Friday, April 12, 2013
Aggies capitalizing on buzz in recruiting
By Sam Khan Jr.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Throughout their successful 2012 season, the buzz around Texas A&M football built each week. It crescendoed after the Aggies defeated Alabama and peaked when the Aggies' quarterback, Johnny Manziel, won the Heisman Trophy. They kept that buzz going with a resounding win over Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
That buzz has had a clear affect on Texas A&M recruiting and Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies' staff is doing what they can to ensure the buzz continues. In some instances, it's tricks or tactics that the Aggies use themselves, like when they trotted out a live disc jockey for the "Friday Night Lights" scrimmage last week.
In other instances, like Saturday for the Maroon-and-White spring football game, the buzz comes as a result of the 2012 success. The Aggies will experience a first in program history when the spring game is broadcast live nationally on ESPN. While there are plenty of positives that come along with that for the university -- not just the football program -- it can do nothing but help recruiting.
"The positive is I don't think it's ever happened here," Sumlin said. "As your program moves on and you try to establish yourself nationally, I think it's a big deal that we'll have that kind of coverage from ESPN nationally and to have the guys from ESPN here. To do it live is a compliment to these guys, to the players, and it's a way to showcase not only our football team but our university at a time when there's not a whole lot going on as far as football goes. So any time you can create excitement with your own fan base and create excitement in recruiting and get yourself that type of exposure, really for nothing, it's a big deal for us."
And while Sumlin is never one to disclose special plans, like the unveiling of DJ Double R last during the Friday Night Lights scrimmage, he did say earlier this week that he's certain the Aggies will bring the DJ back for another workout because of the overwhelmingly positive response from recruits.
The idea was something Sumlin said he and his staff thought about doing at Houston. Associate athletic director for football Justin Moore helped develop the idea of parking an A&M equipment truck on the Kyle Field sideline and putting the DJ inside. Sumlin said that he and his staff have had a relationship with DJ Double R for several years.
"He makes a lot of music for us for Friday when we go in the stadium [for walkthrough] and kind of change it up for us during the year," Sumlin said. "It's been kind of the tradition for us the last two, three, four years. So we brought him in live and Justin Moore really did a good job of coming up with the whole truck idea on the sideline. It kind of grew."
There are a few others not on the above list that could find themselves in town for the spring game on Saturday. One of the biggest to keep an eye on is 2014 quarterback Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe). Hansen has a final two of Oklahoma and Texas A&M and he told SoonerNation's Bob Przybylo that he plans to commit in person to one of the two schools at their spring game. Both the Sooners and Aggies hold their spring games on the same day. In the meantime, Hansen is keeping his destination a secret.
ESPN Watch List QB Justice Hansen will decide between Texas A&M and Oklahoma this weekend.
"Maybe we’ll drive a totally different car so nobody knows,” Hansen told SoonerNation. “Or maybe I’ll wear a mask out in public all day Saturday. No, I’m a man of my word, and I’m definitely going to get it done.”
2014 offensive tackle Koda Martin might also make an appearance at the Maroon-and-White game, but there are no formal plans at this point. Martin is competing with his Manvel (Texas) High School teammates at its district track meet in Pearland, Texas, this weekend. If the schedule allows, Martin said he would consider making the drive to College Station to see the Aggies.
Martin is fresh off a trip to Oklahoma last week to see one of the Sooners' spring practices. Martin is not rushing into his decision and said he's still planning a late spring or early summer timeline for making his decision. One thing he knows for sure though -- he's probably done seeing "new" schools and any other trips he makes will be to the schools he's still considering: Alabama, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M.
There are no scheduled trips moving forward for Martin. He's simply playing each weekend by ear.
"I've really been to everywhere that I really love or that I've dreamed to going to as a little kid," Martin said. "There's some great schools that I haven't seen yet for sure, but most of them are pretty far away. I've seen all the big time schools in this area, I feel like. I might take a couple more visits back to those places but probably nowhere new."
Others who have said they're considering return trips to Aggieland this weekend include 2015 linebacker Cameron Townsend and 2015 safety Deionte Thompson, both of whom were attendees at the "Friday Night Lights" scrimmage on April 5.
LB Mabin enjoys return trip
Spring (Texas) Klein Oak inside linebacker Josh Mabin was one of the many attendees to the Aggies' junior day on March 2 and the 6-foot-1, 215-pound prospect made another trek to Aggieland for the Friday Night Lights scrimmage.
Upon walking in to Kyle Field and seeing DJ Double R on the ones and twos, Mabin was shocked.
"I was like 'What the...,' " Mabin said. "It hit me like 'Is this really happening? A DJ live at a scrimmage?' It was just exciting."
Mabin got an even closer look at the team since it was a full scrimmage, as opposed to the first trip he made which was the Aggies' first workout of spring football. He got some one-on-one time with his area recruiter, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Jeff Banks and he got to hang out with his former Klein Oak teammates, quarterback Conner McQueen and linebacker A.J. Hilliard, both of whom are now playing for the Aggies.
Having Hilliard as a resource is valuable, since he's working with the position coach Mabin would -- linebackers coach Mark Hagen -- should Mabin eventually wind up in Aggieland.
"A.J. said he loves it there," Mabin said. "He said Coach Hagen gets on their butts and that's all you can ask for."
Mabin has not been offered by the Aggies yet, but he gets the sense that they like him a lot. Banks and Hagen will likely be out at Klein Oak during the evaluation period to see Mabin in person. He feels like once they see him, an offer will follow.
"I do think that if they see what they want during spring practice, that's when I'll get my offer," Mabin said.
Baylor ATH commit excited about upcoming trip
Texarkana (Texas) High School athlete Davion Hall has been committed to Baylor since early February, but he'll be making the trip to College Station on Saturday for the Aggies' spring game.
"I'm pretty excited," Hall said of the trip.
The ESPN Watch List prospect said he does have some interest in the Aggies. What has his interest the most?
"The offense," he said. "I like the way they run it."
Hall said his high school coaches do most of the talking to college coaches, but by making the trip he'll have a chance to visit with the Aggies' staff in person on Saturday. As for his commitment to Baylor, when asked if he still feels good about the Bears, Hall said "Yes sir."
Aggies showing interest in TE Saunders
A couple weeks before the Aggies' Friday Night Lights scrimmage, 2014 tight end Mavin Saunders (Houston/Kinkaid School) said he hadn't heard much at all from Texas A&M, so he wasn't sure if the Aggies were interested.
Class of 2014 tight end Mavin Saunders says if Texas A&M offers, it would be high on his list.
After an invite to FNL and a trip to Aggieland, he now knows for sure: the Aggies like him.
Saunders enjoyed his trip and the atmosphere he soaked in while on campus.
"It was really good," Saunders said. "Everyone enjoyed it from what I could see. They were pretty real with everyone and what they were looking for. They weren't sugarcoating anything. You could see that they're serious about school and their football program and the community is pretty nice too. It was a good experience and we really enjoyed it."
The 6-foot-5, 233-pound Saunders, who has played only one season of organized football in his career and has mostly been a basketball star in high school, is seeing his profile rise on the gridiron. He has offers from Florida State, Mississippi State, Missouri and Texas Tech. The Aggies haven't offered but they are certainly intrigued.
"I think they really are interested in me," Saunders said. "They said they're going to come and watch during spring and just go from there. They seemed pretty interested. It's a good school with so much to offer and stuff like that. I look forward to hearing more from them and see what happens."
If the Aggies were to step forward with an offer for Saunders, they would vault up his list.
"They would probably jump to the favorite [if they were offer]," Saunders said. "My favorites now, from an offer standpoint are Texas Tech and Florida State. That's where I'm looking. But A&M is even closer. It's an hour-and-a-half and my family can drive down there and watch games. That'd be pretty big. But right now I'm not looking at making a decision but they will definitely be considered pretty heavily."
Great trip to Aggieland for 2015 RB
The Aggies hosted several 2015 running backs for Friday Night Lights and Dallas Bishop Lynch's Rawleigh Williams III was one of them.
The 5-foot-10, 203-pound sophomore was making his first trip to Texas A&M and the Aggies certainly impressed him, especially with the atmosphere created by the presence of a live DJ.
"That was my first time to A&M and they made a good first impression," Williams said. "I liked it. The DJ was pretty cool, especially since it was music that we listen to. I saw the players were feeding off of it, so we got to feed off of it as well."
The Aggies' Dallas-area recruiter, receivers coach David Beaty, is recruiting Williams and is already building a good relationship with the rising sophomore.
"He's a really good guy," Williams said. "We talk once a week most of the time. He just talks about A&M being on the rise and how they're going to keep in contact with me and see where I can go."
One school has already offered Williams: Mississippi. Williams said he's planning trips soon to both Ole Miss and Arkansas.