- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
Landing Dallas Kimball defensive tackle Justin Manning is hardly the start of a wave of momentum for Texas A&M on the recruiting trail, but it is without question one of the biggest signs of it.
Whatever a recruit has on a list of wants in a football program, chances are the Aggies can fulfill it. With a winning season in the country's premier football conference, the possibilities seem endless. The energy Kevin Sumlin, Johnny Manziel and the Southeastern Conference membership has injected into the program has the Aggies thinking big and it's catching the attention of the top recruits around the state of Texas, with Manning being the latest to jump on board.
The ESPN 150 defensive tackle, who is ranked eighth at his position in the country and is the 12th-best prospect in the state, committed to Texas A&M during a ceremony on Thursday afternoon at Kimball High School. The four-star prospect is the No. 88 player in the ESPN 150 and is the fifth player in the ESPN 150 to commit to Texas A&M.
The acquisition of Manning gives the Aggies 33 commitments in their 2013 class. Included in that list is Texas' No. 1 tight end prospect [Derrick Griffin], the state's No. 1 quarterback [Kohl Stewart], the No. 1 offensive guard [Joas Aguilar], the No. 1 safety [Kameron Miles] and now the No. 1 defensive tackle in Manning.
Let that sink in for a minute. The Aggies have the state's top-ranked 2013 recruit at five different positions. They could make it six if they close on Sealy (Texas) High School athlete Ricky Seals-Jones, a former Texas commit who is considering only LSU and Texas A&M currently.
Manning, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound prospect, was long considered an Oklahoma lean. His older brother, DeMarcus Granger, was a defensive tackle at Oklahoma. It was thought that Manning would follow in his brother's footsteps.
But the Aggies persisted. Texas A&M receivers coach David Beaty, who has been a force in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the Aggies, built a good relationship with Manning and the defensive tackle began to build one with his future defensive line coach, Terry Price, when he took his official visit in September. The key word for Manning throughout his recruitment has been "trust" and the A&M coaches have clearly earned Manning's.
He is the sixth defensive tackle in the class and while some might think it's a bit much, that was the No. 1 position of need for the Aggies' coming into this recruiting class. In the two seasons prior to Sumlin's arrival, the Aggies ran a 3-4 defense and recruited to that. When Sumlin hired defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, they switched to a 4-3, but lacked depth at tackle, evidenced by the fact that they moved defensive end Spencer Nealy and freshman Alonzo Williams inside to fill those spots and add some depth.
Nealy, a senior, will be gone next season but the Aggies need every body they can get at the position if they want to compete against some of the big interior offensive lines and power running games in the SEC. Manning might be one of six, but he's the highest-ranked of the bunch. It's an impressive haul that includes ESPN 300 defensive tackle Isaiah Golden (Carthage, Texas/Carthage) and Dallas Skyline's Kerrick Huggins and Houston Westfield's Hardreck Walker, all of whom, ironically, had Oklahoma offers.
That might be as much of a sign of momentum as any, that the Aggies have beaten the Sooners on four defensive tackles in this class, while the Sooners -- who also have big needs at the position -- are still hunting for their first defensive tackle of the 2013 class.
Make no mistake, Manning's addition is a big one and it continues to show what appears to be a shift in the balance of power of Texas recruiting. Two years ago, Texas scored seven of the state's top 20 prospects to Texas A&M's zero. Last year, it was Texas 8, Texas A&M 4. This year? The gap is narrowing more with the Longhorns (seven) holding a slight edge over the Aggies (five), and the Longhorns aren't in the mix for the two remaining uncommitted prospects in Texas' top 20 -- Seals-Jones and Plano (Texas) Prestonwood linebacker Mike Mitchell -- while the Aggies are.
Welcome to the new world of Texas A&M recruiting.
21hJeremy Crabtree and Brandon Chatmon