Friday, August 19, 2011
Aggies' skill-position talent second to none
By David Ubben
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Mike Sherman just finished watching his top-10 team scrimmage on its home field for two hours. He's concerned.
"We’re still looking for that third running back," the Aggies coach says without a hint of sarcasm.
Safety Trent Hunter has worries of his own, and encounters it every time he steps on the practice field.
"Our receivers right now, I’d put up against any team in the nation," the senior says.
Life is good for the Texas A&M offense in preseason camp, which is stocked with perhaps the best collection of skill-position talent in the Big 12.
There are plenty of reasons for the Aggies faithful to lose a little sleep these days. Will a move to the SEC eventually happen? Does Texas A&M have what it takes to win in Norman against an Oklahoma team that might carry a No. 1 ranking into the matchup?
One question that doesn't need an answer: Will the Aggies be able to put points on the board?
Why is Sherman searching for a third running back?
Christine Michael rushed for 844 yards as a freshman in 2009 and looked headed for his first 1,000-yard season as a sophomore in 2010 (631 yards in just over seven games) before breaking his leg and missing the rest of the season.
Cyrus Gray piled up 938 yards and 10 touchdowns over the season's final seven games.
That's when Cyrus Gray took over, rushing for 938 yards and 10 touchdowns in the season's final seven games.
Both return. And that third running back? Whoever ends up earning the spot (this blogger casts his vote for Mister Jones), he'll have a lot to live up to.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has just six career starts, but he won five of them (all conference games, including wins over Nebraska and Oklahoma) and is throwing to one of the deepest receiving corps in the game today. Tannehill began his A&M career as a receiver and actually led the group in receiving in 2008 and 2009 before ceding to Jeff Fuller, who emerged as one of the nation's top receivers in 2010 with the first 1,000-yard season in Aggies history.
"He’s on another level," Hunter said of Fuller's fall camp performance. "All of our receivers are."
Slot man Ryan Swope equaled Fuller's 72 receptions, amassing 825 yards and four touchdowns. Uzoma Nwachukwu, affectionately known as "Eazy," caught 36 passes for 407 yards and four scores.
"They’re just multitalented guys. You can put them anywhere. You can put Jeff at the slot. You can put Ryan outside. Eazy. All our skill guys right now our interchangeable," Hunter said. "All our guys did punt returns and kick returns in high school, played quarterback or running back, and they all played so many different positions, that their skill sets aren’t trapped at one position right now. They’re interchangeable and can go at any position."
And for guys like Hunter, the additional plus for the Aggies is obvious.
"Playing in the Big 12 this year, they have a lot of talent year in and year out, and going against guys that can compete with the best of them will really help us this year," he said. "Especially as a secondary going against receivers like we have."
"They’re so balanced," Hunter said. "I really can’t even pinpoint one thing they do best. They just do everything so well."