Kevin Sumlin and the Texas A&M coaching staff have set up the Aggies for multiple runs at an SEC title and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Read that sentence again.
No, this is not a Texas A&M fan speaking of unreasonable expectations. No, this is not being 'drunk' on the excitement of national signing day. This, my friends, is real. As that old marketing slogan goes, "It's Time for Texas A&M."
In 2014, Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M signed 22 players. Of those 22 players, 13 would play as true freshman. Among them were future stars, not only in Aggieland, but in all of college football -- Myles Garrett, Speedy Noil, Josh Reynolds, and Otaro Alaka. It was one of the most successful recruiting classes in Texas A&M history. Yes, I feel extremely comfortable saying that after the players have spent only one season on campus.
With so many young stars on campus, it was extremely critical for the coaching staff to stack back-to-back recruiting classes that would bring overwhelming talent to Aggieland, to compete with the best programs in the Southeastern Conference. Sumlin and company did just that with the 2015 group. Who will be the Josh Walker or Armani Watts of 2015? Try QB Kyler Murray, WR Christian Kirk, and S Justin Evans. This 2015 group will produce just as many starters as the 2014 group, if not more. That type of talent, put together, will bring unprecedented success to the Texas A&M football program.
|Year||Class Rank (From ESPN.com)|
Impacts on the Field
For the first time in this millennium, Texas A&M will have a real two-deep at every single position. Yes, 2015 will be the first season in a long time in which the Aggies won't have to worry about player X getting hurt because there is no other player to replace him at his position. That will be a relief for the coaching staff. And looking beyond to 2016 and 2017, A&M might finally be able to redshirt talented players and not ask them to contribute the moment they set foot on campus. Pretty crazy, right?
With the 2015 signing class, several positions transition from areas of weakness to ones of strength. For instance, the safety position was a major concern last fall, with Howard Matthews being the only returning starter. Now, sophomores Armani Watts and Donovan Wilson will be joined by signees Justin Dunning (Whitehouse, TX), Larry Pryor (Sulphur Springs, TX), and JUCO transfer Justin Evans (Gulf Coast CC). Plus, other members of the secondary may transition to safety during spring ball. Overnight, the safety position now becomes an extremely competitive and strong position for Texas A&M, which will surely excite new defensive coordinator John Chavis.
The same can be said for the linebacker position. Texas A&M inked five linebackers, two of whom (Richard Moore from Cedar Hill and Claude George from Hutchinson CC), are already on campus and will go through Spring football. While the group may not feature a "star," the class will add incredible depth behind likely starters Otaro Alaka, Josh Walker, and A.J. Hilliard. No one in the group should be asked to make significant contributions early, minus injury. Players in this group may even get a chance to redshirt and develop before being forced into duty, a sure sign that the program is finally where it needs to be.
Another group I'm extremely excited about is the offensive line. New offensive line coach Dave Christensen needed a solid class, and I'm absolutely convinced that at least two players out of the four will be future starters for the Aggies, with a chance for all four to end up as contributors. The group will be led by Connor Lanfear, who will restore a nastiness among the offensive lineman that has gone missing recently. The physical style the entire group brings will help Texas A&M re-focus on a ground game and bring a needed mentality to the Aggie offense.
But aside from depth at key positions, this 2015 class is full of elite-level talent. Kyler Murray, Christian Kirk, and Daylon Mack are next-level players who raise the bar in terms of potential and make players surrounding them better. When you stack names like Murray, Kirk, and Mack with what is already on campus in Garrett and Noil, you suddenly have a nucleus of players who can go out and compete against the country's best, including Alabama and LSU in A&M's own division. Lacking that type of core, along with depth at nearly every position, has prevented the Aggies from establishing a long-term presence among the nation's elite. Now they are here and ready to conquer.
In 2012, an unbelievable talent in Johnny Manziel, along with a solid cast of upperclassmen, helped lead Texas A&M to their best season in a decade, featuring a win at #1 Alabama and a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma. Along with Johnny, three other NFL first rounders accompanied him -- Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews, and Mike Evans. We have witnessed what even a small cluster of incredible talent can bring to College Station. Well, it's here again, and the perfect storm that was 2012 may be setting up again in 2016 and 2017 with the current cast of players. That, for the first time, means real opportunities for SEC Championships. The expectations are now here to stay, as they should be with a program that features an impressive coaching staff, facilities, and most of all, an incredible fan base.
Focus Already on 2016
Looking beyond, Texas A&M doesn't have too many holes to fill for the Class of 2016, but there are a couple of areas that cause concern. First off, Texas A&M will absolutely HAVE to sign at least one QB in 2016, with two being the best case scenario. Currently, Texas A&M will only have Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray, and former walk-on Connor McQueen as scholarship players at the position in 2015. Running back will be another position where Texas A&M will need to sign one, if not two players, as both Tra Carson and Brandon Williams are now seniors. After that, I'm not very comfortable with the interior of the offensive line. In fact, since Mike Matthews is a senior, I believe the center position is the biggest 'need' area on the team going forward. Texas A&M will HAVE to sign a true center in 2016, and it should be a position where the coaching staff focuses significant attention. Finally, cornerback is the lone defensive position where talent is still greatly needed. But with John Chavis having a full cycle to recruit, I have no doubt that position will be addressed and there will be multiple guys looking to join the fold.
Now Texas A&M is in a unique position -- maintaining depth instead of building it. This means limiting 'risk' players, such as players who may be lost due to grades or off-the-field issues, and making sure to value in-house player evaluation over media and 'industry' rankings. This will now be the formula that Kevin Sumlin and the coaching staff will have to manage to continue bringing solid recruiting classes to College Station. Along with those changes, Sumlin and staff will also now have to shift their recruiting pitches. Instead of promising playing time, it will be the win/loss column that speaks loudest along with the environment around the program and reputation a Texas A&M scholarship offer brings.
Not only is this an extremely exciting time, but it's a relief to finally say it: this is unprecedented territory for Texas A&M. #LetsRide