COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- One game does not a recruiting class make.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin knows and understands this. So when thinking about the impact that the Aggies' clash with Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4 might have on recruiting, Sumlin prefers to look at the body of work the Aggies have put together this season rather than the results that will play out that day.
"I think people make a lot out of one game when it comes to recruiting," Sumlin said. "Very few guys that I have recruited have ever gone in and told their dad, 'You know what, Dad, I'm going to go to whoever wins this game tonight.' That doesn't really happen that much, but what does happen is over the course of time you build your brand."
The building of Texas A&M's brand is something that has happened rather quickly this season. With the Aggies going 10-2 in their first season of Southeastern Conference play, having a Heisman Trophy winner in Johnny Manziel and reaching the top 10 in the national rankings, the Aggies have very quickly become a force.
That much can be seen by their 2013 recruiting class, which has 34 commitments, five of whom signed letters of intent during the mid-year junior college signing period, which began Dec. 19. Those five were receiver Ja'Quay Williams, tight end Cameron Clear, linebackers Kenny Flowers and Tommy Sanders and tackle Jeremiah Stuckey.
"The junior college guys -- you guys know who they are," Sumlin said. "They're impact guys for us in positions of need. The reason that we were able to go out and recruit them from all over the country -- whether it was San Francisco, Arizona Western, you name it, Fork Union, that's east-to-west coast -- is because I think our brand has grown. I think guys understand where we're headed as a program. We go out, particularly from a junior college player or a prep school guy, we're looking to fill a hole. Those guys understand that, and that's why the quality of those guys to come into our program, we need that. I said, 'We need to upgrade our talent level, and we need to upgrade the profile of our team,' and I think the mid-year guys bring that to the table. And it gives them an advantage to come in here and compete in the spring and to go through Larry Jackson's whole workout and through spring practice. Those guys are trying to get on the field next year."
Texas A&M's class is ranked seventh in the country currently, and some serious punch has been added in the last few months, both in the 2013 and 2014 classes. Some of the highest-ranked players in the 2013 class and highly-touted players in the 2014 class are considering -- and even choosing -- the Aggies.
Oklahoma has built its brand well over the years, Sumlin said. That's where the Aggies are trying to get.
"Oklahoma has done a great job of that over time, and we're trying to catch up quickly," Sumlin said. "I think that us being in the SEC and having a strong year has built our brand very, very quickly. Either way, like I said, it gets back to playing meaningful games. This team, as I said earlier, has done that in putting us in a position to do that in the SEC. That's what brings you to Jan. 4 and playing Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, and that's why that game becomes meaningful -- because of the atmosphere, because everything that's there, and it's still going to be a great venue and a great game."