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2014 Texas A&M Aggies: Team Overview
by Jess Nicholas
August 22, 2014
Now than Johnny Manziel has left for the NFL, the rest of the SEC will finally get a look at how well A&M performs without a freak on the team. The Aggies ran up impressive offensive numbers with Manziel triggering the attack, but didn’t stop anyone on defense – a situation that must change, or Texas A&M won’t ever be a consistent contender in the SEC, which prioritizes stopping the ball over doing something dynamic with it. Losing six starters and virtually every key playmaker from the 2013 team won’t help.
Returning Offensive Starters: 5 (WR, LT, LG, C, RT)
Returning Defensive Starters: 5 (RDE, DT, RCB, LCB, SS)
Returning Specialists: 2 (PK, P)
Projected Overall Record: 8-4 (UA, AU, USC, OM)
Projected SEC Record: 4-4 (UA, AU, USC, OM)
Projected SEC West Record: 2-4 (UA, AU, USC, OM)
Ratings (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr)
Quarterbacks: Av Defensive Line: Av
Running Backs: Fr Linebackers: Pr
Wide Receivers: Av Defensive Backs: Fr
Offensive Line: Vg Special Teams: Vg
The Aggies’ spread offense was one of the deadliest in the country last season, thanks in large part to Manziel’s improvisational theatrics. The system won’t change this year, but the explosiveness probably will. A&M will still be talented under center, but a lack of proven ability at the skill positions could be the Aggies’ undoing.
Kenny Hill beat out Kyle Allen for the job early in fall camp, but they’re practically interchangeable and both figure to play copious amounts early in the season. Like Manziel, both are dual-threat quarterbacks who can improvise. Unlike Manziel, however, neither possesses (yet) the knack for on-the-fly heroics that seems to come from outer space. No one else figures to see much time, if any.
The Aggies will be changing gears somewhat, moving away from the scatback style of Ben Malena to the the pounding style of Tra Carson. Carson, who goes 230 pounds or more, is sort of a fish out of water in a spread offense, but with the Aggies utilizing two greenhorn quarterbacks, look for Carson to get a lot of work early on – and more work than Malena ever got in the Aggie offense. Speedster Trey Williams will back up Carson, and he averaged more than 7 yards per carry in 2013. But that was in limited work, and his numbers figure to smooth out a bit with more exposure to top defenses. James White and Brandon Williams will add depth. There is no shortage of bodies here, but the question is whether Texas A&M can split the workload three or four ways, given the commitment to throw the ball first and run it second. There is no fullback.
If Ricky Seals-Jones doesn’t step up and help fill the shoes of the departed Mike Evans, the Aggies could be in some trouble here. Malcome Kennedy returns in the slot, but he’s more steady than spectacular and the Aggies need a gamebreaking threat that can make plays downfield. Sabian Holmes, the inscrutably named LaQuvionte Gonzalez and Speedy Noil will battle for the third starting job. Noil and Holmes have potential, but Gonzalez is more of a role-filler. The Aggies will also have a new tight end in Tennessee transfer Cameron Clear, who saw limited action in 2013. A big part of Manziel’s success was due to Evans’ ability to improvise upon the route, which is something neither Kennedy nor Gonzalez, the two leading returning receivers, have yet managed to do.
There are no issues here, as Texas A&M boasts four returning starters and several veteran backups. Mike Matthews will start at center, flanked by Jarvis Harrison and Joseph Cheek at guard and Germain Ifedi and Cedric Ogbuehi at the tackles. Cheek is the lone new starter. The only real question is whether Ogbuehi can flip from right tackle to left tackle and retain his effectiveness. Matthews, underrated despite his family pedigree, may be the best lineman the Aggies have. If Cheek can’t handle right guard, seniors Garrett Gramling and Ben Compton are available, along with junior Avery Gennesy. Another upperclassman, JUCO transfer Jermaine Eluemunor, adds further depth. This could be the best OL in the conference.
In practice, this was probably the worst defense in the SEC last year. It was ineffective, undisciplined, and surprisingly unathletic in several spots – an SEC defense in name only. On top of that, the Aggies were expected to return eight starters, but have seen that number drop to five, as three first-teamers have either left the team or have been dismissed. The Aggies utilize a 4-3 base alignment.
Fortunately for Texas A&M, the coaches put together a strong recruiting class. They’re going to need it, as both Gavin Stansbury and Isaiah Golden are no longer part of the program. Julien Obioha is the one player to really watch here, as he can be a terror coming off the edge. Alonzo Williams returns inside, but with Golden out, either Zaycoven Henderson or Justin Manning, both freshmen, will have to start and be the primary backup as well. Senior Tyrell Taylor will compete with another true freshman, Myles Garrett, in a battle to fill Stansbury’s strongside end position. Hardreck Walker, Jay Arnold and Daeshon Hall will provide depth along with Ivan Robinson. Many freshmen played in 2013, and 2014 looks like more on-the-job training.
This was the worst linebacker unit in the conference in many ways in 2013, and things didn’t get better when Darian Claiborne was dismissed from the team. The only starter approaching SEC quality is strongside backer Donnie Baggs, and with Claiborne out, A.J. Hilliard and Shaan Washington will have to step up on the weakside. Jordan Mastrogiovanni will likely get the call in the middle. Tommy Sanders, Otaro Alaka and Reggie Chevis will be the primary backups; Alaka is a true freshman.
It’s hard to tell whether cornerback Deshazor Everett is worth the hype, because overall, Texas A&M’s pass defense was pitiful in 2013. Everett will start next to De’Vante Harris, and it’s safe to say that no matter how talented they might be, both need to improve. Howard Matthews and Floyd Raven will start at the safety positions, but it remains to be seen how Raven’s health holds up. Tavares Garner will be the primary backup at corner, while Jonathan Wiggins and Devonta Burns will battle behind the starters at safety. Clay Honeycutt adds depth.
There are no issues here, provided Josh Lambo‘s emergence at placekicker wasn’t a fluke. Lambo displaced Taylor Bertolet as the starting kicker and became a fairly automatic option. Drew Kaser had a phenomenal year punting the football. The return game should be sound, with Trey Williams the premier player there.
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