Editor’s note: It’s a make-or-break year for Kevin Sumlin in his fifth season as coach of Texas A&M. His staff is loaded with experience and the roster is arguably the most talented it has been since his arrival in 2012.
During the next few weeks, SEC Country takes a look at the 25 most important Aggies who will determine whether Texas A&M is destined for success or doomed for failure in 2016.
No. 13: Otaro Alaka, LB
Texas A&M recruited Alaka as a 4-star linebacker from Houston, and he signed as a member of the 2014 class. At one time a verbal commitment to the Texas Longhorns, the 6-foot-3 prospect flipped his decision to Texas A&M just under two weeks before National Signing Day.
As a freshman, Alaka got his feet under him early, adjusting with little issue to the speed of the college game. Alaka earned starts in the final five games of the regular season, but his best showing came during the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against West Virginia. Alaka recorded seven tackles and was named Defensive MVP in the 45-37 victory.
His sophomore year was a different story, as he struggled to see the field due to injury. After missing the Week 7 contest against Alabama, coach Kevin Sumlin announced that Alaka would miss the remainder of the season with a torn labrum. He finished 2015 with appearances in three games.
Alaka received a medical redshirt for 2015, allowing him to enter this season still in his sophomore season of eligibility. He has added about 10 pounds to his playing weight during the offseason, now checking in at about 240 pounds.
His health will be critical to the Aggies this season, both as an individual talent as well as an invaluable contributor to team depth. The Aggies suffered heavy attrition at linebacker since 2013, and can’t afford to lose the healthy bodies they have at the position.
Currently, Alaka is projected to start at middle linebacker, splitting time at the position with senior Claude George.
Check out previous entries from this series below, and be sure to bookmark SEC Country’s Texas A&M Facebook page and return daily to see the newest names on the list.
No. 25: Shane Tripucka
No. 24: Trayveon Williams
No. 23: Justin Dunning
No. 22: Priest Willis
No. 21: Claude George
No. 20: Nick Harvey
No. 19: James White
No. 18: Zaycoven Henderson
No. 17: Avery Gennesy
No. 16: Richard Moore
No. 15: Speedy Noil
No. 14: Kingsley Keke
No. 13: Otaro Alaka
Up next: A former Sooner ready to run in Aggies backfield