Texas A&M vs. Arkansas

Jimbo Fisher

Jimbo Fisher’s second straight Top 10 recruiting class puts the Aggies in the best shape they’ve been since joining the Southeastern Conference.

Former football coach Kevin Sumlin signed back-to-back Top 10 classes in 2013 and ’14, but instead of developing them into Top 10 teams, the Aggies strung together four straight disappointing seasons and Sumlin was gone.

It’s not just that Fisher has signed two great classes, but it’s also what the competition is losing. A&M had four players invited to this year’s NFL Combine, tying Arkansas and Ole Miss for the fewest by SEC West teams. The only SEC East teams with fewer were Vanderbilt (3) and Kentucky (2).

LSU had 16 players invited to the Combine, Alabama and Georgia 10 each, Auburn nine and Florida eight. It’s not as if those programs don’t have quality players as replacements, they do. But A&M now is much closer in terms of talent and they have more experienced players heading into 2020 than those teams along with a very favorable schedule. Now, it’s up to Fisher to take advantage of all that, something Sumlin didn’t. Another big difference is Fisher has a history of doing just that.

Four Aggies invited to NFL combine

Aggies among the 337 invited to the NFL Combine from Feb. 23-March 2 were wide receiver Quartney Davis, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, punter Braden Mann and wide receiver Kendrick Rogers.

Davis, Madubuike, defensive back Debione Renfro and Rogers were among 99 underclassmen who declared for the NFL draft.

If all the underclassmen get drafted, that would account for just over three of the seven rounds. Of course, that won’t happen. Last year, 103 underclassmen declared for the draft, three less than the previous year, which set a record. Only 73 were drafted, a list that didn’t include A&M linebacker Tyrel Dodson and place-kicker Daniel LaCamera. They were among seven SEC underclassmen not picked.

Last year, 254 total players were drafted.

Walters to coach receivers for Bengals

Former A&M Consolidated wide receiver Troy Walters, who won the Biletnikoff Award at Stanford in 1999, will be an assistant wide receivers coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. Walters was the offensive coordinator for Scott Frost at Central Florida and Nebraska, though Frost called the plays.

Walters coached wide receivers at A&M in 2010-11. He worked with Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, who was graduate assistant for the Aggies from 2008-11 under Mike Sherman, his father-in-law.

Big games ahead for Aggie hoops teams

It’s a big week for the A&M basketball teams. The men, who will play four of its next five at Reed, will be home to Florida (14-9, 6-4) on Wednesday and Georgia (12-11, 2-8) on Saturday. The overachieving Aggies (11-11, 5-5) need to take care of business this week considering they’ll end the regular season with 12th-ranked Kentucky (18-5, 8-2), 25th-ranked LSU, 11th-ranked Auburn (21-2, 8-2) and Arkansas (16-7, 4-6) with the middle two games on the road.

The A&M women will play Vanderbilt on Thursday night in its annual Beat The Hell Outta of Cancer Game, but the Aggies are more concerned about beating the hell outta ankle injuries. Junior guard Chennedy Carter, the SEC’s preseason player of the year, hasn’t played since twisting her left ankle Jan. 9 against LSU.

The Aggies, despite losing their second straight in a 69-57 loss at Mississippi State on Sunday, remained 16th in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. A&M, which is 17th in the NCAA’s RPI rankings, is still in the running to be one of 16 hosts for the NCAA tournament’s first- and second-round games.

The Aggies (18-5, 6-4) are in seventh place in the SEC a half game back of 18th-ranked Kentucky (18-5, 7-4) and 23rd-ranked Arkansas (19-5, 7-4). A&M should take care of Vandy (13-10, 3-7), setting up a pivotal game Sunday at 25th-ranked Tennessee (17-6, 7-3).

Softball team should take step forward

The Texas A&M softball team needed an eight-run fifth inning to rally for a 10-6 victory over Abilene Christian University on Sunday to finish in its own tournament at 3-2.

It’s highly dramatic to say it was a must-win game this early in the season, but it was. ACU is picked to finish ninth in the Southland Conference. The Aggies already had dropped two games to a decent Texas-Arlington team, which is picked third in the Sun Belt but probably won’t make the NCAA tournament. And most of all, A&M needs to be taking positive steps after last year’s 28-27 season.

A&M will be much better this year offensively because of freshman shortstop Jourdyn Campbell, who hit a game-tying grand slam against ACU, sophomore Meagan Smith, who hit three homers on the weekend, and sophomore Florida State transfer Makinzy Herzog, who also can pitch.

A&M should avoid last year’s last-place finish in the SEC, but this remains a rebuilding job after being a pitch away from making the 2018 Women’s College World Series. Help is on the way as the Aggies signed the nation’s seventh-best class in November by FloSoftball.

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