Looking at the new Aggie’s on defense
February 19, 2012 1:24 pm, CDT

By: Thomas Kelly

Sumlin did a nice job recruiting the 2012 class after getting a late start.

The ink is dry, the fax machines have been unplugged and already the bickering over whose signing day classes are better than others has reached a fever pitch.  Spring football is still a few weeks off in College Station (and we will be taking an in-depth look at Sumlin’s first spring soon) but for today let us take a look at the defensive side of the 2012 Aggie recruiting class.

With only a few short weeks to keep the class together/add to it, Sumlin was scrambling from the start, especially since it took him a little longer to name coaches on the defensive side of the ball. A few late defections hurt, most notably Corey Thompson to LSU and Darion Monroe to, um, Tulane.
Still, there is some quality talent in this group and armed with the knowledge that a full 50% of these guys will never help the program in any way whatsoever – why don’t we hurriedly jump to conclusions and present best and worst case scenarios for each prospect, based on little more than a few minutes of highlight film, offer sheets, gut instinct and bourbon.
Defensive Line

Polo Manukainiu: 6’6” 265  Euless, TX
An early entrant into a-name-that-will-get-Dave-South-fired-game, Polo certainly looks the part of an elite prospect; he decommitted from OU late while sporting offers from Arkansas, Miami, Nebraska and UCLA among others.
Lacking an elite first step, the question for Polo is where he ends up in Mike Snyder’s 4-3 defense.  Is he a strongside end?  Does he continue to grow into a 290 pound tackle?  Some have even speculated he may have the frame for OT.  Either way, he should see the field early on an A&M defensive line sorely in need of warm bodies.
Best Case Scenario: Puts on 20 pounds and keeps his athleticism as a run-stopping, occasional QB-terrorizing strongside defensive end.  Dave South sees his name on the roster this summer and immediately steps down.
Worst Case Scenario: Too lumbering for DE and too light for DT, becomes more of a situational player on Terry Price’s d-line.  Mocked around campus for overly popped collars.
Julien Obioha: 6’3” 255  New Orleans, LA
A longtime commit, the big defensive end from Louisiana is a hard-worker both on the field and in the classroom as evidenced by his offers from Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Cal and Mississippi St. (His offer from MSU was to chair the economics department.)
Another possible tweener, Obioha has an excellent chance of playing early on the defensive line, probably at strongside end.
BCS: Picks up defense quickly, quality contributor at SDE and WDT.
WCS: Improves team APR.  Tutors other defensive linemen and keeps them eligible.

Edmund Ray: 6’4” 290  St. Louis, MO
A signing day surprise in the truest sense, Ray left Missouri at the last minute and fills a huge need for A&M as the only real DT in the class.  The St. Louis-area player of the year, Ray doesn’t have a huge frame but he does have a great first step for a big man, giving hope he can turn into a 300-pound disruptor in the middle of the Aggie defense.
BCS: Qualifies.  Comes to College Station in shape and ready to play for a defensive tackle rotation desperate for quality bodies.
WCS: Doesn’t ever show up in B/CS.  Rejects Professor Obioha’s tutoring overtures.  Picked up serving vodka tonics to Gary Pinkel in a shadowy Columbia bar.

Can Richardson have success like fellow DeSoto alum and Aggie Von Miller did? Photo from ISM, Inc.

Michael Richardson: 6’2” 235  DeSoto, TX

Choosing A&M over Nebraska, Oklahoma St. and Tennessee, Richardson hails from the same high school as Von Miller and Cyrus Gray.  Richardson lacks length and is undersized for a true weakside defensive end but boasts an impressive amount of pass-rushing moves for a college freshman-to-be.
BCS: Keeps his quickness and moves while adding quality weight.  Turns into a 6’3”, 250 pound pass-rusher on the edge.  Enjoys his time in Aggieland and keeps the DeSoto pipeline open.
WCS: Stays as an undersized DE who can’t quite put on enough weight to make a difference in the SEC.  Drops Von’s Rookie of the Year trophy while holding it in the hallway.

Alonzo Williams: 6’4” 250  Long Beach, CA
After moving from Louisiana to California his senior year, many A&M fans feared the lure of the west coast would be too much to overcome, and it almost was with late offers from UCLA and Washington muddying the picture.
In the end, Williams stayed with his Aggie commitment and is a solid DE prospect with a long frame and great athleticism for a player his size.  He’s another player in this year’s defensive haul that could use a redshirt season but probably will need to play immediately.
BCS: Rotation player from day 1.  Locks down a starting DE position early in his career.  All-conference type of ability.
WCS: Puts on 25 pounds and loses explosiveness.  Misses surfing.
Linebacker
 
Jordan Richmond: 6’1 220  Denton, TX
One of the most decorated A&M signees, the four star from north Texas is a perfect MLB prospect – athletic, intelligent and a great nose for the football.  He will need to add weight for the rigors of the SEC but look for him to get snaps this year both on special teams and in preparation for plenty of playing time in 2013 and beyond.
BCS: 3 year starter at MLB.  All-conference performer.  Richmond has the potential to be a very, very good one.
WCS: LB depth and special team standout.  Simply too good an athlete to not contribute in some way to the team.

Tyrone Taylor: 6’4” 210  Galena Park, TX
Recruited by the previous staff as a DE/OLB, Taylor will start his career in College Station as a standup linebacker, probably on the weakside.  The twin brother of current A&M lineman Tyrell, Tyrone has a huge frame and could easily carry in the neighborhood of 230-240 pounds.  He’s also very raw and like his brother will need to show he can adapt to the new defense being implemented.
BCS: Gains weight and keeps athleticism.  Teams with twin brother to create modern day blitz brothers moniker.  Tom Rinaldi weeps, then rejoices, then weeps again, all to overly maudlin music.
WCS: Another in what could be a defensive class full of tweeners.  Struggles to make adjustment to linebacker.
Defensive Back

DeVante Harris: 5’11” 165  Mesquite, TX
If this writer had to pick one player in this defensive class to be All-SEC, Harris would be it.  An Aggie legacy that was strangely ignored by the previous staff, Harris was the first to pledge to Kevin Sumlin, decommitting from OU.
With offers from Cal, Nebraska, Ohio St. and Oregon to name a few, Harris is as good a cover corner as the state of Texas had to offer, flashing quick hips and great ball skills.  He will probably get reps as a true freshman under new secondary coach Marcel Yates.
BCS: Able to add strength without sacrificing any athleticism.  Turns into a 6’ 180 pound All-American corner.
WCS: Small-framed and able to be pushed around at the line of scrimmage, but remains a highly productive member of the A&M secondary.

Otis Jacobs: 6’ 175  Perkinston, MS
Withstanding a furious late charge from Derek Dooley and Tennessee, Jacobs signed with A&M in December and is on-campus and working out.  One of the top JUCO corners in the country, he’ll be counted on quickly in an A&M secondary not bursting at the seams with depth.  And yes, that seems to be a repeating storyline on the defense.
BCS: Coryell Judie without the injuries.  Jacobs is probably a notch below Judie in athleticism but the new defensive scheme should be in his favor.
WCS: He’s a JUCO, so anything is possible until he actually suits up for a game.  He also needs to avoid getting a big head after Jay-Z and Kanye paid their respects to him recently.  (old people: google ‘otis’)

Kenneth Marshall: 6’ 195  Houston, TX
Part of the large Houston contingent in this year’s class, Marshall is another in a long line of athletic safeties that are difficult to judge based on how close to the line of scrimmage they played in high school.  He sports good size and athleticism but 90% of his highlights are Marshall coming downhill to fill a lane.  Another in the class that could use a redshirt but probably won’t be able to based on – spoiler alert – lack of depth at the position.
BCS: Keeps his nose for the football while actually learning to backpedal, turns into a multi-year starter at FS or SS.
WCS: If he’s not playing, something horrific has happened as A&M currently has almost no one on scholarship at the position.  Marshall needs to come in ready to compete.

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