Recruiting well is never a bad thing. Since Kevin Sumlin took over in 2012, Texas A&M has reeled in five top-15 recruiting classes. But despite the influx of talent, the Aggies have seen more turnover than ever.
This offseason was a perfect example. Thirteen players on the opening day two-deep roster graduated. However, several expected returnees left too. Three declared early entry for the 2017 NFL Draft; two went undrafted. Four other underclassmen opted to transfer.
|Reggie Chevis||Defensive line||Transfer||Houston|
|Myles Garrett||Defensive end||NFL draft||Cleveland Browns|
|James Lockhart||Defensive end||Transfer||Baylor|
|Kirk Merritt||Wide receiver||Transfer||East Mississippi CC|
|Speedy Noil||Wide receiver||NFL draft||Seattle Seahawks|
|Ricky Seals-Jones||Wide receiver||NFL draft||Arizona Cardinals|
With all the attrition, Texas A&M must replace plenty of depth on offense and defense. The recruiting class is a good way to look at where the staff’s priorities lie.
Texas A&M signed nine 4-star athletes, with five enrolling early. Four were either linebackers or wide receivers. Two others who will join the program this summer are safeties. Sumlin will not have the luxury of redshirting many of these guys — they have to contribute immediately.
The Aggies signed the No. 12 class in the nation, with 28 members and nine enrollees. All nine players will compete for immediate playing time.
As opposed to previous years, the Aggies desperately require wide receiver help. Six of the top seven wide receivers from last season are gone to the NFL or graduation. Christian Kirk is easily the best on the roster, but other players must step up to replace Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones.
Four-star receiver Jhamon Ausbon is the most likely to do it right away. Ausbon was the top offensive prospect at vaunted IMG Academy last season. He caught 18 passes for 399 yards and 5 touchdowns for the No. 2 team in the nation. He joins Quartney Davis and Kirk as likely starters; Davis redshirted last season.
But while Ausbon is likely ready to be a lead contributor, the rest of the class must help with depth. Two other wide receiver signees enrolled early: Hezekiah Jones and Roshauud Paul. Camron Buckley will join the group in June.
There are a few upperclassmen receivers who will play. Damion Ratley should get significant snaps after losing his spot in the rotation as a sophomore. The Aggies also used tight ends in the passing game in the spring scrimmage — that should help.
Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel could make huge contributions at quarterback. Former junior college transfer Jake Hubenak is the only quarterback with experience. Hubenak will likely be the backup to whichever player wins the job, but young players are always necessary. Texas A&M has become famous for crazy quarterback attrition.
Like with the issues at quarterback, Texas A&M struggled mightily to build linebacker depth. Leading tackler Shaan Washington is gone to the NFL and Moore left to transfer. Top reserve Claude George graduated two years after transferring from junior college.
That leaves numerous openings. Top recruit Anthony Hines is expected to fill one hole. Hines had more than 600 tackles at Plano East High School while playing in the top classification in Texas. Expect Hines to start in Washington’s place. Otaro Alaka is also back — he had a breakout 2016 campaign.
But after that, there’s plenty of unknowns. Tyrel Dodson and Dwaine Thomas will be among the top backups. Converted safety Justin Dunning could start in Moore’s spot.
However, Texas A&M recruited three linebackers total: Hines, Santino Marchiol and Devodrick Johnson. The latter is probably not ready to contribute at an SEC level. Marchiol — an IMG Academy product — has experience playing against college-level athletes.
Texas A&M also has major depth concerns at defensive end; it’s unclear where those ultimately will be resolved. JUCO defensive end Micheal Clemons and high school prospect Tyree Johnson are the lone signees. Most of the defensive end options are on campus.
Texas A&M has one of the more talented rosters in the SEC, but turnover complicates its roster construction. It’s dangerous to build a team’s foundational depth on 18- and 19-year-olds. Unfortunately, Sumlin might not have a choice.