Once the dust settled on his latest recruiting class, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin sat before reporters and deemed that the Aggies signed a “very solid class.”
And Sumlin is correct. Texas A&M’s 22-member haul included eight ESPN 300 prospects, two much-needed quarterbacks and a full class of offensive linemen. The Aggies landed three new commitments on national signing day.
However, it also is the continuation of a concerning trend for the Aggies: It is the second straight class that dropped in the national rankings and SEC rankings.
Recruiting rankings aren’t perfect, but they’re usually a decent indicator of how much talent a team is bringing in. In 2014, the Aggies pulled in their best class of the SEC era -- ranked fourth in the nation and third in the SEC and SEC West. In 2015 the class ranked 12th nationally and sixth in the SEC (fourth in the SEC West).
This year’s class is 20th nationally, eighth in the SEC and fifth in the SEC West, including behind a 7-6 Auburn team that finished last in the division. The trend is in the wrong direction.
“You have to look at the guys on your roster and the guys who are coming into the program,” Sumlin said. “As I've said before, the SEC is not only a talent league but a talent and depth league. Look at our signing today and across the board at our football team. With this group of guys, there's really not one guy on here that you say, 'Man, we've got to get him on the field right now,' for the first time.”
That’s true -- there are no players that jump off the page as guys who will be expected to play on Day 1, like defensive tackle Daylon Mack in the 2015 class or defensive end Myles Garrett in the 2014 class. Part of that is the fact that the Aggies do return so much of the young talent that was forced onto the field as freshmen or sophomores in recent years, but it’s also evidence that the Aggies might not have nabbed an immediate difference-maker, either.
The Aggies didn’t need to get Christian Kirk on the field as a true freshman in 2015, but he was that good. There’s not a player in the 2016 class -- at least at this moment -- that stands out as a player of that caliber, and the Aggies certainly pursued those types of players throughout the cycle.
The positives are the Aggies have restored order in their quarterback room and did so in short order. After losing their 2014 and 2015 quarterback recruits, Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, to transfer in a well-documented disastrous December, Sumlin moved quickly to land former Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight via graduate transfer and former Oklahoma State commitment Nick Starkel, a four-star prospect from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
For the first time since Sumlin arrived prior to the 2012 season, the Aggies will likely have a junior [Jake Hubenak] or senior [Knight] starting at quarterback after four years of starting freshmen and sophomores. Sumlin hinted that Starkel is a redshirt candidate who needs to add weight and bulk.
Texas A&M also received good news on Wednesday, regaining the commitment of ESPN 300 receiver Quartney Davis (he decommitted from the Aggies in the fall), flipped four-star safety Clifford Chattman from Florida State and landed ESPN 300 athlete Aaron Hansford. Landing Chattman at least somewhat helps soften the blow of missing out on ESPN 300 safety Brandon Jones, once thought to be a longtime Texas A&M lean who signed with Texas.
But in truth, this class will not be a make-or-break one for the Aggies. The pressure for Sumlin to win is on in 2016, following the eventful past two months and back-to-back 8-5 seasons that were followed by high-priced coordinator changes each time.
It won’t be the 2016 recruiting class deciding Sumlin or the Aggies’ fate in the near future. Those classes have come in the past two years and they’ll be counted on to turn the Aggies back in the direction of increasing their win total and standing in the SEC West, rather than seeing it decline from the program’s first two years in the league.