It's unfair to the guys who signed an LOI with A&M to immediately jump to the negative--or to let the negative truly define this class. So with that in mind, I'm going to start off with the good news.
A&M addressed a few needs with this class with some very good players. On the defensive end Justin Madibuike is an elite/versatile pass rusher who could eventually spin down to a DT, but for now will do a great job of rushing the QB at the end position. We needed more corners and we got two guys in Oliver and Fuller who at 6'2ish are prototypical Chavis CBs. We've been lacking a true MLB for a while, and Dodson's size finally fills that void. Lastly Okeke and Chatman will provide support on the back end and could develop into excellent safeties down the line.
Offensively I'm pretty pleased with our WR group. Clyde Chriss, Kenrick Rodgets and Quartney Davis are a good balance of projects and day 1 players. The addition of Hansford gives us versatility and I've kind of lusted after a hback in a spread offense ever since Ohio State beat bama a couple of years back. Additionally we finally filled the void of our running back situation by signing two good ones. Assuming Boyd makes it in, we might even be in a position where we have depth at that spot (think about what would have happened if Carson had gotten hurt last year). Lastly, the OL group is pretty solid as well anchored by Kellen Diesch who is one of the highest rated OL we've gotten since Sumlin had been here.
Now onto the bad news. This class missed big time in a lot of areas. Let's detail those out:
- We needed at least 1 more star LB. Our LB corps has talent but lacks stars. Missing out on both Divinity and McCulloch stings. We dont need a ton of bodies given that we took 5 last year, but we did need at least one more
- Madubuike might spin down to DT, but not signing a true DT this year is bad news. This wont affect us immediately, but might affect us down the line. Everyone needs to cross their fingers and say a prayer that TD Moton gets in.
- I would have liked to see us take at least one more corner. Priest Willis makes me feel a bit better, but this is a depth related league and we dont want to put ourselves in a bind.
- The TE position. Our goal was to take two and we didnt get any. I'm no math expert but that doesnt seem ideal....EDIT @1:54 PM...hey we got Aaron Hansford! That's great. I think we'll use the hback way more than we would a TE.
- Aside from Diesch, our OL group consists of a lot of guys who will need a year or two to develop. We needed a Hudson or Little (both of whom were one time commits) to come on board.
- Losing Brandon Jones to the Longhorns is a huge failure on the part of our staff. No real way to spin that loss.
- Yet again we're not going to sign a full class which means that our roster will likely be somewhere between 75-80. We need a full roster to compete in our division.
So now let's talk about why this happened. Why did we finish so poorly this year? There are a number of reasons contributing to the way you're currently feeling both about this recruiting class and about our program as a whole
December to remember: Losing two QBs and having rumors Sumlin moving on killed any level of momentum we had going into the dead period. The timing couldnt have been worse. Had we held on to one QB i think our finish would have been significantly better...but we didnt and it isnt. What's worse is that both QBs went to regional competitors--there are rumors that Stoops had Kyler sit down with Mark Jackson to talk a little about what A&M was really like. All that is damn near impossible to overcome.
8-5: Here's the hard truth. We're just not good enough to recruit elite players for depth and we're too talented to sell immediate playing time. That's an odd place to be when trying sell Brandon Jones on why he should come here to back up our two starting safeties when he can go to UT and start on day one. Winning cures all, and right now we're simply not winning enough to convince elite players to come here and sit on the bench. 2012 is a distant memory now and isnt really a good indicator of what our program ceiling is anymore under Kevin Sumlin.
Attrition in the Coaching Staff: Last year we lost David Beatty and BJ Anderson, both of whom were elite recruits in their respective areas (Dallas/East Texas). We replaced them with Aaron Moorehead (East Coast) and Dave Christensen...neither of whom have strong connections in the state of Texas. So right now we have Jeff Banks who's great on the West Coast, and Moorehead who's great on the East Coast--but who's our elite Texas recruiter? Who's the guy with the reputation in state with high school coaches?
Our Recruiting Approach: We seem to lack a cohesive, strategic approach to recruiting players from day 1 until signing day. Couple of examples...Chris Daniels was rumored to be on the verge of committing to us, but we had a few DTs ranked ahead of him. Instead of continuing the relationship so that we could circle back on him, we focused all of our efforts on DTs who ended up elsewhere. Then at the last minute we tried to give Daniels the hard sell...but we had to make up lost ground. Same thing happened last year with DBs Sheffield, Boyd, and Hill. Our approach seems to be to fill up quickly and then do our best to hold on....but by filling up quickly we miss out on players who emerge throughout the season and also we're left scrambling to develop relationships if/when a player decommits.
Lastly, hats off to the UT staff: So while we lost our elite East Texas recruiter in BJ Anderson, the Horns stepped to the plate and hired Jeff Traylor. Traylor is the reason Brandon Jones is a horn today. That was a damn good hire for them. Additionally, it seems that Charlie Strong's approach to recruiting is working and players are buying what he's selling. They certainly knew how to sell the uncertainty at A&M through the month of December and I dont fault them for that at all. We got out hustled this recruiting season by the horns, plain and simple.
So let's finish with some good news. We werent relying on this recruiting class to fill immediate voids on our team. The 2016 A&M football team has a ton of talent across the board and should (key word should) do pretty well on the field next year. One more year of Chief's defense and hopefully a cohesive offense under Mazzone could bring us a 9-10 win season. If that happens, then recruiting becomes a lot easier because we will have taken that proverbial next step folks have been waiting on us to take for a while now. We will be ok, today notwithstanding.
We took one on the chin today Ags. Gather yourself and move forward.