The 2012 Texas A&M Football team featured a tremendous group of seniors that helped guide the team to an 11-2 record and successful inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference. If the Aggies are going to justify their lofty 2013 preseason ranking, then new leaders are going to have to emerge on the team.
Every football team is going to face adversity during the season. Without the right kind of leadership, teams will succumb to the pressures on and off the field which will result in losses.
When the ball is not bouncing your way in a game, it is easy to accept that it is simply not your day and a loss is imminent.The truly special teams are the ones who refuse to lose and fight their hardest when the odds are stacked against them.
Whether or not the 2013 version of the Aggies can be that kind of team will be determined by what kind of leaders they have. Leadership and chemistry are two of the most overlooked aspects of a team.
Everyone looks at how many starters are returning on a team, but few consider the leadership losses from season to season. The players who step up on the field and in the locker room are the difference between a good team and a championship team.
Often the team leaders are the best players on the team. They are the ones who have made big plays in game to help win games.
These players have gained the respect of their teammates by consistently getting the job done on the field. You will also see leaders emerge from the players who are the hardest workers on the team. They earn the respect from their teammates with their work ethic.
This is a look at the players who should be expected to step up in 2013 and lead the Aggies.
Jake Matthews is one of two returning All-Americans on the 2013 football team. Matthews will move from the right tackle position where he has started the previous three seasons, over to left tackle where he will protect quarterback Johnny Manziel's blind side.
Matthews has earned the respect of his teammates with his dominating play on the field. He is one of the top offensive tackles in the nation.
The Aggies lost their 2012 left tackle Luke Joeckel to the NFL. Matthews flipping over to the left side, means that Cedric Ogbuehi has to move from right guard to right tackle, while redshirt freshman Germain Ifedi will start at right guard.
Add those moves in with the graduation of four-year starter Patrick Lewis at center, and there has been a lot of transition on the 2013 offensive line. Matthews will be a steadying influence on the line and on the offense as a whole.
Steven Jenkins had a breakthrough season in 2013, and it went largely unnoticed. The weak-side linebacker was third on the Aggie with 79 tackles to go along with two sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown.
If he does not intercept Bo Wallace's pass right before halftime, Johnny Manziel likely never has a chance for his second-half heroics against Ole Miss in Oxford in 2012. Jenkins's big plays in 2012 were overshadowed by his teammates like Damontre Moore and Sean Porter.
In 2013 fans will realize how good of a player Jenkins has become. As the only starting linebacker returning from the 2012 unit, he is going to be counted on early in the season to be a steady influence while the younger defenders adjust to their new roles.
Jenkins has the kind of ability to be an All-SEC linebacker. He plays with a lot of emotion, and will be instrumental in leading the defense in 2013.
Deshazor Everett is arguably the best defensive football player on the Texas A&M team. His ability to excel at both safety and cornerback in 2012 was instrumental in the Aggies' defense having a successful inaugural campaign in the SEC.
Everett tied for the team lead with two interceptions and added 56 tackles. He is a physical presence against the run and is excellent in coverage.
Some have predicted that Everett will be a first round draft pick if he leaves early for the NFL. He has the ability to be one of the top cornerbacks in the country.
Everett recently ran into some trouble off the field, and will have to get that sorted out in order to play in 2013. His high level of play and willingness to sacrifice personal achievement for the good of his teammates solidifies Everett as one of the leaders of the defense.
Ben Malena is one of the best running backs in the SEC, and few people outside of College Station know about him. He rushed for 808 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 while averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
It is Malena's blocking that sets him apart on the A&M roster. He is the best blocker at running back that the Aggies have.
Malena's blocking allows the Aggie offense to run because he keeps defenders off of Johnny Manziel. His physical level of play was showcased in the opening game of the 2012 season when he ran over Florida safety Josh Evans.
With his ability to excel at running the ball, blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield, Malena is one of the most complete backs in the conference. He simply goes out there every Saturday and gets the job done in all phases of the game.
Malena's consistent play is a steadying influence on the coaches, fans and his teammates. His teammates know that they can count on him to get the job done.
The quarterback is always going to be viewed as a leader by the nature of the position. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is viewed as the face of the Aggie team and in some ways college football.
By becoming the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy, Manziel thrust himself into the national spotlight. He is now one of the most well-known college football players in America.
On the field, Manziel is a force of nature who is capable of taking over a game at any time. He can win games with both his passing and running.
Manziel is the kind of leader all college football fans wish they had on their team. He hates to lose more than he likes to win.
His competitive nature will help prevent the Aggies from resting on their laurels from the 2012 season. Manziel is the type of player who can put a team on his back and carry them to wins.
More than any other player on the team, Manziel is the leader of the program. He is the player who will carry the Aggies to success or failure on the gridiron in 2013.