Texas A&M Football: Projecting Who Will Win Aggies' Open Starting Positions
The Texas A&M football team lost eight starters from the 2013 team to the NFL draft, graduation and disciplinary issues. The Aggies should not miss a beat on offense but have some question marks on defense when it comes to their starters.
The Aggies defense was extremely poor in 2013. They need to improve their performance on that side of the ball if they want to compete for an SEC title in 2014.
The Aggies lost three starters from the defensive side of the ball, but there will be additional shuffling at different positions to improve the level of play in 2014. Just because someone ended the 2013 season as a starter, it does not guarantee him that spot for 2014.
This is a look at the players who will win the open starting positions on the 2014 Texas A&M football team.
The Aggies are replacing three wide receivers from the 2013 squad. Outside receivers Derel Walker and Travis Labhart graduated while Mike Evans left early for the NFL.
Replacing Evans and Walker on the outside will be redshirt freshman wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones and junior college transfer Josh Reynolds.
Seals-Jones will give the Aggies a physical presence much like Evans. At 6'5" and 225-pounds, he will be a mismatch for any defensive back. Reynolds impressed the coaches enough during the spring to earn the starting nod heading into the fall.
Speedy Noil will replace Labhart in the slot. The 5'11", 190-pound true freshman will likely spend some time at outside receiver also. He is a dynamic playmaker who needs to have the ball in his hands.
The Aggies coach has a variety of options at running back. Juniors Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams could all be viable starters at running back in the SEC.
The running back who will start will be the best blocker out of the group. The Aggies run the spread of offense and they need a back next to the quarterback who excels at picking up the blitz.
That means that Carson will be the starter when the Aggies line up on offense against South Carolina. Carson is a solid blocker who brings the element of power to the running game that Trey Williams and Brandon Williams do not possess.
None of the Aggie running backs are going to get 20 carries in a game in 2014. It is going to be running back by committee to an extent, but Carson will be the first back in the game taking snaps with the first-team offense.
Sophomore Germain Ifedi moved out to right tackle during spring practice leaving a hole at the right guard spot. Senior Garrett Gramling, junior Joseph Cheek and junior college transfers Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy will compete for the starting right guard spot in the fall.
Cheek is listed as the starter in the latest depth chart, but that depth chart does not take into account the fact that Jarvis Harrison will return from surgery in the fall and take over at left guard. Gennesy appears to be the next in line to start at right tackle.
If you take a look at 2015 and project that Ifedi will take over at left tackle, it makes sense that the Aggie coaches would want to have a player with a year of starting experience under his belt sliding over to right tackle.
Cedric Ogbuehi played right guard before moving over to right tackle and then left tackle. Ifedi appears to be on the same path. Gennesy will run out of eligibility before he can move to left tackle, but expect him to follow in a similar path.
Gennesy will start at right guard in 2014 and then move over to right tackle in 2015.
With the dismissal of Isaiah Golden and Darian Claiborne from the football team, there were openings on defense at nose guard and outside linebacker. Luckily for the Aggies, the coaches had an entire spring practice to get a look at players who can play in their stead.
The starter at noseguard when the defense lines up against South Carolina on August 28 will be true freshman Zaycoven Henderson. The 6'1", 310-pound athlete from Longview, Texas enrolled at A&M in January and quickly made a positive impression on his teammates with his work in the weight room and on the field.
Henderson is naturally strong, but his greatest asset is his motor. He displayed will to keep fighting until the whistle on every play while in high school.
Aggie fans should expect Henderson to have some growing pains as he adjusts to playing in the trenches in the toughest conference in the nation. The availability of depth to spell him in Hardreck Walker and Justin Manning should alleviate some of those issues.
With the departure of Darian Claiborne, there is a void at weak-side linebacker. Claiborne was arguably the Aggies' best defensive player in 2013 and his loss cannot be minimized.
He was the Aggies most instinctive linebacker and a player who would have been All-SEC had he kept his nose clean off the field. Now, the Aggie coaches need to find an effective replacement on the outside.
Senior linebacker Donnie Baggs will start at weak-side linebacker when the Aggies play South Carolina. Baggs was effective as a backup on the outside in 2012, earning one start against Louisiana Tech in which he registered eight tackles.
Baggs started the 2013 campaign at middle linebacker and was overwhelmed. He struggled to get off of blocks and was completely ineffective in the middle. Baggs is listed at 230 pounds on the roster, but he is not that big in real life. In 2013, his lack of size became an issue as he was swallowed up by the huge offensive linemen in the SEC.
If Baggs adds some good weight before the season starts, he may be an effective linebacker for the Aggies in 2014. If he does not, the Aggies will continue to have major issues at the linebacker position.
If Baggs struggles, Aggie fans should expect the coaches to insert redshirt freshman Reggie Chevis at middle linebacker and move sophomore Jordan Mastrogiovanni to the weak side.
That would give the Aggies a lot more size at the linebacker position, but it would mean they were more susceptible to the pass as a unit.
The position everyone wants to know about is quarterback. Everyone wants to know who is going to replace Johnny Manziel.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is going to pick a quarterback and stick with him. He is not going to have a quarterback controversy or bring in different quarterbacks on alternating series.
Sumlin will choose true freshman Kyle Allen to start against South Carolina. Allen was running neck and neck with sophomore Kenny Hill during the spring. That was with Hill having an entire season of experience in the offense under his belt. Allen was simply going with what he had learned in the meeting since he joined the team in January.
Sumlin's spread offense is all about making the correct reads and putting the ball where it needs to be at the right time. Allen's understanding of the offense will trump Hill's better mobility.
Expect the Aggies to rely more on their cadre of running backs to offset the loss of rushing production from the quarterback position after Johnny Manziel moved on.