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April 4, 2005

Jumping the gun

Don't mess with Texas, or Texas A&M for that matter.

Last year it was Virginia that sprinted out of the box with numerous early commitments. This year both Texas and Texas A&M have gotten off to impressive starts that are bound to be great building blocks to what potentially could be top 10 classes.

They do it bigger and better in Texas, and nobody has put together classes that resemble blockbuster groups like the Longhorns and Aggies at this early point in the recruiting process.

With the spring evaluation period still two weeks away and NIKE Training Camps set to kickoff next week, Texas has already reeled in 15 impressive commitments. The Aggies have seven very solid commitments and could be on the verge of adding even more with several significant spring football practices left on the schedule.

Players that have pledged to both schools said the early decisions just felt right.

"It's not just a decision for the next four or five years of my life, but a decision that will impact my life for the next 40 or 50 years," Orange (Texas) West Orange Stark defensive back Deon Beasley said. "When you know and you're sure, why prolong it? Why drag it out?"

Cuero, Texas, running back Latreal Cooper said he felt the same way about A&M when he committed last week.

"I was thinking about it, and I knew that Texas A&M is where I always belonged," Cooper said. "I want to be a Texas Aggie, and when I had the opportunity present itself to me, I couldn't pass it up."

Almost all of the players that have committed to either school said they feel like a huge weight has been lifted off their shoulders. With the decision out of the way they can focus on other things.

"Like winning state," Coppell, Texas, running back and Horn commitment Emmanuel Moody said. "I don't have to worry about recruiting, reporters, or coaches calling me all the time now. My coaches said if you knew where you wanted to go, and you felt right with it, then it would be smart to get the decision out of the way.

"I knew it was already the right decision, but now I can stay focused on helping my team win state and accomplish all of my goals as a senior."

While the great starts by both schools are striking because both are collecting pledges this early in the process, what's also even more extraordinary is that Texas and A&M are both collecting highly regarded players.

It's still two months before Rivals.com releases its official player rankings - starting with the Rivals100 team in early June - but there is no question the Longhorns and Aggies are adding high-quality talent.

That's especially true for UT.

This weekend, the Horns added commitments from Kilgore, Texas, defensive end Eddie Jones, kicker Hunter Lawrence and Beasley. Lawrence is considered one of the better kickers in the Midlands and Beasley is regarded by many coaches as the top defensive back in Texas, but Jones is the real steal of the weekend.

Jones (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) is one of the early candidates for the top player in the state and likely will be ranked as a five-star prospect. When Rivals.com went to scout players in the class of 2005, coaches in East Texas were already raving about Jones and this was after his sophomore season.

"I've coached a lot of good ones over the years," Kilgore coach Mike Vallery said. "But I've never worked with a player that's as physically gifted as Eddie. He has all the God-given tools that you want in an elite player. Then he is also one heck of a football player. You put all of that together and you have yourself a real All-American."

When you add to the mix the great start the Horns have gotten off to at running back, early avalanche of pledges are even more overwhelming.

After rushing for 1,319 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior, Moody is likely the pick for the top running back in Texas. But Texas has also grabbed impressive running back commitments from Longview scatback Vondrell McGee and powerful Derke Robinson of Lewisville Hebron. Robinson was vastly overlooked by some scouts and could be one of the biggest steals that Texas gets in the 2006 group.

The Aggies' class also is loaded with high-quality prospects.

Cooper and Humble, Texas, receiver Jerrod Johnson are probably the best of A&M's early haul.

As a sophomore, Cooper burst onto scene with more than 1,400 yards rushing while scoring 24 touchdowns. Many observers rated Cooper as the best sophomore tailback in the Lone Star State, and the 6-foot-2, 200-pound runner was poised for a monster junior campaign but he tore his ACL and missed his junior season. He says he's back to 100 percent, and if he is, Cooper could push Moody for top running back honors in Texas as a senior.

Johnson, a 6-foot-5 , 219-pound receiver, is a dominant player that can take over games from his receiver spot because of his ability to go up and get the ball with his size. As a junior, he had 31 receptions for 385 yards and seven touchdowns. Johnson is also a three-star basketball recruit according to RivalHoops.com.

"I'm aggressive, physical, smooth, and I have great hands," Johnson said.

"I'm the type of receiver that can be both a possession or a big-play type."

The Aggies have also gone out to West Texas and snagged two of the region's best prospects. Midland (Texas) Lee teammates Trent Hines and defensive end Leslie Ray would have been heavily recruited but they both ended the recruiting process before it could even get started.

Hines in his own right should be mentioned in the same breath as Cooper and Moody and is a tough physical runner with an extra gear.

Ray can either play tackle or end in college and he's continuing to develop.

"He has got a lot of upside," Midland Lee coach Randy Quisenberry said.

"Quickness and strength is his forte. Honestly, I don't think he knows how good he can be. He was a running back up until his sophomore year, but he ate himself out of the position. But the good thing is that his athleticism followed with him, and that's a big attribute. The way I look at it, when he gets his motor running, he can dominate the game."


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