Texas A&M WR Mike Evans is one of the SEC's most dangerous receivers.
This weekend’s monster tilt between Alabama and Texas A&M has been the most anticipated game of the season, mainly because of the matchup between Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel and Nick Saban’s stout Tide defense.
However, Kevin Sumlin’s club features an array of weapons surrounding Manziel that have helped the offense average 600 yards of total offense and nearly 59 points through the season’s first two weeks.
Which Aggies offensive skill players are likely to jump out to Saban and his staff in film study? Also, are there any Aggies defenders that could make an impact in this titanic showdown between SEC West powers?
Despite Manziel and the rest of offense’s brilliance in last season’s 29-24 upset victory, it was Mark Snyder’s defense that forced Alabama into three turnovers—including corner Deshazor Everett’s goal-line interception off AJ McCarron that sealed the win late in the fourth quarter.
While the Aggies defense has struggled, Everett is one of several players who have missed time through the first two games due to suspensions.
The Aggies defense has given up a number of big plays through the first two games of the season. However, Everett is a proven playmaker capable of making game-changing plays for his team in a game of this magnitude.
The Aggies returned just two receivers who had extensive experience in junior Malcome Kennedy and sophomore Mike Evans.
While Evans was a preseason second-team All-SEC selection, the 6’0”, 200-pound Kennedy is another player who stepped up in last season’s meeting against the Crimson Tide.
Two plays following T.J. Yeldon’s early fourth quarter fumble, Manziel lofted a perfectly executed corner route to Kennedy, who beat Tide All-American corner Dee Milliner for a 24-yard touchdown that put the Aggies in control with a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Considering the touted class of freshmen receivers Sumlin brought in, Alabama would be wise to not forget about Kennedy.
With the loss of veteran receivers such as Ryan Swope, Kenric McNeal and Uzoma Nwachukwu, Texas A&M’s receiver unit has undergone a bit of a makeover.
Sumlin brought in six receivers in the Aggies 2013 recruiting class, with the headliner being 6’5”, 225-pound 5-star phenom Ricky Seals-Jones.
Seals-Jones wasted little time announcing himself to the country, as he hauled in three passes for 84 yards and a touchdown in his college debut against Rice.
As Andrew Gribble of AL.com reports, Seals-Jones—who missed the Sam Houston State game with a knee injury—is expected to be ready to go against the Tide.
Considering his size and speed, he will be a player that Alabama will have a tough time matching up with from a physical standpoint.
With Manziel leading the Aggies in rushing last season, the running backs in Sumlin’s offense are often overlooked.
Senior Ben Malena and a trio of sophomores headlined by Tra Carson make up a deep and talented group of rushers.
Of that group, Malena—who rushed for 50 yards on 14 carries against the Tide last season—leads the Aggies with 150 yards rushing through the first two games.
He’s also a capable receiver out of the backfield, and his versatility is an asset that can help him be effective against a defense that prides itself on stopping the run.
Evans is the Aggies’ most proven playmaker, and at 6’5”, 225-pounds, he’s a load to handle in the open field.
After piling up 1,105 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2012, Evans is off to a blistering start this season racking up 13 receptions for 239 yards and a pair of scores entering Week 3.
Evans had five receptions for 40 yards against Alabama last season, but Tide corner John Fulton held his own and won his share of battles against the rising sophomore.
Considering Fulton’s size, Saban and Kirby Smart may choose to give Fulton another crack at slowing down Manziel’s most dangerous weapon.