Texas A&M took the SEC by storm last season, finishing with an 11-2 mark with an upset over Alabama in Tuscaloosa and a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma. The Aggies are an emerging power behind head coach Kevin Sumlin, and this team has to be considered one of the top-five national title contenders for 2013. Quarterback Johnny Manziel returns after winning the Heisman Trophy, allowing the Aggies to rank among the nation’s best on offense once again. While the offense is in good shape, the defense has some major holes to fill and will be the top focus during spring practice.
Texas A&M Aggies 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 11-2 (6-2)
Spring practice dates: March 2-April 13
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5
Passing: Johnny Manziel, 295 of 434, 3,706 yards, 26 TDs, 9 INTs
Rushing: Johnny Manziel, 201 car., 1,410 yards, 21 TDs
Receiving: Mike Evans, 82 rec., 1,105 yards, 5 TDs
Tackles: Steven Jenkins, 79
Sacks: Steven Jenkins, 2
Interceptions: Deshazor Everett, 2
Redshirts to Watch: LB Jordan Richmond, QB Matt Davis, OL Germain Ifedi, LB Tyrone Taylor, DL Polo Manukainiu, OL Kimo Tipoti
Early Enrollees to Watch: WR Ja’Quay Williams, LB Reggie Chevis, TE Cameron Clear, DE Jordan Points, LB Tommy Sanders, OL Jeremiah Stuckey, LB Brett Wade, CB Alex Sezer Jr.
JUCO Transfers to Watch: TE Cameron Clear, OL Jeremiah Stuckey, LB Tommy Sanders
Aug. 31 Rice
Sept. 7 Sam Houston State
Sept. 14 Alabama
Sept. 21 SMU
Sept. 28 at Arkansas
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 at Ole Miss
Oct. 19 Auburn
Oct. 26 Vanderbilt
Nov. 2 UTEP
Nov. 9 Mississippi State
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 at LSU
Nov. 30 at Missouri
Related Content: SEC West Schedule Analysis for 2013
Offensive Strength: With Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel returning to College Station, the Aggies should have no trouble scoring points in 2013. Manziel led the team with 1,410 rushing yards, while throwing for 3,706 yards and recording 47 overall touchdowns. In addition to Manziel, the Aggies return a deep backfield and No. 1 receiver Mike Evans.
Offensive Weakness: It’s hard to call the offensive line a weakness, but the Aggies lose All-American tackle Luke Joeckel and center Patrick Lewis. Again, this unit may not be a weakness, but it’s also hard to say it will match last season’s production.
Defensive Strength: Considering the personnel losses on defense, it’s hard to pinpoint one position as a particular strength. While one level of the defense doesn’t stand out, this unit does have some promising young talent, including cornerbacks Deshazor Everett and De’Vante Harris and end Julien Obioha. A top-10 recruiting class should help improve the depth across the board for Kevin Sumlin's team.
Defensive Weakness: Expect the defense to get plenty of attention from Sumlin and coordinator Mark Snyder this spring. End Damontre Moore left for the NFL, and linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart exhausted their eligibility, so the defense is looking for a few impact performers. With Moore leaving, finding a pass-rusher and someone who can force turnovers is a top priority.
Spring Storylines Facing the Aggies
1. Transition at offensive coordinator. Kliff Kingsbury did an excellent job in developing Johnny Manziel from a first-year starter into a Heisman winner. However, Kingsbury departed Texas A&M for Texas Tech before the Cotton Bowl, which prompted Kevin Sumlin to promote Clarence McKinney from running backs coach to co-offensive coordinator. McKinney will be joined by Jake Spavital to share the offensive coordinator title, but he will call the plays. Considering the layoff between Texas A&M’s regular season finale and the Cotton Bowl, there’s enough time to gameplan and soften the blow from losing a coordinator like Kingsbury. McKinney and Spavital should be a good replacement for Kingsbury, but in-game adjustments during the season will be something to watch. Also, what nuisances will they bring to the table in 2013? Don’t expect a drop-off in Texas A&M’s offense, but this will be interesting to watch as the season unfolds.
2. Developing a rotation at running back. The Aggies lose Christine Michael, but there’s little concern about the rushing attack in 2013. Ben Malena rushed for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last season and should open spring practice as the No. 1 back. Trey Williams had a stellar debut in 2012, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 22.3 yards per kick return. The backfield will get even deeper this spring with transfers Brandon Williams (Oklahoma) and Tra Carson (Oregon) ready to push for snaps. Considering the depth, this is a good problem for Kevin Sumlin to have. Developing a pecking order after Malena and finding different ways to get multiple backs on the field will be something to keep an eye on this spring.
3. Revamping the offensive line. It’s a little harsh to use the word revamp to describe Texas A&M’s offensive line situation, but the Aggies are losing two standout players in left tackle Luke Joeckel and center Patrick Lewis. Joeckel could be the No. 1 pick in April’s 2013 NFL Draft. While the Aggies will miss Joeckel, getting Jake Matthews to stick around for his senior year was a huge break for the offense. Matthews is expected to flip to left tackle. How will the rest of the lineup shake out? Junior college recruit Jeremiah Stuckey could get in the mix at right tackle, but guard Cedric Ogbuehi will likely slide outside and claim the starting job. Jarvis Harrison should claim one guard spot, while the other could go to Kimo Tipoti or incoming freshman Joas Aguilar. Sophomore Mike Matthews will likely start at center.
4. Improving the defense. Texas A&M’s defense wasn’t dominant last year and allowed 390.2 yards per game, but it held opponents to 21.8 points a contest. This unit loses its three best players from 2012, so there’s some work to be done. In addition to the personnel losses, the Aggies have to get after the quarterback and force more turnovers in 2013. With Damontre Moore leaving, the spotlight will be on sophomore Julien Obioha to play a bigger role on the line, while sophomore Brandon Alexander (returning to action after a redshirt year) and freshmen Daeshon Hall and Tyrone Taylor will also be asked to factor prominently into the pass rush. In addition to the concerns on the defensive line, the linebacking corps will have two new starters, while the secondary has room to grow after finishing 12th in the SEC in pass defense. The Aggies have talent waiting in the wings, but how quickly can that turn into production?
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College Football 2013 Recruiting Rankings: No. 8 Texas A&M