SEC: Christine Michael

The first round of the 2013 NFL draft tonight figures to reinforce how talented the league has been over the past few years.

As many as 13 SEC players could go in the first round.

But what about those guys not projected to go in the first round? Who are those players from the SEC expected to go later in the draft who will end up having successful NFL careers?

Keep in mind that Houston Texans All-Pro running back Arian Foster wasn’t even drafted.

Edward Aschoff has come up with five SEC players not on everybody’s first-round radar that he thinks he will go on to have successful NFL careers, and I’ve come up with five of my own.

The ATL Kid gets to go first:

1. D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina: He's long, rangy and saw his stock rise after a solid senior season. Swearinger, who has very good bulk for either safety spot, can be a ballhawk/quarterback of the defense and make plays close to the line inside the box.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Jim Dedmon/Icon SMIMarcus Lattimore has struggled with injuries, but when healthy he's the type of playmaker teams covet.
2. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: He might have had two major knee injuries, but Lattimore will be an absolute steal for any team that drafts him. It might take him a while to get back up to speed, but we all know that a healthy Lattimore is a tremendous every-down back and is exactly what NFL teams want.

3. Cornelius Washington, DE, Georgia: Washington didn't get a ton of publicity with all the other big names on Georgia's defense, but pro scouts are excited about his potential because of all that athleticism and speed. He'll move to outside linebacker in the NFL and has all the pass-rushing tools to be a stud at the pro level.

4. Jon Bostic, LB, Florida: It's not every day that a former high school cornerback/safety prepares for playing middle linebacker in the NFL, but that's exactly what Bostic is doing. He has good speed in coverage, can blitz and play the run. He also has great field instincts.

5. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas: Last season wasn't great for Wilson, but he was still able to pass for more than 3,300 yards. He has great mechanics and a real NFL arm. He might start off as a backup, but has the potential to be a solid starter down the road.

Now, it’s my turn:

1. D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina: We agree on the top guy. Swearinger might have been the most underrated player in the SEC last season. He can play strong or free safety and has a knack for making plays whether he’s in run support or in coverage.

2. Dallas Thomas, OG, Tennessee: Thomas unselfishly moved inside to guard as a senior after starting 25 straight games at left tackle. He’s versatile, tough and has more than held his own against some of the best defensive linemen in the country.

3. Barrett Jones, C, Alabama: He’s certainly not the strongest offensive lineman in the draft and is also coming off foot surgery after gutting it out in the BCS National Championship Game. But you win with people like Jones, who’s proved he can play anywhere you put him on the offensive line.

4. Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky: Yes, another offensive lineman and one who probably didn’t get his due the last couple of years because of the Wildcats’ struggles. But he’s a big, powerful guy who will fight you on every down and will play for a long time in the NFL.

5. Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M: This may be a bit of a gamble because Michael has had injury issues and some off-the-field problems. But he has the blend of size, speed and power that all NFL teams are looking for. If he gets in the right situation, look out.
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:

Now that you've seen Mel Kiper Jr.'s updated Big Board, take a look at where his position rankings stand Insider after the NFL combine. In his last batch of rankings, 28 SEC players made the cut, and the league was represented by at least one player at every position, except fullback.

In Kiper's post-combine rankings, 26 SEC players were listed. Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, Tennessee offensive guard Dallas Thomas, South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger, and Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden were left off this time. The head-scratcher to me is the absence of Gooden, who was ranked fourth at outside linebacker in Kiper's pre-combine rankings. He blew up the combine and proved to have the best speed of any of the linebackers working out and showcased tremendous strength and athleticism.

Making it on Kiper Jr.'s list this time were Texas A&M running back Christine Michael, Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg and Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter.

Here's where Kiper put SEC players in his post-combine position rankings:

Quarterbacks

4. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

Running backs

1. Eddie Lacy, Alabama

3. Christine Michael, Texas A&M

Fullbacks

None

Wide receivers

2. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

4. Justin Hunter, Tennessee

Tight ends

3. Jordan Reed, Florida

5. Chris Gragg, Arkansas

Offensive tackles

2. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

4. D.J. Fluker, Alabama

Offensive guards

1. Chance Warmack, Alabama

3. Larry Warford, Kentucky

Centers

3. Barrett Jones, Alabama

Defensive ends

2. Barkevious Mingo, LSU

Defensive tackles

1. Sharrif Floyd, Florida

4. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri

Inside linebackers

2. Alec Ogletree, Georgia

3. Kevin Minter, LSU

5. Jon Bostic, Florida

Outside linebackers

1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia

5. Cornelius Washington, Georgia

Cornerbacks

1. Dee Milliner, Alabama

4. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

Safeties

2. Matt Elam, Florida

4. Eric Reid, LSU

Kickers

2. Caleb Sturgis, Florida

Punters

2. Brad Wing, LSU
The NFL Combine is in full swing, and after some chatting, running and lifting, prospects are starting to see their draft stocks rise and fall.

The SEC had 79 players invited to Indianapolis, and a few really turned some heads over the weekend.

Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg might have really helped his chances in this year's draft after posting the fastest 40-yard dash time among tight ends with a time of 4.50. He blew away the competition, as the second-fastest time for a tight end was Maryland's Matt Furstenburg and his 4.62. He also led all tight ends with a vertical jump of 37.5 inches and a broad jump of 125 inches. Florida's Jordan Reed was sixth among tight ends with a time of 4.72, while Tennessee's Mychal Rivera was 10th with his 4.81 time.

Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel, who could be the top pick in April's NFL draft, bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times, ran a 5.3 in the 40, had a vertical jump of 28.5 inches, had a broad jump of 106 inches and was clocked at 7.4 seconds in the three-cone drill.

SEC skill position players showed off some pretty good speed on Sunday. Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb was clocked at an unofficial time of 4.21 in the 40, which beat Chris Johnson's record-setting time of 4.24 in 2008. His official time was 4.34, which led all running backs and is still a little faster than what I could churn out. Arkansas' Knile Davis was second to McCalebb with a time of 4.37. He was also second in the bench press among running backs (31 reps), while Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy and Texas A&M's Christine Michael tied for four with 27 reps.

Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope was the fastest of the SEC receivers and was third among wideouts with a time of 4.34. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson ran a 4.42. Fellow Vols wide receiver Justin Hunter was clocked at 4.44 in the 40.

South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders, who shocked many with his decision to leave school early, didn't exactly help himself with his 40 time or his bench press. He ran a 4.58 40 and had just seven reps on the bench.

Missouri receiver T.J. Moe ran only a 4.74 in the 40, but led all receivers with 26 reps in the bench press.

You can check out how all the former SEC players did over the weekend at NFL.com.
We checked on the SEC's 3,000-yard passers from 2012 on Thursday, so we're taking a look at the running backs who hit the coveted 1,000-yard mark last fall.

Last summer, we looked at 10 running backs we thought could eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark. The SEC had four players reach 1,000 yards on the ground in 2011, and had nine, including Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, in 2012. I thought it was supposed to be the Year of the Quarterback?

Here's how the 10 running backs we looked at last year did in 2012:

1. Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: Well, maybe if he actually played a down for the Bulldogs this year he might have had a chance to reach 1,000 yards. Instead, Crowell was dismissed before the season and spent 2012 rushing for 842 yards and 15 touchdowns at Alabama State.

2. Knile Davis, Arkansas: Davis said he was 100 percent after missing all of 2011 with an ankle injury, but he never displayed the explosiveness and strength that made him a star in 2010. Davis was still hesitant at times and carried the ball only 112 times for 377 yards and two touchdowns.

3. James Franklin, Missouri: His laundry list of injuries and a banged-up offensive line didn't really help the dual-threat quarterback when it came to running the ball. A year removed from almost getting to 1,000 yards, Franklin rushed for just 122 yards and averaged 1.4 yards per carry in the process.

4. Eddie Lacy, Alabama: Real shocker that an Alabama running back bulldozed his way past 1,000 yards. Lacy overpowered defenders and left plenty looking silly with his patented spin move all year, finishing the season ranking third in the SEC with 1,322 yards and tying for second with 17 touchdowns. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry.

5. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: For the second straight year, Lattimore's pursuit of 1,000 yards was cut short by a devastating knee injury. He rushed for 662 yards and 11 touchdowns on 143 attempts before dislocating his right knee and tearing multiple ligaments against Tennessee on Oct. 27.

6. Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Like Lattimore, Michael was coming off of an ACL injury this fall, but he never seemed to really fit in the Aggies' new spread scheme. Eventually, he really wasn't Texas A&M's first option at running back and he finished the season with 417 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games of action.

7. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State: Perkins spent most of the year near the top of the SEC in all-purpose yards and was one of the toughest runners in the league. He averaged a stout 5 yards per carry and finished the year with 1,024 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

8. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt: For the second straight year, Stacy finished the season with more than 1,000 yards for the Commodores. Even with a few more weapons to use on the offensive side, Stacy rushed for 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns on 207 carries.

9. Spencer Ware, LSU: Ware wasn't the same workhorse that he was for the Tigers in 2011. He played in 12 games, but only started four and carried the ball just 94 times for 367 yards (that's just 3.9 yards per carry). He finished fourth on the team in rushing and scored just one touchdown in 2012.

10. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama: Pretty good assumption last summer. Yeldon made sure he and Lacy were a migraine for defenses, as he pounded and darted his way to 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and 74.1 yards in SEC games. Lacy packed the punch, while Yeldon showcased the moves last fall.

Who was overlooked:
  • Mike Gillislee, Florida: He proclaimed before the season that he'd rush for 1,500 yards and more than 20 touchdowns. He didn't get there, but he did become the first Gator to rush for 1,000 yards (1,152) since 2004. He basically was Florida's offense and added 10 touchdowns on the ground.
  • Todd Gurley, Georgia: We looked at the wrong Bulldog last summer. Gurley made more of an impact for Georgia as a freshman than Crowell did in 2011, finishing second in the SEC in rushing (first among running backs) with 1,385 yards and added 17 touchdowns to his 6.2 yards per carry.
  • Kendial Lawrence, Missouri: He was almost forgotten because of the year Henry Josey had for most of the 2011 season, but Lawrence was Mizzou's most consistent offensive weapon last fall, rushing for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
  • Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The Heisman winner was arguably the nation's most elusive player in the country when he took off running. He shredded defenses all season and led the SEC with 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also averaged 7 yards per carry.
  • Tre Mason, Auburn: There wasn't a lot to smile about on the Plains this past fall, but Mason was the best weapon the Tigers had, as he rushed for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging an impressive 5.9 yards per carry.

Season report card: Texas A&M

January, 24, 2013
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It's time to grade Texas A&M's first season in the SEC:

OFFENSE: Remember how the Aggies' offense was supposed to struggle without Ryan Tannehill running things and a redshirt freshman replacing him at quarterback? Yeah, that really worked out. Thanks to the minds of Kevin Sumlin, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and a Heisman Trophy winner in Johnny Manziel, the Aggies ran over most of their new opponents in 2012 with the SEC's top offense. Texas A&M averaged a league-high 558.5 yards per game (third nationally). The Aggies also led the SEC in rushing (242.1), passing (316.5) and scoring offense (44.5). A&M registered more than 400 yards in 12 games and more than 600 yards in seven games. Johnny Football became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman and broke the SEC record for total offense with 5,116 yards (3,706 passing and 1,410 rushing). He also totaled 47 touchdowns and led the SEC in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns (21). Manziel had a special year, but he also got help from a dynamic receiving duo in freshman Mike Evans and senior Ryan Swope, who combined to catch 154 passes for 2,018 yards and 13 touchdowns. Uzoma Nwachukwu only caught 26 passes, but he added seven more receiving touchdowns. When Manziel wasn't darting past or slipping by defenders, A&M's running game mostly went through running back Ben Malena, who finished the year with 808 yards and eight touchdowns. Christine Michael added 12 more rushing touchdowns. A&M was also equipped with one of the top offensive lines in the country led by Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Grade: A+

DEFENSE: The Aggies ranked seventh or lower in the SEC in the four major defensive categories, including ranking 12th in pass defense (250.7 yards per game). Teams scored 36 touchdowns on the Aggies and averaged 21.8 points per game. The Aggies surrendered 20-plus points in seven games, including allowing 57 points in a back-and-forth win over Louisiana Tech. A&M might have had some issues when it came to slowing down the yardage and points, but in its two losses, the Aggies allowed just 20 and 24 points. The Aggies gave up 390.2 yards per game and grabbed just 16 takeaways. Defensive end Damontre Moore became a real star. He was one of the top defenders in the country, tying for eighth nationally with 12.5 sacks and seventh with 21 tackles for loss. He also led the Aggies with 85 total tackles and nine quarterback hurries. The defense, which was relatively young in the back end, might have had a little more bend than the coaches would like, but it rarely broke down and held an Oklahoma offense to just 13 points in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Grade: B-

OVERALL: The Aggies were supposed to struggle in their first year in the SEC, but flourished instead. Johnny Football was a major reason why, but Sumlin instilled an extremely tough personality during spring ball that carried over to the season. Alabama might have been crowned college football's national champion, but after a 41-13 beat down of Oklahoma, the Aggies made a solid case for being the nation's top team -- and A&M was the only team to top the Crimson Tide with a 29-24 win in Tuscaloosa. The defense needed to be bailed out by the offense at times, but even with no bye week during the regular season, the Aggies never seemed to slow down. If not for the opener against Louisiana Tech being postponed, the season might have been even better with a game under the Aggies' belt before taking on Florida. A&M wasn't as sharp against LSU, but was in serious contention for a BCS bowl game late in the year. Grade: A

Past grades:

Manziel and Aggies run over Bulldogs

November, 3, 2012
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Heading into Saturday, Texas A&M had mopped the floor with most of the defenses it faced. But it just couldn't get by quality defenses in the second half.

The 16th-ranked Aggies had a lot to prove against No. 15 Mississippi State and its defense, and they didn't disappoint. Behind flashy freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Aggies rolled up 693 yards in their 38-13 win against the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State's defense was looking to rebound after getting pounded by No. 1 Alabama the week before, but regressed mightily in front of its home crowd. Johnny Football gashed the Bulldogs for 129 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and also threw for 311 yards. The only positive for the Bulldogs' defense was that it didn't allow a passing touchdown from Manziel.

And when Manziel wasn't gutting the Bulldogs' defense, running back Ben Malena and Christine Michael did a pretty good job of helping their quarterback out, as they combined for 162 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.

Receivers Mike Evans and Ryan Swope also combined for 18 catches for 218 yards.

Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC) took a big step forward, as it continues to grow in its first year in the SEC, while the Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2) took a major step back. It's becoming painfully obvious that Mississippi State's soft early schedule masked a lot of issues this team has on both offense and defense.

Quarterback Tyler Russell looked efficient during the first part of the season, but in the past two games, he's thrown for 381 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions on 34-of-60 passing. The offense has been overmatched and the defense has been gutted by the two best teams the Bulldogs have played this season. A lot of credit has to go to Texas A&M, which held the Bulldogs to 310 yards and just 98 rushing yards, but Mississippi State hasn't had any sort of offensive rhythm in the past two games.

The really troubling issue is how poorly the defense has played. It's given up 30-plus points in three of its past four games (two losses), and more than 1,000 combined yards in the past two weeks.

For a team that looked like it could win nine or even 10 this season, those numbers just got a lot harder with a tough schedule still remaining in the month of November.
Heading into the season, all the attention paid toward Texas A&M's ground game went directly to running back Christine Michael.

If the Aggies were going to run the ball, Michael was going to be the guy to do it. He had been tremendously efficient in Texas A&M's two-back system last season with Cyrus Gray before his season-ending knee injury late in the year, and was one of the team's top overall players.

Michael even came back near full strength this spring, so most just assumed that he'd be the workhorse in the Aggies' offensive attack.

[+] EnlargeBen Malena
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBen Malena's emergence has been a surprise to many, but not to coach Kevin Sumlin.
However, it's been a bit of a process for Michael's knee and he's still trying to adjust to the Aggies' new offensive scheme. With Michael inching along at times, junior Ben Malena has been what coach Kevin Sumlin called "a light in the storm" when it comes to being a steady player in Texas A&M's backfield.

"What Ben has given us is a steady guy who understands everything, who is a potent threat with the ball in his hand and also a pass-catcher and a protector," Sumlin said.

Malena is second behind quarterback Johnny Manziel on the team in rushing, with 462 yards and has four touchdowns. He also has 11 receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Freshman Trey Williams received a lot of hype coming into the season, and the thought was that he would be the one helping Michael the most. But with Williams still struggling with pass protection, Malena's emergence has been huge. He's really done a good job of helping Manziel out this season.

While this might have come as a surprise to some, Sumlin said he saw this way back in spring and tried to tell people about Malena's potential, but it's OK if people are just now catching on.

"I don't think he's gotten better," Sumlin said. "I think people weren't listening to me when I said he was playing well in the spring.

"He's having a great year, plays with great energy, and is really, really solid."

Malena might not have the flashiest numbers, but he's been able to help this team in many different ways. He's also on the front line for the Aggies on kick returns, so he's been a very unselfish player. His play will only continue to boost A&M going forward.

SEC fantasy challenge: Week 3

September, 28, 2012
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We had a close one over the weekend, but the ATL Kid has a 2-1 record in our fantasy challenge after a 137-134 win.

Cobi Hamilton and Tyler Bray combined to give Chris 80 points, but it wasn't enough to combat my quintet of 20-point scores. Marcus Lattimore and Todd Gurley were my high scorers, getting me 26 points and combining to score four touchdowns last week.

I also grabbed 21 points form LSU's defense, while Chris got 14 points from Alabama's defense. I guess Nick Saban isn't the only one upset with those backups giving up that late touchdown.

With a few SEC teams off this week, we're making roster adjustments. Chris is subbing out quarterback James Franklin for Johnny Manziel and running back Christine Michael for Eddie Lacy. He's also replacing Florida's kickers with Arkansas'. I'm subbing out wide receiver Jordan Matthews with Texas A&M's Uzoma Nwachukwu.

Here's how last week looked:

The ATL Kid: 137

QB: AJ McCarron: 212 yards, 3 TDs -- 20 pts
QB: Aaron Murray: 250 yards (pass), 2 TDs, 5 yards (rush), 1 TD -- 24 pts
RB: Marcus Lattimore: 85 yards (rush), 2 TDs, 60 yards (rec) -- 26 pts
RB: Todd Gurley: 130 yards (rush), 2 TD, 13 (rec) -- 26 pts
WR: Cordarrelle Patterson: 20 yards (rec), 12 (rush) -- 3 pts
WR: Jordan Matthews: 119 yards -- 11 pts
D: LSU: 10 PA, 1 Saf, 4 Sacks, 2INTs, 1 Fum, 1 win -- 21 pts
K: Georgia: 6 XPs -- 6 pts

Living Within Your Means: 134

QB: Tyler Bray: 401 yards, 4 TDs -- 32 pts
QB: James Franklin: 92 yards (pass), 6 yards (rush) -- 3 pts
RB: Kenny Hilliard: 40 yards, 7 yards (rec) -- 4 pts
RB: Christine Michael: 26 yards (rush), 1 TD, 6 (rec) -- 5 pts
WR: Justin Hunter: 115 yards, 1 TD -- 17 pts
WR: Cobi Hamilton: 303 yards, 3 TDs -- 48 pt
D: Alabama: 7 PA, 3 sks, 1 blk 1 win -- 14 pts
K: Florida: 1 FG, 5 XP -- 8 pts

Aggies quickly pick up new offense

September, 27, 2012
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With the way Texas A&M’s offense has performed this season, you hardly notice that this team is working under a new staff and a new philosophy.

Kevin Sumlin and his crew have been in College Station for less than a year, but through three games, their up-tempo offense has looked like it’s been an A&M staple.

The Aggies (2-1) are fourth in the SEC in total offense (462.3 yards per game) and second in scoring (45). Now, the majority of Texas A&M’s production has come in the last two weeks against two much weaker opponents in SMU and South Carolina State, after getting shut out in the second half against Florida to open the year. But you can’t ignore the recent numbers from a team that is working with so much that is brand new.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/David J. PhillipThe maturation of freshman QB Johnny Manziel has been key to the success of A&M's offense.
“They expected to be good and they’ve really embraced this offense,” offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said. “They’ve played hard so far.”

As the Aggies head into their matchup with Arkansas (1-3) on Saturday, Sumlin still wants to see more. He’s pleased with back-to-back blowouts that saw his team average 526.5 yards and score 118 combined points, but the second-half collapse against Florida still stings.

“We’re capable of more,” Sumlin said.

And more could be scary for defenses, especially with the Aggies adapting to the rushed pace that made Houston so deadly when Sumlin and Kingsbury were there. You don’t see the same passing game, but you see a lot of explosion, and the hope is that the Aggies see a lot of tired bodies across the line of scrimmage.

Making sure players adjusted to the speed of the offense was the top priority this spring. Formations and routes were important, but making sure that players weren’t too gassed to execute properly in the hustle and bustle of the offense were concerns.

“We didn’t want them to play slow,” Kingsbury said.

That’s where strength and conditioning coach Larry Jackson came in. With Sumlin pushing spring practice back two weeks, Jackson got eight weeks to get players in tip-top shape to run the offense.

Senior wide receiver Ryan Swope said the rigorous conditioning has paid off. Players went from exhausted this spring to coasting this fall with play after play coming faster and faster.

There were awkward moments with the tempo this spring, but as practices continued and players’ stamina increased, Swope said things clicked on the fly.

“It takes a little bit of time to get the hang of the offense,” he said, “but once you really start getting into the playbook and learning it, it really becomes natural. It becomes real fun.”

Sumlin said he’s seen little change in the offense since spring because players picked up on things so well. It helps to have a veteran offensive line and a talented receiving corps, headlined by Swope and fellow senior Uzoma Nwachukwu.

It also helps that A&M has a stud in redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel taking snaps at quarterback. The play and maturation of Manziel, aka “Johnny Football,” has been key to the Aggies’ offensive comfort because of his grit and his ability to extend plays with his legs.

“There’s no telling what he’s going to do, so you always have to be on your toes,” Swope said.

Arkansas coach John L. Smith hasn’t been able to take his eyes off Manziel.

“Their quarterback is a special kid,” Smith said.

“As I look at all of the film and it just jumps out at you is that kid pulling the trigger for them.”

Manziel has combined for 903 offensive yards and 12 touchdowns. For as wild as he can be, Manziel has yet to throw an interception, which pleases a coaching staff that sometimes stresses over what he might do.

“A lot of the plays he’s making all over the field aren’t exactly how they’re drawn up,” Kingsbury said with a laugh.

It’s a learning process for Manziel, and this entire offense. The next step is establishing more of a downhill running game. Manziel does his part, but Kingsbury wants more out of his backs, especially bruiser Christine Michael.

Michael has just 59 yards and two touchdowns this season, and was suspended for the SMU game. Michael has the talent to rush for more than 1,000 yards, but he’s trudged around in this offense. That has to change if A&M’s offense is going to continue to make strides.

And expect a few other changes from the offense with the meat of SEC play coming. Kingsbury knows that in this league, more modification is inevitable.

“With these defenses you see week in and week out, you’re going to have to change things on a weekly basis because they’re so good, they’re so fast and they’re so athletic,” he said. “If you show up and do what you’ve been doing, they’re going to lock it down.”

Lunchtime links

September, 26, 2012
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So "Frankenweenie" looks pretty good, no?

SEC fantasy challenge: Week 2

September, 21, 2012
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After two weeks of competition, we're all tied up in our fantasy challenge.

Chris took Game 1, but my team came back with a nice effort to give us both 1-1 records after a 117-91 win. It helped that Aaron Murray got me 35 points with his 342 yards and four total touchdowns against Florida Atlantic. LSU's defense also got me 20 points with its two defensive touchdowns against Idaho.

James Franklin's injury and Christine Michael's suspension left Chris with two empty spots, but he did get 23 points from Kenny Hilliard and 29 points from Alabama's defense.

Here's how our second week looked:

The ATL Kid: 117

QB: AJ McCarron: 189 yards, 1 TD -- 11 pts
QB: Aaron Murray: 342 yards (pass), 3 TDs, 20 yards (rush), 2 TDs -- 35 pts
RB: Marcus Lattimore: 85 yards, 1 TD -- 14 pts
RB: Alfred Blue: 46 yards (rush), 1 TD, 22 (rec) -- 12 pts
WR: Cordarrelle Patterson: 75 yards, 1 TD -- 13 pts
WR: Jordan Matthews: 54 yards -- 5 pts
D: LSU: 14 PA, 2 TDs, 4 INTs, 1 win -- 20 pts
K: Auburn: 1 FG, 4 XPs -- 7 pts

Living Within Your Means: 91

QB: Tyler Bray: 257 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs -- 18 pts
QB: James Franklin: DNP
RB: Kenny Hilliard: 116 yards, 2 TDs -- 23 pts
RB: Christine Michael: DNP
WR: Justin Hunter: 76 yards -- 7 pts
WR: Cobi Hamilton: 14 yards -- 1 pt
D: Alabama: 0 PA, 4 sks, 2 INT, 3 fum, 1 win -- 29 pts
K: Florida: 3 FG, 4 XP -- 13 pts
Texas A&M will be without two senior starters when it attempts to win its first game of the season against SMU on Saturday.

The Aggies announced the suspensions of running back Christine Michael and safety Steven Campbell on Saturday afternoon, just hours before their kickoff in Dallas against the Mustangs.

Campbell notched five total tackles in Texas A&M's 20-17 loss to No. 18 Florida last weekend. Michael pounded out 33 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin announced the suspensions and gave the reasoning as violation of team rules.

SEC fantasy challenge: Week 1

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
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It was a humbling week of fantasy football for the ATL Kid.

Chris struted his stuff and pulled off quite the beatdown, with a 155-103 win during our opening week. When you have studs like Tyler Bray (28), Justin Hunter (32) and James Franklin (20) all getting 20 or more points, it's going to be tough to lose. Not to mention, Alabama's defense gained 26 points.

My high scorer was the reliable Aaron Murray, who got me 23 points with his three touchdown passes. Changes have to be made to my lineup this week, as I'm sitting Tyler Wilson, who could be out against Alabama. I don't know if I'd start him even if I knew he was 100 percent. I'm also dropping Knile Davis in favor of LSU's Alfred Blue. He's been LSU's best back and should run all over Idaho.

Here's how our first week looked:

Living Within Your Means: 155

QB: Tyler Bray: 310 yards, 4 TDs -- 28 pts
QB: James Franklin: 269 yards (passing), 2 TDs, 25 yards (rush) -- 20 pts
RB: Kenny Hilliard: 46 yards, 2 TDs -- 16 pts
RB: Christine Michael: 33 yards (rush), 1 TD, 15 yards (rec) -- 10 pts
WR: Justin Hunter: 146 yards, 3 TDs -- 32 pts
WR: Cobi Hamilton: 99 yards, 1 TD -- 15 pts
D: Alabama: 0 PA, 3 sks, 1 INT, 3 fum, 1 win -- 26 pts
K: Florida: 2 FG, 2 XP -- 8 pts

The ATL Kid: 103

QB: Tyler Wilson: 196 yards, 2 TDs -- 15 pts
QB: Aaron Murray: 242 yards, 3 TDs, 1 2PT -- 23 pts
RB: Marcus Lattimore: 40 yards, 1 TD -- 10 pts
RB: Knile Davis: 62 yards, 1 TD -- 12 pts
WR: Cordarrelle Patterson: 71 yards (rec), 18 yards (rush) -- 8 pts
WR: Jordan Matthews: 75 yards, 1 TD -- 13 pts
D: LSU: 3 PA, 4 sks, 1 INT, 1 win -- 18 pts
K: Auburn: 1 FG, 1 XP -- 4 pts

Aggies' Michael taking aim at SEC defenses

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
11:25
AM ET
The only thing harder than Christine Michael's luck during his Texas A&M career has been trying to tackle him.

He’s a 5-foot-11, 220-pound bruiser who enjoys running over defenders as much as he does running by them.

If not for injuries, Michael would be universally mentioned among the premier running backs in college football. Talent-wise, he’s already there.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeHealthy again, Christine Michael is ready for his SEC debut.
But now comes the hard part -- staying healthy for an entire season.

“You’ve gotta go out there and do it every game and every season no matter what’s happened to you in the past, but I feel like I’ll be up there with any running back in the country when it’s all over,” said Michael, who’s had his last two seasons cut short by injuries.

“I’m just ready to go show it. You can’t do it by talking about it.”

Michael had 899 yards last season and was on his way to leading the Big 12 in rushing until he tore his ACL in the ninth game against Oklahoma.

The year before, he had 631 rushing yards before breaking his leg in the eighth game against Texas Tech.

The senior from Beaumont, Texas, has missed nine games the past two seasons because of injuries. He still has 2,374 career rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He also has nine career 100-yard rushing games.

“You can’t dwell on it,” Michael said. “I mean, you can, but it’s just going to hold you back. All I know is that I’m healthy and feel as strong as I ever have. I’m ready. This team is ready.”

It’s no secret that first-year Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin likes to throw the ball, but he’s also not going to forget about a weapon like Michael.

And even though Michael has never carried the ball more than 166 times in a season, the Aggies have enough depth at running back to keep him fresh. Junior Ben Malena and prized true freshman Trey Williams will also factor into the rotation at running back.

“We have a great offensive line and a quick tempo,” Michael said. “We’re going to get defenses tired and take advantage of that in the second half. It’s a great offense, and we have a great coaching staff. We’ve been training hard, and it’s time to go.”

In particular, Michael is eager to see what all the fuss has been about SEC defenses. He and the rest of his Texas A&M teammates get their first taste Saturday when Florida visits College Station for the Aggies’ SEC debut.

“It seems like years since I’ve played in any football game,” said Michael, who missed the Aggies’ final four games a year ago. “I’m just hungry to get out there against these SEC guys and put all the struggles I’ve had and all my motivation out there on the field.

“I know there’s a lot of people who don’t believe in us and don’t think we’re ready for this. We want to go out and show not only them, but show ourselves that we’re one of the best teams out there.”

Michael, who was once described by former Texas A&M teammate Von Miller as a “hybrid, mutant running back” with the “speed of a cheetah,” has only one individual goal this season.

While others may talk about 1,000-yard seasons and joining the likes of Marcus Lattimore and Knile Davis as an All-SEC performer, Michael said his goal is be the “strongest man on the field and the most aggressive guy on the field in every game.”

He added, “I just want to put it all out there, and we’ll see how everything turns out.”

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