COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Some people might not believe it, but Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says he knows the rules.
As the Aggies' recruiting class swells on the heels of its first year as a Southeastern Conference member -- an 11-2 campaign capped by a 41-13 whipping of Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Saturday -- observers continue to ask how the Aggies can have so many players in their 2013 recruiting class.
Currently, Texas A&M has 35 commitments in the class, picking up two over the weekend in the form of ESPN 300 receiver Tony Stevens, who announced on Saturday at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl that he was A&M-bound, and ESPN 300 inside linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni, who was committed to Oklahoma since June before flipping to the Aggies on Sunday night.
Before the Cotton Bowl, when meeting with the media on Dec. 19 -- the same day that mid-year junior college recruits could sign letters of intent -- Sumlin made it known that he has heard the chatter and allegations that the Aggies are going to "oversign" or exceed the 25-signee per year limit that the SEC has adopted.
"There was a big joke on Twitter today that I had hired Houston Nutt as our recruiting coordinator," Sumlin said that day. "You guys think that's hilarious, don't you?
"With the number of signees, what people are figuring out finally is that we've got a number of mid-year signees and a number of spots that are open. We've got some high school guys that are going to graduate early and enroll, which the SEC rule is 25. As opposed to popular opinion, I do know the rules and we're not going to oversign the 25 in February."
The rule Sumlin is referring to is an exception in the SEC bylaws to the yearly 25-man limit for players who enroll in the middle of an academic year, such as mid-year junior college prospects or high school players who graduate in December to enroll in college early.
Article 126.96.36.199 of the SEC bylaws states that a recruit who signs and is included in the school's counter limits for the current academic year, that recruit is not subject to the 25-member signing limit. Basically, it means the school can count that recruit to the previous class rather than the upcoming class, because he enrolled in school for the current academic year.
The Aggies will have nine players in the class count as exceptions. Four were mid-year junior college prospects who signed letters of intent in December: tight end Cameron Clear, linebacker Tommy Sanders, linebacker Kenny Flowers and offensive tackle Jeremiah Stuckey. One was a prep school prospect who signed a letter of intent: receiver Ja'Quay Williams. The other four are December high school graduates who will enroll for January classes: linebacker Reggie Chevis, defensive tackle Jordan Points, running back Alex Sezer and linebacker Brett Wade.
Prospects can be counted back so long that no year exceeds the 25-man signing limit instituted by the SEC. In the 2012 class, the Aggies had 19 signees, but four were early enrollees. Only three of those four could count against 2011, when the Aggies had 22 signees.
So by adding those three spots to the six already available in the 2012 class, that left the Aggies with room for nine mid-year prospects. If the Aggies are to do as Sumlin says and not sign over 25 in February, that means the Aggies can have a total of 34 players in the 2013 class.
With the Aggies sitting at 35 commitments and less than a month to go until signing day, there will still be movement in the class. Attrition could come from players who won't meet academic qualifications or committed players decide to decommit, as Cedar Hill (Texas) High School receiver Quincy Adeboyejo did on Sunday night. And the Aggies still have their eyes on a few targets heading into the final weeks of 2013 recruiting.