NCF Nation: Kenric McNeal

Aggies hang with LSU, but fall short

October, 20, 2012
Johnny ManzielRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesJohnny Manziel and Texas A&M hung tough, but LSU prevailed.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Are they good enough?

That is a question that many fans, observers and pundits posed or tried to answer when Texas A&M initially announced it was moving to the Southeastern Conference.

Are the Aggies good enough to compete with the best the SEC -- college football's premier league -- has to offer? There were many skeptics and there still will be some after the No. 18 Aggies' 24-19 loss to No. 6 LSU on Saturday at Kyle Field.

But if you watched closely, one thing became evident as the events unfolded in front of the 87,429 in the building. Not only are the Aggies good enough to compete with a top-10 team from the SEC, they're good enough to beat said team.

The Aggies lost for many reasons, some self-inflicted, some imposed by the Tigers. But it wasn't because they were outclassed or simply weren't good enough. The Aggies proved to be more than up to snuff against the physicality of one of the SEC's traditional powers, LSU, a two-time BCS champion since 2003.

Saturday was evidence that Texas A&M, by the looks of it, is ready to go toe-to-toe with the SEC's big boys. But it was also evidence that the Aggies have a long way to go.

"This one hurts a lot," senior center Patrick Lewis, a Louisiana native, said. "I know a lot of those guys on that team and it would have been real nice to get a win, not only for myself but for our team and for Kyle Field. It's a win that Texas A&M has needed for a real long time. But we've got to get over it. We have a lot of ball to play. We go on the road next week in another hostile environment. We're going to learn from the mistakes we made today and we're going to continue to get better."

The Aggies left points on the board when a chop block penalty on offensive lineman Jarvis Harrison and Luke Joeckel erased a throwback screen pass to Ben Malena that would have been a 34-yard first-quarter touchdown. That would have given Texas A&M a possible 13-0 lead fewer than 10 minutes into the game.

Instead, it had to settle for a field goal and it took until the 7:24 mark in the second quarter before the Aggies pushed the lead to double digits.

Redshirt freshman kicker Taylor Bertolet missed 2-of-4 field goals, one of which came from 33 yards in the fourth quarter after a 76-yard kickoff return by freshman Trey Williams. So after starting from the LSU 16-yard line and cutting into a 17-12 Tigers lead, the Aggies came away with no points.

"We left some points out there, obviously, with a couple missed field goals," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Against a team like that, you want to score touchdowns in the red zone."

And Saturday was also a learning experience for redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who has dazzled onlookers with his ability to improvise and make plays with his legs and his right arm and appeared on the verge of taking college by storm.

The Kerrville (Texas) Tivy product still showed some of his signature playmaking ability, but LSU kept the young man dubbed "Johnny Football" from breaking the game open. The speed of the Tigers defense was able to run him down and prevent big ground gains (he finished with a season-low 27 yards on 17 carries) and when he tried to force passes while scrambling -- like the one Tharold Simon picked off with 3:20 to go in the game -- they made him pay.

Earlier this season when the Aggies defeated SMU, Manziel made one of many highlight-worthy plays when he was able to spin out of a sack, throw off one foot and complete a touchdown pass to Kenric McNeal. Against LSU, there was a moment where Manziel scrambled left, switch the ball to his left hand and threw it and was nearly intercepted by an LSU defender.

It was a learning experience for the young quarterback, who was appearing in just his seventh game.

"He learns from everything," Sumlin said. "He learns from every series. Every experience is a learning experience for him right now. This is game seven for him. It's a completely different environment. He's as hard on himself as we are as coaches. [Offensive coordinator] Kliff [Kingsbury's] doing a great job with him. We just have to keep getting better and he'll continue to do that."

Sumlin said the mistakes can be attributed to a combination of youth, lack of execution and the caliber of the Aggies opponent.

"Where we have to get over the hump is execution and being consistent," he said. "It's no different than what I've said from Game One. Against a very talented team the margin for error gets really, really slim. We made too many today."

It's clear that the Aggies aren't there yet, but potential for success against the SEC's elite is there if the mistakes made on Saturday are corrected.

"I think we're very close," Aggies senior receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu said. "We're a team that defensively, they're excited, they're jumping around, they're running to the ball. We have a great defense and offensively, the sky is the limit for us. We just have to focus down on the little things that make great things: turnovers, penalties and things like that. We have to harp on that and if we want to get to elite status, that's what we have to do."

Aggieland is buzzing early

October, 15, 2011
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- It looks like everybody in Aggieland remembered to set their alarm clocks for an early wake-up call.

The tailgates were getting fired up a full 150 minutes before kickoff this morning and it's a gorgeous morning as the Corps of Cadets marched through a few of them.

A crisp morning will progress into a warm afternoon for the noon ET kickoff. The sun's out and there's not a cloud in sight from the press box at Kyle Field.

The season hasn't gone as A&M (3-2) would have liked, but they've got a chance for a satisfying victory today. A&M is headed to the SEC next year, and every fan in maroon and white today would love a win over the school that tried the hardest to stop it.

The good news for the Aggies: Receiver Jeff Fuller has been officially cleared to play after suffering a concussion in last week's 45-40 win over Texas Tech.

Fuller practiced Tuesday and Wednesday without contact, but was cleared for contact on Thursday and is good to go today. One player who isn't: Receiver/punt returner Kenric McNeal.

He has a sprained foot, and is a game-time decision. He'll come out to the field today and work out before coaches decide if he's ready to go. If not, cornerback Dustin Harris is expected to replace him as punt returner.

OSU silences the 12th Man with comeback

September, 24, 2011
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Kyle Field was rocking through halftime. Texas A&M looked dominant and the 12th Man towels were furiously waving.

All of a sudden, the stands have gotten very uncomfortable for the Aggies, who trail 24-20 late in the third quarter after leading by 17 at halftime.

OSU has scored 21 points on its first three drives of the half, while A&M handed the ball back to OSU on a fumble after a long catch by Kenric McNeal. Safety Daytawion Lowe forced the fumble, and cornerback Justin Gilbert recovered.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden took the lead when he found Tracy Moore in the back of the end zone for a four-yard score.

Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill turned it over with an interception on the following possession when Brodrick Brown cut off an out route.

The A&M defense suddenly looks like it badly misses cornerback Coryell Judie after a strong first half.

It's reminiscent of last year's game, but this one is far from over. Both of these offenses can put up a lot of points. Should be a classic finish.

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?

That's the problem a coach discovers when he has the top two running backs in his conference.

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.

[+] EnlargeCyrus Gray
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireCyrus 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.

Others such as Kenric McNeal and Brandal Jackson could be poised for big years and add even more depth to the squad.

"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."
The Big 12 might be weak at the top of the running back heap, but it's definitely not at receiver. The conference has at least three of the top five receivers in the country, and the top two. They highlight a very strong group of receivers across the league, and I continue our position rankings with receivers today.

Remember that depth plays a big part of these rankings. We'll be ranking the top 10 individuals at each position later on before the season begins.

Other position rankings: 1. Oklahoma

[+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIRyan Broyles finished the 2010 season with 131 catches for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Sooners have the nation's No. 2 receiver, Ryan Broyles, but found a handful of others to surround him in 2010 and should have a couple more in 2011. Sophomore Kenny Stills broke Broyles' freshman receiving record and looks like a budding star. Dejuan Miller came on strong before a season-ending knee injury, but he's back. The Sooners lose Cameron Kenney, but Trey Franks had a strong freshman campaign, and freshmen Justin McCay (redshirt) and Trey Metoyer could provide even more playmakers.

2. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys boast the returning Biletnikoff Award winner and 2011 favorite, Justin Blackmon, with a great group around him, too. Slot machine Josh Cooper returns for his senior year, and fellow senior Hubert Anyiam (the team's leading receiver in 2009) is hoping to return to form after being slowed by an ankle injury in 2010. Isaiah Anderson is a shifty speedster, while Michael Harrison and Tracy Moore offer a more aerial approach to receiving.

3. Texas A&M

The Aggies have the Big 12's No. 3 receiver, Jeff Fuller, who is arguably one of the top-five in the college game. But they also have the Big 12's most experienced receiving unit, with guys who won't be surprised by anything they see in Big 12 play. Juniors Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu are the team's second and third options, but fellow juniors Kenric McNeal and Brandal Jackson could be bigger pieces of the offense in 2011. Tight end Nehemiah Hicks should see his profile rise in his coming sophomore year.

4. Baylor

Top target Kendall Wright will likely end his career as the Bears' leading receiver for all four of his seasons on the field, and 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior Josh Gordon looks like the new Jeff Fuller. Terrance Williams, Lanear Sampson and Tevin Reese round out the Bears' top five, who all had at least 40 catches last season, and all return.

5. Missouri

Missouri still lacks a proven big-play threat, but has two pass-catchers who have some of the best hands in the game. Receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew won't drop many passes, and combined to catch 182 for 1,807 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson bring a lot of experience and both had at least 39 catches last season. If Marcus Lucas or Rolandis Woodland can become a consistent downfield threat, Missouri will rise up these rankings by season's end.

6. Texas Tech

Tech's top two receivers, Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis, must be replaced, but the Red Raiders have a few solid candidates to do it. Junior Alex Torres will likely lead the group, but fellow junior Austin Zouzalik and seniors Jacoby Franks and Tramain Swindall will be counted on for more production. Dark horse/juco newcomer Marcus Kennard could blossom into a household name across the Big 12 by season's end.

7. Texas

Sophomore Mike Davis and redshirt freshman Darius White are loaded with potential, but two of the team's top three receivers (James Kirkendoll, John Chiles) are gone, and no Texas receiver caught more than two touchdowns last season. Malcolm Williams and Marquise Goodwin are as different as two receivers could be, but both need to break out to help whoever becomes the Longhorns quarterback next fall.

8. Kansas State

Brodrick Smith will be back this season after breaking his leg in a loss to Nebraska. But two of the team's top three receivers are gone, leaving converted quarterback Chris Harper as the leading returner, though Smith might have held that title if he'd stayed healthy. Sophomore speedster Tramaine Thompson can make plays if he gets the ball with some space.

9. Iowa State

The Cyclones will be breaking in a new quarterback this season and they will need a playmaker to step up. Tight end Collin Franklin led team in receiving last season but he is now gone. Darius Reynolds looks like a possible candidate to fill the role, although incoming slot receiver Aaron Horne might rack up a few catches in space. Darius Darks and Josh Lenz should earn some more targets too.

10. Kansas

Converted defensive back Daymond Patterson is the team's top receiver, but the team's No. 3 receiver junior Bradley McDougald, moved to safety in the middle of the season. Tight end Tim Biere is one of the Big 12's best and led the team with four touchdowns last season. Chris Omigie and D.J. Beshears have some potential, and converted quarterback Christian Matthews keeps showing up in spring games. But all three, along with the rest of the group, would benefit from some consistency at the quarterback spot.

Notes from A&M practice

April, 1, 2011
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- It's tough to plan around which practices I'll get to see when I come to campuses during the spring or preseason camp, but it was a pretty ideal situation at Texas A&M on Wednesday. The team was in full pads, practiced for about an hour and a half, and the vast majority of it was 11-on-11 team drills.

Texas A&M's practices are open to the public, something that's increasingly rare in college football, but there were probably 70-80 fans who made it to the afternoon workout on a gorgeous day for spring football. To my knowledge, the only teams in the new Big 12 that open up spring practice to fans are Texas A&M, Missouri and Baylor.

Additionally, it takes a lot for women's hoops to generate buzz, but there was definitely a bit out at practice. The Aggies beat rival Baylor, featuring arguably the game's biggest star, 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, in Dallas earlier this week to reach the first Final Four in school history. I'm sure there will be plenty of maroon in the stands in Indianapolis this weekend. (More on that here from colleague Mechelle Voepel.)

But back to football.

A few thoughts and observations from practice:

Two guys a bit under the radar who had great days: Receiver Kenric McNeal and running back Ben Malena. With all the skill-position talent at Texas A&M, both get a bit overshadowed, but Malena, at least for one day, looked every bit as good a runner as the backs ahead of him on the depth chart, Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray. He has a lot of development to do in things like feeling creases in the line but when he got a chance to get to the second level and let his instincts take over, he was giving the defense fits. He looked solid in the open field.

Additionally, McNeal has a reputation as a shifty slot receiver who works best underneath, but he was stretching the field on Thursday like I hadn't seen from him before. His two longest plays of the year (27 and 32 yards) came late last season, but he had a couple of deep catches in the end zone after slipping past the safeties and bringing it in behind the defense. He got open a few more times, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill missed a couple of deep balls to him, but it has to be encouraging for the offense to see him break a few off like that.

Michael looking confident on healed leg

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Dave EinselChristine Michael is working his way back from a broken tibia he suffered against Texas Tech.
Michael was one guy I wanted to see, and it was tough to get a read on his mobility -- he didn't get into the open field very much. But one encouraging sign was he didn't look like he was shying away from contact at all. That's exactly what A&M wants to see. Michael brings a mean running style that no other back on the roster can provide. Early in the conference season last year, he was running over plenty of linebackers. He looks like he wants to get back to doing exactly that, and he did it on Thursday, dragging a couple of defenders at times.

I don't think the mental side of returning from the injury will be an issue. He's never been quite as shifty as Cyrus Gray, but he runs with power that you won't find anywhere else in the Big 12, and considering how the rest of the league defended the run during the bowl season -- especially power runners -- the Aggies will once again be glad he's on their team this fall.

Wrecking Crew missing a few members

Diehard A&M fans are surely already aware, but the Aggies' defense is missing quite a few key pieces this spring, especially in the back seven. Defensive backs Terrance Frederick and Coryell Judie are both sidelined after offseason shoulder surgery and linebacker Sean Porter is out with an injury to his left foot from earlier in spring practice.

Lionel Smith is also out for spring ball.

Former Aggies on hand

It's always good to see alums and former coaches on hand for spring practice. Former Aggies linebacker Michael Hodges was milling around the practice field. He's one of just three defensive starters (Von Miller, Lucas Patterson) the Aggies have to replace this spring.

Additionally, former Aggies coach R.C. Slocum was in attendance.

Aggies comeback in the works?

January, 7, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- There's still a lot of ground left to make up, but Texas A&M finally got on the board in the second half and trail 35-24.

On 3rd-and-goal, quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit Kenric McNeal in the back left corner of the end zone for a pretty touchdown on a fade route, his second touchdown pass of the day.

The drive continued only after officials determined LSU had 12 men on the field during a Texas A&M punt near midfield.

To complete the comeback, the Aggies will have to do what they haven't done all game: stop the run. Offensively, they're probably capable of surpassing 35 points. But if the Tigers continue to control the ball with a bruising running game, one more touchdown would almost certainly put it out of reach for Texas A&M.

Big 12 predictions: Week 12

November, 18, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Now, that was more like it. The Big 12 Blog got back on track with picks last week, missing only Colorado's surprise win over Iowa State. Now, we'll see about this week, which contains an upset special.

Last week: 5-1 (.833)

Overall: 66-17 (.795)

No. 10 Oklahoma State 51, Kansas 17: There's no reason to think the Cowboys won't post a big number in this one, and Oklahoma State's terrifying trio of Justin Blackmon, Kendall Hunter and Brandon Weeden get it done to head to Bedlam with the Big 12 South on the line.

Kansas State 31, Colorado 27: Kansas State is a better team than Iowa State, who Colorado beat in Boulder last week. Dan Hawkins making an appearance to support his son, Cody Hawkins, is overrated as an "awkward" sideplot, but only mistakes will keep Kansas State from getting the win. The biggest mistake they could make? Not putting Collin Klein on the field as much as possible. He and Daniel Thomas carry the Wildcats to the win with a strong second half on the ground.

Texas Tech 35, Weber State 24: Texas Tech is searching for motivation, but they should be be able to handle the Wildcats in the first of two yawn-worthy nonconference games to close the season.

Texas 27, Florida Atlantic 17: I've said it all week, and I'll say it again: there's no guarantee that Texas wins this game. They should. I think they will. But Texas hasn't shown they can beat very many teams this year, and they'll have to play well to do it. Rack up a handful of turnovers, give up a big play or two and try to force your way back into the game and this game is UCLA all over again. That said, I'll take the Longhorns with a comfortable, but hardly convincing win.

No. 15 Missouri 38, Iowa State 20: Iowa State hasn't been able to defend the spread all season, and a renewed Missouri offense takes advantage. The Cyclones have played well at home, but they won't be able to score enough to keep up with the Tigers, who'll likely key in on Alexander Robinson and force Jerome Tiller to make difficult throws to Iowa State's underwhelming receiving corps.

No. 14 Oklahoma 35, Baylor 30: This is my pick of the week. Come back later today for a video of me explaining my pick.

No. 19 Texas A&M 27, No. 8 Nebraska 24: I'll call my shot here in an upset special. I barely missed when I picked the Aggies to beat Oklahoma State. I missed by, let's say, a wide margin, when I picked Missouri to beat the Huskers. The third time's the charm, right? Let me explain:

1) Texas A&M got a lot of practice defending the zone read against Baylor last week, with Robert Griffin III and Jay Finley. They gave up a few big plays in the first half, but played a lot better in the second half. That'll continue this week.

2) Conservative, average, punchless, whatever. Call it what you want. Mediocre has many names. That's what Nebraska's offense has been without a full-strength Taylor Martinez. I have my doubts about how healthy Martinez's ankle is, and in this game, where Nebraska will have to put points on the board, that's a big deal. Their running offense won't be as effective, and the Aggies have athletes on the edge and in the middle at linebacker in Garrick Williams, Von Miller and Michael Hodges who can make the stops necessary to keep the Huskers at bay.

3) Oklahoma State couldn't stop Nebraska's offense. Missouri couldn't move the ball against Nebraska's defense. Texas A&M, however, has a better pass rush and a better secondary than Oklahoma State, and can run downhill with power, versus Missouri's slow-developing, east-west running attack that got swallowed up by the Huskers speed on defense. Taylor Martinez isn't throwing for 300 yards against Tim DeRuyter's defense, and as long as Cyrus Gray gets 20-plus touches, the Aggies should be able to run the ball where Nebraska has been vulnerable: right in the middle of the defense. The Aggies offensive line is getting better fast, and those two freshman tackles have turned from a liability into a strength, coach Mike Sherman said this week.

4) Missouri doesn't have the talent at receiver to get open, but Texas A&M does. Jeff Fuller probably won't have a big day against Prince Amukamara, but Uzoma Nwachukwu will occupy Alfonzo Dennard, and opportunities over the middle should be there for slot men Ryan Swope and Kenric McNeal, as well as tight end Nehemiah Hicks and Gray out of the backfield. Ryan Tannehill will find them enough to help the Aggies spring the upset and finish the season strong.

Some extra Jerrod Johnson nuggets

August, 25, 2010
Hope you enjoyed our story on Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson today as part of the Big 12 preview. Check it out if you haven't already. But lots and lots of good stuff didn't make it in the story. Here's the best of the rest, plus a few observations and thoughts from my visit to College Station.
[+] EnlargeJohnson
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireJerrod Johnson threw for 3,579 yards and 30 touchdowns last season.

  • Johnson studied kinesiology and education, and as part of the curriculum, he had to spend six weeks last semester as a P.E. teacher at a local elementary school. That is exactly as awesome as it sounds. "Those kids wore me out more than any football practice could," Johnson said. Kids would roll through every half hour to 45 minutes, and Johnson would see about 80-90 kids per day from kindergarten to fourth grade. Some of the kids only knew their new P.E. teacher as "Mr. Johnson," but plenty knew they were getting primo instruction from the quarterback for Texas A&M. "Some of the kindergarteners knew, because they'd come in and say, 'My dad wants to know who our new defensive coordinator wants to be,'" Johnson said. "I'm like, you can't even spell 'defensive coordinator.'"
  • Johnson admitted he came into fall practice a little rusty, but part of his early struggles came because of an improving defense, he says. "It just fits our personnel so much better," Johnson said of the new 3-4 scheme. "The last two years, we've been trying to recruit all these athletic linebackers because in the Big 12 you see so many spread offenses, and your linebackers have to be your strength. They have to be big enough to defend the run but agile enough to play in the secondary."
  • He's the team's unquestioned leader, but Johnson might not know just how true that is, according to Von Miller. "He’s the man. I don’t think Jerrod knows how much I look up to him and his leadership qualities and skills," Miller said. "I’m a leader on this team too, but he’s my leader. I look to Jerrod for advice and all that stuff. He’s been a leader for a couple years and this is my first time getting a taste of this. I watch the way he handles himself and deals with situations and I try to do that, too."
  • In response to today's report in the Houston Chronicle about Johnson not being 100 percent healed from the offseason shoulder surgery, that would certainly support what I saw in practice on Friday. Johnson was plenty accurate, but it was my first time getting to see him up close going full speed, and compared to others I've seen like Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin, who I got a close look at on Tuesday, the velocity on his ball when he's trying to whip it in through traffic was significantly lower than the others I just named. My assumption is that will change, and he's got a few warm-up games to do it until the Aggies travel to Stillwater, but we'll see how he looks in October.
  • Texas A&M's receivers have size that might be unrivaled across the conference. Jeff Fuller is obviously the big name at a very legitimate 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, but the Aggies also have senior Terrence McCoy (6-foot-4, 211), freshman Nate Askew (6-foot-4, 223) and backup quarterback/receiver Ryan Tannehill (6-foot-4, 216). They should all be contributors this year, and the Aggies also have the more normal-sized Uzoma Nwachukwu, Kenric McNeal and Ryan Swope. A really nice mix of guys that have the best case as the deepest corps in the conference.
  • As a fifth-year senior, Johnson takes it upon himself to show the younger players how to adjust to the college game. One of the biggest pieces of advice he gives them is to read as little as possible about themselves, namely on message boards. "You can't control what people say about you or what people’s opinions are of you. Just live the way you think you should live and do what you can do and that’s all you can control," Johnson said. "If you start worrying about and trying to control things you can't control, you'll drive yourself crazy."
  • He also makes sure they understand what it means to be a college athlete, and specifically, a college athlete at Texas A&M. "This school is going to give you so much. It'll give you an education, put your name out there and people are going to want to hire you but you have to make sure you get just as much out of the school as the school is going to get from you," he said. "It’s gonna get touchdowns, and they’ll make money off you filling up the stands. But it also makes you get friends, contacts and memories. Engulf yourself in Texas A&M and you’ll benefit just as much as the school will benefit from you. I preach that to everybody."
  • Not as many players and coaches had actually seen Jerrod's karaoke performance blowing up on YouTube, currently pushing over 26,000 views. Word had spread that it was shown on local TV, but plenty of guys hadn't seen the actual video yet.