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2011 Texas A&M Preview – Offense
Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller
Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 16, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Texas A&M Aggie Offense



Texas A&M Aggies

Preview 2011 - Offense

- 2011 Texas A&M Preview | 2011 Texas A&M Offense
- 2011 Texas A&M Defense | 2011 Texas A&M Depth Chart
- Texas A&M Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: Only in the Big 12 could an offense averaged 442 yards and 32 points per game and still be mediocre. No, the attack wasn’t a disappointment last year, but it was inconsistent and it had to rely on some major in-season changes. There was a quarterback switch, star RB Christine Michael got hurt, and the line needed about half the season before it all came together. Now the numbers should be off the charts as Ryan Tannehill has the quarterback job all to himself and gets a loaded receiving corps to throw to. Jeff Fuller, Ryan Swope, and Uzoma Nwachukwu form a tremendous pass catching trio, while the combination of a healthy Michael and 1,133-yard rusher Cyrus Gray forms a potentially devastating tandem in the backfield. The question will be the line, which is full of veterans, size, and options, but needs the young tackles need to keep improving. The pass protection has to be night-and-day better than it was in 2010.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Ryan Tannehill
152-234, 1,638 yds, 13 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Cyrus Gray
200 carries, 1,133 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Jeff Fuller
72 catches, 1,066 yds, 12 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Jeff Fuller
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior OG/C Patrick Lewis
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE Nehemiah Hicks
Best pro prospect: Fuller
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Fuller, 2) QB Ryan Tannehill, 3) RB Christine Michael
Strength of the offense: Receivers, Running Back
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Proven Backup QB

Quarterbacks

State of the Unit: The Texas A&M wasn’t as good as expected, but it was still extremely strong finishing 20th in the nation, but fifth in the Big 12, while ranking 57th in the country in passing efficiency. The hope was for Jerrod Johnson to blow up with all the weapons around him in place, but he threw way too many picks, the losses were mounting up, and then came the big change.

Senior Ryan Tannehill was excellent, but he also caught some huge breaks. With the season careening into the abyss, and with the future of the coaching staff probably on the line, Tannehill stepped into the starting role and finished the year completing 65% of his passes for 1,638 yards and 13 touchdowns with six interceptions, while also running for a score. While it might be easy to assume the quarterback change was the spark needed for the six-game winning streak to close out the regular season, it also helped that Tannehill got to start out his era with Kansas and Texas Tech after Johnson was the starting quarterback in losses to Oklahoma State, Arkansas, and Missouri. However, he was solid against Oklahoma with 225 yards and two scores, with two picks, and he completed 19-of-29 passes in the win over Nebraska. For all the good things, though, he only threw for 128 yards in a rough day against Texas, threw for 172 yards against Nebraska, and gave up three picks in the bowl loss to LSU. Now he has to prove he can be a steady leader and playmaker for a full season.

At 6-4 and 219 pounds he has good size, a good enough arm, and tremendous athleticism. Fast, he served as a receiver when Johnson was at quarterback, catching 11 passes for 143 yards and a score, and he’s smart enough to make all the right decisions. This is his program and his team this year, and he should be ready to handle the work.

The backup situation will be in a state of flux throughout the season with three young players jockeying for the No. 2 position and working to be the main man next year. 6-4, 227-pound redshirt freshman Matt Joeckel is a pure pocket passer with a great arm, but he has to be more accurate down the field. He was going to be in the mix as an emergency option last year, but he was able to redshirt.

6-1, 220-pound redshirt freshman Jameill Showers is a fast, athletic potential playmaker with one of the best arms on the team. He looks the part of a midrange passer with the ability to get the ball out of his hands in a hiccup and he can take off at any time, but considering his skills and athleticism he might end up moving over to receiver. He and Joeckel will be pushed by true freshman Johnny Manziel, a 6-1, 180-pound baller who’s fighting to be the backup right now. While he might end up redshirting with the logjam of quarterbacks already in the mix, he’s too good of an athlete to keep him on the bench and will almost certainly work as a receiver.

Watch Out For … the backup situation. Joeckel is ready to step in and get the passing game going, but Showers and Manziel are right in the mix for the job. More than anything else, this is a fight for the 2012 starting gig.
Strength: Playmakers. There’s no shortage of confidence among the four quarterbacks with Tannehill knowing what he’s doing and the other three options wanting to get on the field right now. The production will come no matter who’s under center, but there will be lots of …
Weakness: Interceptions. Tannehill might have only thrown six picks on the year, but five of them came against Oklahoma and LSU. He won’t throw bad balls against the Idahos and SMUs of the world, but he as to keep the mistakes to a minimum against the big boys.
Outlook: Can the momentum continue? Tannehill’s run at the end of the regular season couldn’t have been better, but the Cotton Bowl was a pop in the balloon. The expectations are going to be through the roof now and he’ll have to be ready to bomb away against Oklahoma State and Arkansas in the first half of the year. The backup situation will be fine with a little time, but experience is a must and a clear pecking order needs to be defined this summer.
Unit Rating: 8

Running Backs

State of the Unit: The A&M backfield was strong a few years ago with Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson, but this year’s running game should be special. The quarterbacks helped the cause, but the ground game was a two-headed monster that eventually became a one man show with the Aggies finishing with 2,145 yards and 19 scores finishing 45th in the nation on the ground.

2009 super-recruit Christine Michael came to College Station with NFL-ready talent, and he showed it off early with 844 yards and ten touchdowns as a true freshman. Everything was rolling along last year with three straight 100-yard games to open the season and a nice 97-yard outing against Oklahoma State, but he started to get bottled up by the better defenses, the passing game bombed away more, and then came the disastrous broken leg against Texas A&M that cut short his year. In half a season he ran for 631 yards and four touchdowns, averaging five yards per carry, and caught 13 passes for 174 yards, and now he’s ready to roll. Back and healthy, the 5-11, 215-pounder with the pro tools out of central casting should be back to form with the speed to break off big runs from the outside and the power to barrel it up the middle.

When Michael went down, senior Cyrus Gray took over. Great in 2009 when he got his chances, he showed the pop and ability to become a possibly big-time star if was ever able to push his way into the No. 1 role. Michael got hurt, Gray stepped in, and A&M finally had a 1,000-yard back again. The 5-10, 198-pounder is one of the Big 12’s fastest players and is a special, NFL-caliber kickoff returner with sub-4.4 speed and great cutting ability. Along with averaging 5.7 yards per carry with 1,133 yards and 12 scores, he finished fourth on the team with 34 catches for 251 yards and a score. Once he took over he was one of the nation’s top backs, running for 100 yards or more in each of the last seven games with 223 yards and two scores against Texas and four touchdown runs against Baylor. He proved he could be a workhorse and not just a speedster, and now he should be even more effective in the rotation.

Looking to find a little time in the rotation will be 6-2, 210-pound redshirt freshman Mister Jones could be a linebacker if he doesn’t find a spot as a runner. A tough inside runner with tremendous speed, he has the tools to be a good one with a little bit of work. He’ll combine with good-looking prospect Ben Malena, a 5-8, 195-pound quick back who’s the perfect fit for the Aggie attack with cutting ability a burst through the hole. The sophomore is also a terrific blocker.

Watch Out For … Michael to be Michael. Gray was way too good over the last half of the year to push aside, but Michael is the most talented back on the roster. With scary-good strength, speed, and size, Michael is the total package. Fortunately, his return will create a …
Strength: Healthy competition. Gray is a high-character guy and a leader, and while his role might be diminished a bit after carrying the load at the end of last year he’s not the type who’ll sulk in any way. Michael and Gray have the potential to each be 1,000-yard backs depending on how the offense operates.
Weakness: Proven depth. The coaching staff has done a great job of bringing in good, talented runners who produce when given the chance, but the depth is shaky if anything happens to the two stars. If Michael is the real deal and ready for the NFL after this season, the Aggies could be starting from scratch in 2012.
Outlook: The ground game isn’t going to be the second banana next to what should be a terrific passing attack. Gray and Michael are too good to not feed the ball to at least 35 times a game, but the unit also needs to develop some reliable and quality backups for the near future.
Unit Rating: 9

Receivers

State of the Unit: This was one of the nation’s deepest and most talented receiving corps last year, and now, shockingly, everyone is back. Including running backs and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the top eight pass catchers are back for a group that should be explosive, dangerous, and very, very productive.

Senior Jeff Fuller should be in the NFL. The 6-4, 215-pound senior tied for the team lead with 72 catches for 1,066 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 14.8 yards per grab, highlighted by an 11-catch, 172-yard, two touchdown day against Texas Tech, and an impressive seven-catch 83-yard day against LSU’s loaded secondary. Showing no ill-effects from a broken leg suffered in 2009, he was back to being the perfect leader for this offense with size, a great motor, and the type of work ethic that’ll make him a tremendous No. 2 target at the next level. He has the size, the hands, the blocking, and the toughness, but he’s missing the raw deep wheels to be a NFL main man, likely to check in with a 4.6 at the Combine. Even so, he’ll be a pro for a long, long, time. Working as the understudy is sophomore Nate Askew, a big 6-4, 223-pound rushing star who still needs work and polish, but has the ability and potential to blow up at split end when he gets his chance.

Junior Uzoma Nwachukwu has all the skills and all the tools to be special, and now it’s time he plays up to all the ability. The 6-0, 194-pounder was fine last year catching 36 passes for 407 yards and four scores, but he was always dinged up and he wasn’t the deep threat danger he should’ve been. Extremely fast and with terrific athleticism, it’s all there to improve and do even more at the flanker spot, and he has the work ethic to be better. He’ll combine with junior Brandal Jackson, who caught just eight passes for 112 yards in a bit of a lost year. He started off his career as a dangerous playmaker averaging 17 yards on his 16 catches as a freshman, but the 6-1, 182-pounder hasn’t been able to shine as a key reserve.

Senior Ryan Swope tied Fuller for the team lead in receptions catching 72 balls for 825 yards with four touchdowns, with 13 of his grabs coming in the opener against Stephen F. Austin. At 6-0 and 204 pounds he’s a thick slot receiver with nice open field moves and good yard-after-the-catch running ability. Fuller might be more dynamic, but Swope, a former Texas state-champion level sprinter is one of the team’s fastest players and has started to show it off. It’s al coming together for him as a complete receiver, while 6-1, 180-pound junior Kenric McNeal, is starting-caliber good as a great backup and fourth receiver on the inside. He caught 23 passes for 202 yards and two scores as he came on as the season went on, and now it’s time for him to do even more with prototype skills and the toughness to make the tough play.

Sophomores Nehemiah Hicks and Hutson Prioleau will combine at tight end after getting their feet wet last year. The 6-4, 248-pound Hicks was thrown into the fire right away getting nine starts and finishing with 11 catches for 141 yards. A good blocker and a nice-looking receiver, he has the skills to be a dominant all-around player, but he needs a little more maturing. Prioleau caught nine passes for 58 yards and a score seeing time in almost every game and getting three starts. At 6-4 and 251 pounds he’s a strong blocker with decent enough hands to be more of a regular in the passing game.

Watch Out For … the quarterbacks. The coaching staff has no problem moving the athletic backup quarterbacks to receiver, like Ryan Tannehill, and now Jameill Showers and Johnny Manziel could end up moving over to receiver. Showers might end up being too valuable as a No. 2 quarterback option, but Manziel is almost certain to get a long look.
Strength: Size, speed, athleticism, and experience. Last year this group had the first three parts, and now it has the fourth with prototype, NFL looks and skills. Everyone is big and everyone can move. There will be no shortage of veteran weapons for Tannehill to work with.
Weakness: Getting more out of the tight ends. That shouldn’t be as much of an issue this season with Hicks and Prioleau ready to start doing more, but they have to be steadier. The opportunities will be there for the two to blow up single coverage.
Outlook: This might not be the best receiving corps in America, but it’ll be in the mix for the honor. Fuller would get far more publicity if he wasn’t in the same league as Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles and Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon. Nwachukwu and Swope are excellent and there’s terrific depth to rely on.
Unit Rating: 10

Offensive Line

State of the Unit: The line gets four starters back, and while there might be some shuffling to find the right starting center, all the parts are there for a decent season. The running game was great behind the front five, but the pass protection was abysmal at times and it took half the season for everything to start coming together. After finishing 104th in the nation and 11th in the Big 12 in sacks allowed, there’s work to be done, but there’s also talent in place to expect a big improvement.

The star of the bunch for the next three seasons should be sophomore Luke Joeckel, a 6-6, 304-pounder who started every game as a true freshman and bulked up over the last year to better handle the workload. Very smart and very quick on his feet, he’s a decent pass protecting prospect who’ll only improve over time at left tackle. He wasn’t a work, but he was good enough. Stepping in as a key backup and possible right tackle is redshirt freshman Cedric Ogbuehi, a 6-5, 275-pound all-star prospect who was great in practices last year. He still needs to get bigger, but the talent is there.

Back on the other side is 6-5, 295-pound sophomore Jake Matthews, a tremendous high school prospect and the brother of former starting center Kevin Matthews. It took have the year before he got into the starting role as a true freshman, but he took over against Kansas and provided an immediate improvement to the position. The right tackle job is his for the next three years, while 6-6, 317-pound sophomore Rhontae Scales provides more bulk to the position. A good enough athlete to get by, considering his size, he’s a decent backup option.

The biggest question mark on the line is at center where Matt Allen is gone and there should be an ongoing tryout for the spot. 6-2, 303-pound junior Patrick Lewis is a starting right guard but he’s coming off a disappointing year. Moved to the middle, he was listed as the starting center going into the summer, but that could quickly change with his run blocking skills and strength a perfect fit for one of the guard jobs. Also in the hunt is junior Brian Thomas, a 6-3, 303-pound veteran who started every game last year and should work mostly at left guard. Versatile, he could be moved outside to tackle if absolutely needed, starting on the right side for the first part of 2010, but he’s better at guard.

Depending on who takes the center job between Thomas and Lewis, for now, the starting right guard job will go to Shep Klinke, a 6-7, 292-pound redshirt freshman who’s built like a tackle but showed enough to step into the position and allow Lewis to move one spot over. Athletic and tall, Klinke could end up moving around spot. Also trying for the right guard job is Evan Eike, a 6-4, 304-pound senior who started the first six games of last year before going down with an ankle injury. With anchor potential as a run blocker, but he’s going to find it hard to crack into the lineup again if the Klinke continues to impress.

Ready to step in somewhere in the interior is massive redshirt freshman Jarvis Harrison, a 6-3, 330-pound sun-blotter who moves shockingly well for a player of his size. He’ll start out working behind Thomas at left guard, but he could take over the starting spot if changes are made at center.

Watch Out For … The interior. The tackles are set with Joeckel and Matthews the bookends until the 2014 season, but there will be a constant shuffling in the interior to find the right mix – and that’s not a bad thing. Thomas, Lewis, Klinke, Eike, and Harrison are all able to start, but there’s only room for three of them.
Strength: Experienced bodies. There’s more than enough talent to work around on the inside, and Joeckel and Matthews took their lumps last year. The starting five started to get it late last year, and even with the uncertainty in the interior this will be a strong, veteran group.
Weakness: Backup tackle experience. The good: four underclassmen are listed on the two-deep at tackle. The bad: Ogbuehi is an untested redshirt freshman and Scales needs more time. Considering the pass protection has been such a problem, there could be a major concern if injuries strike.
Outlook: After allowing 37 sacks last season the offensive front has to be far stronger and far more consistent to let the high-octane passing attack work. It should. The Aggies are loaded with veterans and will be able do some shuffling where needed, but the overall play should improve as years of building to this point should pay off.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2011 Texas A&M Preview | 2011 Texas A&M Offense
- 2011 Texas A&M Defense | 2011 Texas A&M Depth Chart
- Texas A&M Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006