The story of the Texas A&M football team during spring practice was supposed to be the competition at quarterback to replace Johnny Manziel. Instead, the highlight of the spring was the strong play of true freshman receiver Speedy Noil.
The No. 1 ranked wide receiver in the country in the 2014 class wasted no time in showing off his skills in College Station. Noil played quarterback, wide receiver and running back in high school but has impressed with how polished his route running is.
The 5'11", 180-pound receiver looks like a junior or senior on the field, not an 18-year-old who should be finishing the spring semester of his senior year in high school right now. He is physically ready to be an impact player in college immediately.
Noil's surprising strength was evident during a session of the Oklahoma drill in spring practice. He pancaked sophomore cornerback Tavares Garner on two of three snaps. Not exactly what you expect from a high school quarterback.
Noil led Edna Karr High School in New Orleans to a state championship as a junior and an appearance in the state finals as a senior. His explosive speed and waterbug-like elusiveness made him a force to be reckoned with on offense and special teams.
Noil has consistently been able to create separation from Aggies defensive backs and get open in practices and scrimmages. He makes tremendous ankle-breaking cuts in space and is, arguably, already the most elusive player on the Aggies roster.
When a freshman enters a college football program, a period of transition is expected. A freshman football player has to deal with being away from home for an extended period of time, along with the new academic and athletic pressures in their life. That is why it is common for freshmen to redshirt while they acclimate to their new surroundings.
That is not the case with Noil. He came in and immediately stakes his claim to being one of the top receivers on the roster. If the season started today, Noil would be one of the starting receivers who would take the field for the opening offensive snap.
Because of his size and speed, Noil will be able to play in the slot and outside for the Aggies. He will also return kickoffs and may see some time returning punts.
In Noil and sophomore receiver Laquvionte Gonzalez, the Aggies have two dynamic young receivers who need the ball in their hands. Aggies fans should expect to see Noil put in motion to receive the "push pass" that Tavon Austin made popular at West Virginia, and the Aggies ran with Gonzalez on multiple occasions in 2013.
The Aggies coaches will try to get the ball into Noil's hand in every way possible in 2014. It is one thing for a freshman to light it up during practice, and another for him to deliver when the lights are on in front of 80,000 fans.
However, Noil's athleticism is undeniable. He will be among the Aggies' leaders in receptions and receiving yards as a true freshman. Aggies fans should expect a 40-catch, 600-yard season out of him. If he does not have a special teams touchdown in 2014, that will be a monumental surprise.
Noil dominated spring practice with his athleticism and surprising polish as a wide receiver. Texas A&M fans should be excited about everything this youngster will bring to the table for the next three or four years.