Texas A&M Aggies: Baylor Bears

Finally, football is back. Well, fútbol, actually.

The World Cup will consume sports fan across the globe for the next month, taking us right up to the outskirts of the college football season.

Many in Big 12 country know little about the World Cup, or what team to pull for outside the United States. So to give you soccer novices a rooting choice, we’ve come up with the fútbol counterparts for every team in the Big 12 (thanks to soccer aficionados Royce and Russ for their help in putting this list together):

BAYLOR

Belgium: Baylor has been the up-and-coming squad in the Big 12, winning its first conference title last year. The Belgians are the up-and-comers of this World Cup, and a popular sleeper pick to win it all. Both have lethal offensive attacks, but still must prove their staying power this year.

IOWA STATE

South Korea: On its home soil in 2002, South Korea pulled off three of the bigger upsets in World Cup history, knocking off Portugal, Italy and Spain to reach the quarterfinals. The Cyclones under coach Paul Rhoads have also been a giant killer at home, most recently upsetting second-ranked Oklahoma State to bounce the Cowboys from the 2011 national title race. With 21-year-old forward Son Heung-min leading the charge, South Korea boasts a potentially formidable offensive attack. And with nine offensive starters back this year, Iowa State has the chance to feature its best offense in a long time.

KANSAS

Australia: Both had their finest moments around the same time -- the Aussies advancing out of its World Cup group in 2006; the Jayhawks winning the Orange Bowl in 2007 -- but the hearts of both fan bases lie in another sport (basketball for Kansas, rugby for Australia).

KANSAS STATE

Greece: Greece is not flashy. But emulating the Bill Snyder playbook to success, the Greeks grind out victories (and ties) with stout defense, fundamental play and by avoiding mistakes. Like K-State, the Greeks have been defined by their coach (Otto Graham/Fernando Santos) more than any star player. And Greece’s improbable 2004 Euro Cup title run might be the soccer equivalent of K-State’s Manhattan Miracle.

OKLAHOMA

Germany: The Germans have been the epitome of consistent success, advancing to the semifinals in eight of the last 11 World Cups. The Sooners have matched that level of consistency during the Bob Stoops era, with eight conference titles and a dozen double-digit win seasons over the last 14 years.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Portugal: In recent years, both have piled up the wins and have featured plenty of star power. But they have failed to breakthrough when the spotlight has been the brightest. Portugal’s “golden generation” flopped in the 2002 World Cup, losing to the U.S. in the opener before failing to advance out of the group stage. Oklahoma State could have clinched the 2010 and 2013 Big 12 titles, but slipped at home against rival Oklahoma. The Cowboys and the Portuguese have also had to exist in the shadow of two preeminent powers in their sports (Sooners/Spain). Still they have become two clubs nobody wants to play, and have reached enviable levels of year-to-year success.

TCU

Uruguay: Uruguay is a small country surrounded by some of the giants in World Cup soccer. The same goes for TCU, which doesn’t have the enrollments or resources of the likes of Oklahoma or Texas. But just like Uruguay, TCU has carved out success with a hardnosed style of play. Furthermore, Uruguay won the first World Cup ever played in 1930, while both of TCU’s national championships came in the same decade (1935, 1938).

TEXAS

England: All the tradition, history and resources. And yet in recent years, these two have been massive underachievers. In South Africa in 2010, the English surrendered the top seed in its group to the Yanks, then got obliterated 4-1 by Germany in the first game of the knockout round. The Longhorns, meanwhile, have failed to win more than eight regular-season games the last four seasons. Because of these struggles, both squads are flying somewhat under the radar, and the talent is still there for either to ignite a run. But first, someone -- anyone -- has to light the fuse.

TEXAS TECH

Mexico: After an emotional roller-coaster ride through the qualifying stages, Mexico is feeling optimistic following a manageable World Cup draw and cleaner play of late. Texas Tech rode the roller coaster of a five-game losing streak last season, but is feeling confident these days coming off its dominating bowl performance against Arizona State.

WEST VIRGINIA

Ivory Coast: Les Éléphants bring the fireworks with Didier Drogba and Yaya Touré the same way the Mountaineers have through the Pat White and Geno Smith eras. But while West Virginia dominated the Big East the way Ivory Coast has Africa, neither has been able to take that next step against the big boys. In its first two appearances in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, Ivory Coast failed to advance out of its group. Likewise, the Mountaineers have struggled their first two years in the Big 12. Both have the individual talents of a championship-caliber club, but neither will contend until the depth improves.

The new College Football Playoff is supposed to encourage schools to schedule better nonconference games, as teams try to beef up their schedule strength to earn one of the playoff’s coveted four spots at season’s end.

On Thursday, Texas A&M and UCLA announced that they’ll play each other during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Other schools have announced future marquee nonconference opponents, including Texas A&M vs. USC, Notre Dame vs. Texas, Alabama vs. Michigan State and LSU vs. Oklahoma.

Here are five other nonconference games I’d like to see in the future:

[+] EnlargeNick Saban, Urban Meyer
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer and Nick Saban have faced off for SEC titles, but their current teams, Ohio State and Alabama, have played only three times in history.
1. Alabama vs. Ohio State: Alabama’s Nick Saban and OSU’s Urban Meyer dominated the SEC when Meyer was coaching at Florida, combining to win five BCS national championships from 2006 to 2012.

When Meyer was still coaching at Florida, the Crimson Tide and Gators played in two of the most anticipated SEC championship games. The No. 2 Gators beat the No. 1 Tide 31-20 in 2008, and then the Tide turned the tables on No. 1 UF with a 32-13 win in 2009.

Alabama and Ohio State have played only three times in history, with the Tide winning each time, most recently in a 24-17 victory in the 1995 Citrus Bowl.

2. Texas vs. Texas A&M: Perhaps the biggest casualty in conference realignment, Texas and Texas A&M haven’t played each other since the Aggies bolted the Big 12 for the SEC after the 2011 season. Sadly, there are no plans for the in-state rivals to play again in future regular seasons.

The Aggies and Longhorns played each other 118 times from 1894 to 2011, with their annual meeting traditionally being played on Thanksgiving Day. UT won nearly twice as many games as the Aggies (76-37-5), including nine of the last 12 meetings.

With former Louisville coach Charlie Strong taking over at Texas, and Kevin Sumlin building the Aggies into an SEC powerhouse, the game would also pit two of the sport’s best African-American coaches against each other.

3. Oregon vs. Baylor: Two of the game’s most explosive offenses -- and two of its best-dressed teams -- would undoubtedly light up the scoreboard if they ever played. In fact, the contest would probably look more like a track meet.

Under coach Art Briles, the Bears have become the Ducks of the Southwest, with their hurry-up, spread offense and myriad flashy uniforms closely resembling what Chip Kelly and then Mark Helfrich built at Oregon. The Bears and Ducks follow the same blueprint on offense: play fast and score fast.

We hoped to see this matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last season, but alas, it didn’t happen. Oregon and Baylor have never met on the gridiron.

4. Michigan vs. USC: Two of the sport’s traditional heavyweights have faced each other eight times in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, but only twice during the regular season -- in 1957 and 1958.

The Trojans won the last three meetings in the Rose Bowl, 32-18 in 2007, 28-14 in 2004 and 17-10 in 1990. USC has won six of the past seven meetings overall and holds a 6-4 advantage all-time.

We might have seen this matchup during the regular season if a Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership hadn’t fallen apart in 2012.

5. Georgia vs. Florida State: UGA coach Mark Richt was a longtime assistant under legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden before taking over the Bulldogs, and he recently poached defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt off the Seminoles’ staff.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles go head-to-head for a lot of recruits every year, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher upgraded his roster by effectively recruiting South Georgia and Atlanta.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles have played 11 times and only once since 1984 -- UGA defeated FSU 26-13 in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. Georgia leads the all-time series, 6-4-1.

Big 12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
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After 16 years, the BCS era is finally over. Next season, college football will have a playoff instead.

With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:

Offense

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesWith Vince Young at the helm, Texas won a national title and Rose Bowl.
QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05) -- Young led Texas to its first national title in 35 years with an unforgettable performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. The Heisman runner-up also became the first QB in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season.

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.

OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.

OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.

OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.

OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.

APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.

Defense

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.

DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.

LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesWest Virginia receiver and returner Tavon Austin had a huge 2012 season.
CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002) -- Newman was a solid player for Bill Snyder his first three seasons, then broke out as a senior. Newman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American and the Thorpe winner, given to college football’s top defensive back.

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.

Special teams

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.

KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.

PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.
HOUSTON -- ESPN 300 offensive guard Andrew Billings is happy to be playing football again.

The 6-foot-2, 308-pound four-star prospect, who played both offensive and defensive line for Waco (Texas) High School, helped the Lions make it to the Class 4A state quarterfinals before they were knocked out by Wolfforth (Texas) Frenship on Dec. 1.

Now Billings is getting ready for a week of practice and competition at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, which will be held Sunday at Reliant Stadium. He's also thinking about his college future, which is still to be determined as he chooses from a top three that includes Baylor, Texas and TCU.

2014 DB Bonney adds OSU offer 

December, 18, 2012
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This is a special time for the Houston Lamar Redskins. They're making history as the first Houston ISD team to make a Texas Class 5A state championship game in 20 years. The last team to do it was Houston Yates in 1992.

And the Redskins ar doing it with defense.

Leading the way are two SMU commits, defensive end Zelt Minor and cornerback Cedric Lancaster, and rising 2014 prospect John Bonney, a safety. They'll lead the Redskins into a battle with Allen (Texas) High School for the Class 5A Division I championship Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

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Aggies add 2014 RB Shaun Nixon 

November, 29, 2012
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Shaun NixonMiller Safrit/ESPN.comESPN Watch List tailback Shaun Nixon is Texas A&M's fourth commitment of the Class of 2014.
Texas A&M's momentum in the 2014 recruiting class continues to build.

The Aggies made their fourth addition to the class on Thursday morning, landing ESPN Watch List running back Shaun Nixon of Austin (Texas) Lake Travis. Nixon confirmed the news to RecruitingNation via text message.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back had five offers in total, with the others coming from Baylor, Clemson, SMU and Texas Tech. He was also receiving interest from TCU, Oklahoma, Alabama and Texas.

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2014 S John Bonney talks LSU offer 

November, 16, 2012
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Before this season, Houston Lamar safety John Bonney already possessed an offer from his father's alma mater, Houston. This week, the 2014 prospect received one from his mother's, LSU.

[+] EnlargeAlabama defense
AP Photo/Bill Haber2014 safety John Bonney enjoyed his visit to LSU for the Alabama game.
The six-foot, 175-pound rising star got the news of the LSU offer on Thursday from his head coach at Lamar, Tom Nolen. It was met with excitement from Bonney, who came into the season with offers from Baylor, Houston and SMU.

"I was kind of surprised at first," Bonney said. "I didn't expect anything coming but it was pretty good and I was happy. It's great."

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HUMBLE, Texas -- Aaron Sharp is not surprised with what his team has accomplished this season.

After going 9-2 and making the playoffs for the first time a year ago, Sharp and his Houston Summer Creek teammates had high expectations coming into this season and so far, they're meeting those, sitting at 9-0 heading into their regular season finale against 9-0 Dayton (Texas) High School for a district championship.

"Yeah, this was pretty much an expected season from us," Sharp said. "We had a lot of people coming back from a good year that we had last year. We had more talent come in, so I think it was a real big season expected for Summer Creek, and we're just doing what we're supposed to be doing.

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Five from Friday: 2014 LBs shine 

November, 4, 2012
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Each week, GigEmNation will bring you five things from watching high school football action in the Midlands region that week, including observations of Texas A&M commitments and targets and other players that catch our attention. Here's this week's installment:

1. The two 2014 star linebackers on the field Friday night in La Porte, Texas -- La Porte High School outside linebacker Hoza Scott and Houston North Shore inside linebacker Zac Whitley -- played big in what was a big game for both teams. Scott had a sack early, and Whitley was in on the majority of tackles for North Shore in the early going. Throughout the night, both showed athleticism, speed and that they're good tacklers. Both can hit hard and look like smart football players who are in the right position at the right time. Texas and Texas A&M have offered both prospects. A&M leads for Scott, who also has offers from Alabama and LSU, while there's no stated leader for Whitley.


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Deon HollinsTom Hauck for ESPN.comDeon Hollins Jr., a UCLA commit, has 13 sacks this season for Missouri City (Texas) Thurgood Marshall.
Each week, GigEmNation reporter Sam Khan Jr. will bring you five things he learned from watching high school football action in the Midlands region that week, including observations of Texas A&M commitments and targets and other players that catch his attention. Here's this week's installment:

1. Sealy (Texas) High School receiver Ricky Seals-Jones, who is Texas A&M's top remaining uncommitted 2013 target, showed off his athleticism and why he's such a coveted prospect. He only played about a quarter and a half because he suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter that took him out for the rest of the game. (Sealy's large halftime lead also likely contributed to the decision to keep Seals-Jones out of action the rest of the night, especially with critical games coming up for the Tigers.) But when he was in, he was terrific. He had four catches for 39 yards and a touchdown --- the touchdown catch involved Seals-Jones leaping over two defenders to grab the ball -- then he leaped to get an interception on the next play from scrimmage and high-stepped it into the end zone for six. He's down to just LSU and Texas A&M as his finalists and whoever lands him will get a gifted athlete with good size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and a plethora of skills (offense, defense and special teams).

2. Rice is getting itself quite the running back in Sealy 2013 prospect Jowan Davis. He's small in stature (5-7) but built well (190 pounds) and is a strong runner. Like his teammate Seals-Jones, Davis has battled injuries this year and said after Friday's game that he finally feels 100 percent. He had 252 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries and he's still getting interest from a few other schools, but said he's solidly committed to Rice. The Owls will likely be happy with Davis if they indeed secure his signature in February.

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SEALY, Texas -- For the most part, Ricky Seals-Jones looks much like the same young man he was roughly seven weeks ago. He runs the same, cuts the same, still has the same speed and athleticism.

But there is one small piece of evidence on the Sealy (Texas) High School receiver that gives away the change in his life over that span of time. It's the brace that resides on his left knee.

[+] EnlargeRicky Seals-Jones
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.comRicky Seals-Jones, the top prospect in Texas, is No. 10 overall in the ESPN 150.
Seals-Jones, the nation's No. 1 receiver and No. 10 player in the ESPN 150, is fully recovered from the dislocated kneecap he suffered on Sept. 6 in a game vs. Houston St. Pius X, but the brace is a doctor's order. He wears one for practices and games and a different one the rest of the day when he's walking around. All day, every day, the brace is with him. Sometimes, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound young man gets weary of wearing it and slips it off.

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One of many 2014 prospects who were present at Kyle Field when Texas A&M took on LSU last week was Houston Cypress Falls outside linebacker Otaro Alaka.

The 6-foot-3, 196-pound Alaka has been picking up momentum in recruiting this fall. He recently added offers from Mississippi and Northwestern to add to offers he already had from Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Several other in-state schools are showing interest in Alaka, including Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.


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Q&A: 2014 running back Shaun Nixon 

October, 19, 2012
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Austin (Texas) Lake Travis running back Shaun Nixon and Texas A&M have had mutual interest for awhile. The Aggies have long been interested in the 2014 prospect who stands 5-foot-10, 180 pounds.

The Aggies originally offered Nixon in May but plenty of other schools have taken notice of him too. Baylor, Clemson, SMU and Texas Tech all offered him and several others have shown at least some interest, including Alabama and Texas.

GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr. spoke with Nixon to talk about his upcoming visit plans, who he has been hearing from and more.

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Katy (Texas) Seven Lakes offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch felt good about Texas A&M. The Aggies were the first Texas program to offer the four-star prospect and they were in his top five when he narrowed down his list of schools.

But for now, it appears the Aggies won't be in the mix when Benenoch decides where he's going.

Caleb Benenoch
Max Olson/ESPN.comCaleb Benenoch has a top four of Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor and UCLA.
The 6-foot-6, 321-pound recruit, who had a final five of Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and UCLA, said that the timing won't match up for the Aggies to be in the mix when it's decision time for him. Benenoch told RecruitingNation last week that timing could be a concern because he wants to wait to make a decision after he takes an official visit to UCLA.

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2014 safety John Bonney on the rise 

October, 10, 2012
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For Houston Lamar safety John Bonney, this year has been a little bit of an adjustment.

The 2014 prospect, who traditionally plays safety, has spent a lot of time at cornerback this year. The transition hasn't been much trouble for the 6-foot, 175-pound prospect -- he has three interceptions in the Redskins' first five games.


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