Texas A&M Football: Projecting the 2012 Aggie Depth Chart
Spring practice is only about a month away as the Aggies prepare for their first season in the Southeastern Conference.
Now, more than ever, it is important for the Aggies to have great depth at every position. The SEC is the most physical league in the country and injuries at every position throughout the season are the norm.
You need to be three deep at every position in order to have a successful year.
The Aggies have some questions on their depth chart for 2012. There are some positions where they have plenty of depth and some that have obvious issues.
The coaches and players need to address these holes in order to have a successful season in their inaugural year in the conference.
This is a look at what the 2012 depth chart should look like.
This will be the most-watched position during the offseason. Everyone wants to know who the starting quarterback will be.
Jameill Showers will be a redshirt sophomore and appears to be the leader in the clubhouse because he received the most playing time in 2011.
Matt Davis enrolled in school in January and is in the same boat as far as experience in the system as the rest of the quarterbacks since everyone will be new to Kevin Sumlin's offense.
Even though Showers has the most experience, I think Johnny Manziel is going to excel in Sumlin's system and will take over the starting spot during the spring and fall. The guy is a gamer who can make off-schedule plays. I think Manziel will lead us into the SEC.
Matt Joeckel has looked good every time I have seen him play in the spring game. I honestly do not know why he has not received more playing time up to this point. It may be a case where Showers has been more consistent in practices.
Starter: Johnny Manziel
Second Team: Jameill Showers
Third Team: Matt Joeckel
Redshirt: Matt Davis
How fast Christine Michael returns from his ACL injury will determine a lot of the success of the 2012 season.
It usually takes two years for a running back to get back to 100 percent after an ACL injury. If that is the case, then Michael should be back to normal during his rookie season in the NFL.
Michael should still be the starter but should not be expected to be the special runner he was in 2011. He will be a solid running back in the SEC, but I expect the recovery from the injury to hold him back in 2012.
Depending on how fast Michael recovers, incoming freshman Trey Williams may actually see some starts early in the season. He will need to adjust his running style a little in the SEC but should be an impact player.
Ben Malena has proven to be a solid college running back. He is adept at catching the ball out of the backfield and should see plenty of passes in 2012. He can get you four yards per carry but should not be expected to do more. He needs to work on reading his blocks better.
Will Randolph has speed to burn and I expect Sumlin to find a way to get him the ball in space. He needs to learn to hold onto the ball.
This position has some questions because the Ags do not have your prototypical 220-pound SEC running back outside of Michael. If he is still recovering early in the year, it will be interesting to see how it affects the offense.
Starter: Christine Michael
Second Team: Trey Williams
Third Team: Ben Malena
Fourth Team: Will Randolph
Redshirt: Brandon Williams
The Ags returned a lot of wide receivers off the 2011 squad and Kevin Sumlin wasted no time in recruiting more speed to the position.
The Aggies signed junior college WR Derel Walker in the 2012 class. They also added Thomas Johnson and Sabian Holmes, who will compete for playing time immediately.
Uzoma Nwachukwu had an inconsistent 2012 but did make some big catches and returns for his senior season.
Malcome Kennedy extended some drives with catches on third down. He should get an extended look.
Ryan Swope had the best year in the history of any A&M receiver in 2011. He should excel in Sumlin's system and is a threat to go over 100 receptions in 2012.
Expect the Aggies to employ a three-wide set as their base formation on offense.
Starter: Derel Walker
Second Team: Nate Askew
Third Team: Brandal Jackson
Starter: Ryan Swope
Second Team: Thomas Johnson
Third Team: Kenric McNeal
Starter: Uzoma Nwachukwu
Second Team: Mike Evans
Third Team: Thomas Johnson
Redshirt: Sabian Holmes
The Aggies are three deep at the tight end position.
Expect Sumlin to use the tight ends in the passing game more than Mike Sherman did. Look for Nehemiah Hicks to have a breakout season catching the ball.
Sumlin will find ways to create mismatches with Hicks.
Hutson Prioleau and Michael Lamothe offer give the Aggies great depth at the position. It will be interesting to see if Sumlin continues to use Lamothe in an H-back type position like Sherman did.
Starter: Nehemiah Hicks
Second Team: Michael Lamothe
Third Team: Hutson Prioleau
The Aggies return all five starters off the 2011 offensive line. They should have one of the best offensive lines in the country and in the history of the school.
Luke Joeckel returns at left tackle and will be one of the best left tackles in the nation. He is an All-American candidate and a potential early entrant into the NFL draft.
At left guard, Jarvis Harrison returns after an up-and-down redshirt freshman season. Harrison is as talented as any lineman on the team. He just needs to be more consistent.
At center, Patrick Lewis is back for his second season at center and fourth overall as a starting offensive lineman. He will compete for all-conference honors in 2012.
Cedric Ogbuehi returns at right guard. He needs to get better at the little things.
Jake Matthews returns at right tackle and should be among the top tackles in the nation.
LT Starter: Luke Joeckel
Second Team: Joseph Cheek
LG Starter: Jarvis Harrison
Second Team: Shep Klinke
C Starter: Patrick Lewis
Second Team: Ben Compton
RG Starter: Cedric Ogbuehi
Second Team: Ben Compton
RT Starter: Jake Matthews
Second Team: Garrett Gramling
Redshirt: Germain Ifedi, Mike Matthews, Kimo Tipoti
In Mark Snyder's 4-3 under defense, the Aggies will be running a 4-3 as their base alignment.
This means that the Aggies will need an extra interior defensive lineman. The defense will have a nose tackle and a defensive tackle in Snyder's defense.
Look for the Aggies to start Jonathan Mathis at nose tackle and Gavin Stansbury at defensive tackle.
Mathis is returning after receiving a medical waiver in 2011. He will be a solid interior SEC defensive lineman.
Kirby Ennis will give the Ags quality minutes at NT in a backup role. Expect incoming freshman Edmund Ray to see some playing time in order to prepare him for 2013.
Stansbury saw extensive action in 2011 and acquitted himself well. He had 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack on the season. Stansbury will need to add about 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason.
Redshirt freshman Shayvion Hatten should give the Aggies depth at the position. Ivan Robinson struggled with injuries in 2011 and it still unknown how much he can contribute on the field.
NT Starter: Jonathan Mathis
Second Team: Kirby Ennis
Third Team: Edmund Ray
DT Starter: Gavin Stansbury
Second Team: Shayvion Hatten
Third Team: Ivan Robinson or Polo Manukainiu
Redshirt: Julien Obioha
The move to the 4-3 means that the Ags will move the rush outside linebackers from the 3-4 to the defensive end spot. Luckily the Ags have a great candidate for the position in Damontre Moore.
Moore will get the start at one defensive end and should be a pass-rushing terror after posting 8.5 sacks in 2011.
Brandon Alexander will back Moore up and should excel at the position.
Spencer Nealy with start at the other defensive end position. Nealy is a high-energy guy who finished 2011 with 45 tackles and eight tackles for loss.
You will likely see a freshman backing up Nealy.
The status of Stephen Barrera is unknown right now. If he is ready to play in 2012 then he could end up at the DE spot behind Nealy.
Weak-Side DE Starter: Damontre Moore
Second Team: Brandon Alexander
Third Team: Caleb Russell
Strong-Side DE Starter: Spencer Nealy
Second Team: Alonzo Williams
Third Team: Stephen Barrera
Sean Porter returns at outside linebacker after a breakout junior season. In 2011 Porter led the Big 12 with 9.5 sacks and added 17 tackles for loss. He is an All-SEC and All-American candidate.
He will be backed up by Tyrell Taylor. The sophomore from Houston needs to add 15 to 20 pounds to his frame but has exceptional quickness and should really begin to contribute in 2012.
At the other outside linebacker spot, Steven Jenkins returns after coming on late in 2011. Jenkins had big games against KU, Texas and in the bowl game. He should be a solid starter in 2012.
Charlie Thomas and Shaun Ward will fight it out to back up Jenkins. Ward may eventually end up spinning down to DE. It will be interesting to see how he responds to Larry Johnson's strength and conditioning program.
OLB Starter: Sean Porter
Second Team: Tyrell Taylor
OLB Starter: Steven Jenkins
Second Team: Charlie Thomas
Jonathan Stewart returns as the starter at the Mike or middle linebacker position.
Stewart had a solid junior season in leading the Aggies in tackles. He came into his own as a player and appears ready to fulfill the potential everyone saw in him when he was one of the top linebacker recruits in the South coming out of high school.
You will likely see Jordan Richmond step in as a freshman and be the backup for Stewart. The Aggies do not have a lot of depth at this position and Richmond is talented enough to help right away. He has excellent instincts and looks like a future star at the position.
Ideally you would see Richmond redshirt to add some weight but the need for depth at the position will likely require him to see the field immediately.
Charlie Thomas and Shaun Ward could also be a factor at this position if the coaches decide to shuffle the linebackers around.
Starter: Jonathan Stewart
Second Team: Jordan Richmond
Dustin Harris is the only returning cornerback with any starting experience.
Harris has all the talent in the world but has fought inconsistency throughout his career.
Otis Jacobs enrolled in January and is working out with the team right now. He was one of the top junior college recruits in the nation and will compete for a starting spot.
De'Vante Harris is the top cover corner from the state of Texas in the 2012 recruiting class. He will compete for playing time right away.
Floyd Raven and Deshazor Everett both saw playing time as true freshmen in 2011. They will be in the mix for starting spots also.
Tony Hurd Jr. has played both corner and safety for the Aggies and will likely see the field in the nickel.
CB Starter: Otis Jacobs
Second Team: Floyd Raven
Third Team: Tony Hurd Jr.
CB Starter: Dustin Harris
Second Team: De'Vante Harris
Third Team: Deshazor Everett
If Steven Campbell can stay healthy at safety, then the Aggies could have one of the more physical pairs of safeties in the conference.
Campbell is a great athlete but has been injured every year he has played at A&M. He will get the start at strong safety.
Howard Matthews will be the starter at free safety. He excelled at blitzing the passer in 2011. He is a very physical player who could use some work in pass defense.
Steven Terrell played great in the last two games of 2011. He needs to be more consistent in pass defense.
Kenneth Marshall, Tony Hurd Jr. and Devonte Burns will offer depth at safety.
Starting SS: Steven Campbell
Second Team: Steven Terrell
Third Team: Devonte Burns
Starting FS: Howard Matthews
Second Team: Tony Hurd Jr.
Third Team: Kenneth Marshall
Kickers and Punters
With the graduation of Lou Groza Award winner Randy Bullock, the place-kicking duties fall to Taylor Bertolet.
Look for Drew Kaser to take over the punting duties now that he is healthy.
Starting Kicker: Taylor Bertolet
Starting Punter: Drew Kaser
Second Team: Ryan Epperson