Texas A&M football lost two excellent linebackers in 2019 with not a ton of depth to replace them; the 2019 class could do that and more.
Winning in college football requires elite talent. This is especially true for any team (like Texas A&M football) in the SEC West that has to face Alabama every year. Nick Saban has had the No. 1 recruiting class for four out of the past five years (and all but one year since 2011). It’s almost absurd how much talent Saban has at his disposal, and it feels like when one All American first-round NFL Draft pick leaves, another one takes his place.
It’s a revolving door of elite talent with Alabama, and teams like Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State are not far behind them in their ability to have a quality two-deep depth chart.
Jimbo Fisher is trying to build that at Texas A&M. He did what he could to pick up the pieces in the 2018 recruiting class, but 2019 is when he was first able to make his mark and all he did was sign the highest ranked class in Aggie history. He recruited the hell out of Texas, getting 10 of the Top 30 recruits in the state. The class finished ranked No. 4 in the 247 Sports Composite.
One of the concerns for the 2019 season is losing linebackers Otaro Alaka and Tyrel Dodson, who are almost locks to be taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, with little depth behind them.
Buddy Johnson has been called a starter on the depth chart for two years, but A&M has run a lot of five defensive back formations so his actual time on the field has been limited. However, he replaced an injured Alaka in the Gator Bowl and had a fantastic game. He could slide inside and be the starting middle linebacker for Mike Elko.
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Anthony Hines III was the top recruit from the 2017 class, but is coming off a season ending injury, and Ikenna Okeke would have been a backup in 2018 but he too was lost for the season with an injury in fall camp. Okeke was recruited as a safety, and safety Larry Pryor also had reps in practice at linebacker.
As you can see, recruiting linebackers in 2019 was of paramount importance. Good thing Fisher brought in five.
Andre White Jr. from Pennsylvania is the best rated of the bunch at 4-stars, No. 312 overall and the No.18 inside linebacker. R.J. Orebo is a 6-foot-6, 235 pound monster with tremendous upside. Ke’Shun Brown was a late addition after Christian Harris flipped to Alabama, but is an incredible 4-star player who held offers from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and LSU among others.
Tarian Lee Jr. was an Under Armour All American, and National Signing Day addition Christopher Russell is a 3-star from Tennessee with a chance to be another Dodson. Fisher fended off Tennessee, Arkansas and Auburn for Russell.
Chances are the Aggies already have the two linebackers they will mostly go with in their 4-2-5 defense in Johnson and Hines. However, injuries happen, and sometimes backups need to go in for various reason, especially in a defensive front seven.
While there is not a Hines-type elite prospect among this group, there is a both quality and quantity. The competition will no doubt bring out the best in them and Elko has proven to be one of the best at getting the most out of his defensive players.
Aside from providing maybe a starter from the group, the 2019 class of linebackers could provide depth for the Aggies for years to come.