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Aggies surge on national signing day with 7 surprise signatures

Antsy Texas A&M fans, you can exhale.

New Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher still can recruit, even after moving his hub from Tallahassee to College Station. It just took him awhile to get going.

After a lackluster showing in the early signing period in December, Fisher ended up signing a class of 22 players. Seven of them waited until Wednesday to make their decision.

Nationally, the class zoomed from 23rd to 17th in the 247Sports composite ratings. In the SEC, the Aggies ranked sixth, fourth among teams in the west division.

There was a flash of recruiting optimism earlier in the week, when Leon O’Neal, a safety from Houston Cypress Springs, said he planned to sign. O’Neal had been an Aggies pledge and one of the top-ranked prospects in the class before A&M fired coach Kevin Sumlin on Nov. 26. O’Neal, who is ranked 75th overall in the nation, came back to the Aggies.

Before O’Neal, the A&M class was floundering at 35th nationally.

“Texas A&M got a lot better today,” proclaimed Fisher, who was hired away from Florida State on Dec. 4.

A&M signed nine players off the American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55 list of the state’s top recruits. Two of them were ranked in the top 10 — Manvel receiver Jalen Preston (No. 6) and O’Neal (10th).

Here’s how Wednesday went down for A&M:

Bobby Brown, a 4-star defensive tackle from Arlington Martin, flipped from Alabama to the Aggies. He’d been an initial pledge to A&M under Sumlin. But like O’Neal, he withdrew his commitment when Sumlin was fired.

He signed at 9:03 a.m., much to the delight of Fisher, who conceded that he’s been a “nervous wreck” awaiting Brown’s decision.

“It took time to get that relationship back,” Fisher said of Brown. “Maybe the last few days, I started feeling a little better.”

Brown told reporters: “What brought me back is I knew when I first committed there that’s where I wanted to be. When everything transpired I went to Alabama for personal reasons and other people being in my ear. Then I finally thought this weekend, having fun, looking at my friends having fun that this is the place I want to be at.”

Brown was one of eight former Alabama pledges who ended up de-committing at some point during the 2018 cycle.

The Aggies pulled two Wednesday surprises from the state of Alabama, too.

Marcus “Tank” Jenkins, a 4-star star prospect at guard, selected A&M. Then just after lunch, James Foster announced he too was signing with the Aggies, giving Fisher a dual-threat quarterback. Both players are from Montgomery.

Foster was a one-time pledge to both North Carolina and Missouri. He picked up interest from other power programs late in the recruiting process, entertaining offers from Florida State and LSU.

Defensive end Jeremiah Martin, who had been wooed by the previous staff, announced for A&M. The native of San Bernadino, Calif., selected the Aggies over Washington and Oklahoma. And A&M picked up a pair of Florida running backs — Jashaun Corbin and Charles Strong. Fisher also added New Orleans tight end Glenn Beal.

Six of the seven surprise signees were from out of state. The class included 14 Texans.

Fisher admitted that he had to scramble throughout the process. For the first time ever, the NCAA allowed an early signing period, which started Dec. 20. A&M garnered 10 signatures in the early session. But mostly, Fisher said he was trying to sway prospects from signing early in order to give his new staff a chance to sell the Aggies.

The late surge allowed A&M to finish second in the state behind only Texas, which had the third-best class in the country. By the end of Wednesday, the Aggies had sprinted past both Baylor and TCU in the national rankings.

Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s national recruiting director, said Fisher probably had the toughest assignment of any new coach in the country.

“I think Texas A&M and Jimbo will be just fine,” Luginbill said. “Their schedule does not help them the next two years, from a competitive element of getting on the field, but in recruiting, going forward off of this 2018 class, I think they’ll be in fine shape.”

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