Texas A&M Aggies: Frank Iheanacho

Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans went from relative unknown to bonafide star in college football circles and now is preparing for the NFL draft.

With the sophomore departing early, the Aggies hit the recruiting trail to find someone who they hope could be the next Evans, ESPN 300 receiver Frank Iheanacho.

The comparisons have been drawn for several reasons. The Houston Westside High School product, like Evans, was a varsity basketball player first before deciding to join the varsity football team as a senior and both have impressive size (6-foot-6, 220 pounds) and leaping ability.

We caught up with the U.S. Army All-American to talk about the comparisons and much more.

Q: You recently attended one of Texas A&M's spring football practices and spent some time with coach Kevin Sumlin. How did that go?

[+] EnlargeMarshon Lattimore, Frank Iheanacho
AP Photo/Eric GayFrank Iheanacho could be Texas A&M's replacement for Mike Evans.
Iheanacho: "It was good. I got to see how practice works, chat it up with all the players and get to learn about the offense. It got me more anxious to get there. [Sumlin and I] were just chatting it up. He told me he can't wait until I get down there to play and practice for them."

Q: How big a factor was Sumlin in your decision to sign with Texas A&M?

Iheanacho: "He's the type of coach that you can build a relationship with pretty easily. He's cool to talk to. He understands the game and understands where you're coming from so I felt like the connection is easy to make. The vibe that I got from him was good. He's a coach I want to play for."

Q: What was it like for you to go from virtually unknown in football circles to one of the top 100 recruits in the country and receive the accolades and attention that you did?

Iheanacho: "It was dream come true for me, honestly. I grew up always wanting to be considered one of the best. That's what I worked for. When the moment actually came, it was crazy. I'm still awestruck about everything that happened."

Q: Was it ever overwhelming?

Iheanacho: "Yeah it was definitely overwhelming. You ask yourself a lot of questions. 'How did this happen?' In my situation, coming on so late, 'Do you deserve to have this role?' You just learn to accept it and appreciate everything that you're given."

Q: I know many who followed your recruitment know your backstory, but for those who don't, summarize your journey to the gridiron

Iheanacho: "I grew up as a little kid playing basketball and started playing organized in the eighth grade. I was in the AAU circuit and I worked hard every day trying to get my school paid for. That was the goal. I played football in my freshman and sophomore year but I never really took it seriously. It wasn't something I felt was in my future. I decided I was going to go straight to basketball and focus on that. My friends brought me back [to football] my senior year and it just took off from there."

Q: Many people make the comparison between you and Mike Evans because of your paths. How do you react to that?

Iheanacho: "It's a compliment. He's going to be a great player in my eyes. I'm flattered to have that comparison. At the end of the day, I want people to remember my name and that's what I'm striving for. I want to be a player people look up to and I want to be considered the best."

Q: Did you get to know Mike throughout your recruitment?

Iheanacho: "Yeah. He's a cool dude. He accepted me from the jump. I actually just talked to him [Thursday]. He had great things to say about the program and how things are going to go."

Q: How helpful is it to have that relationship with someone who has gone down the path you're trying to travel?

Iheanacho: "It gives me a positive vibe about what I'm doing in life. I listen to him and the No. 1 think he told me is to listen to [receivers] coach [David] Beaty and he'll steer me in the right direction. That's what I plan to do."

Q: Most people call you by your nickname, "Nacho." How often do folks mispronounce your actual last name?

Iheanacho: (Laughs) "Hundreds of times. But 'Nacho' has been with me since forever."

Q: For those who don't know, how do you say your last name?

Iheanacho: "Eye-HAN-uh-cho"

Q: What have you been doing during the offseason as you prepare for your arrival in Aggieland this summer?

Iheanacho: "I've just been getting ready and prepared for the next season. Just working hard and trying to get better at my craft."

Q: Is playing early a goal that you've set?

Iheanacho: "I set that as a goal. When I come through, I'm going to work hard to achieve that goal."

Position battles to watch: Receiver

February, 17, 2014
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Editor's note: This is the first part of a weeklong series looking at five position battles to watch in spring practice, which begins Feb. 28 for Texas A&M.

In each of the last three seasons, one of Texas A&M's receivers exited after rewriting the record books.

In 2011, Jeff Fuller put his name atop the list several A&M receiving categories: single-season receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches, and he established career records in all three.

In 2012, it was Ryan Swope. He left Aggieland as the school's career leader in catches and receiving yards and was its single-season leader in both categories.

After 2013, Mike Evans declared for early entry into the NFL draft and left the Aggies having broken Swope's single-season mark in both single-season receiving yards and single-game receiving yards, and he tied Fuller for the single-season record for touchdown receptions.

As 2014 approaches, the Aggies will be looking for their next great receiver. When spring practice begins later this month, competition begins for the right to be the go-to guy in the wide-open Aggies offense.

[+] EnlargeMalcome Kennedy
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsWith 60 receptions for 658 yards and seven touchdowns, Malcome Kennedy is Texas A&M's leading returning receiver by far.
The simple question: Who is replacing Evans? The answer is not as easy to discover.

There will be fierce competiton this spring at the outside receiver positions. Sophomores Edward Pope and JaQuay Williams each return after playing a backup role at outside receiver last season. There is also a redshirt freshman, Kyrion Parker, who could quickly become a factor.

Pope had nine catches for 65 yards last season -- including the memorable reception at the end of Johnny Manziel's Houdini act to escape a sack attempt by Alabama's Jeoffrey Pagan on Sept. 14 -- and appeared in nine games last season. Williams had four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown while playing in 10 games last season.

A key figure to watch will be Ricky Seals-Jones. The Aggies had high hopes for his freshman season, but those were derailed by a knee injury that cut his season short. He showed a brief glimpse of his ability with a 71-yard touchdown catch in the season-opening win against Rice and did enough in preseason training camp to earn practice time with the first team. If not for the injury, Seals-Jones appeared poised to be a contributor last season.

Much of his practice time was spent as an inside receiver last fall, though he did get some experience lining up outside, too. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, he has size similar to that of Evans, so he would make sense as the potential option at Evans' old position should the Aggies choose to go that way. But he appears versatile enough to line up anywhere. If the Aggies like the matchup problems he gives defenses, he could be again seeing time as an inside receiver. Where he lines up and how often will be worth watching in the spring.

Most of the other Aggies' young receivers on campus, including LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Jeremy Tabuyo, freshman Speedy Noil and junior Sabian Holmes, all appear to be inside receiver types, so it's unlikely any of them will take Evans' place on the field.

When it comes to production, Malcome Kennedy, a veteran who spent his time as an inside receiver last season, is the returning statistical leader among the Aggies' receivers. After a 60-catch, 658-yard season in which he caught seven touchdowns, it stands to reason he could see an increase in production, but does that also mean he'll become the go-to guy in the offense next season while remaining an inside receiver?

In addition to Noil, an incoming freshman already on campus, junior college transfer Joshua Reynolds (also a mid-term enrollee), 6-foot-7 receiver Frank Iheanacho and 5-foot-8 prospect Jamal Jeffery will also join the fray in 2014. Iheanacho and Jeffery won't be on campus until the summer, but Reynolds will get a chance to prove if he's worthy of early playing time when the Aggies begin spring practice.

In this offense, it's sometimes difficult to know who will emerge. Nobody had Travis Labhart on their radar at this time last year -- especially after he broke his collarbone in spring practice -- yet the former walk-on wound up being a key member of the receiving corps with 51 receptions for 626 yards and eight touchdowns while filling in at all four receiver spots in the offense.

The position battles at all four receiver spots -- not just Evans' outside receiver spot -- will be among the intriguing things to watch when the Aggies begin spring drills at the end of the month.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 6, 2014
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College football recruiting is currently in a dead period, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a ton of recruiting news around the SEC. There were several commitments during the Under Armour and U.S. Army Bowl All-America games, including the top player in the country, Leonard Fournette, announcing his decision. There were also some decommitments and new, important offers were handed out. Here’s the latest news around the SEC.

SEC schools land big commitments: There was a flurry of commitments during and after the All-American games this weekend. SEC schools landed commitments from eight different players during the Under Armour All-America game and the U.S. Army Bowl. Here’s a closer look at who committed where. All eight players were ranked in the top 150 players of the ESPN 300.

RB Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine) -- Committed to LSU over Alabama and Texas.
DT Gerald WIllis III (New Orleans/Edna Karr) -- Committed to Florida over LSU and Alabama.
S Laurence “Hootie” Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) -- Committed to Alabama over LSU and Ole Miss.
ATH Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) -- Committed to Texas A&M over LSU.
WR Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westside) -- Committed to Texas A&M over Missouri, LSU, Oregon and Arkansas.
OL Brian Wallace (Saint Louis/Christian Brothers College HS) -- Committed to Arkansas over Alabama and Missouri.
S Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) -- Committed to LSU over Florida.
DB Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas) -- Committed to Alabama over LSU.

Days after getting a pledge from one dynamic weapon in Speedy Noil, the Aggies add another in Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westside).

How will he fit in College Station? Let's break it down:


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Army Bowl notebook: Jan. 2 

January, 2, 2014
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SAN ANTONIO -- Thursday’s practice session for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl saw players in more of a rhythm on offense, but it also saw defensive players showing their skills. If Thursday is any indication, Saturday’s contest could be a low-scoring affair.

Here are a few notes:

Cannon reaffirms Baylor commitment … again.

For the Baylor fans who read the late-Wednesday tweet coming from ESPN 300 receiver K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), don’t read anything into it.


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ESPN 300 Iheanacho announces top five 

December, 26, 2013
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On a day when gifts are traditionally exchanged, ESPN 300 wide receiver Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westside) gave five schools the hope of receiving a nice gift the first Saturday of the new year.

On Christmas day, Iheanacho announced a top five, in alphabetical order, of Arkansas, LSU, Missouri, Oregon and Texas A&M. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound receiver will announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4.

Iheanacho, the 11th-ranked receiver and the No. 89 overall player in the ESPN 300, said all five schools provide a certain comfort level and offer him a chance to grow on and off the field. Iheanacho also had offers from Florida State, Ole Miss, TCU, Michigan State and several others.

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Big week for ESPN 300 WR Iheanacho 

December, 3, 2013
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Remember when ESPN 300 wide receiver Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westside) thought his future was on the basketball court?

That was during the summer. Fast forward a few months, and Iheanacho is now preparing for in-home visits from three SEC programs this week. Iheanacho, No. 89 in the ESPN 300, will host Arkansas on Tuesday, LSU on Wednesday and Texas A&M on Thursday. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound receiver, a U.S. Army All-American, will announce where he’ll take his talents at the game on Jan. 4 in San Antonio.

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Recruits Watching: Texas A&M at LSU 

November, 22, 2013
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The big game in the SEC this week is the battle in Baton Rouge between No. 12 Texas A&M and No. 22 LSU. As expected with the Top 25 showdown featuring Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, a laundry list of top prospects the two programs are recruiting and battling for are expected to be in attendance.

1. RB Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./Saint Augustine High): The nation's No. 1 prospect is a possibility to attend Saturday's game unofficially. Any time the Tigers take the field against quality opponent is big for LSU in their recruitment, and this is no different. Fournette continues to have LSU and Alabama highest on his list, but Texas A&M is a school he has considered during the process. Fournette visited Texas last weekend and attended the LSU-Alabama game in Tuscaloosa with his family two weekends ago.


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Movers, shakers in updated ESPN 300

October, 29, 2013
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The Class of 2014 has had two months to show what it’s made of on the field. How are the nation’s elite prospects faring as we approach signing day? Here’s a look at the biggest names and notes from the most recent update of the ESPN 300:

The Big Movers

No. 37 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), ILB
Prior ranking: No. 59
The 6-foot-2, 224-pound Garrett jumped more than 20 spots in the rankings as he has added bulk to his frame, and at the same time retaining quickness and his fast-filling, downhill ability. Garrett has impact-type ability with a blend of lateral quickness, discipline and a nose for the ball.

Davion Hall
Max Olson/ESPNAthlete Davion Hall, who is committed to Baylor, jumped 30 spots in the latest update of the ESPN 300.
No. 45 Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), ATH
Prior ranking: No. 75
The 6-2, 194-pound Hall is one of the most impressive athletes in the class. He has a long, stoutly-built frame, is explosive, has physicality filling the alley at safety and very good ball skills at receiver. When he settles into one position at the next level, his upside is very high.

No. 64 Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown), RB
Prior ranking: No. 106
The Georgia commit is putting together a sensational senior campaign with more than 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns through eight games. The 5-11, 217-pound tailback continues to add strength to his compact body structure while maintaining his speed, overall athleticism and ability to bend.

No. 70 Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), DE
Prior ranking: No. 125
The Miami commit has flashed his high-ceiling ability, even though he is playing inside more than half the snaps as a senior. His combination of first-step quickness, arm length and the ability to play with low pad level sets him apart from most ends in the class.

No. 84 Rashaan Evans (Auburn Ala./Auburn), OLB
Prior ranking: No. 150
The 6-3, 217-pound Evans has filled out physically, and displays the quick-twitch burst and speed combination to be a factor off the edge. Evans has been dominant off the edge as a senior with double-digit sacks.

No. 92 Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss./Purvis), WR
Prior ranking: No. 144
The Florida State commit continues to flash the initial quickness, ability to get to top-end speed quickly, ability to play the ball in the air and elusiveness that makes the 6-2, 180-pound wideout one of the top playmakers in the class.

No. 128 Brad Kaaya (Hollywood, Calif./Chaminade College Prep)
Prior ranking: No. 171
The 6-4, 213-pound Miami commit is one the fastest rising quarterbacks in the class. Has added bulk to his tall frame, and continues to show the foot quickness, foot work and quick release that will be demanded of him at the next level.

Other Big Movers

WR Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp): From No. 99 to 49.
Texas A&M ATH commit Nick Harvey (Richmond, Texas/William B. Travis): From No. 101 to 60.
RB Joe Mixon (Berkeley, Calif./Freedom): From No. 100 to 72.
Georgia QB-DT commit Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford): From No. 157 to 94.
Oregon RB commit Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial): From No. 154 to 99.
RB Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock): From No. 176 to 108.
Ole Miss S commit C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian): From No. 201 to 134.
Alabama C commit J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge): From No. 246 to 188.
Georgia DT commit Dontavius Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton): From No. 266 to 201

ESPN 300 debuts
No. 89 Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westbury), WR
The 6-6, 215-pound pass catcher returned to the football field as a senior after playing only basketball as a junior, and has quickly become one of the most coveted uncommitted prospects in the country featuring deceptive initial quickness, and the high-point timing and size to win 50-50 balls in the air.

No. 287 Darrion Owens (Orange Park, Fla./Oakleaf), OLB
The 6-3, 220-pound Owens has transitioned from safety to outside linebacker as a senior without skipping a beat. Long, rangy and with edge-rush ability, the Miami commit is a top senior riser.

No. 295 Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland), WR
The 6-1, 196-pound Georgia commit was a standout at Mark Richt Camp in June. Williams is blessed with straight-line speed, change-of-direction ability, strong hands and the physicality and strength to play through contact.

[+] EnlargeJoe Mixon
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTailback Joe Mixon is ranked No. 72 in the latest update of the ESPN 300.
More Who Moved Into The ESPN 300

Ohio State ATH commit Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus Hall): No. 148.
LSU DE commit Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass): No. 298.
Baylor WR commit Ishmael Zamora (Alief, Texas/Elsik): No. 245
Alabama OLB commit Keith Holcombe (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Hillcrest): No. 284.
DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes): No. 257.
DT Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin): No. 292.
Minnesota RB commit Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn): No. 181.
Virginia Tech DT commit Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel): No. 299.

Injured Reserve

David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North), QB
The Alabama commit suffered a season-ending knee injury. The 6-5, 241-pound Under Armour All-American is No. 44 after being 32nd previously.

Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech), RB
The Tennessee commit suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener, requiring a second shoulder operation in less than a year. The 6-4, 222-pound Hurd is now No. 62 after being 39th.

Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), WR
The 6-3, 172-pound Harris hasn't played this season due to a lingering hamstring issue. The Michigan commit checks in at No. 85 after previously being 72nd.

Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), DT
The 6-6, 295-pound Shaw has been sidelined with a neck injury this season. He checks in at No. 186 after a prior ranking of 82nd.

Sharieff Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Central), OLB
The 6-2, 202-pound Rhaheed missed the first six games of the season before returning to the field in late October. The former LSU commit is No. 260 after being ranked 133rd previously.

Kyle Berger (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius), OLB
The Ohio State commit was sidelined his senior season with an ACL tear. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after being ranked No. 281.

Treyvon Paulk (Milton, Ga./Milton High), RB
The Tennessee running back commitment recently suffered a season-ending knee injury. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after previously being ranked No. 294.

SEC recruiting mailbag

October, 18, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the SEC recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today -- but we encourage you to ask again next week by tweeting your questions to @DerekTysonESPN or @HamiltonESPN and use the hashtag #SECRecruiting.

@lawag97: How will A&M finish out on the recruiting front?

[+] EnlargeMyles Garrett
Courtesy of IntersportMyles Garrett could pick Texas A&M this weekend, putting the Aggies on an upward trajectory.
Gerry Hamilton: I like the Aggies' chances to finish with a top-seven class nationally. Obviously, the last part of the Aggies' class began with the decision of five-star defensive end Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/James Martin) to commit to Texas A&M on Friday. For Kevin Sumlin and staff, getting the No. 7 prospect overall, fills a huge need at defensive end -- not only with a big body at end, but a very athletic player with the frame to carry 275 pounds down the line.

Looking at needs, offensive line is a big one coming down the stretch for the Aggies. There are two offensive linemen currently committed in 2014, after three in 2013. It’s imperative the Aggies sign four offensive linemen in the class, and the staff is looking at both the high school and junior college level, with the most recent offer being Fahn Cooper (Glen Ellyn, Il./College of DuPage). Obviously, juco tackle Avery Gennesy (Southhaven, Miss./East Mississippi Community College) is at the top of the remaining list. Gennesy is to make an official visit to Tennessee this weekend after traveling to Ole Miss last weekend and Texas A&M in September.

Under Armour All-America selection Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton High) is another lineman whom the Aggies covet.

The key player in the class has become senior riser Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westside). Even taller than current star wide receiver Mike Evans, the 6-foot-7, 215-pound Iheanacho has taken a similar path as a senior riser that who has skyrocketed up the boards of college programs in the region. At defensive tackle, Josh Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Har-Ber) is the top target and it is a battle between the Aggies, Arkansas and possibly Alabama. While the Aggies already have a standout class of defensive backs with four very talented prospects committed, winning out for five-star cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) or safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) would be a huge bonus.




@COLEWORLD0: Do you think LSU will make a clean sweep within the state?

Derek Tyson: Considering the No. 3 prospect in the country, Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe), is committed to Alabama, I would say no. As for the remaining ESPN 300 Louisiana targets, even though the odds aren't very good that they will land every player, they certainly have a chance to make a sweep. The top three of Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) includes Florida, Texas A&M and USC, but I still believe LSU will be a major player for Noil in the end. His teammate Gerald Willis III and other top prospects -- including the No. 1-ranked prospect in the country, running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine), wide receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis), safety Laurence "Hootie" Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) and Garrald McDowell (Covington, La./Covington) -- all have a legitimate chance of ending up in LSU's class.




@hunter_ulrich55: Do you think Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central) will keep his commitment to Florida?

DT: Everything Cook says publicly makes it appear he will remain committed to the Gators, but his actions don't indicate the same thing. Cook took an official visit to Texas back in September and will take an official visit to Florida State next weekend and then to Arkansas on Nov. 2. The good news for Florida is that Cook will visit Florida for the FSU game, which is the last game of the regular season. The Gators certainly need a back with his kind of explosiveness, but it won't be an easy task with these other schools coming on strong.




@Mizzoufans4life: Do you think Missouri's on-field success will translate into better recruiting?

DT: It certainly should. Missouri is the only school in the SEC not ranked among the top 40 of the team rankings. That's a little misleading, however. Of Missouri's 24 commitments, 23 of them are ranked three-star prospects or higher. According to our grading scale, a three-star prospect has the chance to be all-conference with development. The Tigers have an explosive offense and an attacking defense that will appeal to recruits. Missouri used to primarily recruit in Big 12 territory, but the Tigers are placing a bigger emphasis in the Southeast, as evident by this year's class, which has nine committed players from Georgia and Florida. With a chance to play on national television almost every week, the Tigers are sure to gain popularity among recruits from all over the South. If they can continue the success they are currently having, it should have a big impact on recruiting as well.

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