Texas A&M Football: Breakdown the Aggies' Wide Receiver Situation
The Texas A&M Aggies, led by new head coach, Kevin Sumlin, has been hard at work sorting out the new wide receiver rotation.
The new head coach brings a new system which will air the ball out even more than 2011, when the Aggies ranked No. 16 in the nation in total passing yards. Sumlin's former team, the Houston Cougars, lead the nation in passing yards last season.
Texas A&M will have to keep the athletic SEC defenses honest with a balanced attack, but the run game will often occur out of a spread set, making the receivers a top priority during the offseason.
Jeff Fuller, the all-time leader in touchdown receptions at A&M, departed for the NFL after an impressive senior season, but was not picked in the 2012 NFL draft.
Ryan Swope didn't make the same mistake and bought into Sumlin's new system along with teammate Uzoma Nwachukwu.
But the Aggies will need some new faces to step up and fill the remaining spots in the rotation. Especially if A&M has any hopes of competing in the brutal SEC West.
Here are the leading candidates to fill the need.
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While Jeff Fuller may have been regarded as the best wide receiver at Texas A&M over the last couple years, Ryan Swope has easily been the most electrifying.
Swope has mastered the art of route-running and will excel in Sumlin's pass-happy offense, which is probably one of the key factors in his decision to return for his senior season.
Swope reeled in 89 receptions for over 1,200 yards last year with Ryan Tannehill leading the Ags. This year will likely see him continue to line up almost exclusively in the slot position, where he fits in best.
It may not be a Brady-Welker connection in 2012, but Swope will lead the team in their inaugural season in the SEC, turning quick catches into long receptions.
That's not where Swope's contribution ends.
No. 25 will be just as valuable off the field, where his veteran leadership will be much needed by the first-year starter at quarterback.
Whoever that may be.
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Uzoma Nwachukwu has been the "third-wheel" over the last two years to the Fuller-Swope duo, mainly due to his inconsistency.
When "EZ" is on, he is fantastic, but he often disappears from the offense.
Some fans point to Fuller and Swope being the go-to guys, which limited EZ's opportunities as a receiver. They may be right, but in that case, he should burst onto the scene in 2012.
EZ won't have Fuller to compete with and the Aggies will definitely need production from the receivers.
Look for No. 7 to start on the outside, where his speed and leaping ability will provide a nice deep threat.
EZ has caught over 30 passes every year since arriving as a freshman and is poised to really explode next to Ryan Swope in the new system.
Derel Walker is JUCO transfer from Trinity Valley who's athleticism should earn him immediate playing time.
The wide receiver position has long been one of the most highly recruited positions out of junior college and this is a prime example of why.
Walker caught 37 passes last year for 757 yards, notching an impressive 20.5 yards per catch average. The combination of speed and his 6'2", 180-pound frame makes Walker a legitimate deep threat.
Walker will be one of the new challengers to Nwachukwu as the primary outside receiver, and there is no doubt that he will get his opportunities in 2012.
After only playing in five games his freshman year, Malcome Kennedy looks poised to challenge for one of the starting positions in the receiver rotation.
Although Kennedy only reeled in 11 receptions for 140 yards, he did make some big catches for the Ags, especially in his four catches for 60 yards performance against Oklahoma.
With Swope basically locking up the slot receiver position, Kennedy is looking to see time either as the other wide-out across from Nwachukwu or as the fourth receiver when Sumlin uses the four receiver sets.
Kennedy proved for much of last season that he is the kind of player that deserves more playing time, now he has a serious opportunity at convincing both the coaching staff and the fans.
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Much like "EZ" Nwachukwu, Brandal Jackson has put up nice numbers at times but has often found himself looking on from the sidelines because of Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope earning much of the playing time.
With Fuller departed and extra receivers needed in the rotation, the door is wide open for Jackson to shine.
While the outside receiving slots are a little full, another slot receiver is needed to back up Swope and come in during four receiver sets.
Brandal Jackson has the speed and hands to finally contend for serious playing time in his fourth season with the Aggies.
Mike Evans or Nate Askew
At 6'5", 200 lbs, Mike Evans has the NFL size that fits perfectly into the pass-happy offense of Kevin Sumlin.
After being redshirted in 2011, Evans has the prototype look of a go-to outside receiver, especially in the redzone.
Although he has better hands than fellow teammate Nate Askew, his speed is lacking.
The Evans-Askew battle during spring and throughout the rest of the offseason will be an interesting one and the winner will likely emerge as a starter with considerable playing time.
The Aggies receiver corp. is young and fairly unproven, but very deep.
With Sumlin pushing the unit to compete throughout spring and summer, the Aggies should bring a very formidable rotation into the fall.
Now if Sumlin can only choose a quarterback to throw them the ball...