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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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2016 recruiting class held back by lack of linebacker depth

It has been the same song but a different verse for the Aggies the last two years — two midseason meltdowns and unhappy players transferring away have led to a considerably warmer seat for Kevin Sumlin going into this year.

Thus far in his tenure, recruiting has been a game where the player rankings are made up and the number of stars a player attains don’t matter. Many of the big-name recruits, such as LaQuvionte Gonzalez, have either transferred or barely stepped foot on the field. Meanwhile, the ones overlooked because of their “stars,” such as three-start prospect Donovan Wilson, have performed exceedingly well.

They snagged arguably the best receiver in the state in Quartney Davis and added lineman depth as headlined by 6-foot-7 behemoth Kellen Diesch. When the dust finally settled, A&M managed to flip Florida State defensive back commit Clifford Chattman and stole four-star D.C. standout athlete Aaron Hansford from UCLA. This was in large part due to A&M hiring offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who recruited Hansford while he was at UCLA.

The backfield finally added depth both at quarterback with Nick Starkel and running backs Trayveon Williams and Rakeem Boyd, and former Oklahoma transfer running back Keith Ford will be eligible to play this season. Transfers Priest Willis at defensive back and T.D. Moton at defensive tackle gives A&M one of the nation’s best transfer classes and has the appearance of another Sumlin success.

Despite the success, there was also a lot wrong with the Aggies’ National Signing Day.

First, Sumlin and company were out-recruited by Charlie Strong at Texas — A&M’s arch-rival stole the show Wednesday, bolting from the No. 32 overall class to No. 10. They closed the deal in the clutch and A&M did not. Aggie fans might never admit it, but Strong and Texas took A&M to recruiting school Wednesday.

Second, Sumlin once again lost some big name guys who were considered heavy leans to A&M, one of whom was a two-year verbal commit. The critical blow came early in the morning with the No. 1 safety in Texas Brandon Jones deciding on the Longhorns over the Aggies, which sent Aggie twitter into mayhem.

Finally, there was one glaring position that was virtually forgotten about and it is a position Aggie fans know all too well — linebacker.

Since coming to the SEC, the linebacker position has been a plague to say the least. Most teams A&M face run a spread offense of some form, so there is no real downhill run threat. However, the two teams that display a run-dominant offense have continuously beaten up on the Aggies since Johnny Manziel exited College Station in 2014.

The Aggies have raw talent at linebacker, no doubt. Claude George and Richard Moore showed flashes of brilliance. A.J. Hilliard is solid at the position for the most part while Otaro Alaka returns from injury. There is definite talent behind them – the position however lacks experience and is not very deep.

The staff managed to sign just one linebacker this year. That is no knock to three-star Tyrel Dodson, who is more talented than what he gets credit for, however adding one linebacker in the class still represents a depth problem at the position.

With just one linebacker signed — and only one offered for the 2017 class — it seems as if the issue just gets continuously swept under a rug and never mentioned again. The potential is there but the unit ultimately leaves a lot to be desired.
At the end of a hectic National Signing Day, it appears A&M did not see the sky fall entirely. From lost commits to unaddressed issues at linebacker, he might get a pass from the majority of Aggie fans out there. However, this class was ultimately a mishap by Sumlin and company.

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