COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — New Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin signed 19 players in his first recruiting class after being hired Dec. 10 to replace the fired Mike Sherman.
Sumlin retained 11 players the former staff recruited and added eight new recruits. He left some spaces open to add players after he evaluates his team and see where he needs more help as the Aggies prepare to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.
He said recruiting for A&M was a very different experience than it was when he was coach at Houston.
"A lot of these guys, we tried to recruit them at Houston and they threw our mail away or didn't return our calls," he said. "All of a sudden we got here and they answered the phone."
Sumlin's recruiting class was also buoyed by Texas A&M's move to the SEC, beginning next season.
"There are a lot of players that really appreciate that and embrace that and want to be a part of it," he said.
Sumlin was hired after Sherman was fired following a disappointing 6-6 regular-season finish in a season where the Aggies started out with a top 10 ranking. Sumlin addressed a lack of depth on the defensive line with his change from the 3-4 scheme to the 4-3 by signing five defensive lineman.
"It was an area of need and I think we were successful," Sumlin said of shoring up his defensive line. "Anytime you're trying to build a championship team, you have to be strong and have depth up front. We were able to accomplish that in a short time today."
The Aggies signed defensive ends Polo Manukainiu, Julien Obioha, Alonzo Williams and Tyrone Taylor and snagged former Missouri commitment, 6-foot-5, 290-pound defensive lineman Edmond Ray.
Texas A&M also boosted its offensive line with the addition of Mike Matthews. Matthews is the son of NFL Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews, who played for the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans. The Aggies added another offensive lineman in 6-5, 304-pound Germain Ifedi.
"Mike Matthews is one of the best centers in the state," Sumlin said. "You know the bloodlines. Mike is smart, strong, and both those guys will be good. Germain is big and can move real well. We're excited about both those guys."
Running back Trey Williams is perhaps A&M's most heralded recruit this season, ranking among the top five players in the state on several recruiting lists. He was named the Texas class 5A offensive player of the year after running for 3,890 yards and 48 touchdowns last season. The 5-8, 175-pound Williams also had two kickoff returns for touchdowns and added another score on a punt return.
Last season topped off an impressive career for Williams, who ran for 2,290 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior and 1,930 yards and 18 scores as a sophomore.
"Trey is one of the best players in the history of Texas high school football, statistically," Sumlin said. "He can be a 10-15 touch guy early in his career, and maybe eventually get to 20. Those won't have to just be carries. He could get involved in a lot of ways."
The Aggies signed quarterback Matt Davis as they look at options to replace Ryan Tannehill. Davis threw for 1,483 yards and 13 touchdowns and ran for 931 yards and 12 more scores last season. Sumlin said Davis, who enrolled at A&M in January, will have a chance to compete for the starting job with the quarterbacks already on the roster.
Davis will go against last year's backup Jameill Showers and sophomores Johnny Manziel and Matt Joeckel for the job. Sumlin said no one has an advantage right now, but also said he wouldn't mind starting a young quarterback.
"If you've got a guy that's starting as a young player, you can install a system and have a guy grow with it and with the receivers and you don't have to change habits or teach an old dog new tricks," he said.
Sumlin only had about two weeks to recruit because of NCAA-mandated dead periods since he was hired.
"To be able to do that in a couple of weeks, that's a testament to our staff," Sumlin said. "Our prior relationships with a lot of these coaches in the states of Texas, Louisiana and in St. Louis really helped us."