Texas A&M Football: Power Ranking the Strongest Positional Units for 2013
The Texas A&M football team enters the 2013 season a deeper team than it was in 2012. The 2013 Aggies are as deep and talented at some positions as any team in the country.
In 2012, the Ags entered the Southeastern Conference with very low expectations nationally. The prevailing wisdom was that if A&M won six games and qualified for a bowl, that would constitute a good season.
But Texas A&M shocked the nation and its SEC brethren by winning 11 games in 2012. The Aggies showed that they were just as tough in the trenches as any team in the conference.
The combination of the Ags' tremendous offensive line with the top playmaker in the nation at quarterback resulted in one of the most explosive offenses in college football. And on defense, a surprisingly strong front seven held its own in the league of champions.
The Aggies return 12 starters from those two units in 2013. Despite the loss of 10 starters, the 2013 Aggies will have more depth than the 2012 team.
This is a position-by-position breakdown of the Aggie football team from the position with the least depth to the position with the most. When looking at the 2013 team, the incoming freshmen from the 2013 recruiting class will be taken into consideration.
Steven Jenkins tries to make a tackle against LSU
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The Ags have some question marks at the linebacker position. The first team looks strong, with Donnie Baggs at middle linebacker, Steven Jenkins on the weak side and Tommy Sanders on the strong side.
Baggs is a junior who started a game in the place of Jenkins in 2012. Jenkins, a senior, is a two-year starter who will be one of the leaders of the defense in 2013. Meanwhile, Sanders is a newcomer who participated in spring practice after enrolling early at A&M. He is a junior college transfer.
None of these linebackers is as good as the departed Sean Porter, however.
Baggs replaces Jonathan Stewart, who graduated in 2012 and signed on with the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent. He is quicker than Stewart was and will offer the defensive coaches the ability to cover running backs and tight ends from the MLB position.
The starting unit should be solid, but the second team is full of question marks.
Nate Askew made the move to strong-side linebacker from wide receiver during the spring and was a standout in every scrimmage. He flipped around from the strong side to the weak side during the spring and should be used primarily as a pass-rusher in the fall.
Brett Wade is a true freshman who participated in spring drills. He will back up Jenkins on the weak side.
Reggie Chevis is an incoming freshman who also participated in spring drills. He will back Baggs up in the middle.
Finally, incoming freshman Jordan Mastrogiovanni is on campus right now participating in summer workouts with the team. He will be given a look at middle linebacker in August.
The questions on this unit in the second team make this the weakest position depth-wise on the squad.
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The Aggies lost an All-American defensive end and the spiritual leader of their team off the 2012 defensive line. The irony is that despite the departures of Damontre Moore and Spencer Nealy, the 2013 Aggies defensive line should be much deeper than the 2012 unit was.
The 2012 squad simply struggled to find four bodies big enough to compete on a down-by-down basis in the SEC. The end result that defensive line coach Terry Price was able to coax out of his group was nothing short of phenomenal.
In 2012, the Ags had a very good starting four and not much behind them. Senior nose guard Kirby Ennis and sophomore defensive end Julien Obioha return from that starting unit.
Obioha is moving from the strong-side over to the weak-side defensive end position to replace Moore. The other two starting positions are up in the air right now.
Sophomore Alonzo Williams is listed as the starter at defensive tackle. He will start somewhere on the 2013 defensive line, the question is simply whether it's at defensive tackle or at strong-side defensive end.
Right now, junior Gavin Stansbury is listed as the starter at strong-side defensive end. If the Aggies can find a someone to take over at defensive tackle for Williams, then he will move over to the starting spot. If not, you will see Stansbury, Brandon Alexander and a few of the incoming freshmen fight it out for the starting spot on the strong side.
Justin Manning, Isaiah Golden, Hardreck Walker and Jordan Points are all incoming freshmen who will fight for playing time on the interior defensive line. All four of them have the size and strength necessary to play in the SEC immediately, and they will offer the Ags more depth at the position than they had in 2012.
How well these incoming freshmen perform in August will go a long way in determining whether Alonzo Williams spends his season at end or defensive tackle.
With Alonzo Williams at end, the Ags have a chance to be a very good SEC defensive line.
Tyrone and Tyrell Taylor will back up Obioa at weak-side defensive end and will be very effective pass-rushers. Incoming freshmen Jay Arnold and Daeshon Hall will be in the mix at both defensive end spots.
By the end of the season, the wide receiver position at Texas A&M may be one of the strongest units in the country. However, at this point, it is a position filled with question marks.
That is to be expected when you lose three senior starters from the unit, including the greatest wide receiver statistically in school history, Ryan Swope. The Ags are going to need a number of talented freshmen to step up and make an impact in 2013.
Mike Evans returns on the outside after setting freshmen school records with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards in 2012. He will compete for All-SEC and All-American honors in 2013.
Junior Malcome Kennedy will start at one of the slot positions, while sophomore Sabian Holmes and junior LeKendrick Williams will fight it out at the other. Senior Derel Walker and freshman Ja'Quay Williams are still competing to start at the outside spot opposite Evans.
Do not be surprised to see redshirt freshman Ed Pope jump up and claim a starting spot at outside receiver. The Aggie coaches experimented with Evans in the slot during the spring, and Pope had a very good spring game.
Evans is the only proven playmaker returning from the 2012 squad. If the 2013 offense is going to be as good or better than the 2012 offense was, than some true freshmen wide receivers are going to play big roles.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Laquvionte Gonzalez, Jeremy Tabuyo, Kyrion Parker and Sebastian Larue will all be given the opportunity to earn playing time in August. The Ags will need at least three of those freshman receivers to step up and contribute in 2013.
If the freshmen step up, then this will go from a position of depth concern to one of the deepest positions on the team.
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The Aggies' secondary was the weakness of the 2012 squad. It should be a major strength in 2013. Three players return with starting experience from 2012.
Junior Deshazor Everett started at both corner and safety in 2012. He is one of the more versatile defensive backs in the country and will compete for All-SEC honors.
De'Vante Harris returns at corner. He started as a true freshman in 2012, but he was eventually benched because of his lack of physical play.
Harris added about 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason and now looks and plays like a different person. The coverage skills have always been there, now he has the confidence and the strength to make plays.
Junior Howard Matthews returns at safety. He came into his own during the second half of the 2012 season. Matthews will team up with junior Floyd Raven to form a very intimidating safety duo.
Toney Hurd Jr. will likely start in the nickel. Good things happen when Hurd is on the field, and the senior will have a calming influence on a relatively young defense. Senior Otis Jacobs offers great depth at corner.
The Ags had a tremendous recruiting class in the secondary. Alex Sezer, Noel Ellis and Tavares Garner will all compete for playing time at corner in the fall.
Incoming freshmen safeties Kam Miles, Victor Davis and Jonathan Wiggins will compete for playing time at safety. Aggie fans should expect to see Sezer, Ellis, Miles and Davis all forgo a redshirt year to contribute to the secondary and on special teams.
TE Nehemiah Hicks celebrates with Johnny Manziel
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The Aggies will have a solid two-deep at tight end in 2013. Nehemiah Hicks returns for his senior season. He will likely back up newcomer Cameron Clear.
Clear is a monster 6'6", 270-pound tight end who transferred in from Arizona Western Community College. His size and mobility may change the face of the A&M offense in 2013.
When you have a tight end who can block like Clear, it allows the offense to be much more versatile because it allows you to run the ball effectively from so many different schemes.
Clear will be trouble for anyone to cover down the seem. His blocking effectively gives the Aggies an extra offensive tackle on the field. Clear and Hicks should make the tight end position a bigger part of the offense than it has been since 1998.
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The Aggies have a legitimate two-deep on the offensive line for the 2013 season.
Senior Jake Matthews has moved over to left tackle after an All-American season at right tackle in 2012. Junior Jarvis Harrison returns at right guard, while sophomore Mike Matthews will be the starter at center. Redshirt freshman Germain Ifedi will start at right guard, and junior Cedric Ogbuehi will be the starting right tackle.
The Aggies will once again have one of the best offensive lines in the country in 2013. Their depth is also improved from the 2012 season.
Jeremiah Stuckey is a junior college transfer who will back up Matthews at left tackle. If Matthews does go down to injury, you would likely see Ogbuehi move over to the left tackle spot, with Ifedi taking over at right tackle.
Senior Shep Klinke is Harrison's backup. He has starting experience and is a solid college offensive lineman. Junior Ben Compton will back up Matthews at center.
Redshirt freshman Garrett Gramling is the backup at right guard, and sophomore Joseph Cheek is the backup at right tackle.
The Aggies have a very good offensive line, and they have solid depth.
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Texas A&M has one of the best quarterback situations in America because it has the best quarterback in America as its starter.
Johnny Manziel returns at quarterback for his sophomore season. Behind Manziel is fourth-year junior Matt Joeckel. He is more of a pocket passer than Manziel, but he has a big arm and can be an effective passer.
Redshirt freshman Matt Davis is currently the third-string quarterback. He is not a polished passer, but his ability to extend plays with his scrambling adds a dimension to the offense that Joeckel does not have.
True freshman Kenny Hill will be given a chance to compete for the backup job in August. He has a strong arm and is very mobile. Hill will remind college fans more of Scott Frost when he runs the ball than Manziel. Thankfully for Aggie fans, he is a much better passer than Frost was.
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The deepest position on the field for the Aggies is at the running back position. They have more depth at the position than any team in the country.
Senior Ben Malena returns after rushing for over 800 yards in 2012. He will be the starting running back.
Brandon Williams has tormented the Aggie defenders in practice since the spring of 2012. He will finally get a chance to play in games that count after sitting out the 2012 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Sophomore Trey Williams is finally 100 percent healthy and should be ready for a breakout season. He is the forgotten man on the Aggie offense, as a lot of people are concentrating on what Johnny Manziel and Brandon Williams can do for this offense. People forget that WIlliams is a true home-run threat who can change a game on one carry.
Finally, sophomore Tra Carson is eligible after transferring from Oregon in 2012. He is a true power back who has more size than the other three backs on the roster. Carson will help the Aggies in short yardage and in the red zone.
Together, these four running backs comprise the deepest position on the A&M team.