Biggest Needs: The Aggies’ amazing 2012 run has ended, and with signing day, it marks the official end of the season, a season fans didn’t want to end. The good news is that there is as much or more momentum heading into the 2013 offseason than ever before, but the bad news is the Aggies lose 13 starters from ‘12’s explosive team, with five being on offense. None are bigger than tackle Luke Joeckel, center Patrick Lewis, and receiver Ryan Swope. That trio has been the heart and soul of Aggie football for the last three years. Ideally, the Aggies had to sign multiple receivers to replace Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu. And with a Heisman winner returning at quarterback, that shouldn’t be too tough, right? Little did we know how easy they would make it look. And even though running back Christine Michael graduates, returners Trey Williams and Ben Malena are part of the bigger plan on offense. Jake Matthews will slide over to left tackle, and the offensive line will once again be strong.
But the losses on offense pale in comparison to the seven lost on defense. The biggest holes lie at defensive end and linebacker. The monster Damontre Moore and fellow end Spencer Nealy are gone, along with linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart. Those four alone are huge, and combine it with Dustin Harris in the secondary, and there are quite a few holes to fill. Kevin Sumlin had to sign multiple defensive linemen and linebackers for immediate needs, but you can’t just replace a player like Moore at defensive end, who registered 21 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks.
Needs Met: When I said multiple receivers, I should have said a slew of them. In fact, the Aggies signed six of them if you include Ricky Seals-Jones, although I think RSJ will transition into more of a hybrid tight end role. Either way, he’s a terrific athlete and an impact player. Aside from Seals-Jones, JaQuay Williams, Sebastian LaRue and Laquvionte Gonzalez should work into the lineup to provide some type of impact, and Gonzalez could play a number of positions. Amidst all the smoke of a sexy receiver class, top quarterbacks Kohl Stewart and Kenny Hill signed, too, along with one tight end, two offensive linemen and one running back.
While the offensive haul was electric, the defensive haul was arguably more important and impressive. In all, the Aggies signed 15 defensive players. Among the 15, six were defensive linemen and five were linebackers. There’s nothing like 11 talented defensive stars plugging into the front seven. Headlining the linemen are tackles Isaiah Golden and Justin Manning and defensive end Daeshon Hall. One of the five linebackers is JUCO early enrollee Tommy Sanders, who looks to fill in immediately. Their impact will be felt in 2013, but more importantly, Sumlin is building for the future.
Biggest Get: The biggest get was also a National Signing Day surprise in Daeshon Hall. Hall flipped from Washington, and he adds immediate depth at defensive end as a pass rusher and helps cope with the losses of Moore and Nealy. Even though Seals-Jones and others are ranked ahead of Hall, the SEC is won in the trenches, and Hall’s signing certainly bodes well for Texas A&M to establish a dominant defensive line in the future.
Biggest Miss: Even though Sumlin had a mauling defensive line haul, he would have loved to sign one more pass rusher. And USC commit Torrodney Prevot was the target, but he signed with Oregon instead.
Final Evaluation: I love what Kevin Sumlin did in this class. Not only did he sign multiple skill position players and future stars in his spread attack, but he also loaded up on the line of scrimmage. In fact, the last two seasons Texas A&M has signed seven four-star players or better on the defensive line. Anyone doubting that Sumlin knows what it takes to win in the SEC better think again. He’s known for a flashy offense, but he’s building his team from the core, with stout defensive linemen leading the way. More importantly and equally impressive, Sumlin dominated Mack Brown and Bob Stoops, and he has all the momentum in his back pocket. The college football power scale is changing in the state of Texas, and the Aggies aren’t slowing down any time soon.
Final Grade: A
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Photo Credit: Thomas Campbell