The Texas A&M football team lost 12 starters off of their 2012 team that finished 11-2. If the Aggies want to build on that success in 2013, they will need multiple freshmen to step up and form a nucleus that they can build a team around.
The offense lost three starting receivers and two starters on the offensive line. The offensive line should be solid with the move of Jake Matthews over from right tackle to left tackle, and right guard Cedric Ogbuehi to right tackle.
The Ags should be able to easily score points behind that offensive line and the multi-dimensional talents of sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel. The defense is a different story, where they lost four starters in the front seven and two members of the secondary.
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder is going to need some freshmen to step in immediately and help solidify the defensive line and linebacker positions.
This is a look at a group of freshmen that the Aggies can build their 2013 squad around.
The Ags lost Spencer Nealy and Damontre Moore off of the 2012 defensive line. The 2012 line was very thin but did not suffer a single major injury during the season. The four starters of Julien Obioha, Spencer Nealy, Kirby Ennis and Damontre Moore started were available to start all 12 games.
With Nealy gone, the Ags will look for freshmen like Isaiah Golden to step in an add depth on the interior. Golden is one of the most important members of the 2013 recruiting class because he is physically ready to play defensive tackle in the SEC right now.
He is strong and athletic enough to start on the defensive line as a true freshman. Mark Snyder can build his defense around Golden on the interior. He is the type of defensive tackle that the Aggies have lost to LSU or Texas in the past decade.
Golden should be an anchor on the Aggie defensive line for the next three to four years.
Polo Manukainiu is a 6'5", 265 lbs freshman defensive lineman from Euless, TX. He entered A&M as part of the 2012 recruiting class and redshirted during the fall.
Manukainiu was the only freshman defensive lineman in the 2012 class who redshirted. His fellow classmates Alonzo Williams and Julien Obioha played in 2012.
Manukainiu has the height and length to make him an effective defensive lineman in the SEC. He needed to spend a year in the weight room adding strength and some good weight.
Because of his height, Manukainiu should be able to play defensive end and defensive tackle for the Aggies. He should be very valuable in Mark Snyder's defense because he can play defensive tackle in the 4-3, and defensive end when the Aggies switch to the 3-4 or 33-stack.
Justin Manning is a 6'2", 285 lbs defensive tackle from Dallas Kimball High School. He and Isaiah Golden should see immediate playing time on the interior defensive line for A&M in 2013.
Manning should provide the Aggies with a pass rush from the defensive tackle spot. Aggie fans should expect to see Manning starting at defensive tackle for the next three or four years.
Manning, Golden and fellow incoming freshmen Hardreck Walker will form the foundation for the Aggies defense. If Kevin Sumlin and the Aggie coaches can continue to bring in defensive line classes like the 2013 class, then the Aggies will eventually have similar depth on the defense to what LSU and Alabama have every year.
JaQuay Williams will likely have the biggest impact on the Aggie football team out of all of the freshmen. The 6'3", 205 lbs receiver is already on campus and working out with the football team.
Williams has great speed for a big receiver. He has exhibited very good body control and the ability to high point the ball in the air.
With Mike Evans on one side and Williams on the other, the Aggie receivers should be a size mismatch for every secondary they face. Williams has the kind of ability to catch 40-50 passes in 2013 and compete for All-Conference honors as a freshman.
Jonathan Stewart graduated from Texas A&M after the 2012 season, leaving a big hole at middle linebacker. Freshman Reggie Chevis enrolled at A&M in January and will compete for the starting spot at middle linebacker in the spring.
Chevis is 6'2" and around 240 lbs. He has the size to hold up against the SEC rushing attacks. If he can step in and play in the middle for the Aggies in 2013, then it will allow Donnie Baggs to remain on the outside where he played extensively in 2012.
If Chevis can get the job done in the middle, it means that the Ags will be able to consistently stuff the run, which is the foundation of all great defenses. If A&M is solid against the run, it will give Mark Snyder the flexibility to mix up coverages and blitzes to disrupt the opponents passing game.
Chevis could very well end up the centerpiece to the Aggie defense in 2013. If he can step in and help out at middle linebacker, then the Ags will be able to build the defense around him.