A&M doing its recruiting homework

Texas A&M wants to build the ideal Southeastern Conference football player.

Not literally, but the Aggies, just a week after officially announcing their exodus from the Big 12, are deep in study about the physical characteristics of successful players in the SEC.

The research may guide A&M to alter its path in recruiting, reshaping its roster to fit the powerful conference that welcomes the Aggies into membership next July.

The initial findings? Recruit bigger inside linebackers and defensive linemen to tackle the league's bigger running backs. Oh, yeah, and the Aggies need some of those, too.

"I'm not saying we're going to totally change what we're looking for," said Tim Cassidy, A&M associate athletic director for football who oversees recruiting in addition to his other administrative duties, "but I do think you're going to have find guys who fit the profile."

In other words, the desire remains for playmakers like 180-pound running back Trey Williams of Houston, an A&M pledge for 2012 ranked No. 131 in the ESPNU 150. But the Aggies also want to make decisions in recruiting with the SEC style of play in mind, according to Cassidy.

Already, they've determined that the average SEC running back weighs 220 to 226 pounds, some 14 to 16 pounds heavier than backs in the Big 12.

It's all part of a Texas A&M transition full of unique challenges in recruiting. Just because Nebraska made certain decisions in leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten or because Pittsburgh may make changes as it prepares to move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference, little of it impacts the Aggies' plan.

Primarily, Texas A&M will not much alter the area from which it draws most recruits.

The current A&M roster lists 106 players from Texas, eight from Louisiana and no more than one recruited from any other state.

"I think there are some new possibilities," Cassidy said. "The junior colleges in Mississippi are something to look at. But when you recruit Texas and Louisiana, those are two of the most fertile grounds we could find, so we want to make sure we do a thorough job there."

Even with the respected SEC patch on its uniform, A&M won't push to go national in recruiting, Cassidy said. Regardless, since the move was rumored in August, prospects from every corner of the country have contacted the school. And of course, A&M is open to find new sources of talent.

"I don't think anybody's going to decommit to us because we're going to the SEC," Cassidy said. "And I need to tell you we're glad we've got some scholarships available, because the interest has been very high."

A&M's class of 21 commitments ranks ninth nationally and includes four members of the ESPNU 150. In addition to Williams, there's linebacker Jordan Richmond (Denton, Texas/Billy Ryan) and No. 103, quarterback Matt Davis (Houston/Klein Forest) at No. 107 and 134th-ranked Bralon Addison (Missouri City, Texas/Hightower), recruited as an athlete.

Cassidy has orchestrated most of the planning for next year and beyond as coach Mike Sherman remains focused on 2011.

The attention devoted to the SEC move has not served as a distraction for the Aggies, Sherman said. At least, he said, he doesn't think it's affected his players' focus.

"I don't think I'm being naïve about it," Sherman said.
"I'm not with them when they go home at night, (but) I've asked them, and it's not a topic."

The Aggies got a taste of SEC play Saturday at Cowboys Stadium, losing a two-touchdown halftime lead in a 42-38 defeat to Arkansas. Oklahoma State beat A&M 30-29 a week earlier with a similar comeback.

As a result, recruiting players to fit the SEC model ranks far from the top of Sherman's list of immediate priorities.

That's why he's got Cassidy.
And from Cassidy's point of view, he said, he doesn't expect schools like Alabama and Auburn to suddenly raid the state of Texas for recruits because of A&M's entry into the SEC.

"We're always concerned about them," he said, "because they have great programs. They're good recruiters at those places, and they have a lot of things to offer. But our focus is on us, and what this change can do for Texas A&M.

"There's a lot of buzz about it. The kind of kids we're recruiting all feel like the can compete at the absolute highest level."

Presumably, SEC football offers that highest level -- and draws a new breed of football player to College Station, Texas.

Mitch Sherman is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mshermanespn@gmail.com.

Follow Mitch Sherman on Twitter: @mitchsherman