Texas A&M Aggies: Armani Watts

When it comes to Texas A&M's spring, the first question surrounding the Aggies often relates to the quarterback battle and who is in the lead to succeed Johnny Manziel.

The next question is usually relates to the defense, and how much better -- if at all -- the unit will be after a disastrous 2013 season.

While neither can be definitively answered, when it comes to the defense, there is at least some reason for optimism coming out of spring football. The Aggies can't get much worse than they were a year ago, when the ranked last or near last in the SEC in virtually every major statistical category, but there were signs during spring practice that indicate that brighter days are ahead for defensive coordinator Mark Snyder's group.

One reason the Aggies have to feel better about their defense is the experience they'll have. Last year the root of the struggles seemed to be the youth and inexperience up and down the depth chart, with the Aggies having as many as a dozen freshmen in the defensive two-deep.

Though the Aggies will still be relatively young in some areas (particularly linebacker), most of the players who are candidates to start or see significant time were thrown in the fire last season.

Middle linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni is a perfect example. Though he'll only be a sophomore this fall, he started against Alabama last Sept. 14 and in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Duke. Mastrogiovanni called it "overwhelming," but as the guy getting first-team work at his position this spring, coaches have heaped praise upon the former ESPN 300 prospect.

Should defensive tackle Isaiah Golden and linebacker Darian Claiborne return from suspensions (both missed the spring after February arrests), they too will benefit. Both started a large portion of the season as true freshmen.

Other players who could be in position to contribute, such as linebacker Shaan Washington or cornerback Noel Ellis, weren't starters but saw enough field time to give them a taste of what life in the SEC is like.

Add to those young players a host of returning veterans, such as the starting secondary of Deshazor Everett, De'Vante Harris, Howard Matthews and Julien Obioha, Gavin Stansbury and Alonzo Williams and the Aggies can begin piecing together a more experienced defense.

With so many players returning (nine starters return from last year's defense) and a top-five recruiting class on the way, the Aggies will continue to add to their talent level on defense. One defensive player is already on campus (defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson) and showed flashes of his potential during spring football.

With players like defensive end Myles Garrett, the nation's No. 4 overall prospect, ESPN 300 athlete Nick Harvey, who will be a defensive back at Texas A&M and other ESPN 300 prospects like Deshawn Washington, Otaro Alaka, Qualen Cunningham, Armani Watts and Josh Walker, competition will only increase when preseason training camp starts.


The increased depth on the defensive line could be the biggest factor in helping the defense improve. Snyder indicated how critical it was earlier this month.

"Up front for the first time, we're going to be able to roll people," Snyder said. "I told [defensive line coach] Terry [Price] … that when we get to the fall, we're going to have to practice our rotations, which is a great thing."

For the Aggies, there really is nowhere to go but up defensively. They could be another year away from being the kind of defense they hope to be, but the developments this spring suggest at least some improvement is in order in 2014.

Top position classes: Athletes 

February, 19, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and Big Ten)
Ohio State continues to add speed and versatility, and the 2014 class was more of the same. The Buckeyes signed five athletes, and versatility was the name of the game. The Buckeyes' haul included potential corners to big wide receivers to safeties to speedy playmaking receivers and return men. The uber-impressive list includes future cornerback and ESPN 300 No. 45 Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland/Glenville), No. 153 Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus Hall), No. 178 Parris Campbell Jr. (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary), and four-star prospects Noah Brown (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII) and Malik Hooker (New Castle, Pa./New Castle).

The Buckeyes had the nation’s best athlete class; these programs had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:

With the 2013 edition of The Opening in the books, we take a look at how some of the Texas A&M commitments and targets performed. Here's a look at five who impressed in Beaverton, Ore.:

1. QB Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain): committed to Texas A&M
6-3, 200
ESPN 300 Rank: No. 99


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Texas A&M instant impact recruits 

June, 25, 2013
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Here is a look at the top 10 Texas A&M commits and targets who are capable of making the biggest impact in 2014:

1. OLB Hoza Scott (La Porte, Texas/La Porte)
6-foot-3/225 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 42


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Since he could remember, ESPN 300 athlete Armani Watts has been playing multiple roles on the football field.

Even when he was at the tender age of 5, the Forney (Texas) North Forney prospect can remember not wanting to come off the field.

That mentality has stayed with him throughout his football development. The 5-foot-11, 179-pound Watts, who is the No. 258 player in the ESPN 300 and committed to Texas A&M, likes playing multiple roles for his team.


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ESPN 300 analysis: Texas A&M Aggies 

June, 17, 2013
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If you want evidence as to why Texas A&M has one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, look no further than the latest ESPN 300.

Last season, the Aggies -- who had college football's No. 8 recruiting class -- hauled in 10 players in the 2013 ESPN 300.


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Five stories to watch: Dallas NFTC 

April, 7, 2013
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The Nike Football Training Camp series will continue outside of Dallas on Sunday. Athletes will trek to Allen, Texas, the home of one of the most impressive high school stadiums in the country. Allen Eagles Stadium, a $60-million facility, opened last year and featured nearly 22,000 fans watching Texas powers Allen and Southlake Carroll clash.

Here are five storylines to watch on Sunday.

Talented DBs aplenty

It’s been said on multiple occasions that the 2014 class may be one of the strongest in years at producing big-time defensive backs in the region. The battle for defensive back MVP has the potential of being extremely competitive with players such as Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville), Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron), Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), Steven Parker (Jenks, Okla./Jenks) and Arrion Springs (San Antonio/Roosevelt) expected to be in attendance. Chris Hardeman (Houston/Alief Taylor) has committed to LSU, while Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) and Armani Watts (Forney, Texas/North Forney) have pledged to Texas A&M. Deionte Thompson (Orange, Texas/West Orange-Stark), a 2015 prospect, has verbally committed to Alabama. All of the DBs will have their shots in one-on-one drills against equally talented ESPN Watch List receivers such as Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis), K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant) and Texas commit Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas/Cooper).


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Going into last weekend, Texas A&M had a little ground to make up when it came to the race for Katy (Texas) Seven Lakes defensive end Jarrett Johnson.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect already had visited Texas, but his visit to Aggieland closed the gap in the race. The Aggies made quite the impression on Johnson, enough for him to call the race "even."


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Hoza ScottMax Olson/ESPN.com2014 standout Hoza Scott headlines Texas A&M's class.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- With dozens of recruits inside the McFerrin Athletic Center for junior day and the 2013 Texas A&M Aggies about to hit the field for the first practice of spring football, music came from the speakers.

This isn't an uncommon practice in Aggieland. Since Kevin Sumlin took over as head coach, music has been a constant at practices to help keep energy and tempo high. In many ways, the first song of the spring seemed symbolic as Drake's "Started from the Bottom," kicked things off.

"Started from the bottom, now we're here."

The same could be said for the Aggies, in more ways than one. While not exactly at the bottom, many figured they wouldn't be anywhere near the top of the SEC. In their first season, the Aggies went 11-2, tied for second in the SEC West and will go into 2013 as potential preseason top-five team.


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Washington is No. 10 for Aggies 

March, 2, 2013
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Texas A&M's second junior day of the year has gotten better as the hours have passed.

After scoring two commitments in the afternoon, a third 2014 player is on board in the form of Nederland (Texas) High School defensive tackle DeShawn Washington. At 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, Washington is the 10th commitment in the Aggies' 2014 class and the first defensive tackle.

On his Twitter account, Washington posted "It's official, I'm going to be a Aggie," and also confirmed his commitment via text message to GigEmNation. He was one of several prospects in attendance at Texas A&M's junior day on Saturday in College Station, Texas. He joins Dylan Sumner-Gardner and Armani Watts as prospects who gave their pledge to the Aggies on Saturday.

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Texas A&M picked up a solid defensive back in Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) -- someone who, if needed, can play both positions in the secondary -- Saturday afternoon. Later in the day, the Aggies picked up a player who can see time at several positions on both sides of the ball.


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When it comes to defensive backs, the class of 2014 is a strong one in the Lone Star State.

And Texas A&M is doing quite a job locking down several as commitments, adding two more to their 2014 haul on Saturday in the form of ESPN Watch List safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner and Forney (Texas) North Forney athlete Armani Watts.


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