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Friday, December 7, 2012
What if ... the tackles enter the draft?

By Sam Khan Jr.

In trying to ensure depth at every position, coaches can often play the "What if?" game when it comes to recruiting. Expecting the unexpected can mean the difference between feeling comfortable enough to have a capable body step in and contribute at a position and scrambling to make sure any depth exists.

When it comes to their offensive tackles, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and his offensive staff are ready for anything. After the conclusion of the AT&T Cotton Bowl, junior tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews will have a decision to make: Apply for early entry into the NFL draft or return to Aggieland for their senior seasons?

Both figure to be early-round draft picks should they decide to leave. ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper has Joeckel as his No. 1 junior offensive tackle and Matthews as his No. 3 in the category. Both were projected first-round selections in Kiper's November Big Board with Joeckel at No. 5 and Matthews at No. 23.

Neither has publicly declared a decision one way or another, though both have said it would be tough to leave.

But if they were to leave, the Aggies are ready, at least in terms of numbers, if not playing experience. In their 2013 recruiting class, the Aggies already have commitments from three offensive tackles: Dallas Jesuit's J.J. Gustafson, Dallas Bishop Dunne's Ishmael Wilson and City College of San Francisco's Jeremiah Stuckey.

The Aggies also made sure to acquire tackles in the previous recruiting class in Germain Ifedi and Kimo Tipoti. Ifedi and redshirt freshman Joseph Cheek were listed as the backup tackles on the depth chart, though Ifedi did not see any action while Cheek did. Redshirt freshman Nate Gutekunst saw action this season and is also an option at tackle and that also doesn't include the possibility of taking someone like starting guard Jarvis Harrison (6-foot-4, 320) and shifting him to tackle.

But no matter what their talented junior duo decides to do, the Aggies will be prepared with tackles to spare on the depth chart.