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Monday, April 15, 2013
Five things we learned from A&M's spring

By Sam Khan Jr.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M wrapped up spring football on Saturday with the annual Maroon and White game. After 15 practices, there's plenty to take away, but here's five things we learned during the Aggies' spring:

Mike Evans
Mike Evans' spot in the Texas A&M offense is set, but the other receiver spots are open in 2013.
1. The options at running back are plentiful
Last season, Texas A&M rotated three running backs with Ben Malena, Trey Williams and Christine Michael all getting carries at different points in the season and in different roles. Michael has graduated and transfers Brandon Williams (Oklahoma) and Tra Carson (Oregon) are eligible this fall after sitting out last year, per NCAA transfer rules. Both look like instant contributors and the backfield could become a four-headed monster. Offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney said the plan is to use all four because each brings something different to the table. All spring, and especially during the Maroon and White game, Brandon Williams showed the potential to be a big-time factor in the backfield. Malena brings plenty of experience; Trey Williams brings speed, quickness and the ability to catch the football; and Carson brings a large body capable of running between the tackles and gaining short yardage. When you consider that quarterback Johnny Manziel is also a significant run threat, that's a lot of potential in the running game for the Aggies.

2. There's some growing up to do on defense
The Aggies were without three starters for most or all of the spring (defensive tackle Kirby Ennis, defensive end Julien Obioha and linebacker Steven Jenkins were sidelined) so there was plenty of youth in the front seven during the spring. Even with those three plugged back in, there isn't extensive experience at defensive line or linebacker, as there was a year ago when Damontre Moore, Spencer Nealy, Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart were around. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder noted that middle linebacker Donnie Baggs and safety Howard Matthews are stepping up as leaders, and nickel cornerback Toney Hurd Jr. has also been a vocal guy, but it will take more than just those three to step up for the Aggies to be a quality defensive team in the SEC. Guys such as defensive ends Tyrell and Tyrone Taylor, defensive tackle Alonzo Williams, outside linebacker Tommy Sanders and safety Floyd Raven will be key to the Aggies' success on D this fall.

3. The tight ends will be utilized
Texas A&M's offensive style often showcases receivers, but the Aggies have personnel at tight end that appears capable of making a significant impact. Arizona Western College transfer Cameron Clear brings a large body (6-foot-7, 270 pounds) and he can move well and showed as much this spring. It looks like Manziel will have no issues throwing to him this fall and he could be quite a mismatch for linebackers and safeties over the middle. Nehemiah Hicks also returns at the position, giving the Aggies depth and the option to use two-tight end formations in short-yardage situations.

4. Some receivers are emerging, but spots are still up for grabs
With three starters gone via graduation, sophomore Mike Evans is the only returning starter at receiver. The competition was fierce during spring at receiver and new names have begun to emerge. Receivers coach David Beaty had high praise for Malcome Kennedy, who got injured early in the spring and sat out the rest of the way, so look for him to be a leader at the position this fall. Derel Walker also got positive reviews from Manziel and the two showed a chemistry during the Maroon and White game that could be helpful in the fall. Ja'Quay Williams is another name to watch for, but there's also a handful of 2013 receiver recruits on the way in the fall who could find themselves in the mix also. And this summer will be crucial for guys such as Sabian Holmes, Edward Pope, LeKendrick Williams and others if they are to be serious contributors this fall.

5. Johnny is still Johnny
Manziel showed some progress throwing the ball during the spring and his better grasp of the offense should help him this fall. His trademark scrambling wasn't seen much at all during the Maroon and White game (no contact on quarterbacks was allowed), but so far he appears to be the same player that dazzled Aggies and college football fans and 2012.