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January 4, 2013
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl usually produces plenty of trash talk about future schools and their pending bowl games.
That's not true in the case of the Cotton Bowl.
But the future Aggies clearly want to crow about their next stop.
Dallas (Texas) Kimball four-star defensive tackle Justin Manning -- who was once believed to be a heavy OU lean but chose Texas A&M on Dec. 16 -- said the No. 8-ranked recruiting class in the country was going to reshape the national perception of the school.
"It is a blessing to be able to have the opportunity to go to either school," Manning said. "I think the class we have coming in is one that could totally change the direction of the program.
"With the talent already there, I think we will be in a position to win a national championship or two in the next four years."
For a program that had finished third or lower in its own division of the Big 12 in all but one season of the 2000s -- and was a third-place finisher again in its division during its first season in the SEC -- a leap to a national title contender may be hard for some to envision.
But it is a step longtime Aggie commit Isaiah Golden embraces.
Golden was among the first in the class to offer his pledge, committing in late January.
"I think we are moving to the top," he said. "There was a good mix of guys contributing this year and everything that happened with 'Johnny Football' is making more people want to come and play here."
Golden was referring of course to Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.
"I think Johnny is just going to keep getting better," Griffin said. "I know that is the kind of mentality he has and I think I can help him and I know he can help me."
Griffin, like Golden, committed to the Aggies in early January.
He said that the excitement surrounding the program has been exciting.
"It has been great to see," Griffin said. "Really since the day I committed it has just gotten better and better. I can't wait to see what we can do when we are all together."
The Aggies have 34 commitments, with five of them early enrollees. The NCAA only allows each program to sign 25 players per class, so there may be some tough decisions before National Signing Day on Feb. 6.
One player who is certain to have a spot in the class is Seals-Jones, who is the highest-rated player in the class (No. 27 in the Rivals100).
The December decision to go to join the Aggies, according to Seals-Jones, was based on the direction of the program.
"We are on the rise," he said. "There is no doubt. The tradition of the program, it is close to home, I have friends there and we are ready to take off. It is a total package for me.
"It feels good to see the fans really getting behind the team and you can really feel that there are people behind you there."
If A&M beats the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl it will have its first 11-win season since 1998, and that should ensure its first top 10 finish since 1994.
From that point, according to Golden, it is only a matter of time before more players want to join the AggSwagg movement.
"There is a lot of energy going right now and why not?," he said. "The word is out; I mean the secret about what it happening with Texas A&M is out and people want to be on board.
"Now is the time to jump on board because there may not be room very soon."