Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies have put together a formidable 2020 recruiting class. According to 247Sports, the Aggies rank sixth in the nation, just one spot behind Ohio State. Headlining the class are 5-star recruits, Jaylon Jones and Demond Demas. However, there is one player who many regard as underrated. Here is the Texas A&M recruiting profile for Devon Achane. Tipping the scale at just over 175 pounds, is Achane, the speedy all-purpose back who is expecting to bring forth a Goliath-sized infusion to the Aggie offense.
Texas A&M Recruiting Profile
- Running back/ATH
- 5’9″ 175 lbs
- Fort Bend Marshall HS
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Achane is fast. Real fast. In fact, it does little good to try and explain how fast he really is. When it comes to pure speed and being “football fast” Achane is the standard. This is one of the perks of his smaller frame; he moves across the field in a blur, and in a blink of an eye, he is past tacklers and it is off to the races. The speed appears to come easy too. Many of his touchdowns end in a slow jog across the goal line with defenders trailing far behind. His upper body does not move much, even at a dead sprint, the true sign of a pure sprinter.
A quick peek at his film explains why he garnered offers from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, TCU, and North Carolina. Football has been said to be a game of speed, and if that is the case, Achane is has a major leg up on the competition. He is a track star as well, recently earning the title of the Texas Gatorade Athlete of the Year in track. Achane will also be running for the fabled Aggie track team.
But he can do more than run a fast 40-yard dash. Achane’s balance is another factor that allowed him to score 50 touchdowns during his senior year alone. Again, his relatively small stature contributes to his ability to stay on his feet. With a low center of gravity, the speedster is difficult to bring down. He slips through tackles like a greased streak of lightning.
Playing in the SEC, balance may be even more valuable than speed. There is no getting around it, all running backs are going to be hit, no matter how fast they may be. However, if one knows how to get hit and stay moving, not every tackle is guaranteed. There are many downstream effects from this ability – game plan focuses, shifts in attention, etc. – but directly resulting from missed tackles, are gained yards.
Speaking of seeing windows of opportunity, Achane knows where to run too, not just how to get there fast. This is the ability that separates the good from the great. Think of Barry Sanders, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Lesean McCoy. Sure, they were fast and had great balance, but it was their ability to see through the traffic and be one step ahead of the defense that vaulted them into greatness. The Aggie freshman has shown his ability to perceive the defense’s next moves and has helped him find the endzone. Stepping where the defenders are not and finding holes that others might not see, are often what makes the difference between a three-yard gain and a thirty-yard explosion.
Odds are, Achane will be catching lots of passes for the Aggies. His stature will keep him from running up the middle very often, so getting the ball to him in space will be the focus. Fortunately, he has experience catching the football, a skill many backs overlook, especially in high school. His ability to snag the rock is another weapon in his arsenal that will likely be on display when he gets his touches. He caught the ball plenty in high school, and last time he was on Kyle Field he took a screen into the south endzone for a touchdown. Perhaps a hint of foreshadowing?
His size is the elephant in the room. It’s impossible to not notice. Achane’s frame cannot be overlooked, especially when he must play against the heavyweights that make up SEC defenses. He has been said to “[lack] ideal size” and has been called “frame limited”.
Yes, he is smaller than the average running back and does not plow over would-be tacklers. This could very well pose issues in Achane’s volume of touches. Typically, big bodies can handle the punishment of getting hit all game without getting hurt. Players who are considered slight in their stature tend to be more prone to injury i.e. Kendrick Rogers. How Fisher will work around this disadvantage will be interesting to watch.
Reliance On Speed
Young players are notorious for being one-dimensional. They often rely on only their one go-to move to get out of any and all trouble they might get in. For example, a fast quarterback might scramble too much at the beginning of his career, resulting in unnecessary sacks. Achane knows he is fast and has relied on this skill to be successful. There is nothing wrong with that, but in the SEC everyone is fast. He will not always be able to outrun his opponents and this may take a while for him to figure out.
Division I football can be a real wake up call for many high school phenoms. While Achane has yet to take the field for the Aggies, it can be expected he will face a learning curve just like anyone else.
How Will He Be Used?
2020 will likely bring Achane to special teams first and foremost. The Aggies have been rather lackluster in the return game, especially punt returns. Ainias Smith was a bright light last season that showed promise as a returner. But as he shifts his efforts more on the running back and wide receiver positions, his focus on the return game will likely take the backseat. Achane is expected to be at least one of the return men for the Aggies this season. The depth chart is not set yet, and Fisher has no issue switching returners, even within the same game. But, expect the speedy freshman to be on the field with the kick return team and maybe even punt return.
Though he is listed as a running back, most expect the speedy skill player to play most snaps from the slot position. From there, he will be able to get the ball in open space and make the most of his abilities. Running up the middle like Isiah Spiller simply is not the most conducive way to get production from the smaller framed Achane. When he does come out of the backfield, it will likely be in the passing game.
From either the backfield or slot, screens and quick passes will likely be how he makes his hay, at least early on. As he puts on size, maybe the Aggies will use him more on the ground. A quick look at Tavon Austin’s tape at West Virginia might tell the tale of how Achane will be used in Aggieland. Their skillset may differ, but how they are used could very well be the same.
Of course anything can happen, and often does, during the course of a college career. Early on, Achane should be an explosive contributor on special teams. His elite speed will bolster the Aggie return game into something it has not been in a long time: consistently dangerous. He will also be a force to reckon with catching the football, most likely on screens, slants, Texas routes, and the like.
All-in-all, the versatility Devon Achane brings to the table could be used in a multitude of ways. It will be up to Fisher and his staff how they go about it. But expect him to contribute in some ways as a true freshman. As he puts on size and weight, the Aggies may see him more on the ground, but as they continue to add depth of larger backs, they could very well keep him in the slot.
In short, Achane’s time at Texas A&M could very well be an exciting one. The Aggies have missed the lightning-in-a-bottle playmaker from the days of Christian Kirk. As long as the young man from Fort Bend Marshall High stays healthy and uses all of his skills, his time at Aggieland may be one to remember.