The Texas A&M Aggies used a school-record 16 true freshmen in their season opener against Rice in week one. 10 of those players experienced their first collegiate start in the 52-31 victory over the Owls when the past season’s Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel, was suspended the entire first half, with an additional six starters from the defense also suspended the first half.
The Aggies’ youthful defense has shown the last two weeks why many SEC top level clubs will be able to abuse them when the time comes, yet the Aggies’ offense has seen positive freshman play at certain positions, which gives them a great chance at competing for a bid to Pasadena.
Aggies underclassmen wideouts Sabian Holmes and Ja’Quay Williams each handled a touchdown last Saturday facing Sam Houston State, the first in both careers. The first player out of that sensational underclassmen class to score first, however, was Ricky Seals-Jones, the No.1 ranked receiver by Scout.com in the 2013 recruiting class, scoring on a 71-yard grab in the second quarter of opening day.
Seals-Jones went for three catches, 84 yards and that 71 -yard touchdown by backup quarterback Matt Joeckel in the Rice game. Seals-Jones didn’t record a stat this past Saturday when the Aggies scored 65 points in a win versus FCS Sam Houston State.
Seals-Jones’ ability to take the top off of an Alabama championship caliber defense for his quarterback, Manziel, will make him the prime suspect of being the X-factor for the season’s biggest game this weekend.
Seals-Jones currently is backing up the team’s leading receiver from last fall, Malcolm Kennedy, at the “Y” position. Nevertheless Seals-Jones might be the matchup first year offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney wants crossing the field in a four-wide set. Seals-Jones essentially could be this year’s replacement for Ryan Swope in his first SEC game. Swope is the Aggies all-time leader in receiving yards and was a matchup nightmare for last year’s national champions, Alabama, in his senior season. Manziel and Swope connected 11 times for 111 yards and a 10-yard touchdown in Alabama’s lone loss in 2012, coming by A&M.
Manziel has shredded to pieces these average defenses he’s faced the first weeks of the season. Manziel had three scores and 426 yards passing on Saturday, and the A&M quarterback now has 4,000 passing yards for his career. The Aggies succeeded moving the ball Saturday, capturing 38 first downs and going 11-for-15 on third downs. Remember though, Alabama is going to make Manziel throw with no area to maneuver unlike last season, which could be a blessing in disguise for A&M anyway.
The Aggies will come into this game with a major height advantage at receiver over Alabama’s secondary. Seals-Jones, Mike Evans and the freshman Williams all possess a 6-foot-5 frame. Alabama’s two deep at corner are all under 6-foot, and even Nick Saban can’t dial anything up when A&M goes to their two wide packages with Evans and Seals-Jones. Alabama’s defense gave up close to 300 yards in three of the team’s final four SEC games. The Tide must hang their hats on slamming the door on Evans, not just Manziel. Evans caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards last season. Evans is currently tied for 14th in nation with receiving yards and has two touchdowns.
Seals-Jones stirred up more talking points surrounding the Texas A&M program after the Manziel situation when his father, Chester, told Yahoo.com that an ACC and SEC school offered over $600,000 for his signature on national signing day. Seal-Jones was once a verbal commit to Texas but winged off that decision and chose A&M a few days after Manziel took home the 2012 Heisman Trophy.