Can Manziel (center) and the Aggies beat the Tide two years in a row?
Freshmen could once again play a significant role when the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide visit the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS this Saturday.
With several talented returners for both teams, neither has had to rely on freshmen too much this season. However, both Texas A&M and Alabama have several newbies who are looking for a chance to burst onto the scene.
There’s not a better stage for such an introduction than this weekend’s matchup.
During last year’s showdown between the two teams—a 29-24 Aggies victory—freshmen accounted for four of the game’s seven total touchdowns.
Among the frosh that starred were: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (253 yards passing, 92 yards rushing and two touchdowns), Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (six receptions, 136 yards and a touchdown) and Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon (29 yards, one touchdown).
Who will be the newcomers that steal the spotlight this time around?
Ricky Seals-Jones (WR, Texas A&M)
According to Scout, Seals-Jones was the No. 1 overall receiver from the 2013 recruiting class. Furthermore, Fox Sports South had the Sealy, TX native as the No. 8 freshman in the nation.
During his collegiate debut, Seals-Jones certainly lived up to the hype.
In the second quarter of the Aggies’ 52-31 Week 1 win over Rice, the freshman hauled in a 71-yard pass for a touchdown. For the day, he finished with three receptions for 84 yards.
Seals-Jones was held out of last weekend’s contest with a knee injury. However, according to Al.com’s Andrew Gribble, he’s expected to return in time to face Alabama.
While teammates Malcome Kennedy and Mike Evans will get the majority of the Crimson Tide secondary’s attention, it will be Seals-Jones who they won’t forget.
Expect a big game out of the frosh.
Altee Tenpenny (RB, Alabama)
A 4-star recruit out of Little Rock, AR, Tenpenny was just the No. 14-ranked running back in the class of 2013.
Regardless, expect the youngster to make a splash this season.
As it is, T.J. Yeldon will handle the bulk of the rushing duties for Alabama. The sophomore rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns while sharing carries with the now-graduated Eddie Lacy.
But after that, the team could use a backup.
In his collegiate debut, Tenpenny looked sharp in limited action. The freshman rushed for 24 yards on six carries.
The numbers may not be too impressive, but look for that to increase this weekend. Especially in a game that may be decided by who holds onto the ball the longest.
Germain Ifedi (OL, Texas A&M)
Manziel may not have won the Heisman Trophy last year had it not been for the tremendous play from the Aggies offensive line. One that took a serious hit when Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel declared for the NFL draft.
Ifedi is expected to help make up for that loss.
The redshirt freshman wasn’t highly touted coming out of high school, only earning a 3-star rating from Rivals and ranked only No. 28 at his position. However, ratings are just a number.
Thus far, Ifedi has impressed at Texas A&M.
After allowing 23 sacks in 2012, the offensive line has allowed just two this year. Ifedi’s strong play at guard is a large reason why.
Against a fierce Alabama defensive line, he and the rest of the offensive line will be tested.
Then again, these are just the type of games that can help make or break a player like Ifedi.