Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The Revolving Door: Texas A&M
By David Ubben
I've done it. You've done it.
"Hey, is that guy still around?"
Even with two fewer teams, it's hard to keep track. Our next series, which we did last year, too, takes a look at two key players for every team in the league that are taking their talents elsewhere, returning to campus, or arriving to try and write a legacy of their own.
So really, this series isn't so much for the fans of the teams in the posts, but more for everyone else. It wouldn't be a bad idea to bookmark this series.
Next up: Texas A&M
Von Miller, LB
Miller will go down as not only one of the best Aggies of all-time, but one of the most beloved. Throughout the draft process (which concluded with him being drafted No. 2 overall), he gave credit to his coaches and teammates and talked extensively about how much he loved Texas A&M and his time there. He led the Big 12 in sacks the past two seasons, and led the nation in 2009. As the lynchpin of the Aggies' 3-4 scheme in 2010, he spent more time in coverage, but his combination of size (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) and speed (4.4 40-yard dash) is found almost nowhere. No player was more integral in the return of the Wrecking Crew in 2010. And to top it all off, at the end of his introductory news conference with the Denver Broncos, he gave a "Gig 'em."
Michael Hodges, LB
Hodges came to Texas A&M as a walk-on. He didn't play at all in 2008, but coordinator Joe Kines gave him a shot in 2009, and Hodges rewarded him with an All-Big 12 honorable mention season after starting nine games in his first real season on the field. Last year, as a senior, Hodges emerged as one of the defense's leaders and led the team with 115 tackles. Hodges missed most of his last game, the Cotton Bowl, with a knee injury, and the Wrecking Crew suffered in his absence. Hodges wasn't blessed with the measurables of his teammate, Miller, but he made the most of what he had and always seemed to be around the ball. Fans admire that, and like Miller, he'll go down as one of the most beloved Aggies of all-time, too.
Fuller took some time after the Aggies bowl game to make his decision, but his decision to stay has further amped up the anticipation in College Station for what could be a special year this fall. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is one of the Big 12's best red zone targets, and just finished the first 1,000-yard receiving season in school history, adding 12 touchdowns, too. He'll further etch his name into the record books in 2011, and there's no reason to believe he won't have the second 1,000-yard receiving season in school history. Fuller wants to refine his route running and become a better run-after-catch threat, making himself a more complete receiver, and he should be better than ever next year.
Entering last year, Gray was largely considered the lesser half of the Aggies' stellar running back duo. Not anymore. After Christine Michael went down with a broken leg, Gray uncorked one of the greatest stretches by any running back in Texas A&M history. He rushed for 100 yards in seven consecutive games, the first time any Aggie had done that since Darren Lewis had a 10-game streak in 1988. Gray brings his seven-game streak into 2011, which boasts big games against defenses like LSU, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas.
Johnny Manziel, QB
Could Manziel be the next Ryan Tannehill? He enrolled early, impressed coaches and did the same with fans when he completed 8 of 9 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He'll be in a three-man race this fall to back up Tannehill, but Manziel has nice wheels, too. He rushed for 1,674 yards as a senior in high school, and if he doesn't win the backup job, could he find his way on the field as a receiver? We'll find out this fall.
Brandon Alexander, DE
Alexander committed to Texas A&M days before signing day, despite strong interest from Texas and a late visit to Arkansas, and was one of the Aggies' top recruits. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Brenham, Texas, native was one of the best defensive ends in the country and gives Texas A&M a possible top-flight pass-rusher in a quarterbacks' league that demands teams have them.