Spring training is almost upon us as Texas A&M prepares to jump back in the saddle out of the grasp of winter's hand. The Feb. 28 kickoff leaves just a week until the Aggies take the field, and as such, many players stand with ground to gain.
The game of football features position battles like no other sport, and A&M will showcase such struggles in spring training across the board.
Bleacher Report breaks down the top five players with the most to gain for the Aggies with spring training just a week out.
*All quotes obtained firsthand
Cam Clear entered College Station last spring from the JUCO ranks with high expectations from fans, coaches and fellow players alike, as the 6'6" tight end had the makings of a top-tier athlete at his position.
Unfortunately for both Clear and Texas A&M, his playing time and overall impact on the offense failed to match expectations.
The tight end shared time with graduating senior Nehemiah Hicks at the position and was targeted on few occasions by quarterback Johnny Manziel.
With Hicks out and Manziel NFL-bound, though, Clear has the opportunity this spring to step up into a major role for the A&M passing game, emerging as a dedicated target of whichever quarterback (Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill) takes over the starting role.
Additionally, with the Aggies' offense undergoing a transition at offensive coordinator—from Clarence McKinney to Jake Spavital—Clear will basically have a clean slate on all fronts to change his impact on the team for the better.
Last season as a true freshman, Noel Ellis played his role as planned—eight games on the field, limited impact and a mentor to learn from: senior defensive back Toney Hurd Jr.
As the spring inches closer though, Ellis is poised for a major spring up the depth chart, especially as the position he was groomed for all last season becomes vacant with Hurd's graduation.
Mid-way through the 2013 season, cornerback DeVante Harris lauded Ellis' performance both in practice and on the field during games, saying he had serious potential. As questions of A&M's secondary continue to remain an issue, Ellis stands prepared to emerge as a starter at almost any position within the unit.
Any addition of muscle this past offseason would be essential in pushing Ellis into an immediate impact role as well.
When LaQuvionte Gonzalez first took the field for the Aggies last season, he had already earned a reputation for speed amongst his teammates.
The renown held up against opponents as well, as the pitch sweep to Gonzalez became a favorite of A&M late during the year.
As three of A&M's top four wideouts move on to bigger and better things, Gonzalez—who ranked fifth last year in receptions and receiving yards—is poised to step up into a secure starting role in the slot.
However, his transition won't come without competition, as the return of Ricky Seals-Jones, the entrance of early enrollee Speedy Noil or the emergence of an unknown could threaten his position.
Known around the fanbase as "Mastro," sophomore linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni looks to take over one of the two open linebacker positions currently vacant on the A&M defense.
Last year, Mastro acted as a backup at outside linebacker and was a strong threat to blitz every time he took the field, but linebacker coach Mark Hagan and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder have entertained the idea of transforming him into the Aggies' middle linebacker while moving current star Darian Claiborne into an outside role.
Outside of gaining muscle mass, a problem for most any true college freshman, Mastrogiovanni had notable trouble holding his own against the passing game, leaving coaches doubtful of putting him on the field in such situations.
With an entire offseason under his belt though, Mastro will have both the experience and training to perform at the highest level against both the run and the pass.
The Aggies' running back situation over the past two years has been a mix of confusion and talent as multiple athletes have rotated in and out of the role throughout each season.
This past season alone, starter Ben Malena shared carries with Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams, with each back bringing a different style and technique to the game.
With Malena's graduation official, though, junior Trey Williams looks to step up into the undisputed starting role, a position that has yet to be seen under head coach Kevin Sumlin.
Throughout last season in particular, Williams proved his incredible speed and precision and remains the favorite entering spring training. In terms of gaining ground, though, Williams' talent puts him in position to take over the unit entirely with limited rotation and a heavy majority of the carries.