NCF On The Trail: Texas A&M Aggies

NEW ORLEANS -- Many said the absolutely loaded 2014 recruiting class in Louisiana would never be matched. Somebody forgot to tell that to the players in 2016 class. The Bayou State is again stacked, and many of those national recruits will be on display at Saturday’s Nike Opening regional at Joe Brown Park. More than 20 players ranked in the ESPN Junior 300 will be in attendance, including nine of the top 20 players in Louisiana.
BUFORD, Ga. - Despite the cold and rainy weather conditions, more than 400 prospects from all over the Southeast made the trip to Buford High School for the Nike The Opening Regional Camp on Sunday.
[+] EnlargeMalik Henry
Miller Safrit/ESPNFlorida State quarterback pledge Malik Henry was among the prospects earning invitations to The Opening.
With less than ideal conditions for throwing the ball, several quarterbacks and wide receivers -- including Malik Henry, David Moore, Josh Imatorbhebehe, Freddie Swain, Tre Nixon and several other players -- had standout performances at the camp. Swain, the No. 214 prospect in the ESPN Junior 300, was one of the most impressive receivers and took home the wide receiver MVP as well as an invitation to The Opening. The 6-foot, 170-pound athlete from Citra (Florida) North Marion High School took advantage of his trip to Atlanta by visiting the University of Georgia on Saturday before attending the Nike camp. The visit turned out to be a success for the talented receiver. “I just got offered by Georgia yesterday on my visit,” Swain said. "It was a lot of fun and I got to meet with coach Richt. He just said to keep working hard and he’ll see me in the spring.”

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Despite being only a sophomore in high school, Jack Anderson has already developed into one of the top offensive linemen in Texas and could easily become the top line target in the nation for the 2017 class.

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Everything is bigger in Texas, especially high school football. That lesson was taught to us once again at Sunday's The Opening regional at Lamar High School.

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D.X. Bible LetterCourtesy of Mark F. Barnes and Harrison J. Allen

Nearly a century before Kevin Sumlin introduced the Swagcopter and Twitter hashtags to College Station, Texas A&M was still at the cutting edge of the recruiting game.

Harrison J. Allen, whose late great grandfather, Dr. Richard Henry "Chicken" Harrison Jr., played for Texas A&M as early as 1917, recently discovered a recruiting letter that then-Aggies coach Dana X. Bible sent to Harrison.

Written Aug. 20, 1919, Bible wrote to Harrison in hopes he would return to the A&M football team for the 1919 season. Allen said Harrison played for the Aggies in 1917 but not in 1918 as many members of the team served the United States in World War I. Harrison served in both World War I and World War II, and Allen said it is his understanding, though he's not 100 percent certain, that 1918 was one of his years of service.

Every one is expected to put politics, business and even their best girl aside and report September 15th, for duty at College Station.

- 1919 Texas A&M recruiting letter

In the letter -- which Allen found in a scrapbook Harrison compiled in the early 1960s -- Bible requests that Harrison report for training camp and says that "Every one is expected to put politics, business, and even their best girl aside and report September 15th, for duty at College Station."

Allen, a 2011 Texas A&M graduate, said Harrison played quarterback, halfback, defense and drop-kicked field goals for the Aggies. The 1919 team went undefeated (10-0) and unscored upon, outscoring its foes a combined 275-0. Bible notes his high expectations in his recruiting letter, stating "I am convinced that the team that beats us will be the champion of the Southwest."

Nobody did.

Bible closed his letter by stating "This is the motto for 1919: 'They Shall Not Pass.'"

"It's truly incredible," Allen said of the letter. "I grew up attending Texas A&M football games more so than any other sporting event. When I saw the letter and read it a couple times, it took a minute to sink in how important it was. The fact that he actually recruited my great grandfather to come back and play and be a part of that undefeated and unscored upon team is quite remarkable."
[+] EnlargeRichard Henry
Courtesy of Harrison J. AllenRichard "Chicken" Harrison was highly sought after by Texas A&M back in 1919.

Harrison graduated Texas A&M in 1920 and was among the first Aggies to earn a doctorate of veterinary medicine. He later became the team doctor for Texas A&M football for 25 years, which spanned the Aggies' 1939 national championship team and Paul "Bear" Bryant's coaching stint in College Station (Harrison is even named in Jim Dent's book, "The Junction Boys," about Bryant's legendary 10-day training camp in 1954).

History and tradition is a pillar of numerous college football programs across the country and those things are especially cherished at Texas A&M. Finding a tangible piece of that history has been particularly special for Allen.

"This letter was an incredible find for me," Allen said. "As a fifth-generation Aggie, I knew that my family had some remarkable ties to Texas A&M but this letter was a surprise."

Ultimate ESPN 300: Who's next? 

February, 20, 2015
Feb 20
It’s never too early to look ahead to next year. Here are seven prospects in the 2015 class who could make their mark in future editions of the Ultimate ESPN 300.

DT Daylon Mack (Texas A&M): Last year it was DE Myles Garrett who made a splash for the Aggies, and Mack is expected to do the same in 2015. While Texas A&M returns some quality young defensive tackles, none has Mack's combination of explosive power and quickness plus the ability to be a disruptive force in the backfield.

S Derwin James (FSU):

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Ultimate ESPN 300: Top surprises in the SEC 

February, 17, 2015
Feb 17
When the Ultimate ESPN 300 was released on Monday, there were some noticeable surprises. Some players shot to near the top of the list early on in their careers, while other players weren’t ranked high coming out of college but now appear on this prestigious list. Here’s a closer look at some of the top surprises in the SEC.

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SEC 2015 recruiting in review 

February, 13, 2015
Feb 13
It was another incredible year of recruiting in the SEC. More than one-third (117 prospects) of the ESPN 300 signed with SEC schools. The conference also signed 12 of the 20 five-star prospects, and 218 four-star prospects. All but two of the 14 SEC schools finished in the top 40 of the final ESPN class rankings. Here is a closer look at the 2015 recruiting cycle in review.

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Quarterback Kyler Murray grabbed all of the headlines at Allen (Texas) High School over the past few seasons, but it’s actually junior offensive tackle Greg Little who is a higher-ranked prospect.

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SEC signing day roundtable: Coach under pressure

February, 10, 2015
Feb 10
There is only one new face among SEC head coaches this year -- Florida’s Jim McElwain -- but a number of the league’s head honchos face increased pressure to perform in 2015.

Continuing this week’s SEC series of post-signing day roundtable discussions, today we’ll examine the conference coaches who are under pressure to make something happen after signing their newest class of recruits.

Edward Aschoff: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Year 4 of the Freeze era is beginning, and expectations are about to explode in Oxford. After being on the cusp of an SEC West title and a spot in the first College Football Playoff, Ole Miss now has to stay in the thick of the title hunts. While Freeze has been enormously successful during his time at Ole Miss, he has now signed three straight top-20 classes, and now the 2013 class (the crown jewel of Freeze’s tenure) will be all grown up. If the bulk of that class is going to bring a championship to Ole Miss, the time is now because the heavy hitters, like Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, will likely head to the NFL after this coming season. There’s too much talent in Oxford for Ole Miss not to compete for a spot in Atlanta, and anything else will be considered a failure.

David Ching: Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
I was tempted to focus on Mark Richt or Les Miles because the natives seem to be getting restless at Georgia and LSU, but let’s go in a different direction. Mason probably needs to get more out of this 2015 class immediately than those two SEC veterans. Last season was a mess at Vandy, with the Commodores failing to put up a good fight in most of their nine losses. Their three wins came against UMass (by three points), Charleston Southern (by one) and Old Dominion (by 14), and they lost by an average of 18 points per game in SEC play. Now Mason enters his second season with two new coordinators (actually he’ll be his own defensive coordinator) and a recruiting class that ESPN ranked No. 44 nationally, dead last in the SEC. Mason told reporters on signing day that he staked his reputation on the quality of this class, which is all well and good. But if the Commodores don’t start looking like a more competent team this fall, I’m not sure Mason’s reputation as a head coach will be too great.

Sam Khan Jr.: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
I think Travis Haney said it best Insider that Sumlin must begin to reap the fruits of the recruiting labor he and his staff have put in over the last three years. The Aggies' classes ranked eighth, fourth and 12th nationally in Sumlin's first three full recruiting cycles, and the team now enters its fourth year in the SEC. He made significant coaching staff changes (including paying a pretty penny for former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis), and overall the Aggies have recruited better than any team in their own state -- which is talent-rich -- since Sumlin has been there. It's time for the recruiting hauls to translate to the standings.

Chris Low: Mark Stoops, Kentucky
As it turns out, the sky didn't fall at Kentucky after the Wildcats lost six commitments in a span of eight days leading up to signing day. Thanks to some hustle by Stoops and his staff, Kentucky was able to plug some of the gaps late and finish with the nation's 43rd-ranked class. The problem was that Stoops reeled in the 20th-ranked class the year before, so expectations were lofty. As Stoops enters his third season at Kentucky -- with a brand-new contract that will pay him an average of $3.57 million per year -- expectations will be equally high on the field. Kentucky will be aiming for its first winning season since 2009. The Wildcats looked like they were on their way in 2014 after starting out 5-1, but wound up losing their last six games.

Greg Ostendorf: Jim McElwain, Florida
All things considered, McElwain deserves credit for this class. He took over two months before signing day and closed with a top-20 class that included five-star prospects Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson. But this class had a chance to be more than solid. It had the potential to be great. Florida missed on a number of homegrown prospects, including Byron Cowart and Jeff Holland, who both decided to leave home to play at Auburn for the man McElwain replaced. The first-year coach deserves a pass for this class, but he can’t keep letting the top players out of the state. Losing battles to Florida State is one thing. Losing battles to Will Muschamp and Auburn is another.

Alex Scarborough: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
The great thing about Steve Spurrier is that you can take him at his word. But this time I think his openness hurt him. By telling reporters he thought he'd stay at South Carolina 2-3 more years, he had to turn some recruits off. I mean, who would commit to a program knowing the head coach wouldn't be there the whole way through? Though his 31-man signing class was solid, coming in at No. 21 overall in the country, it was what was missing that Gamecocks fans should find troubling -- most notably, four-star defensive players Damon Arnette and Arden Key, who both decommitted heading down the stretch. While you have to appreciate Spurrier’s honest assessment of himself, reading a head coach say this has to be jarring: "I don't think I did a very good job of maybe going full-speed as much as we needed as it turned out."

Derek Tyson: Butch Jones, Tennessee
After two top-five recruiting classes in a row, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones now has the talent on his roster to make a move in the SEC East. With Josh Dobbs showing promise last season and several other freshmen having standout years, including Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly Jr., the talent is in place to have a big season on the field this year. Another 7-6 season could have Tennessee fans getting a little restless.
GLADEWATER, Texas -- The text message remains on Coris Mack’s cellphone.

[+] EnlargeDaylon Mack
Ken Murray/Icon SportswireThings are looking up for Texas A&M after it signed five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack on Wednesday.
It was the day news broke that defensive coordinator John Chavis had left LSU for the same position at Texas A&M, and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Daylon Mack tapped out the five-word message to his father that signaled the beginning of his return path to Aggieland.

“This is a true blessing,” the message read.

Mack, who was in Florida at the time preparing for the Under Armour All-America Game (where the five-star defensive tackle eventually won MVP honors), grew excited over Chavis’ arrival at Texas A&M, the school to which Mack was committed for more than a year before decommitting 12 days earlier.

Coris saw it as a sign to his son, who clearly still loved the Aggies despite briefly parting ways with them.

“I said [to Daylon], 'Hey, things are not going to just keep falling in your favor. This is the best setup for you, and you can't ignore that,’” he recalls.

Just more than two weeks later, Daylon Mack silently recommitted to the Aggies. On Wednesday, he made those intentions public and official when the nation’s No. 6 overall prospect signed his letter of intent with Texas A&M.

Most of the buzz and publicity in the weeks leading up to national signing day were reserved for the Aggies’ top offensive recruit, five-star quarterback Kyler Murray. While Murray was undoubtedly the linchpin to Texas A&M’s 2015 recruiting class and maintaining momentum, Mack might be the most important signee for the defensively deficient Aggies.

Since Kevin Sumlin’s arrival prior to the 2012 season, the Aggies’ calling card has been their high-powered offense. However, you can’t win the SEC, or a national championship, without defense, and the Aggies are well aware of that. In the past two seasons, Texas A&M ranked last in the SEC in yards allowed per game and rushing defense. As a result, Sumlin made a change at defensive coordinator, dismissing Mark Snyder and hiring Chavis, who has more than two decades of experience in the conference.

The Aggies need players like Mack to climb out of the SEC's defensive cellar. At 6-foot-1, 330-pounds, Mack possesses tremendous lower body strength and excellent quickness for his size. The Aggies need all the quality talent and depth at defensive tackle that they can get their hands on to sustain a quality SEC defense long term.

Adding Mack to a young defensive line group that includes breakout star Myles Garrett and three other sophomores-to-be who saw playing time on the defensive line gives the Aggies a nice foundation for the future, as do the other defensive line prospects in their 2015 haul (ESPN 300 defensive end James Lockhart and defensive tackle Kingsley Keke).

“I saw what Coach Chavis did with the LSU defense, which was really young talent,” Mack said. “A&M has young talent. ... The players that they have on defense, he said they aren't that far off. I definitely believe him.”

Mack was long a priority recruit for Sumlin and the Aggies. They were the first to offer a scholarship to the East Texas standout more than two years ago, in the middle of his sophomore season at Gladewater High. Dozens of offers followed in the coming months, but Aggieland blew him away from the start, during both his first unofficial visit for a game in the fall of 2012 and for a junior day visit in early 2013.

He wanted to commit to the Aggies right away. His parents, Coris and Geraci, advised he wait, considering he hadn’t visited other schools.

“I remember telling my parents that I wanted to commit,” Daylon Mack said. “It was hard [to wait]. Sometimes I wish I would've went ahead and waited the whole way through. But I really wouldn't take anything back that I did. I like where I am right now.”

He initially committed Oct. 21, 2013, but even when he did, there were ebbs and flows in the recruitment. Mack showed interest in other schools and a desire to visit them then seemed to pause those plans when Murray committed on May 28, 2014.

When Sumlin fired Snyder, Mack, like the rest of the Aggies’ defensive commitments and targets, monitored the defensive coordinator search closely. When it took longer than some anticipated, Mack's patience waned and he decommitted on Dec. 19, hours after ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson -- seemingly a longtime Aggie lean -- chose Texas over Texas A&M.

Mack, who wanted to be surrounded with elite talent, discovered that five-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield, another priority A&M target, wouldn’t be signing either (opting for Alabama), so Mack jumped ship.

“It was difficult,” Mack said. “It was that uncertainty [surrounding the defensive coordinator search], losing Malik. I messaged Kendall, so I knew we were losing out on Kendall too. Those are guys that I felt were going to be impact players with me. I felt like I owed myself the opportunity to step back.”

Sumlin didn’t lash out at Mack, but simply told him that when he got his defensive coordinator they would talk again. They did, and though Mack explored his options at TCU and Texas, things began looking up when the Aggies nabbed “The Chief.”

“I think the addition of John Chavis did nothing but help solidify his commitment,” Sumlin said.

Mack silently recommitted during his official visit to Texas A&M on Jan. 16 (“By now you know I keep secrets pretty well,” Sumlin said Wednesday), and he showed Chavis the text message he sent his father weeks earlier. He said Chavis got emotional when he saw it.

“I was like, 'Wow, Coach,’” Mack said. “That let me know what kind of person he is. He's passionate about what he does, and I am too. I almost got emotional with him. I could tell that was a big deal to him.

“That showed me what kind of coach he was, and those are the type of people I want to play for."

Completed class: Texas A&M Aggies

February, 4, 2015
Feb 4
Texas A&M has announced its 2015 class:

Daylon Mack DT -- Gladewater High School, Texas
Kyler Murray QB-DT -- Allen High School, Texas

ESPN 300
Christian Kirk WR -- Saguaro High School, Arizona
James Lockhart DE -- Ennis High School, Texas
Larry Pryor Jr. S -- Sulphur Springs High, Texas
Kemah Siverand WR -- Cypress Ridge High School, Texas
Justin Dunning S -- Whitehouse High School, Texas
Trevor Elbert OT -- Rockwall-Heath High School, Texas
Jordan Davis TE-Y -- Clear Lake High School, Texas
Roney Elam CB -- Newton High School, Texas
Connor Lanfear OT -- Hays High School, Texas

Justin Evans S -- Mississippi Gulf Coast Comm College
Damion Ratley WR -- Blinn College, Texas

Jay Bradford RB -- Splendora High School, Texas
Kingsley Keke DT -- George Ranch High School, Texas
Deshawn Capers-Smith ATH -- Warren Easton High School, Louisiana
Keaton Sutherland OT -- Marcus High School, Texas

Richard Moore OLB -- Cedar Hill High School, Texas
Kendall Bussey RB -- Isidore Newman School, Louisiana
Landis Durham OLB -- Plano East Sr. High School, Texas
Claude George Jr. OLB -- Hutchinson Community College, Louisiana
Riley Garner OLB -- A & M Consolidated High, Texas
Daniel LaCamera K -- East Lake High School, Florida
Erik McCoy OT -- Lufkin High School, Texas
Dwaine Thomas OLB -- Hahnville High School, Louisiana
Daylon Mack, Will SuttonESPN, Icon SportswireNo. 6 recruit Daylon Mack has a game that is reminiscent of former Arizona State star DT Will Sutton.
Daylon Mack, No. 6 in the ESPN 300 and the No. 3-ranked defensive tackle prospect, committed to Texas A&M over TCU and Texas on Wednesday, live on ESPNU in a ceremony at Gladewater High in Texas. The 2015 Under Armour All-America Game MVP was a longtime commit to the Aggies before decommitting Dec. 19. He followed with official visits to College Station and Austin to check out rival Texas before deciding on the Aggies following in-home visits late last week.

[+] EnlargeDaylon Mack
Ken Murray/Icon SportswireNo. 6 recruit Daylon Mack committed to Texas A&M on signing day.
Commitment impact: This is a huge win for Texas A&M and head coach Kevin Sumlin. Not only is Mack a potential difference-maker at a premium position of need, but the East Texas product is a head-to-head win over Texas and TCU. With the Longhorns fighting to regain lost momentum in the state, it’s imperative for the Aggies to continue winning the battles for players like this. Mack is expected to come in and challenge for a starting defensive tackle spot from day one in College Station.

What he brings:

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Watch: Kevin Sumlin talks Aggies' 2015 signing day

February, 4, 2015
Feb 4
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin joins ESPN's Kayce Smith to discuss the advantages to recruiting as an SEC program and challenges the Aggies have faced leading to signing day.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

February, 3, 2015
Feb 3
With national signing day only one day away, it is officially crunch time in recruiting. While some schools hosted several underclassmen for their junior day events, other schools hosted several official visitors in hopes of getting last-minute additions to their 2015 classes. Here is a closer look at some of the top news from around the SEC this weekend.

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