Today is National Signing Day, a relatively new holiday for many college football fans, where the home team refills its talent coffers with fresh blood in place of yesterday's heroes who have graduated to the NFL or other endeavors.
Recent history has seen Texas and Oklahoma stockpile monster classes with many of the highest-rated prospects from the Lone Star State. But the Longhorns and Sooners now find themselves challenged in recruiting by Baylor, TCU and especially Texas A&M, an awoken giant that is feasting off a successful, fresh start in the Southeastern Conference.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin made it clear during the week leading up to the Cotton Bowl that he wants the Aggies back on the national stage, and his plan of attack starts with recruiting.
"One year does not a program make," he said. "We made some real strides this year, I think, in order to get back on the national stage. So because of that I think it has helped us from a recruiting standpoint. We have to increase the profile of our team size-wise, and we have to increase our talent level if that is where we want to be."
The 2013 crop should go a long way toward increasing that talent level as nearly every recruiting organization has A&M signing a top-10 class today.
The class is probably the largest A&M has had since the scholarship limit was cut to 85 in 1994, said AggieYell.com publisher Jeff Tarpley, who has covered Texas A&M recruiting since 1999 and has followed it since the 1970s.
"It's rated a top-10 class by Rivals.com, but the difference between this class and the previous classes is that they got 15, 16 four-star recruits. Regardless of the total numbers you sign, the team that competes for national titles are usually up around 14-, 15-plus total as far as four- and five-star caliber guys go."
Bottom line: The Aggies are expected to get a large infusion of young talent. Counting mid-term signings, A&M has 32 committed players.
Though NCAA rules stipulate that each program can sign only 25 football prospects per academic year, the Aggies are using a very SEC way of circumventing the rules in what is commonly referred to as a "soft cap."
Because A&M signed only 15 prospects in 2012, it can count midterm signees, players who inked on Dec. 19, toward last year's class. These prospects can be any combination of early high school graduates, four-year college transfers or junior college transfers.
The Aggies signed nine early enrollees.
"As an overall group, I have them in my top 10 and moving up fast," said Randy Taylor, who has 30 years of experience in college football recruiting and is the recruiting coordinator for National Collegiate Scouting Association Athletic Recruiting. "What I like about this class is the kids who are already on campus, the early enrollees."
The group has several strengths: two top-tier quarterbacks, including the Texas Class 5A Player of the Year in Southlake Carroll's Kenny Hill; three four-star defensive tackles, led by Dallas Kimball's Justin Manning; and a great group of big, fast defensive backs. But where the Aggies have outdone themselves is at wide receiver, where they have seven commitments.
"It's got numbers; it's got quality; and it measures up as a class that can compete for a national title," Tarpley said.
And Tarpley said A&M is still in on a couple four-star caliber defensive ends: Lancaster's Daeshon Hall, who's committed to Washington, and Torrodney Prevot, who originally committed to USC.
"So they may not be done yet," he said.
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760