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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #10-Texas A&M

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 9, 2013

2013 Fierce 40 Previews

 

#10 Texas A&M Aggies

 

2012 Recap:

What a way to start your SEC career. 11-2 with a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma and a win against Alabama in their own house. The only losses on the season were against Florida and LSU, and the disheartening fact is that both losses came at home.

 

Coaching:

Kevin Sumlin may be the hot name tossed around NFL circles soon if he continues to have the success he showed in his first year at Texas A&M. Now the biggest challenge will be not letting fame get to Johnny Manziel and making sure he stays out of trouble as Manziel has thus far been a lightning rod for controversy.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Gee a quarterback at Texas A&M…hmmmm….lemme see if I know who that is…hmmm…oh yeah some guy named Johnny Manziel. What more can you say about the first freshman to win the Heisman in the history of the Award. Johnny Manziel helped lead Texas A&M to become the first SEC team to gain over 7,000 yards in total offense in a season. It’s no secret Manziel was the ultimate weapon last season and one has to wonder whether Manziel and the offense can be as effective or will he be “figured out” now that teams have had a year to look at his body of work. Does Manziel and his off-the-field activities play into his performance? At the time this was being written I have heard whispers that the NCAA was going to investigate Manziel for earning money for autographing memorabilia, which could create a fallout or eligibility concerns that arise out of this situation. Anyone out there think this team would be the same with Matt Joeckel behind center? Now the most important question: Does the game of Manziel translate to the NFL game? He is very small and doesn’t have a huge arm, the success rate is not through the roof on this type of quarterback at the next level. I need to see another year before making the ultimate determination. He would likely be a high draft pick though because at least one team will take a chance on handing him the keys to the offense.

Ben Molina and Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams give Texas A&M a nice 1-2 punch at running back ensuring that Johnny Football isn’t the only one picking up huge chunks of yards on the ground.

Best Draft Prospect: Johnny Manziel QB 2nd Round 2016 (Likely to declare for this year and I currently have him as a 3rd rounder leaving early).

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Johnny Manziel is not the only super freshman on the team as evidenced by wideout Mike Evans who registered an astounding 82 catches for 1,105 yards and 5 touchdowns. Evans is built more like a tight end at 6’4” and 225 pounds, and while he lacks the top end straight line speed, he comes in and out of breaks crisply and can get separation, making him an elite future 1st round prospect. Texas A&M has plenty of people to throw to but the questions will it be players like La’Kendrick Williams and Malcome Kennedy making the grabs or some of the newcomers who could have a season like Mike Evans in 2012. Ricky Seals-Jones, Sebastian Larue, and Ja’Quay Williams all look like they want to play with and catch passes from Johnny Manziel right away. The feeling is if Manziel goes pro after 2013 at least these receivers will have a year to hopefully show some promise or post some gaudy numbers with him under center.

This is a deep and young receiving corps and look for some tight end help from Nehemiah Hicks. Hicks may have only caught 7 passes a season ago but he is an astute blocker and he should be featured more in the passing game as a senior.

Best Draft Prospect: Mike Evans WR 1st Round 2016 (Likely to leave early in 2015).

 

Offensive Line:

I guess the offensive line is something that should be noted as a strength when you have the best offensive lineman in the land on your team, that is the luxury Texas A&M has with Jake Matthews. Had Matthews declared for the draft a season ago he would have been a first round pick going in the 5-15 range overall. I don’t think his position will climb much higher in this draft but he came back to prove he could be just as effective on the left side as he was on the right. Of course Matthews had Luke Joeckel opposite him last year and Joeckel went #2 overall. Matthews is a fantastic prospect who is equally effective in pass protection as he is run blocking. Matthews is far from being the only NFL ready lineman on this team and he is the only senior among the starters as Texas A&M, ensuring they have a solid and steady line for years to come. Fellow tackle Cedric Ogbuehi seems ready to establish himself as the next pro-ready tackle and center Mike Matthews (Brother of Jake, son of Bruce-talk about bloodlines) could be another NFL ready center in a few years. When you have a quarterback that can run and pass, you need linemen that can adapt to any situation, and this describes Texas A&M to a tee.

Best Draft Prospect: Jake Matthews OT 1st Round 2014 (likely to battle Taylor Lewan of Michigan for the honor of being the first offensive lineman selected in the draft).

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

Losing players like Damontre Moore and Spencer Nealy looks like it hurt the front line. Damontre Moore was one of the most productive players in college last season with a whopping 21 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. Nealy added another 7.5 tackles for loss, but the Aggies may not have to go far to see their production replaced. Gavin Stansbury played in 11 games last year and did not register a sack but with these star players gone he should step up and start to assert himself as a legitimate prospect. Julien Obioha and Kirby Ennis are back after starting last season but both are coming off of injury. These players should be able to return to their effective playing standards and help fill the void of the losses along the line. Texas A&M will shift into a 3-4 front at times but the 4-3 will be the primary formation. Look for junior Tyrell Taylor to assume a larger role with the defense and he may be a pass rushing specialist the Aggies will call upon. This is not one of the best lines in the Big 12 but the potential for them to be one of the best lines is there.

Best Draft Prospect: Gavin Stansbury DE 6th Round 2015.

                       

Linebackers:

The Aggies lost some players up front but the linebackers should be even more concerning with Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter both gone into the NFL. Stewart was second on this team in tackles to Damontre Moore.  Stewart did not have the range you are looking for in a star linebacker but his instincts were top notch and he always seemed to be around the ball. The Aggies won’t have any starters returning at linebacker but they have some young untested talent to throw at their opponents. The leader may turn out to be a freshman starting right out of the gate Brett Wade, but the Aggies will also see a huge contribution from fellow freshman Reggie Chevis if he is healthy, as he has been battling some ankle/leg issues early in practice for Texas A&M. Tommy Sanders comes over from the junior college ranks and Texas A&M is confident he will be the best cover linebacker they have on the field. Junior Donnie Baggs is the hardest hitter of the group and he could provide the spark A&M lacked last season. What A&M lacked was playmakers taking the ball away. Texas A&M was #86 in the nation in turnover margin at -5, that number will not get the job done in the SEC. One can argue it was turnovers stopping this team from getting a shot at the National Title as both losses featured more than 3 turnovers by the Aggies. It’s not just turning the ball over on offense, the Aggies need to become more aggressive stripping the football or finding a way to help create turnovers. I don’t see any real prospects here right now but this team is so young it would not be surprising if we see a prospect or two emerge from this area of the field in the future.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Secondary:

The secondary seemed to be the weakest unit on this team last year as Texas A&M ranked #86 against the pass. This should turn into a strength for 2013 especially since both starting cornerbacks have amazing NFL potential. Deshazor Everett and De’Vante Harris took their lumps at times last year but they made some tremendous plays individually and showcased their athletic talents. Everett is listed as a 3rd round prospect for 2014 and I have Harris as a 4th rounder for the following season. Everett could stay for his senior season meaning the Aggies can have two more seasons with the starting cornerback tandem in place. What makes both players special is they do not have to rely on zones or a certain type of coverage to be effective. We will see A&M give these corners some freedom as both are outstanding in man coverage. We should see the safety positions rotated frequently and while Texas A&M is adequate at the position, they don’t have the individual skills of the corners. Howard Matthews and Floys Raven should be the starters and see the most action while Tony Hurd and Clay Honeycutt will contribute frequently.

Best Draft Prospect: Deshazor Everett CB 3rd Round 2015.

 

Special Teams:

The Aggies had the best starting field position off of kickoffs in the SEC last year as they relied heavily on the return game.  De’Vontae Harris will ultimately have his draft position aided by his punt return ability, and it was enough for me to move him from a 5th round prospect to a 4th rounder. Texas A&M was inconsistent in the field goal department a year ago and with the Aggies scoring so many touchdowns it didn’t seem to be a concern. Playing some close games in the SEC could expose this weakness and it’s an area I feel Texas A&M needs to be more serious about in the future.

Best Draft Prospect: De’Vontae Harris CB/PR 4th Round 2016.

 

Schedule:

The Aggies get their first four contests at home including an all-important third game rematch with Alabama. The Aggies toughest road game comes in the next to last game of the season against LSU, but the Aggies have lucked out in that I don’t really see huge back-to-back matchups for this team. Most of the toughest opponents for Texas A&M seems to be spread evenly along the schedule.

 

Draft Outlook:

Jake Matthews is a lock as a top 10 pick and could even be in the top 5 and first lineman off the board. How Johhny Manziel reacts during his second time through the SEC lineup and how he performs with the spotlight on him all year, will be interesting to watch and it’s an aspect of his game not to be overlooked. Teams most likely have questions about the maturity issues or choices that seem to be displayed by Manziel. You have to take personality and off-the-field issues into account when handing over an offense to a man who right now is legally not old enough to drink. Deshazor Everett could declare early if he has a breakout season and we will continue to chart Mike Evans and his growth as he looks like a future top prospect. Texas A&M seems to be landing bigger and better recruits so this is a team that will be active on the NFL Draft landscape.

 

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