To say these are trying times for the Texas A&M Aggies football team would be a vast understatement. This week, and the weeks to follow, are sure to be remembered for all the wrong reasons in College Station.
The Aggies are spiraling Thursday after the sudden departure of two former blue-chip quarterback recruits. Kyler Murray, a 5-star 2015 prospect who led Allen High School to three straight Texas titles, is following top-ranked 2014 passer Kyle Allen out of town:
With so much speculation centered on the team's quarterback saga, attention naturally shifted toward Tate Martell. The nation's top-rated dual-threat talent in 2017 composite recruiting rankings represents the future at Texas A&M's most pivotal position.
He made his stance strong and concise Wednesday evening, reaffirming a verbal pledge that's been in place since August.
"I want to make it clear that I'm still 100 percent solid to Texas A&M," Martell wrote on Twitter. "From my point of view, as a recruit that is committed to the university, I know that I haven't lost faith in the program!"
His feelings likely contrast those of folks reevaluating head coach Kevin Sumlin's leadership role. The Aggies underwhelmed this season, finishing 8-4 with each defeat accompanied by a double-digit deficit against an SEC opponent.
Martell, who led Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas) to its seventh straight Nevada state championship this season, urged fans and fellow Aggies recruits to remain calm during a stormy stretch for the program.
"Coach Sumlin and [offensive coordinator Jake] Spavital know what they are doing! They were there when Johnny [Manziel] was killing it at A&M," he wrote. "Texas A&M has all the right tools to be the most dominant school in college football. I haven't lost any confidence in the coaches."
His declaration of loyalty provided a positive development in an otherwise bizarre span for Sumlin and company. Martell, who first committed to Washington in middle school, is among the most scintillating recruits in his class.
The 5'11", 180-pound playmaker filled the stat sheet during two state title runs at Bishop Gorman. He collected 5,145 passing yards as a sophomore and junior, gained 1,037 yards on the ground and totalled 86 touchdowns in 30 games.
A strong rapport with the Texas A&M staff and appreciation for university environment led Martell to announce a commitment days before his junior season opener.
"The feeling I got there with the entire college atmosphere was pretty cool. That's one school where even if I wasn't going to play football in college, I would still be really interested in going there," he told Bleacher Report.
Martell also seriously considered USC, Michigan and a re-commitment to Washington before reaching his decision. The pressure on Aggies coaches to keep him increases tremendously in the wake of these abrupt departures.
Allen, a sophomore who threw 17 touchdowns in 10 games while splitting reps with Murray this fall, announced intentions to leave College Station on Dec. 10. He completed 278 passes in two seasons at Texas A&M, collecting 3,532 yards and 33 scores through the air.
"I wish things would have worked out here," Allen wrote on Twitter. "But at some points in life, people have to do what's best for them. It's with a heavy heart that I say that I am transferring from Texas A&M."
Murray's transfer probably stings more among program supporters, as he is an Aggies legacy. His father, Kevin Murray, starred as a Texas A&M quarterback and claimed 1986 Cotton Bowl MVP honors.
Though Allen initially started the season behind center, Murray appeared in eight contests as a true freshman. He flashed superstar skills against South Carolina on Halloween, throwing for 223 yards, rushing for another 156 yards and tallying two touchdowns.
Murray threw three touchdowns and five interceptions in the following two games, including three picks in a 26-10 home loss to Auburn. Allen returned to the lineup in November, wrapping up the regular season as starter.
Texas A&M must still prepare for a Dec. 30 matchup against Louisville in the Music City Bowl. The Aggies are likely to rely on sophomore Jake Hubenak in a game that will challenge Sumlin's squad to overcome overwhelming distractions, including the suspension of former 5-star wide receiver Speedy Noil, according to 247Sports.
An evolving situation in College Station remains incredibly murky, but Martell managed to clear things up when it comes to his recruitment.
"We all learn from our mistakes and I know Coach Sumlin will make sure that the program gets right back on track," Martell wrote. "I can't wait to get to Texas A&M. ... We are going to make the class of 2017 unforgettable."