With the 2012 football season coming to an end it is time to start looking forward to the future of the Texas A&M football program. The nine true freshmen and five redshirt freshmen who saw extensive action in 2012 will determine the success of the program going forward.
The fact that the Aggies were able to put up 10 wins with so many freshmen in important roles speaks well to the direction of the program.
Some of the freshmen like Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans stood out, while others like Julien Obioha played important roles that went unnoticed. These freshmen should be able to build on their experiences in 2012 and form the nucleus of a championship team.
This is a look at how all of the freshmen on the 2012 Aggie football team performed during the 2012 regular season.
No reason to go too in depth into this one. Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel had one of the best seasons ever for a Southeastern Conference quarterback, and he did it in his first season. Manziel rang up 4,600 yards of total offense while becoming the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.
His gritty play and poise became the calling card of the A&M program. His nickname "Johnny Football" is now part of every American sports fan's lexicon. Manziel has been a breakthrough player for the Texas A&M program.
The positive publicity that he has created for Aggie athletics and the university cannot be measured. If there was a grade higher than an "A+" then Manziel would get it.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Mike Evans was probably the surprise of the season for the Aggies. Manziel was named the national player of the year coming out of high school, while Evans was a late addition to the recruiting class.
Evans exploded onto the scene as a freshman while setting freshman school records for a receiver with 75 receptions for 1,022 yards. He also was second on the team with five receiving touchdowns.
The freshman from Galveston (TX) Ball High School made clutch plays throughout his the season. He is already one of the top receivers in the best football conference in America.
Evans was able to use his size and incredible hand strength to out-muscle SEC defensive backs. As he gains more speed in the Aggies offseason program, he should become even more dangerous.
True freshman wide receiver Sabian Holmes was expected to step in and contribute immediately coming out of Southlake (TX) Carroll High School. There were rumors that leaked out of summer workouts that Holmes would be a major part of the Aggies passing game in 2012.
When the regular season started, Holmes basically played like a freshman. He had six receptions for 48 yards on the year. Holmes showed the ability to get open but his inconsistent hands hurt him.
The athletic ability is there, he just needs to work on becoming a better receiver.
True freshman wide receiver Thomas Johnson was everything that Holmes was hyped up to be. He was a difference-maker on the field as a first-year player in college football. Johnson finished the year with 30 catches for 339 yards and a touchdown.
His season was cut short by some off-field issues and right now his future with the A&M program is uncertain. He exceeded expectations as a freshman and if he does join the program again, appears to be a future NFL receiver.
True freshman running back Trey Williams entered the A&M program as one of the more hyped recruits in recent memory. He lived up to the hype by accumulating 1,028 yards of total offense.
Williams rushed for 335 yards and four touchdowns. He caught 12 passes for 171 yards while returning 23 kicks for 522 yards. Williams proved to be a difference maker when he was on the field.
Amazingly enough for a player who ran a 4.3 40 in high school, Williams needs to work on his speed going forward. He was not quite able to complete runs the way he was in high school. Williams was caught from behind a couple of times in 2012 and needs to work on his stamina.
Aggies celebrate another victory
Joseph Cheek is a redshirt freshman who is the backup at right tackle and plays left tackle in certain goal-line situations. At 6'7" and 300 lbs he definitely has the size to play in the SEC.
As a redshirt freshman the expectations for Cheek should be pretty low. The disappointing thing about his season is that when given the chance to show what he had late in a lot of the Ags blowout victories, he did not impress.
He was solid on the goal line but most of the time when the Ags went to that formation, they put Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews on the right side and ran to the right. Cheek just needs to get better during the offseason. He is only a freshman and has plenty of time to improve.
Julien Obioha is a true freshman who started all 12 games at defensive end for the Aggies. That fact alone is enough to give him a high grade. Obioha did not put up spectacular numbers, with 25 tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack.
He did however hold up on the edge against every team that the Aggies faced. His play as a true freshman far exceeded expectations and portends a great future. The A&M coaches have to be ecstatic about the future for Obioha.
He quietly had the biggest impact on the team of any of the true freshmen.
Michael Richardson is a true freshman who backed up Sean Porter at outside linebacker in 2012. He had a solid season with nine total tackles in nine games played.
Richardson was probably the most physically ready to compete out of any of the freshmen. He is 6'2" and 230 lbs of muscle. Richardson suffered a neck injury in the Sam Houston State game but finished the game.
He is rehabbing the injury now and his prognosis is good. It is unknown whether Richardson will be able to participate in spring practices.
Aggie freshman Cb De'Vante Harris
De'Vante Harris is a true freshman cornerback who started for the Aggies in seven game in 2012. He started the season opener but lost his starting spot later in the season. As should be expected from a freshman, Harris struggled with inconsistency.
He appeared to lose some of his confidence in the Ole Miss game. Harris lost his starting position after Louisiana Tech. He is a tremendous cover corner, but he needs to learn to control his emotions. Even the best cover corners get beat at times; they just move on to the next play.
Harris was listed at 175 lbs on the roster but is probably a little lighter. He needs to add strength and some good weight so he can be a more effective tackler in coverage and against the run.
He had 27 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and an interception on the season so he definitely flashed some ability. Harris needs to work on his confidence.
Taylor Bertolet is the redshirt freshman kicker for the Aggies. He struggled with a groin injury and had an up-and-down season.
Bertolet was only 13-of-22 on field goals for the season, although he did connect on three out of four from more than 50 yards. He was only 62-of-68 on point after attempts which is completely unacceptable.
He did get better towards the end of the season, making all of his extra point attempts during the Aggies' last two games. Bertolet has a leg strong enough to kick in the NFL. He just needs to improve his consistency.
Brice Dolezal is a true freshman running back from Austin (TX) Westlake High School. He is a non-scholarship walk-on and was expected to redshirt. He surprisingly appeared in six games, rushing 17 times for 70 yards.
Dolezal is the perfect example of the kind of talent that the spread offenses in Texas high schools are producing. He is a running back who is equally adept at running the ball and catching the ball out of the backfield, so there is a place for him in FBS football.
The fact that Dolezal was able to contribute in any capacity so early in his career was a shock. Look for him to develop into a solid role player on the team.
A&M safety Howard Matthews celebrates vs. Alabama
Mike Matthews is a true freshman center who backed up Patrick Lewis on the offensive line. Most freshmen offensive linemen redshirt, but Sumlin wanted to enter 2013 with a center who had a year of SEC experience under his belt so Matthews played in 2012.
Matthews saw extensive action in the second halves of the Aggies' blowout victories. He blocked very well at the point of attack. Matthews should compete for All-Conference and All-American honors before his career is over.
Alonzo Williams is a true freshman defensive end for the Aggies. He saw action in the last five games of the season. Williams tallied five tackles on the season.
He did nothing to really stand out on the field good or bad. Do not be surprised to see Williams add some weight in the offseason and move inside to defensive tackle.
Shavion Hatten is a redshirt freshman defensive tackle for the Aggies. At 6'4" and 295 lbs, he has the size and strength to contribute in the trenches in the SEC right now. The fact that he has not is a frustration to Aggies coaches and fans alike.
Hatten saw action in two games in garbage time, and tallied two tackles on the season. The bottom line is that Hatten needs to step up his performance in the spring and summer to show the coaches he can be a contributor.
If he does not get it done at DT, so not be surprised to see the coaches give Hatten a look at offensive guard.