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February 3, 2014

Aggies fill QB need with nation's best

With National Signing Day rapidly approaching, AggieYell.com looks at five points of emphasis in Texas A&M's 2014 recruiting class:

Number 3: Add a high quality quarterback.

As soon as National Signing Day 2013 rolled around, it was clear the Aggies would need another quarterback in the 2014 class. Even though the Aggies had signed Southlake Carroll's Kenny Hill and Houston Pius X's Kohl Stewart, A&M knew it would likely lose backup Jameill Showers to a transfer (which it did later that month). Add in the serious chance Johnny Manziel would leave for the pros if he had a season anywhere close to his Heisman-winning 2012 season, and the need was evident.

Since then, the need has become even more pressing. Manziel improved as a passer in 2013 and is gone, likely to be a top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Stewart was taken as high in the 2013 Major League Baseball entry draft as Manziel could be in the NFL draft, going fourth overall to the Minnesota Twins and never making it to campus. Backup Matt Davis is also gone, having transferred in search of greater playing time. With Manziel and Davis gone and Stewart in the minors, the Aggies would enter the 2014 season with just redshirt senior Matt Joeckel and Hill as their scholarship quarterbacks if they didn't make an addition.

Armed with the knowledge that they were a "hot" program with the incumbent Heisman winner and a quarterback-centric offense, the A&M coaching staff was selective and aimed very high in their search for a quarterback. Their first offer went to the nation's sixth-best pro style quarterback, Justice Hanson of Edmond, Okla. Hanson was impressed by what the Aggies had to offer, but the lure of playing for the home state Sooners was too great and Hanson committed to Oklahoma in April 2013.

With Hanson off the board, the Aggies didn't consider lesser options. Instead, they aimed higher, offering the nation's fifth-rated dual threat quarterback, Brandon Harris of Bossier City, La. They also offered Kyle Allen, the consensus top quarterback in the nation and a native of Scottsdale, Ariz.

In Allen and Harris, the Aggies hit both ends of the quarterback spectrum. At 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 195 pounds, Allen is a pro-style quarterback in the making of former University of Houston QB and Kevin Sumlin protege Case Keenum. Unlike Keenum, however, Allen was coming out of high school with a reputation for being a passer with deadly accuracy, excellent decision making and a fairly strong arm. At camps, and later at the U.S. Army All-American Game, Allen proved he could make all the throws, see the whole field and get the ball out quickly. As the recruiting year went on, Allen solidified himself as the nation's best pro-style prospect, ending up with a 5-star ranking and the nation's seventh-best player overall.

Harris is no slouch himself, and plays the game in a style closer to Manziel's. Taller than Johnny Football at 6 feet, 3 inches, Harris boasts a Manziel-like 4.55-second 40-yard dash. With a strong arm and the ability to make plays with his feet, he was also highly desired for different reasons.

As the recruiting season progressed, the Aggies moved to the top of the list for both Allen and Harris, while the likes of Arizona State and UCLA (for Allen) and LSU (Harris) tried to their best to land them. On June 3, 2013, Allen announced his selection of A&M on Twitter, giving them the nation's best pure passer and a mid-term arrival. A month later, Harris committed to LSU.

With Allen already on campus, the Aggies have a player who can come in and compete with Hill for the starting job immediately. Even though Hill has a strong arm, good accuracy and a year in the system, Allen's skills will allow him to make spring and fall practice a true competition and not a coronation for Manziel's replacement. That's what Sumlin and the Aggie coaching staff were hoping to get -- and there's no way they could have done better.



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