Re-Evaluating Texas A&M's 2011 Recruiting Class

Michael TaglientiFeatured ColumnistJune 15, 2014

Re-Evaluating Texas A&M's 2011 Recruiting Class

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    When the players in Texas A&M's 2011 recruiting class signed their national letters of intent, no one had a clue how impactful the class would become. A recruiting class that failed to raise an eyebrow on the national scene would eventually change the way people perceived Texas A&M. 

    The 2011 Texas A&M recruiting class was ranked No. 31 overall by It was the last complete class signed by head coach Mike Sherman, as he was let go in December 2012. 

    The class was recruited to help the Aggies win games in the Big 12.

    Multiple members of the class would discover that the SEC style of play did not fit their skill set, and they decided to transfer. A couple of members would achieve success beyond the wildest dreams of even the most optimistic of Aggie fans. The 2011 class will leave a positive mark on Texas A&M for years to come.

    This is a look back at the 2011 Texas A&M recruiting class.   


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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    The Aggies only signed one quarterback in 2011, but he was a program-changer. Johnny Manziel was a 3-star quarterback when he signed with the Aggies out of Kerrville Tivy High School in Texas. 

    He entered the program as an unsung recruit and left it as a college football legend. Manziel produced almost 10,000 yards of total offense while leading the Aggies to 20 total wins during his two seasons as a starter. 

    He became the first freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy when he accomplished the feat in 2012. And he helped thrust A&M onto the national stage with his dynamic play from the quarterback position. 

    Johnny Football became a household name, and it can be argued that he had a bigger impact on the A&M program than any player has had on any program in recent history. 

    Grade: A+

Running Backs

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    The Aggies signed one running back to the 2011 class in 2-star prospect Will Randolph. He was forced into action as a true freshman in 2011 and rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries. 

    Randolph had great speed but was caught behind a logjam of talent at the position. He had Cyrus Gray, Christine Michael and Ben Malena stuck ahead of him on the depth chart. 

    Randolph transferred to Sam Houston State after the 2011 season. He has not had a collegiate carry since leaving the Aggies. 

    Grade: F

Wide Receivers

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Aggies signed two receivers in the 2011 recruiting class. Mike Evans was an unknown project coming out of Ball High School in Galveston, Texas, who would eventually develop into the greatest receiver in the history of the program. 

    Evans was not ranked by when he signed. He redshirted in 2011, then caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards in 2012. In 2013, he earned All-American honors while catching 69 passes for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

    Evans was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He recently signed a multiyear contract. 

    Chance Nelson was a 2-star recruit out of Sterling High School in Baytown, Texas. He redshirted in 2011, then transferred to Sam Houston State. He has caught 55 passes for 978 yards and 12 touchdowns in two seasons with the Bearkats. Nelson is entering his junior season at Sam Houston State in 2014. 

    Grade: A

Tight Ends

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    The Aggies did not sign a tight end in the 2011 recruiting class. 

    Grade: Inc.

Offensive Line

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Texas A&M signed three offensive linemen in the 2011 class. Ben Compton was a 3-star center out of Friendswood, Texas. He played at nose guard as a true freshman and has been a backup offensive guard and center for the past two years. Compton will back up Mike Matthews at center in 2014.

    Joseph Cheek was ranked as a 3-star tackle when he signed with the Aggies out of Seguin High School near San Antonio. He has been a career backup at A&M who will challenge for the starting position at right guard in 2014.

    Nathan Gutekunst was ranked as a 3-star guard when he signed with the Aggies. He ended up taking a medical redshirt and never contributed on the field at A&M.

    Overall, this class produced a couple of solid backups but nothing of note. You would like to see at least one starter out of three recruits, and that has not happened yet.

    Grade: D+ 

Defensive Line

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Aggies signed three defensive linemen in the 2011 class, and none of them became contributors. Aggies fans can point to this class as one of the main reasons the defense struggled so much in 2013. Texas A&M was forced to start true freshmen on the defensive line because there was no depth from the 2011 class. 

    Shayvion Hatten was listed as an offensive lineman by most recruiting services but was recruited to A&M by Mike Sherman to play nose guard in the Aggies' 3-4 defense. Hatten was a 4-star recruit when he signed with the team. 

    He never came close to living up to his recruiting billing and eventually transferred to Stephen F. Austin. Hatten did not play in any games for Texas A&M.

    Sherman registered a big head-to-head win over Mack Brown and Texas when he secured the signature of Brandon Alexander out of Brenham, Texas. Alexander was brought in to play the "rush" outside linebacker position in the Aggies' 3-4 defense. He showed some early promise but dislocated his elbow during a game against Texas Tech and never played a meaningful snap for the Aggies again.

    Alexander moved to tight end in 2013 and is currently listed as second team on the depth chart behind Cam Clear.  

    LeMarc Strahan was going to be the centerpiece of the Aggies defense for two years. The massive 6'4", 340-pound nose guard was signed out of Blinn Junior College and expected to be a walk-in starter. 

    Instead, Strahan failed to qualify academically out of Blinn and never played major college football.

    The only member of the 2011 class to have an impact on the defensive line is the Aggies' current backup center Ben Compton. 

    Grade: F 


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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    The Aggies signed four linebackers in the 2011 class. One of them became a solid starter, and another still has a chance to leave a positive impact on the program before he graduates. 

    Shaun Ward was a 4-star recruit signed out of Anderson High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He signed with the expectation of playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and developing into the next Von Miller. 

    When Kevin Sumlin took over the program and switched the Aggies to the 4-3 defense, Ward could not find a role in the scheme and transferred before making a significant impact on the field. 

    Donnie Baggs was a 3-star prospect when he signed with the team out of Clear Springs High School near Houston. He has had an up-and-down career with the Aggies. 

    In 2012, Baggs was an important backup at outside linebacker, registering 27 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He started at middle linebacker in 2013 and was overwhelmed and eventually benched. In 2014, Baggs will start at weak-side linebacker. He can make his mark on the team and program as a senior. 

    Steven Jenkins was a 3-star prospect when he signed out of Coffeyville Community College in Kanas. He was the most successful player out of this linebacker group. Jenkins was a two-year starter for the Aggies at outside linebacker. He was able to overcome a lack of ideal size to be an effective defender in the SEC. 

    Darzil Washington was a 2-star prospect from West St. John High School in Louisiana. He did not qualify for A&M and attended Eastern Arizona Junior College. He eventually signed to play with Hawaii. 

    The Aggies got one quality starter out of the class to this point. Baggs can raise the overall grade if he has a good 2014 season.

    Grade: C 

Defensive Backs

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    The Aggies signed five defensive backs in the 2011 class. The best of the bunch so far has been cornerback Deshazor Everett. 

    Everett was unranked by coming out of high school. He played linebacker as a senior in high school and will complete the 2014 season as a four-year starter at A&M. He has played both cornerback and safety for the Aggies and has a chance to be a high-round selection in the NFL draft as a cornerback. 

    Floyd Raven was the Aggies' highest-ranked defensive back prospect in the 2011 class. He was a 4-star prospect when he signed with the team out of East St. John High School in Reserve, Louisiana. Raven has struggled with consistency as a starter at safety. He will be the Aggies' starter at strong safety for the second season in a row in 2014. 

    Howard Matthews was a 4-star recruit when he signed with the Aggies out of Clear Springs High School in League City, Texas. He will be a three-year starter at A&M but is known more for his inconsistency than his strong play. 

    Matthews' inability to cover the wheel route out of the opposing backfield is one of the lasting memories of the defensive ineptitude that pervaded the 2013 season. He has one year left to make a positive impact on the program. 

    Devonta Burns was not ranked by when he signed with the Aggies in 2011. He has not made an impact on the field as he enters his redshirt junior. 

    The class produced three starters, but only one of them has been a player of note. 

    Grade: B

Special Teams

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    Beth Hall/Associated Press

    The Aggies signed a kicker and a punter in the 2011 class. Drew Kaser was not ranked by coming out of high school, but he's developed into one of the best punters in the nation. He averaged 46.3 yards per punt in 2013 and will be an All-American and All-SEC candidate in 2014.

    Taylor Bertolet was unranked by 247Sports when the Aggies gave him a scholarship. He struggled with his consistency on extra points and lost his place-kicking duties during the 2013 season. 

    Grade: B+