The Texas A&M Football team will have to replace 11 starters from its 2012 roster. The Aggies need to have multiple players step up and become difference makers if they are going to experience success in 2013.
The Aggies lost six starters from their defense and five from a record-setting offense. After an 11-2 finish in 2012, expectations are high for the 2013 season. They will not be able to meet these championship-level expectations unless some of the new starters develop into stars.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel is the most important player on the team. However, if his offensive line does not block he will not be effective. If he does not have receivers to catch the ball then the offense will stall.
On defense the Aggies have to replace players at every level. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder will have more depth in 2013 than he did in 2012, but he will have less experience.
This is a look at some starters who need to step up if the Aggies want to win a championship in 2013.
Jake Matthews' brother Mike Matthews will need to step up in 2013
The unsung hero on A&M's offense in 2012 was center Patrick Lewis. He was awarded the team Co-MVP Award on offense along with Johnny Manziel. Mike Matthews will replace Lewis in 2013.
Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin decided to not redshirt Matthews in 2012 and had him back up Lewis. Sumlin's reasoning was that he would prefer to have three seasons of a starter who had a year of experience playing in the SEC, rather than four seasons of a starter without any experience.
Matthews did a solid job when he saw action in 2012. He is following in the footsteps of his older brother Kevin Matthews who played center for A&M in 2008 and 2009. Kevin Matthews now plays center for the Tennessee Titans.
Matthews will start on the same offensive line as his brother Jake Matthews in 2013. Jake Matthews will move over from right tackle to take over Luke Joeckel's spot at left tackle.
If Mike Matthews can live up to his families' storied tradition in football, then Aggies fans will be very happy with the center position for the next three years.
Please note, Sumlin made the aforementioned comments about Mike Matthews during a speech at the Dallas A&M Club Kickoff Dinner in June of 2012.
Malcome Kennedy caught 26 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. He saw action as a backup slot receiver.
Kennedy will be counted on as a starter in the slot in 2013. With only Mike Evans returning as a starter from the 2012 receivers group, Johnny Manziel will rely on Kennedy a lot this season.
Kennedy has show he is up to the task when given the opportunity. He made a huge reception against No. 1 ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa for a touchdown.
When the Aggies look to Kennedy he always comes through. Aggies fans should expect Kennedy to at least double his production from his sophomore season. Do not be surprised to see Kennedy put up 50 receptions for 600 to 700 yards in 2013.
Donnie Baggs snares an interception vs. Sam Houston State
Donnie Baggs was a backup outside linebacker in 2012 who started one game. He finished the season with 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception.
Baggs has made the move to middle linebacker in 2013 where he will be the starter. He has above average speed and quickness, and that should help him at linebacker in the SEC.
In 2012 the Aggies started Jonathan Stewart at middle linebacker, and he was a thumper in the center of the Aggies' defense. He excelled at plugging up the hole on the interior and shutting down the oppositions running game.
Baggs is a different kind of player than Stewart. He has better lateral movement and should be better in coverage than Stewart was. His speed should allow Mark Snyder to use him in a variety of different ways in 2013.
Aggies fans should expect Baggs to have a solid season in the middle of the defense in 2013.
Alonzo Williams was a true freshman in 2012 who saw his first action in the sixth game of the season. He played in seven games as a freshman including a start at strong-side defensive end in the Cotton Bowl.
It is beginning to look like Williams will be the starter at defensive tackle next to Kirby Ennis when the Aggies start the 2013 season against Rice. Williams was the starter at nose guard when the Aggies had their first scrimmage this spring.
He registered five tackles during his freshman season. Williams was strong at the point of attack and had a solid game against Oklahoma in his only start.
After an offseason in Larry Jackson's strength program, Williams reported for spring practice at 280 pounds. He has the size and strength to be an interior lineman in the SEC and should be a future star for the Aggies on the defensive line.
The Aggies played the 33-stack on defense during their first scrimmage of the spring. Because of a dearth of effective depth at the defensive line position, Mark Snyder decided to employ an odd man front.
Tyrell Taylor is an excellent pass-rusher with a tremendous first step. The issue with the 6'3", 230-pound junior is that he still does not have the requisite size to play defensive end in the SEC.
As it stands right now, the Aggies have no definitive replacement for Damontre Moore at weak-side defensive end. Taylor is in the mix for the weak-side spot.
Because of his lack of size, you will likely see Snyder use Taylor in an outside linebacker in the 3-4 or "jack" position in the 4-3. This is similar to the way Von Miller was used while he was with the Aggies.
Snyder will put Taylor in a position to excel on the field without placing him in a position where he is going to have to take on opposing linemen in the running game. With an impressive class of defensive linemen arriving in the fall, the Aggies will have much improved depth on the defensive line.
That depth on the defensive line and in the secondary should allow Snyder to be more creative with the way he uses his personnel on defense. This should help players like Taylor, and the defense in general.