5 Players Not Named Johnny Manziel Who Are Most Responsible for Aggies' Success
All of the attention for the 2013 Texas A&M football team is currently focused on quarterback Johnny Manziel and the apparent NCAA investigation for him profiting from autographs. College football fans and pundits are ignoring the fact that there are plenty of other Aggies responsible for Texas A&M's success on the field in 2013.
Manziel is a once-in-a-lifetime player. He became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy because he can impact the game like few others.
However, football is the ultimate team game. Manziel cannot win games all by himself. He would not be effective without the offensive line giving him time to get the ball off.
The Aggies' offense would not have set an Southeastern Conference record for total yardage in 2012 without the defense giving them the ball back.
There are plenty of aspects of a team that have to do with winning besides the quarterback. This is a look at the five players most responsible for the Aggies winning in 2013 other than Manziel.
LT Jake Matthews
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Jake Matthews was an All-American at right tackle in 2012. He will flip over to the left tackle spot in 2013 and protect Johnny Manziel's blind side.
The left tackle is one of the most important players on the field. The left tackle is responsible for providing time for the quarterback to get the ball out on passing plays. Matthews is expected to follow 2013 first-round draft pick Luke Joeckel into the NFL when he becomes a first-round selection, per WalterFootball.com, in the 2014 draft.
In Matthews, the Ags have one of the best left tackles in the country. He will be facing the opposing team's best pass-rusher on every play. Without a left tackle like Matthews, opposing pass-rushers could make a mockery of a passing offense.
Matthews is the reason Manziel, or whoever the Ags line up under center, will have time to operate Kevin Sumlin's spread offense in 2013.
PK Taylor Bertolet
Taylor Bertolet returns for his sophomore season as the Aggies' place-kicker. Bertolet struggled with consistency in 2012, making only 13 of 22 field goals and missing seven extra points.
The Aggies have the type of team that can compete for a national championship in 2013. If they are going to win the close games, then they need to be able to count on their kicker.
Bertolet has to be able to make every extra point and consistently make all field goals inside of 40 yards. He made four of five attempts from 50-yards-plus in 2012, yet missed seven extra points.
It defies all logic, but Bertolet was actually more reliable from 50-plus-yards away than he was from 20 yards away. Special teams coach Jeff Banks is going to have to work with Bertolet to make him more consistent.
If he cannot make the easy kicks, then the Aggies need to find someone who can.
OLB Steven Jenkins
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Texas A&M senior outside linebacker Steven Jenkins will have to take a leadership role on the defense in 2013. He is one of the Ags' best playmakers returning on defense.
Jenkins is the top returning tackler on the Aggies defense with 79 total stops in 2012. He also added 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception.
Jenkins returned the interception for a touchdown right before the half to tie the game at 17 against Ole Miss in Oxford. He is an impact player who will compete for All-Conference honors in 2013.
With the departure of defensive end Damontre Moore to the NFL, the Aggies need to find a new difference-maker on defense. Jenkins has the kind of talent where he can be an impact player in the SEC and the leader of the defense.
C Mike Matthews
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All of the focus on the Texas A&M offense usually goes to the skill players who are piling up big numbers. Few people pay attention to the center who is rushing up to the ball and setting the pace for the Ags' hurry-up spread offense.
In 2012, Patrick Lewis set the pace for the Ags offense at center. With his graduation, it is up to sophomore Mike Matthews to set the tempo in 2013.
The center on the Aggie football team makes all of the line calls and controls when the ball in snapped. When you watch the Aggies play, you will see the center sprinting down the field after a big play in order to get over the ball and snap it as quickly as possible.
Matthews will be responsible for the Aggies setting a pace on offense that will wear the opposing defense down. He played very well in 2012 as a backup and will be solid as the starter in 2013.
WR Mike Evans
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Texas A&M sophomore wide receiver Mike Evans defines the word "beast." The 6'5", 225-pound receiver was physically dominant during his first season on the field for the Aggies in 2012.
It was a common site to see Evans throwing opposing defensive backs on the ground before he gained extra yardage in 2012. He caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns during his freshman season.
Evans set freshman school records for receptions and receiving yardage in 2012. He should be even better in 2013 now that he has a year of experience in the system.
Evans will be the focus of opposing defenses in 2013. He should draw double coverage which will open up the field for other Aggie receivers to make plays. When it comes to the Aggies' passing game, Evans is one of the most important components on the team.