Who Will Texas A&M Rely On vs. Alabama Other Than Johnny Manziel?
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
All eyes will be on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel this weekend as he looks to topple the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide for the second straight season.
CBS will have a camera on Manziel at all times on its broadcast of the biggest game of the young college football season, according to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated.
So if you're annoyed with the attention paid to the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, prepare accordingly when you sit down for the big game this weekend.
But Manziel is hardly the only weapon for the Aggies. This roster is loaded with talent at the skill positions, and one or two of those players are going to be instrumental pieces of the puzzle if the Aggies are going to spring the upset again.
Other than Manziel, who could be some of the stars of the Aggies' offense?
Running Back Ben Malena
Malena is a weapon as a running back and a receiver out of the backfield. He's rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns on the season, and he's also caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.
The 5'9", 195-pounder is short in stature, but he packs a mean punch and has speed to take it the distance if he gets the ball in space.
His versatility is key, because Alabama has to respect his ability as a running back. But it's as a receiver where he'll be most dangerous.
When Manziel scrambles to buy time, linebackers and safeties have to play under control. If they don't and come up to challenge Manziel, Malena—typically a safety valve—could be the beneficiary. If Manziel finds him, A&M could be in for a big gain.
Wide Receiver Mike Evans
Evans is no secret. As a freshman in 2012, he caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns and emerged as Manziel's favorite target.
The 6'5", 225-pounder picked up right where he left off in the first two games of the season, catching 13 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns—both of which came from Manziel.
He'll likely line up opposite 5'11", 183-pound Crimson Tide cornerback Deion Belue the majority of the time.
Can you say mismatch?
Belue played well against Virginia Tech, but that was with Logan Thomas at quarterback, not Manziel.
Manziel and Evans have developed quite the connection over the last few seasons. He has the big body to create matchup nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators, because if you double-team him or slide a safety over, the running lanes for Manziel are going to be even bigger.
Wide Receiver Ja'Quay Williams
The 6'3", 210-pound freshman didn't catch a pass in the opener versus Rice, but he made his presence felt in Game 2.
Williams caught two passes for 58 yards and a touchdown against Sam Houston State. His touchdown catch came on a beautiful throw from Manziel, who hit the Tyrone, Ga., native in stride down the sideline to put the Aggies up 27-7.
It was an important completion for the combo.
Manziel made a great throw, and Williams made a fantastic catch. Now they have found success on the field as well as in practice, which makes them an even more dangerous combo.
Running Back Trey Williams
The electric 5'8", 195-pound sophomore sat out last week with an ankle injury, but according to ESPN.com, head coach Kevin Sumlin expects him back this week for Alabama.
Just in the nick of time.
Before injuring his ankle in the opener, Williams had three carries for 25 yards, caught a pass for nine yards and returned a kickoff 25 yards.
He's quicker than Malena, has more top-end speed and forces defensive coordinators to respect his home-run ability when he's in the game.
Williams doesn't have to be featured prominently in the game plan to be effective. If he gets the ball in space or Alabama suffers a blown assignment or misses a tackle when he has the ball, he can drastically change the momentum of a game.
The Tight Ends
What's the stat line for A&M tight ends Nehemiah Hicks and Cameron Clear this season? Zero catches for zero yards and zero touchdowns.
That's going to change, and there's no time like the present.
Hicks only has seven catches for 60 yards on his career, but it's his backup, Cameron Clear—a former Tennessee Volunteer—who could emerge as a legit threat in the passing game.
Clear is an ultra-athletic 6'6", 270-pound monster from Memphis, Tenn. He only caught one pass for the Vols, but he has the size and athleticism to create matchup nightmares in the middle of the field.
Saturday afternoon in College Station will be wildly intriguing.
The Aggies aren't just "Manziel and everybody else." Stopping Manziel will be Alabama's top priority, but don't be fooled into thinking that's going to decide the game.
Thanks to a roster loaded with skill players, Sumlin has Plans B and C up his sleeve and isn't afraid to use them if they're needed.
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