NCF On The Trail: James Lockhart

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."
National signing day, and the build up to it, is as close as Texas and Texas A&M get to actual football competition these days, to see who will in fact “run this state.”

Well, right now it’s neither school. The Lone Star State is run by Baylor and TCU, the Big 12 co-champs that narrowly missed the initial College Football Playoff field.

That’s why the 2015 recruiting class and the season are so vital to both the Longhorns and Aggies, with each power striving to re-establish itself -- not just regionally, but nationally.

Texas and Texas A&M lead off our look at programs and coaches that need the 2015 class to pay off, and the sooner the better.

(Note: The RecruitingNation ranking and number of commitments are updated as of Sunday evening.)

1. Texas
Ranking: 9
Commitments: 26

The Longhorns have secured a number of solid, team-building pieces in this class, and a few high-end targets -- DT Daylon Mack and RB Soso Jamabo, among them -- remain distinct possibilities to sign with Texas this week.

Still, Wednesday

Best of the visits: SEC

September, 28, 2014
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There were some great games around the SEC over the weekend. Several prospects attended games while others watched on television and used social media as a platform to share their experiences. Here's a look at some of the top social media posts from the weekend:

ESPN 300 tight end and Texas A&M commit Jordan Davis tweeted out a photo of himself with three other ESPN 300 Aggies commits: James Lockhart, Larry Pryor and Justin Dunning. The four players were in attendance for Texas A&M’s thrilling 35-28 overtime win against Arkansas Saturday afternoon.

 

Four-star athlete DeAndre McNeal looks as if he also enjoyed his time in Arlington, Texas, for the Aggies game. The talented prospect tweeted a photo of himself with former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel's family members. McNeal is also scheduled to visit UCLA, Miami and Oklahoma State later this year.

 

Georgia picked up a huge commitment from ESPN Junior 300 defensive end Chauncey Manac Saturday. Manac also visited Georgia for its big win over Tennessee. He is the third 2016 commit for the Bulldogs, and all three are ranked in the ESPN Junior 300.

 

The seventh-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, Deontay Anderson, took an unofficial to Auburn Saturday for its 45-17 win over Louisiana Tech. This photo was captured on one of his social media accounts by ESPN national recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton.

 

The No. 1-ranked running back in the country, Damien Harris, visited Kentucky this weekend for the Wildcats' 17-7 win over SEC East foe Vanderbilt. A fan captured this photo of Harris hanging out with Kentucky commit Eli Brown. Harris also tweeted about his experience in Lexington.

 

LSU 2017 commitment Dylan Moses posed for a photo at midfield at Tiger Stadium on Saturday while on an unofficial visit to watch LSU pound New Mexico State 63-7. Moses' father, Edward Moses, tweeted the photo.

 

Aggies get ESPN 300 DE Lockhart 

July, 25, 2014
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ENNIS, Texas -- Texas A&M's red-hot recruiting streak continued Friday with the addition of an ESPN 300 player at an always-needed position.

James Lockhart IV announced in front of family, classmates and educators at Ennis High School that he was going to College Station and joining Kevin Sumlin's growing 2015 class. Lockhart, the top-ranked defensive end in Texas, chose the Texas A&M Aggies over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Texas A&M Aggies' momentum on the trail continued Friday with the addition of defensive end James Lockhart. Below, see how the ESPN 300 prospect fits into Texas A&M's plans:


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Charlie Strong has a Texas-sized problem on his hands.

When a new coach is hired, especially at a place like The University of Texas, it usually creates excitement with prospects and high school coaches on the recruiting trail. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, that buzz isn’t there. With the addition of ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge on Thursday, Texas A&M further tightened its grip on the top talent in the Lone Star State.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Eric GayCharlie Strong still has nearly eight months to bolster his 2015 recruiting class.
Lodge’s pledge gives A&M three of the top eight players in Texas and positions the Aggies for a run that could include four of the top five and five of the top 10.

On the other hand, the Longhorns, whose 2015 class is ranked No. 11 in ESPN's rankings, are struggling within their home state. Texas has yet to gain a commit from a top-10 in-state player. To make matters worse, Strong’s staff is losing commits to conference rivals and SEC powers in Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, LSU and Oklahoma.

“In the state of Texas, A&M has taken over,” Cedar Hill (Texas) High School coach Joey McGuire said. “Through what coach [Kevin] Sumlin has done and then what Johnny Manziel did to help put that school in such a great position, it's helped them move to whole different level. They're the hot thing going right now. It's hard to beat, even for a program like Texas.”

As any Texas fan will tell you, there’s nothing worse than losing to the hated Aggies. The recruiting beatdown could continue as A&M is in good position with cornerback Kendall Sheffield, linebacker Malik Jefferson, defensive end James Lockhart and cornerback Kris Boyd -- all ESPN 300 prospects strongly considering playing in College Station.

A Big 12 assistant who recruits in the Lone Star State said he could see that Texas would have problems on the recruiting trail the minute Strong announced his staff. The assistant praised Strong for luring Joe Wickline away from Oklahoma State and believes his addition will help the Longhorns find some hidden gems along the offensive line. But after that, the assistant said it was hardly the all-star cast many thought Strong could assemble, given the school’s resources.

“I thought [Strong] needed to bring in guys that can stand toe-to-toe against A&M, LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma and all the other top teams that recruit in Texas,” the coach said. “He needed guys that had deep ties with the high school coaches in Texas. Instead, he got a lot of coaches that can win recruiting battles against Cincinnati, UCF and teams like that. This is the Big 12, not the AAC.”

In defense of the Longhorns, Strong did retain Bruce Chambers, who is entering his 17th season in Austin and has connections with high school football in the state. He also hired Les Koenning, a 1981 Texas graduate who is entering his 34th year of coaching after previous stops at Mississippi State, South Alabama, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU, Houston, Duke, Rice and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Replacing Mack Brown wasn’t going to be easy. Replacing the relationships he so tirelessly built with Texas high school coaches will take some time.

All of this has made Strong’s job of recruiting local talent more difficult than most assumed it would be when he was first hired six months ago. But all is not lost. There has been no shortage of effort from the Longhorns’ staff, and Strong can sway some recruits with a simple formula this fall: winning.

“If Charlie Strong comes out and wins, there might be another flip,” McGuire said. “If they can come out and surprise some people this year and win games, then they’re going to be the hot team with recruits. Winning and losing is going to make a big part of those schools' recruiting classes.”
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Whether or not it’s fair to say ESPN 300 quarterback and Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray is a pied piper is still to be determined. As good as he has been in high school -- two state championship rings, invitations to the Elite 11 finals and The Opening and nearly two dozen scholarship offers -- he has yet to play a down of college football.

But for an athlete who turns 17 in August, the expectations are incredible for Murray, who is the nation's top-ranked quarterback in the 2015 class. Watch him play and it makes sense. His drive to be the best is infectious, and his refuse-to-lose attitude has not only attracted coaches from coast to coast but also made them look past his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame.

More important, Murray has other recruits -- on offense and defense -- wanting to be his future teammate.

The Kyler Murray effect is real, and it’s something the Aggies hope to benefit from this summer.


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Texas spring game draws loaded list 

April, 18, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong’s #letsride movement is picking up momentum, and it’s going to the next level on Saturday at Texas’ Orange-White spring game.

Strong and his coaching staff already have picked up seven verbal commitments since taking over and could have a chance to lock up a few more at the annual spring game. As many as 100 prospects from the 2014, 2015, 2016 and even 2017 classes are expected to be on the sidelines and in the stands for the unofficial first game of the Strong era.

The highlight of that lengthy list? Texas is expected to receive unofficial visits from the following members of the newly released ESPN 300:

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TTU-OSU reax: Teams focusing on 2015s 

November, 3, 2013
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With their 2014 classes almost full, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are focusing on landing a couple of key 2015 targets. Texas Tech hosted several 2015 players who both schools are keeping an eye on.

One of those players is ESPN Junior 300 running back Chris Warren (Rockwall, Texas/Rockwall). Ranked No. 122 in the ESPN Junior 300 -- and the No. 10 running back nationally -- Warren made the trip to Lubbock, Texas, and said he will continue to monitor both programs.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

October, 14, 2013
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Last week wasn’t full of commitments for Big 12 programs, but it did yield an important verbal pledge for one team in Oklahoma. Speaking of Texas’ neighbor to the north, the Sooners suffered their first loss to the Longhorns in four years on Saturday. A look at why that victory was so important for UT and who exactly that commitment was is in this week’s Big 12 weekend wrap.

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Big 12 recruiting storylines: Oct. 10 

October, 10, 2013
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The Big 12 has a big weekend ahead in Dallas and Texas Tech is surging. Here’s a look at some of the Big 12’s top recruiting storylines.

Big names set to attend Red River Rivalry
There is never a season, regardless of what type of shape either program is in, that the Cotton Bowl won’t be filled with some of the most desirable recruits in the country.

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SEC the difference for 2015 DE Lockhart 

August, 1, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The dilemma ESPN Junior 300 defensive end James Lockhart (Ennis, Texas/Ennis) faces these days is one several of the state’s top prospects are familiar with.

Just how much is SEC status worth when comparing big-time programs?

Lockhart, the No. 98 prospect in the class of 2015, has two schools atop his list so far: Texas A&M and Texas.


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If it wasn’t clear before that the days of Texas staying within its borders to recruit was long gone, then maybe its latest defensive end offer amplifies that point.


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