2012 Texas A&M Preview - Offense
Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Texas A&M Aggie Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Will Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury be able to run the high-octane attack in the SEC? The Aggies threw the ball 537 times last year and was able to keep up the pace in the Big 12, but now it'll have to be prepared to go against some of the best defenses in the country. Everything will start with a phenomenal line that was among the best in the nation last year and gets five starters back. There's NFL talent to go along with the experience, but it'll have to go from being a good all-around group to a steady pass blocking unit. It'll be a race for the starting quarterback job with several terrific options to choose from, led by big-armed sophomore Jameill Showers. The receiving corps will be more than fine with a little bit of time, but the backfield is an issue with star back Christine Michael coming back from a torn ACL and Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams likely to have to wait until next year before he's eligible.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Ryan Swope
Passing: Jameill Showers
4-5, 40 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Christine Michael
149 carries, 899 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Ryan Swope
89 catches, 1,207 yds, 11 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB Jameill Showers
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Jarvis Harrison
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Luke Joeckel
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Joeckel, 2) OT Jake Matthews, 3) Swope
Strength of the offense: Offensive Line, Coaching
Weakness of the offense: Running Back Depth, Quarterback Experience
Gone is Ryan Tannehill to the NFL, and now it'll be a bit of a fight for the starting job to see who gets to put up huge numbers in the Kevin Sumlin system. While the job is still supposedly open, it'll be a shocker if sophomore Jameill Showers isn't the main man and a statistical superstar. The 6-2, 219-pounder has speed with excellent running skills – rushing for 33 yards and a touchdown in his limited time – with a live, accurate arm. While he needs time and still needs a bit of seasoning, he has the strongest gun of all the options and can do a little bit of everything. He'll make his share of mistakes, but the upside is limitless.
Deep in the hunt for the job will be 6-1, 200-pound redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, a baller with great athleticism and upside. A dangerous runner who'll make defenses have to always worry about the big play on the ground, he's an elite talent who could step in for a few plays here and there as part of a package, but he's not all that big a passer and he's more of a short-to-midrange passer than a bomber. If he doesn't see time as a quarterback he could easily move to wide receiver.
Deep in the hunt for the starting gig is sophomore Matt Joekel, a 6-4, 234-pound pure pocket passer who's in the perfect system for his skills. Expected to be the No. 2 man last year, he was passed up in the pecking order by Showers. Smart and with a gunslinger's mentality and just enough mobility to get by, he's a good option to develop.
Into the fun is true freshman Matt Davis, a 6-2, 202-pound dual-threat passer who was Scout's sixth-ranked quarterback. He could've gone anywhere and was given the hardcore push from all the SEC big boys even after missing his junior season with a knee injury. He came back roaring running for 1,427 yards and 22 scores while throwing for 1,393 yards and 14 touchdowns. Accuracy is a bit of an issue, but he's too dangerous to not be groomed as the main man for the near-future.
Watch Out For … Davis. He might end up redshirting because Showers appears to have an edge for the gig, but he's an elite talent and personality who has the upside and potential to be the face of the franchise. He was considered the key to the recruiting class in a transition season. When he signed on with Sumlin, that appeared to be a sign to other recruits that it was Game On.
Strength: The offense. The high-octane passing attack will bring out big numbers out of anyone running it. Sumlin and his staff have more talent to work with than they ever did at Houston, and that includes the NCAA's all-time leading passer, Case Keenum. Once the right guy is settled on, look out.
Weakness: Experience. Showers threw five passes last season and Manziel, Joeckel and Davis are coming in cold. There's lots of upside and lots of talent, but it could take a little while for the new starter to find his groove.
Outlook: Is it possible to lose a first-round NFL draft pick and potential franchise-maker in Tannehill and be better? It'll be a work in progress for the A&M passing offense to get rolling against SEC defenses, but it'll have a good situation of talented quarterbacks to play around with. The issue won't be settled until late this summer, but Showers will probably be the main man.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Can the Texas A&M running game and offense possibly count on Christine Michael to last for the full season? Can there be any hope that he can be 100% and the same runner he was when everything was fine? The super-recruit of 2009 came to College Station with NFL-ready talent and showed it off with an 844 yard, ten score true freshman season. A disastrous broken leg cut short his sophomore season, and then last year he was back to form rumbling for 899 yards and eight scores, averaging six yards per carry, before suffering a torn ACL and being lost for the year. The hope is that he'll be ready to roll by late summer, and the 5-11, 218-pound senior should be back to his powerful self. At this point he might not have the same speed and quickness, and it remains to be seen just how well he'll be able to move so soon after such a tough injury.
With Michael a question mark, 5-8, 195-pound junior Ben Malena will start to get more work after starting late last year when thrown into the main role. Michael and Cyrus Gray got hurt, but Malena didn't exactly explode in the job and finished fourth on the team with 259 yards and four scores. While he's quick and agile, he doesn't have the ability to be a No. 1 back – he's far better as a complementary role player who could be a third down specialist.
6-0, 192-pound sophomore Brandon Williams is the X factor. The former Oklahoma Sooner will be the starter if he's eligible, but he's waiting on the NCAA to see if he has to sit out for the season as a transfer. A superstar talent, he has the speed, quickness and he can be used as a receiver. All the skills are there to take over for Gray and be a 1,000-yard back, but it probably won't happen until next year.
With so many concerns and problems, true freshman Trey Williams might find a role right away. A 2011 Parade All-American, the 5-8, 175-pound speedster ran for 3,890 yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior and finished his high school career with 8,110 yards and 86 scores averaging a whopping 8.6 yards per carry. Everyone wanted him, but he's going to stay closer to home and could be a key part of the rotation from Day One.
Watch Out For … Trey Williams. No coaching staff ever wants to rely on a true freshman to do anything, but there might not be a choice. He's a special talent with the upside to be an elite playmaker, and he could be the star of the show depending on the overall situation.
Strength: Talent … if everyone is around. If Michael is healthy and is Brandon Williams is eligible and if Trey Williams is ready, then a case could be made that A&M has the best backfield in the SEC. Malena is as strong a fourth running back as anyone could boast.
Weakness: Live running backs. Michael tore his ACL way too late in the season to be a full force on opening day, but he'll give it a shot. Consider it a miracle if Brandon Williams is able to see the field. Malena might have impressed at times this offseason, but he's not an SEC No. 1 back.
Outlook: There's enough talent waiting in the wings to make the running game go, and there's enough speed and athleticism to do things like Sumlin wants. However, there are way too many X factors and concerns to think the ground game will hit the 2,589-yard mark it did last year – unless one of the quarterbacks turns into a dangerous runner.
Unit Rating: 7.5
The Aggies receiving corps should blow up in the new offense, but are there enough targets? Fortunately, senior Ryan Swope is back after leading the team with 89 catches for 1,207 yards and 11 scores as he turned into a true No. 1 target. The 6-0, 206-pound veteran has 180 career grabs highlighted last year by an 11-catch, 206-yard, four score day against Baylor, and he hit the 100-yard mark six times as Ryan Tannehill's go-to guy. Now he'll have to be used to being keyed on and he'll have to be ready to take on every SEC defense's top cover-corner. A pure slot receiver, he's a peerless route runner and is great in the open field when he gets the ball on the move.
Is this the year Uzoma Nwachukwu turns into a star? All the tools are there with 6-0, 194-pound size, next-level speed and the deep play ability to be a deadly field-stretcher. However, the senior is almost always banged up – primarily struggling through an ankle problem – and he has yet to blossom as expected. While he gutted it out for the entire season and finished third on the team with 50 catches for 639 yards and two scores, he should average more than 12.8 yards per catch.
The combination of 6-1, 184-pound senior Kenric McNeal and 5-8, 170-pound sophomore LeKendrick Williams will combine forces at one of the open receiver spots. McNeal is a special athlete who wasn't able to show much last year with just eight catches for 101 yards. Banged up, he only ended up seeing time in five games, but as long as he's healthy – and he appears to be going into the season – he has 50-catch potential and game-breaking ability. McNeal will be a sure thing if healthy, but Williams might have bigger upside once he puts some polish on his game. He has the quickness and speed, and now he'll get every chance to show what he can do.
6-5, 218-pound redshirt freshman Mike Evans has the size to take the place of Jeff Fuller and be fine. While he might be used as sort of a tight end on the inside, he has the ability and the wheels to be used from time to time as matchup nightmare on the outside.
Evans will work at one of the four receiver positions with Brandal Jackson, a 6-1, 191-pound senior who caught eight passes for 108 yards in a limited role. The speed and talent are there, but he hasn't been able to put it all together, leaving the door open for 6-4, 220-pound junior Nate Askew the opportunity to find a role. With great size and nice athleticism the tools are all there, but he fights the ball way too much to be counted on as a starter.
Working as the understudy in the slot behind Swope is 6-0, 200-pound sophomore Malcome Kelly, a great route-runner with nice hands and great fight for the ball catching 11 passes for 140 yards in his first year. He's not much of a speedster, but that's not a problem for 5-11, 180-pound true freshman Thomas Johnson, Scout's No. 8 receiver. With elite deep speed he could be thrown into the mix right away in a variety of positions to stretch the field.
The tight ends won't exactly be a major part of the new attack, but senior Michael Lamothe is a 6-3, 232-pound veteran who caught 14 passes for 109 yards and three scores as a short-range receiver. A tough blocker, he's a linebacker working on the offense who can do all the little things right for the offense. He won't be a featured target, but he'll be tough on the short third down plays.
6-4, 238-pound junior tight end Nehemiah Hicks has a world of talent but he has to stay in one piece. He started seen times last season catching 12 passes of 106 yards and is just good enough as a blocker to get by.
Watch Out For … Evans. The receiving corps is full of decent prospects but few sure things and not a lot of size. Evans has the 6-5 bulk and could flourish in single coverage. After a good spring he appears to be ready for a starting role.
Strength: The Kevin Sumlin offense. There's a reason the offense needs four wide receivers; there will be lots of passes to go around. The coaching staff will know how to get guys into the open and there will be plenty of big plays from mismatches.
Weakness: Sure things. Swope is a star and Nwachukwu is terrific considering his 50-catch season was a bit disappointing. But McNeal has to be a factor, Evans has to be ready to shine, and the depth across the board needs to be prepared to step in and produce. There will be a learning curve.
Outlook: This isn't going to be a problem area in any way. Yes, it'll take a ton of work to get everyone ready to handle the intricacies of the passing game, and the untested talents have to be prepared to see the ball with Swope taking away so much attention, but the numbers will be terrific if the quarterback play is adequate.
Unit Rating: 7.5
The A&M offensive line has the potential to be the best in the nation with five starters back from a group that finished fourth in the nation in sacks allowed and paved the way for close to 200 rushing yards per game. The star on the lot is 6-6, 310-pound junior left tackle Luke Joeckel, a good pro prospect who beefed up but still managed to be phenomenal in pass protection. A great recruit when he signed on three years ago, he was supposed to be a superstar from the moment he set foot on campus. It took a little work, but he became special and has been a rock for the offense. He'll have a big decision to make after the season, but for now he'll be in the mix for All-America honors.
If Joeckel isn't among the SEC's best tackles, right tackle Jake Matthews might be. The 6-5, 305-pound junior was a tremendous high school prospect with high expectations as the brother of former starting center Kevin Matthews. A 13-game starter, he came into his own last season in pass protection showing great feet and recovery ability. While he's not going to blast an end off the ball like Joeckel will, he's a technician who works his tail off to make a block.
Manning the middle as the leader and anchor of the veteran lot is 6-2, 312-pound senior center Patrick Lewis, who's going into his fourth year as a starter on the line with the smarts and experience to transition to the new offense in a hurry. A mediocre guard early in his career, he moved to the middle where he's a proven performer.
6-3, 320-pound sophomore Jarvis Harrison is a massive blocker who filled in at left guard for a four-game stretch last season and now will have the job full time after he comes back healthy. A bit too big at times, he slimmed down a bit and now he should be more agile and better suited as a pass protector. However, his real worth will be as a blaster for the ground game.
Versatile enough to work as a guard or a tackle, 6-5, 292-pound sophomore Cedric Ogbuehi will start the year at right guard but has the athleticism to kick out to tackle if needed. He started five games including the last three on the right side, and now he appears to be ready to do more after adding about 20 pounds to his frame.
6-7, 305-pound junior Shep Klinke is built like a tackle but he's a guard, starting the first three games on the right side before giving away to Ogbuehi. Athletic and versatile, he can move around where needed with the frame to be just fine at right tackle.
Redshirt freshman Nathan Gutekunst is a 6-6, 308-pound force who hit the weights hard over the last year and will be ready to go at either tackle spot next year if and when the two stars go pro. This year he'll be the understudy behind Joeckel, but he could be a strong right tackle in an emergency.
Watch Out For … Harrison. He might have been out this offseason hurt and he might still need a little more seasoning, but there's a chance he could be the best NFL prospect on a line full of future pro players.
Strength: Experience and talent. Last year's line was experienced and talented, and now just about everyone is back guard Brian Thomas the only missing piece – but Ogbuehi is far better. Joeckel, Matthews and Harrison will be earning pro paychecks very, very soon.
Weakness: The new offense. This is a pro-style line that now has to be used to a passing game that wings it all around the yard. It's a great group that's built for a power running game, but it won't get too many chances to blast away.
Outlook: LSU's offensive line is special and Alabama's will be terrific, but Texas A&M will have a front five as good as any in the SEC. The starting five is tight, consistent, and tough when it has to be, but the depth has to be developed a bit and making a big move in offensive schemes could be the X factor. On talent and experience, though, this is the team's biggest strength.
Unit Rating: 10
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