2013 Texas A&M Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Texas A&M Aggie Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Kliff Kingsbury left his offensive coordinator job to take over the head coaching gig at Texas Tech, and now it's Clarence McKinney's job to keep the machine humming. Not only did Texas A&M take the SEC by storm, it blew the league away finishing first in total offense, scoring offense, rushing offense and passing offense helped by the unbelievable Heisman-winning season from Johnny Manziel. While he made all the highlights as a runner, he'll likely turn into more of a passer with a loaded group of backs to hands off to. Ben Malena is a good returning starter, but Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams is special and Oregon transfer Tra Carson is fantastic. The receiving corps needs some seasoning with replacements needed to help out leading target Mike Evans, but the 2013 recruiting class was special. Jake Matthews might be the best pro prospect in college football, and he'll show it at left tackle as the anchor of a good line that will still be fantastic even if it takes a step back.
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Johnny Manziel
Passing: Johnny Manziel
295-434, 3,706 yds, 26 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Johnny Manziel
201 carries, 1,410 yds, 21 TD
Receiving: Mike Evans
82 catches, 1,105 yds, 5 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior WR Derel Walker
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C Mike Matthews
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Jake Matthews
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Manziel, 2) Jake Matthews, 3) RB Brandon Williams
Strength of the offense: Coaching, Running Game
Weakness of the offense: Veteran Receivers, Expectations
Because of his speed, arm, size and all-around ability, last year at this time we were pumping up the prospects of Jameill Showers as the possible next big thing in college football. Instead, Texas A&M did the impossible by losing a NFL starting quarterback and first round draft pick and improving at the position – and it wasn't with Showers.
Sophomore Johnny Manziel was considered an elite talent with dangerous running ability and nice passing skills, but he's a bit on the smallish side and didn't really fit in with the type of high-octane air attacks that Kevin Sumlin likes to run. Maybe, considering there were off-the-field issues to deal with and other options in the mix, Manziel was going to transfer or else be an interesting wild-card in certain packages to utilize his speed. Of course, what followed was the greatest statistical season by any quarterback in SEC history as Johnny Football completed 68% of his passes for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns with nine picks, while ripping through supposedly impenetrable SEC run defenses – and an Oklahoma D with more than a month to prepare to stop him – for 1,410 yards and 21 scores on the way to the Heisman. He struggled in the opener against Florida and had problems running against LSU, and it's no coincidence that his two lowest-rushing outputs of the season – 60 yards against the Gators and 27 against LSU, with three picks – also came in the team's two losses. However, the goal now will be to run less and pass more.
While he's devastating on the move and showed both the ability to tear off the home run and the quickness in the pocket to keep the passing plays alive, but now he has a loaded stable of running backs to hand off to. If he carries the ball 150 times instead of 201 and ramps up his downfield passing game, he'll save on the wear-and-tear on his body. Even though he held up well and didn't take many huge shots, but he's only 6-1 and 200 pounds and not built to take a beating. But more than anything else, he has to handle being Johnny Manziel, Heisman winner. He's in the fishbowl and he's seems to be struggling a wee bit dealing with everything that goes along with it, but one the days he's on the field, all should be right with the world.
It's not crazy to suggest that with a little bit of time and tweaking, junior Matt Joeckel could be a better pro prospect than Manziel. The 6-4, 234-pound pro-style passer would put up enormous numbers in the system if given the shot, but he'll only come in if something happens to Mr. Football. Perfect for what A&M wants to do with the passing attack, he's smart with a big arm, a gunslinger's mentality and just enough mobility to get by. He didn't get too much time on the field last year, completing just 5-of-11 passes for 42 yards.
6-2, 206-pound redshirt freshman Matt Davis is a dangerous dual-threat option and one of the nation's top quarterback recruits last year. He could've gone anywhere and was given the big push from all the SEC big boys despite missing his junior year with a knee injury. When he was right, he ripped off 1,427 rushing yards and 22 scores as a senior, but he has to develop more as a passer. He'll get the time.
Watch Out For … Kenny Hill and Kohl Stewart, Scout's No. 16 and 18-ranked quarterbacks, respectively. The 6-1, 215-pound Hills was the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year with Manziel-like dual-threat abilities and fantastic speed and good enough passing skills to be wanted by Texas Tech. The 6-2, 200-pound Stewart is more of a passer, and while he's a bit undersized, he's polished with a live arm and great smarts.
Strength: The Kevin Sumlin offense. Yeah, Manziel is great, but he's also driving the Ferrari. The high-octane offense gets 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, and skill met scheme at the right time.
Weakness: The expectations. It's not enough that Manziel came up with the greatest statistical season in SEC history; now he's being expected to do more. The weight of being JOHNNY FOOTBALL seems to be crushing in some ways, and while he can still be fantastic, SEC defenses have a way of clamping down when focused on just one guy.
Outlook: Manziel is a historic talent who flourished in the Sumlin system, but if given a little time, Joeckel and Davis could be terrific, too. Of course, the season is all about Manziel, and if he can come within shouting distance of his 2012 season, everything will work out just fine.
Unit Rating: 9.5
As good as Johnny Manziel might be, the running back situation might be the team's biggest strength, and that's after losing Christine Michael and his 12 rushing scores to the NFL. 5-8, 195-pound senior Ben Malena came up with a terrific year that was completely and totally overshadowed by Manziel's campaign, finishing second on the team with 808 yards and eight scores averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and catching 18 passes for 111 yards and a score. While he got double digit carries on a regular basis, he's not necessarily a workhorse with his 18-carry, 142-yard, one score day against Ole Miss the high point, but he's extremely quick and a terrific complementary back.
As good as Malena might be, the buzz is about former Oklahoma Sooner Brandon Williams, a 6-0, 192-pound sophomore who wasn't able to play last year despite trying to get on the field right away, but he's ready to roll now. A superstar talent, he has the speed and quickness to be devastating as both a runner and a receiver, and while he might not be the starter right away, he could be a mortal lock for 1,000 yards if he gets 150 carries. There are some insiders who quietly think he has Heisman potential in his future.
Also stepping in as a transfer is 6-0, 227-pound sophomore Tra Carson from Oregon. With good size, great cutback ability and a terrific burst, he fits the mold of what the Aggies want from their backs, and he could be dangerous around the goal line in place of Michael. Also pushing for time is 5-8, 185-pound sophomore Trey Williams, a 2011 Parade All-American who ran for 3,890 yards and 48 touchdowns as a high school senior and finished his career with 8,110 yards and 86 scores. Everyone wanted him, but he stayed close to home and now needs to unleash his speed for the offense a bit more after serving as the team's top kickoff returner. On offense, he came up with 376 yards and five touchdowns – with 109 yards and a score against Auburn - along with 12 catches for 171 yards.
Watch Out For … James White, the team's only running back recruit in the 2013 class. The 6-0, 210-pounder from the Houston area ran for 1,697 yards and 22 scores with a nice blend of speed and power, but he's going to have to wait a year or so to work his way through the crowded backfield.
Strength: Talent. Trey Williams is one of the most talented running backs in the SEC, and he's probably going to be fourth string. No, this isn't the Alabama backfield, but it's not too far off in terms of depth, quickness and athleticism.
Weakness: Johnny Manziel. The idea is to get the running backs more involved to take the pressure off the Heisman winner, but it'll be hard for any of the backs to shine when No. 2 is the one hitting the home runs. It's a nice problem to have.
Outlook: Don't get hung up on the overall stats. Instead, it's all about yards per carry for a backfield that should keep everyone fresh and won't have any problem whatsoever combining with Manziel for well over 3,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. There's a wee bit of a prove-it factor with this foursome, but this group will turn out to be very, very good.
Unit Rating: 9
If it wasn't for Manziel's meteoric rise, the talk around A&M going into the season would center around the stunning first year from Mike Evans, a 6-5, 225-pound sophomore who led the team with 82 catches for 1,105 yards and five scores, averaging 13.5 yards per grab and coming up with a rock-steady season. He has the size to bully defensive backs and enough speed to be a matchup nightmare on the outside. While he came up with a few spectacular plays, he only registered two touchdown catches in SEC play and was more of a solid go-to target for Manziel to keep things moving. Now he has to show he can handle being the No. 1 guy with everyone keying on him, but he has the tools to keep producing.
6-0, 200-pound junior Malcome Kennedy has to play a bigger role as the team's second-leading returning receiver. A decent route runner with nice hands, he caught 26 passes for 285 yards and two scores, highlighted by a seven-catch, 119-yard day against Missouri, but he'll have to fight off a slew of more talented options for playing time.
Senior Derel Walker came in from the JUCO ranks and was supposed to be a decent part of the rotation, but he only caught eight passes for 85 yards. The 6-2, 185-pound veteran will slide into a starting role and should be a strong, physical target, but there's much bigger upside with true freshman Ja'Quay Williams, who came in this offseason and showed that he might be ready to rock right away after spending last year at Fork Union Military Academy. The 6-3, 210-pounder isn't the team's best receiver recruit, but he's extremely quick for his size and has good long speed.
Sophomore Sabian Holmes is a quick 5-11, 175-pound target who got in a little bit of time making six catches for 48 yards, and while he's not big, he's physical. He showed this offseason that he could make a little bit of noise as a slot receiver, but he's battling for a spot with junior LeKendrick Williams, a 5-8, 170-pound junior who caught only came up with five catches on the year, but he made them count cranking out 116 yards and two scores averaging 23.2 yards per try. These two looked decent in spring ball, but they could quickly be pushed aside once the star recruits arrive.
The tight ends aren't necessarily a major part of the passing game, but senior Nehemiah Hicks is a decent blocker who got a start and caught seven passes for 60 yards. He looks the part and is built to be a factor, but he'll have to hold off star JUCO transfer Cameron Clear, a 6-6, 270-pound monster of a target from Western Community College after starting out his career at Tennessee. Very big and very physical, he can fight his way for the ball and can be used like a large wide receiver if needed. With his raw bulk, he can blast away, too.
Watch Out For … the new guys. It's not stretching it to suggest the incoming freshmen are better than any of the current Aggie receivers, with the possible exception of Evans. The star of the show is Ricky Seals-Jones, the nation's No. 1 wide receiver prospect with 6-5, 225-pound size with the speed and quickness to see time as a running quarterback. Also used on the defensive side, he's tough, physical and impossible to jam or shove. 5-10, 165-pound LaQuvionte Gonzalez spent last season as a running back but will grow into a devastating inside receiver. Dangerously fast, he'll be used in a variety of ways, while 6-2, 185-pound Kyrion Parker and 6-0, 185-pound Sebastian LaRue are two more dangerous targets who could've gone just about anywhere and would've been a No. 1 receiver.
Strength: Phenomenal young talent. Because of the offensive style and the coaching staff, Texas A&M has become the cool program for good receivers. As this latest recruiting class showed, everyone wants to be a part of the fun.
Weakness: Veterans. Yes, the upside is enormous, but it might take a while for everyone to settle in. Evans is good, but he'll have to be used to be covered by everyone's top corner with Ryan Swope, Thomas Johnson, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Kenric McNeal gone.
Outlook: The future is brighter than the present. The system will get production out of anyone who's on the field, but Manziel will spread the ball around to several different targets. Six players caught 19 passes or more, and it should be more of the same this year until the new guys get up to speed. Once the freshman class figures it out, boom.
Unit Rating: 7.5
The early loss of Luke Joeckel was hardly unexpected, but keeping Jake Matthews around to replace him on the left side was a shocker. Matthews would've gone in the first round had he decided to come out early, and next year he'll likely battle with Alabama's Cyrus Kouandijo for the honor being the first offensive tackle selected. A technician, the 6-5, 305-pounder is terrific on the move with great feet and recovery ability. While he's not going to obliterate his man like Joeckel could, he's a perfect fit for a zone-blocking scheme. If he's able to add another ten pounds of good muscle to his frame, and show he can handle himself well on the left side after dominating on the right, he'll be in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick.
6-4, 320-pound junior Jarvis Harrison provides the bulk and the thump for the running game, and he should thrive working next to Matthews. Keeping his weight in check is a must – he'll get up to 335 pounds if he looks at a cheeseburger the wrong way – but he worked to get to his current size and should continue to be a nice combination of agility and power. He'll be backed up by senior Shep Klinke, a 6-7, 305-pound veteran who can play either tackle or guard. Athletic and versatile, he'll move around where needed.
Sophomore center Mike Matthews isn't nearly the talent his brother, Jake, is, but the 6-3, 280-pounder was top prospect for the middle and should be ready to hold down the job for the next three years. Extremely quick off the ball and a great finisher he'll make the job his after bulking up 20 pounds. 6-4, 307-pound veteran Ben Compton will provide more size if needed on the interior and will also push for the right guard job. The former defensive lineman isn't the most polished hitter, but he's big, strong and versatile.
6-5, 300-pound junior Cedric Ogbuehi spent last year at right guard but now will kick outside to right tackle to replace Jake Matthews. Built more for the new position, he's a good athlete who worked hard to add weight over the last few years, but in a positive way, he's still like a large tight end. Expect him to move over to the left side after Matthews is off to the NFL, but for now, he'll camp out on the right where Compton and 6-5, 320-pound redshirt freshman Germain Ifedi will compete for the spot after spending last year working behind Joeckel at left tackle. A star recruit last season, he has the size, and more than some of the other Aggie blockers, he has the ability to get SEC-physical when needed – he's not a finesse blocker.
Watch Out For … JUCO transfer Jeremiah Stuckey and true freshman Ishmael Wilson. The 6-4, 285-pound Stuckey came in from City College of San Francisco where he was a terrific pass protector, and now he's being brought in to be the backup behind Matthews at left tackle – no pressure there. The 6-4, 280-pound Wilson is a tackle prospect for the future with all the skills, but without the bulk. He needs to add at least 15 pounds, but that shouldn't be a problem over the next few years.
Strength: Pass protection. It might not seem like it after giving up 23 sacks, but most of those came because Johnny Manziel was scrambling a bit. There's a drop-off with Ogbuehi in and Joeckel a Jacksonville Jaguar, but the tackles are still fantastic.
Weakness: Pure power. By design, and by the team's own admission, this isn't Alabama or LSU when it comes to beating people up. The running game led the SEC and finished 11th in the nation, so it doesn't really matter how the bread is buttered, and it might be a reach to call this a finesse line, but it's not an intimidating bunch.
Outlook: For what the offense is supposed to do, this line will be fantastic. Matthews might be the best pro player still in college football, and Ogbuehi and Harrison are excellent veterans who'll take on bigger roles for the ground attack. Mike Matthews will turn out to be terrific in the middle.
Unit Rating: 8.5
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