The Texas A&M football team was led to an 11-2 record and a top-5 national ranking in 2012 by its "triplets" on offense. Quarterback Johnny Manziel, running back Ben Malena and wide receiver Mike Evans played a key role in 2012, and return to help the Ags make a run at the BCS title in 2013.
In the early 90's, the Dallas Cowboys trio of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowls. Some fans began to call them "the triplets," and now all three are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Ags have their own version of "the triplets" in Manziel, Malena and Evans. The three players helped power one of the best offenses in the nation in 2012.
If the Aggies are going to win the BCS title in 2013 then they will need a reshuffled offensive line to gel, a revamped front seven on defense to perform and new team leaders to step forward. They will also need "the triplets" to step up and make big plays in big games like they did in 2012.
This is a look at how Manziel, Malena and Evans will help the Ags chase their first national title since 1939.
Johnny Manziel went out and did the impossible in 2012 by becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel passed for over 3,700 yards and rushed for more than 1,400 yards while setting multiple school and Southeastern Conference records.
In 2013, college football fans will be treated to a full season of Manziel with an 100-percent grasp of Kevin Sumlin's spread offense. Early in the 2012 season Manziel was limited in the passing game.
He developed as a passer as the season went on and at the end of the season his play bordered on unstoppable. If Manziel stays healthy then fans will be treated to quite an offensive show in 2013.
In Manziel, the Ags have a player who can completely take over a football game at any moment. He is the type of player who can put a team on his back and carry them to a national championship.
Ben Malena quietly had a tremendous junior season at running back. He was given the opportunity to be the primary back for the first time in his career, and he seized it.
Malena rushed for 808 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. He added another touchdown receiving. Malena should be one of the players that the coaches can count on to step into the leadership void created with the departure of the 2012 senior class.
Christine Michael began the 2012 season as the starter at running back, but quickly found himself in Kevin Sumlin's doghouse and Malena took over. Malena started nine games in 2012 and should begin the 2013 season as the starter.
He will again be asked to share carries as the Ags will feature their deepest backfield in recent memory. Malena, Trey Williams, Brandon Williams and Tra Carson will give the Ags the deepest backfield in the nation.
Malena may not equal his 808 rushing yards from 2012, but he will still play a primary role in the Aggies' offense in 2013. Malena is a great blocker, displays good receiving skills out of the backfield and has underrated speed.
His overall play and leadership will make Malena one of the most important players on the Aggies' team.
Aggie wide receiver Mike Evans burst onto the scene as a freshman with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns. In the process, he set school records for receptions and receiving yards by a freshman.
Evans became Johnny Manziel's security blanket. When in doubt, he could just throw it up towards Evans and the rising sophomore from Galveston, TX would find a way to make a play.
Evans is coming into his own as a receiver. He only played one season of varsity football in high school so he is still relatively raw when it comes to the minor nuances of the game. As he gains more experience in college, he will become a better route runner and all-around player.
As it stands now, he is one of the best blocking wide receivers in the game. At 6'5" and almost 220 lbs, he is a matchup nightmare for any defensive coordinator. Evans should have an even bigger year in 2013 since he is the only returning starter at wide receiver.
Manziel will look for Evans early and often while the new starters grow into their roles. He should exceed his numbers from 2012.
One of the major reasons that "the triplets" were so great in 2012 was because the Aggies featured the best offensive line in the country. With Patrick Lewis and Luke Joeckel moving on to the NFL, and the Aggie coaches reshuffling the offensive line.
Rising senior Jake Matthews has moved from right tackle to left tackle to take over Joeckel's old spot. Cedric Ogbuehi has slid over from right guard to right tackle, and Mike Matthews is taking over at center.
The Ags should have an excellent offensive line in 2013. That is assuming that this new group has time to gel and remains healthy. If this offensive line plays anywhere near the level of the 2012 group, than the Ags will again have one of the top offenses in the country.
The front seven of the Texas A&M defense needs to be rebuilt or the 2013 Aggies will look like some of Hal Mumme's Kentucky squads. It does not know how well Johnny Football, Malena and Evans play if the defense cannot stop anyone.
Two defensive linemen and one starting linebacker return from the 2012 front seven. The Ags are bringing in an excellent recruiting class and should have more depth on the defensive line than they did in 2012.
The issue is that all those players are unproven. If the Ags want to win a national title in 2013 then they will have to be able to stop the run on defense. That all goes back to the front seven.
The Ags will be able to look to Kirby Ennis, Justin Manning, Isaiah Golden, Polo Manukainiu, Alonzo Williams, Julien Obioha, Tyrell Taylor, Brandon Alexander and Tyrone Taylor to get the job done on the defensive line.
At linebacker, Tommy Sanders and Donnie Baggs need to prove that they can be strong against the run in the SEC. If the defensive coaches can rebuilt the front seven then the "triplets" should fight for All-American honors.
If the defense is solid, then the Ags will be in contention for a national title and Manziel, Malena and Evans will be household names.