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Friday, October 25, 2013
Scout's take: Cunningham adds DL piece

By Craig Haubert

Texas A&M secured a commitment Thursday from four-star defensive end Qualen Cunningham (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton). Here's how the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Cunningham, who is ranked No. 232 in the ESPN 300, can make an impact with the Aggies:

What he brings: Cunningham brings good physical tools and promising upside to College Station. He needs to continue to get stronger which should come with time in the Aggies weight program and as he continues to fill out. He demonstrates he can play with pad level, though he’ll need the improved size and strength to help him hold his ground and set the edge while working against OTs. He displays quick hands, good awareness and is an active and fairly athletic player that can be a factor in pursuit. He needs development to maximize his ability, but has promising upside as a pass-rusher with good initial quickness.

How he fits: The ESPN 300 defender brings another talented body to the Aggies defensive front to help strengthen the unit and improve depth. As he further develops his pass-rush arsenal, he possesses the physical tools to be able to help create pressure as an edge-rusher for a team last in the SEC in sacks. A good football player, Cunningham has the potential to develop into a well-rounded, three-down player for the Aggies once he further physically develops.

History at position: The Aggies have quickly demonstrated the ability to move the ball and put up points since coming to the SEC. But for a league known for its strong defensive play, the Aggies defense, especially the D-line, is in need of improvement. Texas A&M ranks near or at the bottom of the conference in many defensive categories, but they are addressing this unit. Kevin Sumlin and Co. signed several promising D-Linemen in their 2013 class, some of which, like Isaiah Golden, are already in the mix, and the Aggies are continuing to add talent in the 2014 class. Cunningham comes on the heels of the Aggies landing five-star DE Myles Garrett. Garrett gives them a potential impact player on defense and Cunningham gives them another quality defender that could develop into a nice compliment to Garrett.

Prediction for performance: Texas A&M is already utilizing some freshmen along the DL this season and some of these 2014 signings will likely be worked into the mix quickly, starting with Garrett. In Cunningham, we don’t see a player quite as ready to be an immediate contributor with his best football still ahead of him. For a program looking to bolster its front, he could be called upon early, particularly as a situational pass-rusher to try and take advantage of his natural ability.

How the class is shaping up: After signing a top-10 class in 2013, the Aggies are in strong contention for another in 2014. With the addition of Cunningham, the Aggies now have three ESPN 300 D-Line prospects committed, and of their top five verbals, three are projected to the defensive side of the ball.