First-year coach Kevin Sumlin will need several returnees to step up to aid his transition from Houston to Texas A&M and the program's transition to the SEC. This is going to be accomplished in the long run with strong recruiting, solid assistant coaches and a supportive fanbase, which is a strong suit at Texas A&M.
In the immediate future though, Sumlin will be relying on many of the returning Aggies to step up big in 2012. Here are the seven most indispensable Aggies currently on the roster.
Joeckel was one the top O-line recruits in the country two years ago and has not disappointed in his time at A&M. As a freshman, he started all 12 games and earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors and followed that up by being voted 1st Team All-Big 12 in 2011.
Going into the upcoming season and SEC schedule, it is extremely important for Texas A&M to protect the quarterback as he will be going up against some of the top defenses in the country, like LSU and Alabama just to name a few.
Along with Jake Matthews and the rest of a young, but solid O-line, the Aggies could really try and establish themselves as a tough-nosed running team in the SEC.
Dustin Harris is going to be a key player next year as a senior not only on defense, but even more so on special teams. Special teams can win games, and the SEC is full of explosive playmakers who change a game with a huge kick returns and Harris can be that player.
In 2011, Harris was fourth in the country in punt return average adding one touchdown and also averaging 23.4 per kick return. Having Harris on the receiving end of kicks will be a big plus for Kevin Sumlin as he looks to win in the Aggies' first year against SEC defenses.
Swope had a breakout season in 2011 catching 89 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 TDs. That is very impressive considering A&M's tendency to be a running team and the fact that he came in as the No. 2 receiver behind college prospect Jeff Fuller.
Swope outshone Fuller during the season, especially in his four-touchdown game against Baylor, because of his ability to get loose in the seams and take short passes and turn them into long gains. That big play ability and those sure hands will be needed by whoever takes over the quarterback duties from Ryan Tannehill in the upcoming season.
Hurt for big chunks of the past two seasons, the offense will get a big lift if Christine Michael can stay on the field for the entire 2012 season. Not only has he been very productive when he is on the field, but he will also be leading a young group of top recruit running backs from the 2011 and 2012 classes.
Running the ball is a big deal in the SEC, and it would be nice to see what Michael can accomplish on over 200 carries, a plateau he has not reached in any of his three years at Texas A&M. His 22 career rushing TDs shows his capability to find the end zone, and in order for great success next season, Michael might need to reach that total in the next 12 games.
Stewart led the Aggies in tackles with 98 this season, which was eighth most in the Big 12. Although the Aggie defense was not one of the tops in the country, they were pretty successful at stopping the run and getting pressure on the QB.
In 2012 Stewart will need to step up big and solidify a strong linebacking corps in the SEC. The maroon and white are going to score points on offense, but the difference in winning and losing next season will fall squarely on the defense's shoulders.
DeMontre Moore, along with fellow linebackers Porter and Stewart, is going to need to improve on what was a very successful year for him personally. On the season Moore led the Big 12 in forced fumbles with four and was second in the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 17.5 and sacks with 8.5, trailing only Porter.
These are exceptional statistics, especially considering he was trying to fill the shoes of Von Miller the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft. He is incredibly important to success of this team next season as the SEC is a defensive power conference, and as evidenced by the LSU-Alabama championship matchup, defense does win!
If you couldn't tell there is theme with the last three most indispensable Aggie returners, they are all linebackers and the most impressive of them last season was Big 12 first-teamer Sean Porter. If Porter can replicate what he did against Big 12 offenses in the SEC next season, he will be an All-American.
His 9.5 sacks led the Big 12 and his 17 tackles for loss were third. He along with Moore have tried their best to create the pressure that Von Miller did as a premiere pass-rusher, but with the huge O-line, quick speed backs and precision passers in the SEC, they will need to step up their game to the highest level.
Porter's explosiveness off the ball will help him as the he tries to bring back the 12th Man's favorite chant...WRECKING CREW...WRECKING CREW!