering the program. In his highlights, Lockhart is great at "running the hoop" in pass rush off the edge, but also mixes in a variety of inside moves. He plays well against the run and is just a downright nasty player who constantly causes disruption in the backfield.
If Lockhart were coming in with the 2014 group, I would say he can play as a true freshman. But this is 2015, and in 2015 there is already tremendous depth at the defensive end position. We already mentioned Garrett, Cunningham, and Johnson, but don't forget Julien Obioha, Daeshon Hall, and also Darrell Jackson who logged minutes during the Liberty Bowl. That's three deep at both defensive end positions. Lockhart will potentially be the 7th player in that rotation. Lockhart may end up redshirting not because he needs the year, but because he wouldn't get much playing time with the upperclassmen already in front of him. That's a good problem to have. Still, I think Lockhart is one of the most underrated players in the 2015 class and may end up being one of the top defensive players we signed overall. If he ends up sneaking in 5-7 plays a game this year, I won't be surprised. Here is the bottom line—the defensive end position is currently the strongest defensive position for Texas A&M and is going to be talented for quite some time. That's going to bode well for the numerous pass situations the Aggies will face in the future with John Chavis now at the helm.