The Texas A&M football team continues their spring practice and work toward the Maroon and White game on Saturday. With a week left in the spring season, there have been a few players who have stood out with their performances in the practices and two scrimmages.
The Ags added two junior college transfers in the 2012 recruiting class who are both currently participating in spring drills. They also had seven freshmen from the 2011 class redshirt who are now competing for playing time.
These nine players are going to play a vital role in determining whether the Aggies have a successful inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference. The Aggies also added a transfer who may be eligible to play in 2012.
This is a look at the five most important players from that group as the Aggies work toward the 2012 season.
At 6'5" and 200 lbs, Mike Evans could be the big-bodied wide receiver the Ags are looking for to replace Jeff Fuller. Evans was a late addition to the 2011 class who was a basketball star at Ball High School in Galveston who played football as a senior when he realized he was not going to get the scholarship offers he wanted from basketball.
Evans starred during 7-on-7 drills during the summer of 2011 but got lost in the shuffle at a very deep wide receiver position when August practices started and redshirted.
While he does not possess the 10.5 speed that sophomore receiver Nate Askew does, he is a little taller than the 6'4" Askew and has more consistent hands.
Evans has had a good showing so far during spring drills and led all receivers during the Friday Night Lights scrimmage with four catches for 83 yards.
Evans or Askew is going to replace Fuller at the outside receiver position. Right now, Evans is proving to be the more reliable receiver.
Brandon Williams was considered one of the top running backs in the nation when he signed with Oklahoma in the spring of 2011. He transferred from Oklahoma to A&M and is participating in spring practice with the team.
A&M is going to request a waiver for Williams to bypass the required year off for the transfer, since he moved closer to home to be near his child. If the NCAA grants the waiver, then Williams is the No. 1 most important player on this list.
Since A&M rarely has luck in these areas with the NCAA, I expect Williams to redshirt the 2012 season and have three seasons of eligibility left starting in 2013.
Williams has been terrorizing the defense during spring practice. He had 10 carries for 85 yards and three touchdowns during the Friday Night Lights scrimmage. He also returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.
The 6'2", 190-lb Williams who his teammates have nicknamed "Slim" has great size and speed. He starred during spring practice at OU in 2011 but struggled to hang onto the ball during the 2011 season. It remains to be seen whether his great practices will carry over to the games.
If he is granted a waiver, then he should team up with Christine Michael, Trey Williams and Ben Malena to give the Aggies excellent depth at the running back position.
Joseph Cheek is a 6'7", 290-lb freshman who redshirted during the 2011 season.
Right now, the Aggies' depth at offensive tackle consists of Cedric Ogbuehi who is the starting left guard and a question mark.
The Aggies need at least one more offensive tackle to step up, and Cheek is in prime position to do that.
Cheek's father was a multi-year member of the All-SWC team while playing on the OL at A&M and then played in the NFL so he comes from good blood lines.
It is a matter of when, not if, you're going to get injured in the SEC. The Aggies return their entire starting OL but need to develop some depth behind it.
Cheek needs to step up to backup like Joeckel or Jake Matthews at OT.
Shayvion Hatten is a 6'5", 290-lb defensive tackle from Daingerfield.
He has the size and strength to play on the interior in the SEC, and the Ags need him to be ready in 2012.
With the switch to the 4-3, the Ags were thin on the defensive line. Hatten redshirted during the 2011 season with the expectation of competing for a starting spot at defensive end in the 3-4 defense in 2012. With the move to the 4-3, he has moved into the interior.
The Ags need him to provide quality minutes at DT or NT. Ideally, you are three-deep at every position in the SEC, and right now, the Ags are not even sure they have a viable two-deep on the interior defensive line for the SEC.
The Aggies need Hatten to step up his play and prove that he can be a difference maker in the best league in all of college football.
Johny Manziel may be the Aggies starting quarterback in 2012. He redshirted in 2011 after being named the National Player of the Year after a spectacular career at Kerville (TX) Tivy High School.
Reports from the two scrimmages have Jameill Showers ahead of Manziel in the competition to be the starting QB in the fall.
Even if Manziel does end up finishing second to Showers, he's very important to the team because the backup quarterback is only one snap away from going into the game.
The Ags were lucky in 2011 that Ryan Tannehill was not injured to the point where he had to miss any games. The SEC is a much more physical league than the Big 12, and Manziel needs to be ready to play in 2012.