Texas A&M Aggies Spring Game Preview: Top 5 Storylines
Texas A&M Poised for Continued Success in SEC
To say the first year in the SEC for Texas A&M was a success would be a tremendous understatement. 2012 was a magical year for the Aggies who won 11 games, including defeating No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, quarterback Johnny Manziel became the youngest Heisman winner in the award’s history and ending the season with a rout over Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
All that is wiped away with 2013 beginning with the Aggies spring game on Apr. 13 and expectations are set on BCS Championship or bust. Deservedly so with Kevin Sumlin building a team that should be a perennial contender in the conference and Manziel returning for his redshirt sophomore season and looking to capture a second Heisman trophy. The Aggies also currently have the top recruiting class for 2014 and many of those commitments will be in College Station, TX to see the action from Kyle Field.
The Aggies do have a lot of question marks, especially for a team coming off an 11-win season, and are only returning a total of 11 starters to the team after sending many to the NFL. Six starters return on an offense that should be among the best in the nation despite a shakeup in the coaching staff, and only five starters return to Mark Snyder’s defense that will need a number of underclassmen to emerge.
But these are the top five storylines I will be paying close attention to on Saturday and the 12th man should as well.
5. Overhauled Offensive Line
The departure of Luke Joeckel to the NFL means last year’s All-American right tackle, Jake Matthews, is now the blindside protector for Manziel. He should be up to the task and is one of the premier offensive linemen in the nation, but how will his replacement on the right side fair? Cedric Ogbuehi is shifting over from his customary guard position to the strongside tackle and will have to be an anchor in the run game and perform at an elite level to preserve the health of the Aggies prized quarterback. Also gone is center Patrick Lewis who could be replaced in the starting lineup by Mike Matthews, Jake’s younger brother.
4. Replacing Ryan Swope
With Manziel ready for an encore performance to his Heisman winning campaign in 2012, he will need a new security blanket with Ryan Swope gone. Swope was second on the team last season in receptions and yards, but led the team with eight touchdown grabs. One player that may be the first in line to take Swope’s starting spot opposite Mike Evans is incoming freshman and one of the Aggies’ highest ranked recruits, Ricky Seals-Jones, who at 6-5 and 230 pounds, presents an imposing figure on the field. He could develop into a promising secondary target in Kevin Sumlin’s offense, but he won’t enroll until the summer. Someone will have to step up on Saturday and this summer to take the pressure off of Evans.
3. Replacing DaMontre Moore
For the second year in a row the Aggies lose an exceptional sack artist from their defense. Two years ago it is was Von Miller and this year it is DaMontre Moore who had 12.5 sacks this past season. The returning sacker from the 2012 team is Steven Jenkins who had two. Guys that need to stand out this game are Julien Obioha, Brandon Alexander and early-enrollee Jordan Points.
2. Running Back Rotation
The Aggies lose Christine Michael to the NFL, but returning is Ben Malena who could approach 1,000 yards after rushing for 808 yards last season and adding eight touchdowns. Malena will be the starter and the spring will determine who backs him up, and a host of qualified candidates are ready for the opportunity. Brandon Williams and Tra Carson are eligible after transferring and Trey Williams each offer a unique skill-set that will come in handy this year to spell Manziel from running as much as he did last year. The promotion of running backs coach Clarence McKinney to offensive coordinator after Kliff Kingsbury left for Texas Tech means good things for this stable of backs.
1. Johnny Manziel's Heisman Encore
We’ve seen a lot of Manziel since he was setting records in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, but this will be the first game action since he accumulated more than 500 yards of offense in the bowl win. Will he suffer from the Heisman jinx that hit Sam Bradford and Mark Ingram when they returned after winning their Heisman trophy? No, I don’t think he will, but he will have the bullseye on him from day one and how he responds will go a long way toward determining whether the Aggies can win the BCS National Championship this season.