- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
After hosting two official visitors last week, Texas A&M will host two more this weekend when the Aggies meet Arkansas at Kyle Field. One of them is a defensive tackle target they've had in the crosshairs for some time, Dallas Kimball's Justin Manning.
Manning originally planned to make an unofficial visit to campus when the Aggies hosted Florida in their season opener Sept. 8, but he had a conflict, needing to take his ACT that day. Now he will arrive Saturday for an official visit.
The 6-foot-2, 275-pound Manning is a four-star prospect, the eighth-ranked defensive tackle in the 2013 class and 89th overall in the ESPN 150.
"Hopefully they're winning," Manning said of what he would like to see on his trip. "I'm just trying to get a better feel for the school, that's all."
Manning just came off an official visit to Oklahoma and also has visits lined up for TCU on the weekend of Oct. 5 and LSU on the weekend of Oct. 12. Who will get the fifth official visit on Manning's docket? He said it will likely be USC.
"It should be USC but it hasn't been set yet," Manning said. "I've talked to them a little bit. I really haven't been in too much contact with them and haven't followed them that much. I just watch their highlights."
Manning is continuing to be thorough, taking his time in the recruiting process and won't be rushing into a decision. All five schools that will be getting official visits are in his top five choices.
As for the Aggies, Manning said he has a good relationship with Texas A&M receivers coach David Beaty, who has been recruiting Manning.
"We're cool," Manning said. "We're kind of close. He's a cool person. He's real laid back."
He said he has been following the Aggies this season and offered his take on them.
"It's a strong, physical team," Manning said. "But there's always room for improvement. It's a good team. I would love to be a part of it, but I've still got to weigh my options."
For now, Manning is focused on his high school game. Kimball plays longtime rival Dallas Carter at 7:30 p.m. Friday at John E. Kincaide Stadium in Dallas. Both teams are 2-1 and it will be the district play opener for both.
"As of right now this week, this is a big rival game this week," Manning said. "I really haven't been thinking about (my trip). This game carries a lot of weight to me and for the people that know the background."
Savaiinaea to take in experience
The other official visitor is a Stanford commitment, Honolulu Punahou inside linebacker Isaac Savaiinaea. Ranked fourth nationally at his position, Savaiinaea is a four-star recruit and 140th overall in the ESPN 150. While committed to Stanford, he is taking official visits to other schools, including Texas A&M.
Savaiinaea is being recruited by Texas A&M special teams coordinator Brian Polian, who has recruited a Punahou prospect before. Polian recruited Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o when Polian was an assistant at Notre Dame. Savaiinaea said Polian is a "great guy" and he has even talked to Te'o about Polian.
As for this weekend, Savaiinaea's looking to see if the atmosphere at Kyle Field on game day is everything he has heard it is.
"At Texas A&M I just want to go experience game day," Savaiinaea said. "They say it's the loudest stadium there is. And just finally looking in to one of the SEC schools, I think that'd be a great opportunity for me to see them and what the culture is like out there."
Possibly Texas A&M's chances is the fact that they have already scored a commitment from a fellow Hawaiian prospect and a friend of Savaiinaea's, Honolulu St. Louis School receiver Jeremy Tabuyo.
"(It impacts me) a little, because Texas A&M doesn't really have any local people," Savaiinaea said. "But it was surprising that I saw that Jeremy committed, so maybe having one friend there would be a good thing for me."
Ultimately though, the decision will be his own and not based on someone else. He does have a former Punahou teammate, freshman tight end Luke Kaumatule, who is attending Stanford where Savaiinaea is currently committed.
"I don't think it really matters," Savaiinaea said. "We have friends, they come and go. Luke being one of my teammates before, going through all the struggles of football season again, it would be great to share that with him again. Jeremy Tabuyo and I, we've been friends for awhile and we've also been super-competitive because we play on rival teams. But it'd be interesting to see how things would fit with me and him."
Aggies eyeing 2014 TE?
One unofficial visitor that will be attending the Arkansas game is Manvel (Texas) High School tight end Koda Martin.
Martin, who is a 2014 prospect, has eight offers currently, including Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, who he considers his four favorites currently. Martin just came off an unofficial visit to Norman to watch the Sooners play Kansas State and will take in the Aggies-Razorbacks on Saturday.
Texas A&M has not offered Martin at this point, but the staff is evaluating him currently. He also plays defensive end for Manvel and could be recruited for the defensive side of the ball or even offensive tackle.
"They said they'd come watch a game and they're a little bit interested in me, but they haven't offered me to this point," Martin said of the Aggies.
At 6-6, 245 pounds, Martin said he has never played offensive tackle but said he would be open to the idea.
"I wouldn't mind it," he said. "I've never played it before in high school. I know a little about what to do. If I gain some weight, I think I could be a more athletic tackle that could really do some damage. And I like blocking as a tight end, so it wouldn't be a whole lot different. I would miss catching the ball, but I'll play wherever I need to win."
He is looking to take in the Kyle Field experience this weekend and visit with the coaches.
"I like A&M a lot," he said. "I like their traditions and their campus is really nice. I know they have a wild gameday atmosphere too. I'm just going to go and see if I feel peace about that place and those coaches and players."
Even though the Razorbacks are struggling, he still likes them currently. He said he's unsure of how that will play out with the coaching situation after the season. He said it's been tough to watch what they've gone through this year.
"I think they've made a few mistakes, they didn't have their quarterback and they haven't been playing particularly well lately, but they might be able to bounce back," Martin said. "I hate it for them because they're kind of the underdogs right now, but we'll see."
He has spent most of his time playing defensive end for Manvel this season but has had some time on offense. He said he's willing to play wherever he is asked.
"I've gotten a few plays at tight end, mostly blocking plays," Martin said. "I've ran a couple of pass plays that just haven't worked out or our quarterback hadn't had the chance to throw it to me. Blocking-wise, I've been enjoying defensive end. I'll play wherever my team needs me to win, so I'll probably get some tight end time soon. I'll just keep playing wherever they need me."
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf