The Texas A&M football team hasn’t beaten Alabama since 2012, but the Aggies continue to narrow the talent gap.
A&M added to its 2020 football recruiting class on Wednesday by signing four-star defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson of Lucedale, Mississippi, who spurned Alabama.
“The guys who put their hand in the dirt both ways they determine [games],” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You’ve gotta have great skill, you gotta have corners, you gotta have linebackers, but those guys up front when they can be disruptive, they cause fumbles, they cause negative plays, they have sacks. Then you have to double team and it frees guys up.”
The 6-foot-2, 308-pound Jackson had 80 tackles, 34 of them for losses for George Country High School this past season.
“McKinnley has a very unique skill set in that he’s big and physical,” Fisher said. “He’s a tremendous run player, very powerful, but he’s extremely athletic and can generate pass rush.”
It’s the second time in two years the Aggies were able to grab a four-star defensive lineman away from Alabama. The class of 2018 included Arlington Lamar defensive lineman Bobby Brown who had been committed to Alabama for six weeks.
Jackson said there were those who wanted him to stay closer to home with Ole Miss and LSU in the mix.
“I stuck to it toward the end,” he told The Biloxi Sun Herald. “It’s been a lot of pressure, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”
Jackson, who was committed for a time to LSU in 2017, said Alabama was his second choice, but picked A&M because of the school.
“Coaches can leave anytime so I wasn’t looking toward that,” he told the paper. “I wasn’t looking toward that. I was looking to the players and the school itself.”
Alabama’s failure to sign Jackson cost it a chance to possibly have the nation’s best class. The Crimson Tide finished second to Georgia by 247sports.com. Clemson was third followed by LSU, Ohio State, A&M, Auburn, Florida, Texas and Tennessee. A&M was fourth last season. Rivals also had Georgia first, but went with Clemson second followed by Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, A&M, Florida, Tennessee, Oregon and Auburn.
A&M also signed four-star linebacker Edgerrin Cooper of Covington, Louisiana, and three-star running back Darvon Hubbard of Surprise, Arizona, a former Ohio State commitment on Wednesday.
The 205-pound Cooper had more than 230 tackles in the last two seasons and had three defensive touchdowns this past season. He originally planned to go to Oklahoma.
“I just felt like I need more time,” Covington told the Times-Picayne of why he waited to sign. “Just having that gut feeling, I wanted to feel comfortable about where I was going.”
The 195-pound Hubbard rushed for 683 yards on only 99 carries (6.9) and had 19 receptions for 334 yards (17.6) this past season.
“We were on him for a long time and thought the world of him,” Fisher said. “Of course, you need depth there, but you take him no matter how many backs you got.”
Running back depth was a concern for A&M headed into the Texas Bowl with the only scholarship players being true freshman Isaiah Spiller and former quarterback Connor Blumrick. But the Aggies signed Fort Bend Marshall’s Devon Achane and Deondre Jackson of Stone Mountain, Georgia, in the early signing period and also received a commitment from Kilgore College’s Earnest Crownover. The group is now six strong because Fisher said wide receiver Ainias Smith, who had seven carries for 54 yards in the 21-14 victory over Oklahoma State will remain at running back.
“We’re going to leave him back there and let him play,” Fisher said. “He is natural back there as the day is long and can run that football. He’s 192 pounds right now and will end up being a 195-196 pound guy. He can carry it, but he also can go out there and not just catch the ball as a back, but can run routes. There’s a big difference in that in how you can match him up and the things he can do.”
Cooper, Hubbard and Jackson join the 22 players A&M signed in Dec. 13 of which are already enrolled.
A&M’s class had 14 from outside the state, by far the most in school history.
“We’re always going to recruit inside out in Texas, and recruit the players in Texas and target the guys we think we can win an SEC championship and national championship with and there’s plenty of them in Texas,” Fisher said. “And we recruited the heck out of ‘em. We got a lot of guys we wanted, a lot of top guys. But some guys, they don’t come here. Some guys go to other schools, they leave the state of Texas or they go to other schools. That’s part of recruiting.”
Fisher said they won’t limit themselves to the Lone Star state.
“We’re in a global world now,” Fisher said. “You [can] build that Texas A&M brand outside of here and people really see what this school has to offer. Like I said, from a cultural standpoint, from the academics in which you have, the commitment to athletics, for the coaching staff we have here. The way we’re building things, the 12th Man, all the things that go on in life after ball. Texas A&M is very attractive and kids are willing to see that and get involved.”
Several Brazos Valley players signed Wednesday in the period that runs until April 1.
A&M Consolidated had nine sign — punter/place-kicker Colby McBerty (Texas-San Antonio); fullback/linebacker Haydn Witherwax, defensive back Bryce Linder and linebacker Makel Williams (Blinn); offensive lineman Trey Zimmerman and defensive back Jamarquis Stewart (East Texas Baptist); defensive back Xavier Stewart (Southwestern Assemblies of God); and quarterback/linebacker Kerry Brooks (Trinity Valley Community College). They join wide receiver Brian Darby (Oklahoma), defensive back Nate Floyd (Texas Tech) and wide receiver Devin Price (Texas A&M) who all signed early.
Bryan High defensive lineman Caleb Merrell will be a walk-on at Texas A&M and Viking wide receiver Gary Lynch signed with Blinn and safety Christian Richardson picked Abilene Christian.
Navasota players signing were wide receiver La’Darrin Thomas (Texas A&M-Kingsville), offensive guard Alfredo Villasenor (Kansas Wesleyan) and defensive back Donovan Thomas (Texas Institute of Agriculture and Technology). Anderson-Shiro running back Zacarrius Haynes signed with Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Leon wide receiver Harris Sherrod signed with McPherson College. The Cougars had four signing in other sports — Caitlynn Bargas (track, Sterling College), Sarah Grace Merry (volleyball, Mary Hardin-Baylor), Rosemary Rivera (softball, McLennan Community College) and Raelyn Theiss (volleyball, Ranger College).
Caldwell baseball players signing were Wade Tittle (Texas Lutheran) and Kyle Cunningham (Temple College).
NOTES — A&M will open spring football drills March 23. A&M’s NFL Pro Day will be March 24. The spring game will be April 18. … Fisher said he didn’t know for sure Jackson would sign with A&M until he picked up the Aggie hat. “You never know,” Fisher said. “I’ve been in this business a long time, until they actually say it and send in those papers, you’re a nervous wreck.” Jackson as a freshman went to one of Fisher’s camps at Florida State. “He put on a show that day,” Fisher said. … Fisher’s son, Trey, signed with Tennessee-Martin. The 5-11, 175-pound quarterback played at Godby High School in Tallahassee. … “It was good, it was a very good day for him,” Jimbo Fisher said. “He had some choices of schools. It was fun to be a dad and be on the other end of that.”