ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 03: Wide receiver Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Texas A&M Aggies against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Cowboys Stadium on October 3, 2009 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Texas A&M addressed its biggest need on signing day, picking up six linebackers after losing Butkus Award winner Von Miller to graduation.
Leading the group was late addition Brandon Alexander, a 6-6, 240-pounder from Brenham who played defensive end in high school.
Alexander has only played football for a short time and just moved to Brenham this season when his guardian took a coaching job at Blinn Junior College. He had 59 tackles, five sacks and one fumble recovery last season.
"After his first ball game, we were pretty sold that he was the type of linebacker that we think could fit into our system and excel," coach Mike Sherman said. "He's a tremendous pass rusher and he has great length and size. We have very high expectations for him."
Along with Miller, the Aggies also lost fellow senior linebacker Michael Hodges who led the team 115 tackles and had 4 1/2 sacks. Miller had 68 tackles including 17 1/2 for losses.
The Aggies also snagged linebackers Donnie Baggs from League City, Shaun Ward out of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Darzil Washington from Edgard, La., Galena Park's Tyrell Taylor and Steven Jenkins of Coffeyville (Kan.) Junior College. Jenkins had 91 tackles with 17 tackles for losses and four forced fumbles last season.
"I was very pleased with our linebackers last season but we lose a couple of pretty significant players so we needed to add to that group and elevate that group and I think that the guys we recruited will definitely do that," Sherman said.
The Aggies added gargantuan 6-7, 271-pound offensive lineman Joseph Cheek as well as Taylor Bertolet, the top-rated kicker in the nation according to Rivals.com. Cheek's father, Louis Cheek, played for Texas A&M in the 1980s and spent four seasons in the NFL.
Sherman said Bertolet will provide competition for senior kicker Randy Bullock
Texas A&M, which is coming off its best season since 2006 at 9-4, picked up quarterback Johnny Manziel, The Associated Press Texas Player of the Year who accounted for 77 touchdowns last season for Kerrville Tivy.
The Aggies are excited about Manziel, who threw for 3,609 yards and ran for 1,544 more last season.
"I don't want to put too much pressure on him before he's even taken a snap, but he's a unique player," Sherman said. "He's dynamic. He can do a lot of different things for you."
Sherman said Manziel will be a quarterback, but that he'll probably use him some at receiver this season with senior Ryan Tannehill entrenched in the starting spot. Tannehill played receiver extensively while backing up Jerrod Johnson at quarterback before taking over the job in the middle of last season.
"He's open to the Ryan Tannehill plan," Sherman said. "That gets players involved in the process instead of just collecting dust. He's going to play quarterback, but we may throw him in there to catch balls at some point."
Brandon Alexander, lb, 6-6, 240, Brenham (Texas) HS
Donnie Baggs, lb, 6-1, 205, Clear Springs HS, League City, Texas
Taylor Bertolet, k, 5-9, 165, Exeter Township HS, Reading, Pa.
Devonta Burns, db, 6-0, 200, Martin HS, Arlington, Texas
Joseph Cheek, ol, 6-7, 271, Seguin (Texas) HS
Ben Compton, ol, 6-4, 310, Friendswood (Texas) HS
Mike Evans, wr, 6-5, 180, Ball HS, Galveston, Texas
Deshazor Everett, db, 6-0, 170, DeRidder (La.) HS
Johntel Franklin, db, 6-2, 200, Victor Valley (Calif.) CC
Nathan Gutekunst, ol, 6-6, 290, Atascocita HS, Humble, Texas
Shayvion Hatten, dl, 6-4, 250, Daingerfield (Texas) HS
Steven Jenkins, lb, 6-2, 205, Colleyville (Kan.) CC
Drew Kaser, p, 6-3, 210, Walsh Jesuit HS, Strongsville, Ohio
Johnny Manziel, qb, 6-1, 180, Tivy HS, Kerrville, Texas
Howard Matthews, db, 6-2, 200, Clear Springs HS, League City, Texas
Chance Nelson, wr, 5-10, 170, Sterling HS, Baytown, Texas
Will Randolph, rb, 5-9, 175, Copperas Cove (Texas) HS
LaMarc Strahan, dl, 6-4, 365, Blinn JC
Tyrell Taylor, lb, 6-4, 205, Galena Park North Shore HS, Houston
Shaun Ward, lb, 6-2, 225, Boyd Anderson HS, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Darzil Washington, lb, 6-3, 226, West St. John HS, Edgard, La.