A&M haul impressive, but just a start in SEC

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Coming into national signing day it was already clear that Texas A&M had hauled in one of its best classes in years, perhaps in school history.

When the dust settled and it added one more player to the fold -- four-star defensive end Daeshon Hall, who flipped from Washington to the Aggies -- that much was still true. Every A&M commit that received a letter of intent signed on the dotted line.

Once the fax machine at the Bright Football Complex stopped, the result was a top-10 class.

But A&M coach Kevin Sumlin made it clear, as a member of the Southeastern Conference, that this class can only be a beginning for Texas A&M if it wants long-term success.

"We're still playing catch up in the SEC," Sumlin said. "I just came from upstairs and on ESPN we're ranked eighth in the country in recruiting. Then I look up at the next page and we're like fifth in our league. We're getting there, but we still have a ways to go."

Sumlin is right -- Alabama (No. 1), Florida (No. 2), Mississippi (No. 5) and LSU (No. 7) all finished ahead of the Aggies in this year's ESPN class rankings. But the Aggies recruited on the level of the other SEC big dogs, thanks in large part to the success it had in year one in its new conference.

The Aggies finished with 32 total players -- 31 signees and one transfer. Nine players are already on campus taking classes and working out in preparation for spring football. The other 23 signed on Wednesday, with Hall's signature putting a cherry on top of the class.

There are many reasons that Texas A&M was able to pull in a class of this caliber.

"Everything matters," Sumlin said. "Moving to the SEC is part of it. Not just being in the SEC but being able to compete and winning some meaningful games in the SEC, finishing up the year the way we did playing in Dallas [against] Oklahoma and winning a bowl game. Not just the Heisman, but the Outland Trophy, being in Orlando for those awards, that's a big deal. New York, all that stuff helps. There's really not one thing that you can say accounts for that."

Major needs were addressed. At receiver, where there are three senior starters graduating, four total scholarship seniors leaving and one freshman contributor who likely won’t be back, the Aggies hauled in six players to replace them, headlined by the ESPN 150 trio of Ricky Seals-Jones, Sebastian LaRue and LaQuvionte Gonzalez.

At linebacker, where two senior starters graduated, there are three possible immediate-impact players in Reggie Chevis, Tommy Sanders and Brett Wade, all of whom are already on campus as early enrollees in addition to A.J. Hilliard, who is also on campus after transferring from TCU. That doesn't even count ESPN 300 linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni, a former Oklahoma commit, and three-star prospect Darian Claiborne, who will likely fit in as a weakside linebacker.

And perhaps the most important area the Aggies attacked, particularly in the SEC, was the defensive line. Four defensive tackles are in the class, led by ESPN 150 prospect Justin Manning and ESPN 300 prospect Isaiah Golden. There are six defensive linemen in the class when you add defensive ends Hall and Jay Arnold.

"That was a real emphasis this year," Sumlin said. "One year into the SEC, it's very obvious to me that this is a line of scrimmage league. For us to be the program or the team we want to be, we need to increase our size and increase the profile of our team height-wise and we need depth. You look at this list and six defensive linemen and six linebackers, that's a quick way to do that. Some of these guys we're going to need to play next year and I don't know who."

While not every domino fell the Aggies way on Wednesday -- the Aggies would have liked to have added ESPN 300 defensive end Torrodney Prevot, a USC commitment who was considering Texas A&M but flipped to Oregon instead -- the already impressive class came together well for Sumlin and his staff overall. And Hall's addition was a good way to end it.

"This was probably in 20-something years of coaching, the least stressful signing day," Sumlin said. "The guys we had committed all signed up. I'm a big believer in that you can never lose what you never had. Daeshon was committed to Washington and it was just a deal where he felt comfortable here."