Two years ago, not many believed Texas A&M capable of competing within the Southeastern Conference, a league the program officially realigned to in July 2012. Enter Kevin Sumlin and his recruiting-focused staff, and the Aggies sit on the brink of topping not just many of the league's top programs, but the nation's as well.
As of national signing day's conclusion, A&M finished with the fifth-ranked class overall, falling short only to Florida State, Ohio State and division rivals LSU and Alabama. Within that class stood three 5-star prospects—defensive end Myles Garrett, wide receiver Speedy Noil and quarterback Kyle Allen—each marked as the top recruit at their respective positions, and all steeled to make an immediate impact from day one.
Outside of the big guns and recognized names, though, many of the Aggies' 18 high school signees flew under the radar with the media, fans and analysts. Ironically, those additions will be the measurable improvement for a program that struggled—somewhat discreetly with Johnny Manziel at the helm—as depth and the massive talent gap weighed on the team's efforts.
From the get-go in the SEC, the Aggies have faced off against opponents sizably larger and notably more talented, a fact Manziel's on-the-field presence shrouded over the course of the past two seasons. However, the problems still remain prominent, and without Manziel to fill in the breaches, Sumlin and his staff were forced to take drastic action.
The coaches searched to address specific needs on both sides of the ball, targeting elite-level defensive talent and depth on the offensive side of the ball, hoping to shorten the talent gap significantly in the space of a recruiting class or two.
Of A&M's top 12 commits, nine play defense and will have the opportunity to jump right into starting roles during spring or fall camp. The Aggies' defensive struggles this past season was clear evidence of the necessity for an immense bolster at almost every position, and the staff came through strong.
On offense, though, A&M owns many of the tools required for competition in the SEC, with top-tier wide receivers, NFL-bound offensive linemen and elite running backs overflowing the depth chart. However, depth has become an issue, and adding three offensive linemen, the top-ranked quarterback and two instant-impact wideouts sought to keep the talent level consistent and fresh.
Case in point, the Aggie coaching staff recognized their needs and addressed them step by step this offseason, filling holes around the program in order to build a more solid foundation for SEC play down the stretch.
*All information, statistics and rankings courtesy of 247sports.com