SEC: Matt Davis

Texas A&M season preview

August, 5, 2013
8/05/13
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Today, we're looking at Texas A&M as the Aggies try to expand on their success in their first season in the SEC.

Coach: Kevin Sumlin (46-19 overall, 11-2 at Texas A&M)

2012 record: 11-2

Key losses: OT Luke Joeckel, DE Damontre Moore, LB Sean Porter, LB Jonathan Stewart, WR Ryan Swope

Key returnees: WR Mike Evans, DB Toney Hurd, QB Johnny Manziel, OT Jake Matthews, OT Cedric Ogbuehi

Newcomer to watch: RB Brandon Williams

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Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun/LandovThe Aggies' season will hinge on quarterback Johnny Manziel's eligibility.
Biggest games in 2013: vs. Alabama (Sept. 14), at Ole Miss (Oct. 12), vs. Vanderbilt (Oct. 26), at LSU (Nov. 23)

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The status of quarterback Johnny Manziel. Looming over the Aggies is the NCAA investigation of Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, about whether he accepted payment for signing autographs. There's concern whether his eligibility for the upcoming season will be affected. If it is, the Aggies would have to turn to either junior Matt Joeckel or redshirt freshman Matt Davis at quarterback.

Forecast: If Manziel is cleared of any wrongdoing, then the Aggies are legitimate SEC West, SEC championship and perhaps BCS National Championship contenders. They'll likely be favored in every game except their home matchup against Alabama on Sept. 14, and perhaps the game at LSU on Nov. 23, one of the two teams they lost to last season.

Aside from Manziel, the biggest on-field questions for the Aggies are on defense. Three of their most productive players from 2012 -- defensive end Damontre Moore, and linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart -- are now in the NFL. The Aggies are young and inexperienced in the front seven, and the status of two starting defensive backs (cornerback Deshazor Everett and safety Floyd Raven) are still to be determined after offseason arrests.

Still, with the return of Manziel, leading receiver Mike Evans and three offensive linemen, the Aggies have the offensive personnel to compete with any team in the country. They proved as much in their upset of eventual national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last season. If the defense can make the kind of strides it did a season ago, when the Aggies had depth questions and concern about size up front in a line-of-scrimmage league, then Texas A&M can seriously contend.

If Manziel's eligibility is affected as a result of the NCAA investigation, the Aggies have no quarterback on the roster who has started a college game. Joeckel and Davis will battle it out in training camp. While the Aggies can be a good team without Manziel, dreams of reaching the highest heights will be severely limited if he is forced to miss more than two games.
We kicked off the SEC position rankings on Monday with the top quarterback groups and turn our attention today to the league’s top running back stables for the 2013 season.

1. Georgia: When you have two of the top five running backs in the SEC on your roster, it’s hard to rank that backfield anywhere but No. 1. And they’re both just sophomores. Todd Gurley led all SEC running backs a year ago with 1,385 rushing yards, while Keith Marshall chipped in with 759 yards. Go back and look at how many long scoring plays they had, too. Blink and either one of them are liable to be standing in your end zone.

2. Alabama: If anybody can catch Georgia, it’s Alabama. Sophomore T.J. Yeldon is coming off an 1,108-yard season and can do it all. The wealth of talent behind him is equally impressive from Jalston Fowler, to Kenyan Drake to one of the stars of the spring -- true freshman Derrick Henry. There’s more help on the way, too, in the form of highly ranked freshmen Alvin Kamara, Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny.

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley, Trey DePriest
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesGeorgia's Todd Gurley led SEC running back last season with 1,385 yards.
3. Texas A&M: Even with the departure of Christine Michael, the Aggies are stacked at running back. Hard-running Ben Malena returns after racking up 808 yards and averaging nearly 6 yards per carry last season. But the guy to watch is Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams, who was electrifying this spring. Sophomore Trey Williams is also plenty talented, and don’t forget about Oregon transfer Tra Carson.

4. LSU: The Tigers would have easily been in the top three had Jeremy Hill not gotten into trouble and been suspended. Even if he doesn’t play this season, it’s not like LSU is hurting. Alfred Blue was off to a great start last season before tearing his ACL. Kenny Hilliard looked like a budding star two years ago as a freshman, and versatile Terrence Magee was a pleasant surprise this spring.

5. Mississippi State: LaDarius Perkins is back after finishing second in the SEC last season in all-purpose yardage and rushing for 1,016 yards. It was unfortunate that Nick Griffin tore his ACL in December, his second knee injury in as many years, but the Bulldogs love Josh Robinson'stackle-breaking ability, and Derrick Milton also returns.

6. Auburn: Tre Mason is back after rushing for 1,002 yards last season, the fourth straight year that Auburn has had a running back rush for 1,000 yards. Onterio McCalebb is gone, but Mason should still have plenty of help. Junior college newcomer Cameron Artis-Payne was impressive this spring and will push Mason, while Corey Grant is a burner. Freshmen Peyton Barber and Johnathan Ford will also get a look.

7. Florida: Mike Gillislee was a rock for Florida’s offense last season and won’t be easily replaced, but sophomore Matt Jones looks like he’s the next big thing for the Gators. He has excellent size (6-2, 230 pounds) and has become a more physical runner to go along with his speed. Behind him, the Gators have promising freshman Kelvin Taylor, who has big-time quicks, and maybe this is the year junior Mack Brown puts it all together.

8. South Carolina: As great a player as Marcus Lattimore was for the Gamecocks, they were forced to finish each of the past two seasons without him after he went down with knee injuries. In both cases, Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds more than got the job done. Davis has everything it takes to be the next great running back at South Carolina, while Wilds played extremely well as a true freshman in 2011. Shon Carson is worth keeping an eye on, too.

9. Tennessee: Now that junior Marlin Lane has been reinstated, the Vols have an experienced one-two punch. Senior Rajion Neal is also back after rushing for 708 yards last season. Lane added 658 yards and also caught 29 passes. Neal had four touchdown catches, so they’re both versatile. The challenge this season will be making more happen after contact and getting the tough yards. It doesn't hurt that they will be running behind Tennessee’s talented offensive line.

10. Ole Miss: Jeff Scott has always had exceptional speed, but it’s hard to knock his production in a number of different areas a year ago. He finished with 846 rushing yards and also caught 23 passes. Look for sophomore I'Tavius Mathers to play an expanded role, especially if he improves his blocking, and the Rebels really liked what they saw this spring from true freshman Mark Dodson, who enrolled early and will push for immediate playing time.

11. Missouri: Of those players returning from injury this season in the SEC, Henry Josey ranks up there as somebody who could make the biggest impact. He rushed for 1,168 yards in 2011 before missing all of last season with a severe knee injury. Josey looked healthy in the spring, and when he’s right, he’s a dynamo. Junior Marcus Murphy also returns after rushing for 251 yards last season, and speedy sophomore Russell Hansbrough had an outstanding spring.

12. Vanderbilt: Losing dependable Zac Stacy was a blow. He’d rushed for 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons and was one of those runners who seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. Senior Wesley Tate is a premier athlete and will get his shot to be the feature back. If he gets a little confidence early, look out. The Commodores are also excited to see what sophomores Brian Kimbrow and Jerron Seymour can do with increased touches.

13. Arkansas: Bret Bielema’s track record suggests that the Hogs are going to be able to run the football. Who the centerpiece of that running game will be remains to be seen. Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson are both gone. Sophomore Jonathan Williams is the leading returning rusher after gaining 231 yards last season. The guy Arkansas fans are eager to see is heralded freshman Alex Collins, who shouldn’t have to wait long to see the field.

14. Kentucky: Injuries have plagued the Wildcats the past two seasons at running back. Seniors Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George both return after combining for 1,173 rushing yards last season. The X factor for Kentucky’s running game is sophomore Josh Clemons, who hasn’t played since hurting his knee during the 2011 season. If he can return to the form he displayed as a freshman, the Wildcats could move up this list.
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If Johnny Manziel leaves early for the NFL after the 2013 season, it looks like the Aggies won't have to look too far to find a viable candidate for being the quarterback of the future.

On Monday, Texas A&M added to its 2014 recruiting class when ESPN 150 member Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) verbally committed to the Aggies' staff.

Here's what Allen, who is ESPN's No. 128 overall player and No. 5 pocket passer, tweeted:
I will be playing my college football for Coach Sumlin at TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY!! GIG EM!!


Kevin Sumlin must be thrilled about having Allen. While Manziel has been quiet about his future, many think the reigning Heisman Trophy winner will leave early for the NFL. Obviously, Allen still has to sign his letter of intent next February, but keeping him will give the Aggies a big-time player to compete for the starting quarterback spot down the road.

The Aggies lost Jameill Showers to transfer, but still have redshirt freshman Matt Davis, who enrolled early last spring, and junior Matt Joeckel on the roster. They'll also add three star quarterback Kenny Hill this summer. ESPN 150 member Kohl Stewart might not make it on campus because he could go pretty high in this week's amateur baseball draft. That makes Allen's commitment that much more important.

One thing that has to be encouraging for Sumlin, is the fact that Allen wanted to play in the SEC because he wants the challenge of playing the country's top defenses.
"If you want to be the best, you have to compete against the best. A lot of quarterbacks come out of the Pac-12 and Big 12, where they throw the ball around, but they don't play against as good of defenses. A&M does the same thing those programs do on offense but they do it against the best defenses in the country. My dream is to someday become an NFL quarterback, and I want the best training and the best preparation for that. That's in the SEC."

That move to the SEC just keeps working out for A&M.
Heading into the spring, the SEC had a few fun quarterback races to watch in both divisions. Some of those battles have come to an end, while a few still remain.

Let's take a look at each one from the spring and see where they currently stand:

AUBURN

The matchup: Sophomore Kiehl Frazier left the spring with the edge because he took most of the reps, as a sore shoulder sidelined junior Clint Moseley. This fall, freshman Jonathan Wallace entered the race and has continued to impress Auburn's staff.

The winner is: Frazier has the most athleticism and has felt much more comfortable throwing the ball with help from first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. While coach Gene Chizik continues to say the race is even between Frazier and Moseley, who is still dealing with shoulder soreness, we'll go with Frazier because of overall talent. He can make more plays with his feet and if his arm really does improve, he could be a solid dual-threat QB in this league.

FLORIDA

The matchup: This two-horse race between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel has been intense since the spring. Brissett has had a little bit of the edge because of his game experience last year, but Driskel has made tremendous strides under the direction of new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

The winner is: Will Muschamp continues to say the race is dead even. Driskel's bruised shoulder didn't even complicate the race. It doesn't sound like anyone really knows who has outperformed the other, but the concensus is the team and the coaches can win with either. With that said, Brissett has more experience and we assume is completely healthy, so we'll go with him, but both should play in the opener.

KENTUCKY

The matchup: Sophomore Maxwell Smith took all of the first-team reps this spring, while senior Morgan Newton recovered from shoulder surgery. However, Newton returned to get back into the race this fall. Joining them this fall were freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow.

The winner is: Smith. Joker Phillips named Smith the starter on Monday, so this race has come to an end. The offense can now focus on running around Smith, who has been the most consistent of Kentucky's quarterbacks since the spring. This isn't a surprise.

OLE MISS

The matchup: Neither of Hugh Freeze's quarterbacks have proven much at all and have struggled with consistency since spring. Barry Brunetti was given the starting job at the beginning of last season, but lost it almost immediately, and Bo Wallace is fresh off a season in the junior college ranks. Wallace, however, did spend a year with Freeze at Arkansas State.

The winner is: Wallace seemed to have the edge for part of the spring, and then lost it as Brunetti got more comfortable with Freeze's offense. Both quarterbacks and Freeze felt things were very even heading into champ, but Wallace has had a much stronger champ. Both could end up playing in the opener, but we'll go with Wallace.

TEXAS A&M

The matchup: Sophomore Jameill Showers, who has the only game experience at quarter, and redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel were nearly neck-and-neck for most of the spring, but Showers seemed to pull away little toward the end. Sophomore Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis also competed this spring.

The winner is: Manziel. It seemed as though Showers had the edge in this one, but Manziel outplayed him during fall camp. After a solid outing during one of the Aggies' scrimmages, coach Kevin Sumlin decided to end the battle and give the starting job to Manziel.

VANDERBILT

The matchup: Jordan Rodgers replaced Larry Smith last season, but still showed inconsistency on the field at times. So, this spring, he had a battle on his hands with Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, who was the Mountain West's Freshman of the Year in 2009.

The winner: Rodgers. This was probably always his job to lose, and he didn't. He had a very good spring and fall camp. Rodgers said this summer that he felt way more comfortable with the people around him this spring and is poised to have a much better year this fall.
Johnny ManzielSam Khan Jr./ESPN.comJohnny Manziel has cut down on mistakes and reckless plays during fall camp.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Johnny Manziel plays with confidence and lots of it.

That mentality coupled with his talent helped him put up video-game-like numbers at Kerrville (Texas) Tivy, become an All-American and a heavily recruited quarterback. That let-it-all-hang-out swagger has served him well, but in an offense such as Texas A&M's, which is based on accuracy, precision and quick decisions, that mentality can be a drawback.

Manziel's ability wasn't a question for coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kliff Kingsbury. His control and ability to work within the offense was, and it was in this area that the coaches saw significant improvement, helping the redshirt freshman win the starting job over sophomores Jameill Showers and Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis.

"He just came back to camp and was making really quick decisions, protecting the football really well and just made plays, continually, every time we put him in," Kingsbury said. "He was moving the ball and scoring points and ultimately that's what you want."

In the spring, Manziel wasn't always careful, which is something the coaches wanted to see improvement on.

(Read full post)

Aaron MurrayAP Photo/David GoldmanAaron Murray and the Georgia quarterbacks rank as the top position group in the SEC.
As we get closer and closer to the 2012 college football season, it's time for one of the blog's most popular items -- position rankings.

This is never easy. We go back and forth dozens of times before finding any sort of confidence in our lists. After checking with colleagues and people around the league, we come up with lists ranking each position and in the end someone gets upset. Someone has to be last and someone is always underrated or overrated.

Such is life.

The important factors for every position were great players, true game-changers, depth and experience. We also considered past performances, but we also had to think about possible projections for the upcoming season.

We’ll start with the quarterback position:

1. Georgia: Aaron Murray has thrown 59 touchdowns in his first two seasons and is on his way to breaking several school records. He has great toughness and mechanics, but needs to cut down on his 14 interceptions from a year ago. The staff is looking to redshirt Hutson Mason, but he might be the league's best quarterback insurance policy. He could be used if Murray suffers a serious injury. Freshmen Faton Bauta and Christian LeMay are both talented, but inexperienced.

2. Arkansas: Tyler Wilson is arguably the SEC’s best quarterback and probably would have been a first-rounder had he come out this past season. Junior Brandon Mitchell complements Wilson well with his running ability, but he'll be in an intense battle with redshirt freshman Brandon Allen, who is a stronger drop-back quarterback.

3. Tennessee: If Tyler Bray can stay healthy, he’s potentially a 3,000-yard, 30-touchdown guy. Justin Worley was thrown into the fire last season and gained some valuable experience, and the Vols also have high hopes for true freshman Nathan Peterman, who showed promise in the spring before dislocating his finger.

4. Alabama: If AJ McCarron picks up from 2011, he could contend to be the league's top quarterback. He has all the tools, but needs to keep making strides with his decision-making. Behind McCarron, Alabama doesn't have much experience with Phillip Sims transferring to Virginia. Next in line would probably be redshirt freshman Phillip Ely, but true freshman Alec Morris has turned heads in summer workouts.

5. Vanderbilt: Jordan Rodgers put a charge into the Commodores’ offense when he took over midway through last season. He’s a big-play quarterback, but needs to cut down on his turnovers. The other thing Vanderbilt has going for it is Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started for two seasons at Wyoming and rolled up nearly 2,100 yards in total offense in 2010. Plus, the staff is excited about early enrollee Patton Robinette, who is one of the top quarterback prospects to sign with Vandy in a while.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Spruce Derden/US PresswireNow that Missouri is in the SEC, James Franklin enters as one of the most versatile quarterbacks.
6. Missouri: James Franklin enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 and enters his first year in the SEC as the league’s best dual-threat quarterback. However, will he be all the way back after undergoing shoulder surgery in the spring? With Franklin out, redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser worked with the Tigers' first team this spring and performed well. Junior Ashton Glaser is in his fourth season, but has barely played.

7. South Carolina: Connor Shaw is hardly the biggest quarterback in the SEC and runs a lot, so that’s never an ideal situation. However, he improved greatly toward the end of last season and made strides this spring to use his arm more than his legs. The Gamecocks have barely any experience behind Shaw, as Dylan Thompson and Andrew Clifford battle for the No. 2 spot.

8. LSU: It's Zach Mettenberger time in Baton Rouge, as he takes over a unit that has struggled with consistency. He was a very talented high school player a few years ago and helped make LSU's offense much more pass-friendly this spring. While he's an obvious upgrade for the Tigers, he's still pretty unproven at this level. Behind him, there's no experience, as Jerrard Randall and Stephen Rivers both redshirted in 2011.

9. Auburn: The Tigers should have quite the quarterback battle on their hands. Clint Moseley returns with more experience under center, but he lost ground to Kiehl Frazier this spring because of shoulder soreness. Frazier was a run-first QB last year, but looked much more confident with his arm this spring with help from new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Zeke Pike was a top QB prospect coming out of high school, but off-field issues sent him home for the summer.

10. Florida: Will Muschamp said following spring practice that he felt like he had two quarterbacks he could win with. Nonetheless, he wasn’t ready to name either Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel the starter. Both struggled for the most part last year, but both were very talented high school prospects and each could excel with more experience. The reality is that both will end up playing this season.

11. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen said this spring that he was very pleased with how Tyler Russell performed this spring, but Russell has had consistency issues in the past. The hope is that now that Russell knows he's the starter, he'll be more comfortable on the field. However, Mississippi State only has one other scholarship quarterback on its roster: redshirt freshman Dak Prescott. Quarterbacks Dylan Favre and Nick Schuessler both transferred.

12. Kentucky: Maxwell Smith was far from perfect last year, but he took advantage of his time on the field. After replacing the injured Morgan Newton late in 2011, Smith was named to the SEC's All-Freshmen team. He also seemed to improve this spring with Newton watching and rehabbing. Newton's time as a starter could be over, but both will be pushed by incoming freshman Patrick Towles, who might be more physically gifted than the two ahead of him.

13. Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin is working with a ton of inexperience at quarterback. Sophomore Jameill Showers has the edge, but he’s thrown all of five career passes. Things got even foggier for the Aggies when backup Johnny Manziel was arrested in late June and charged with disorderly conduct by fighting, failure to identify and having a fake driver's license. That leaves sophomore Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis with the chance to catch Showers.

14. Ole Miss: It looked like Bo Wallace would come in and snatch the starting job, but as spring went on Barry Brunetti played himself into a tie with Wallace. But Brunetti was the starter coming out of last spring and played in just five games last fall. Randall Mackey moved from quarterback to wide receiver, while Zack Stoudt left the team in June, so there is very little experience at the quarterback position in Oxford.

Spring shoes to fill: Texas A&M

April, 4, 2012
4/04/12
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A new era begins this fall for Texas A&M, and the battle everyone will be watching in College Station is at quarterback.

OUT: QB Ryan Tannehill. The Aggies were both explosive and balanced offensively last season, and Tannehill was the guy who made them go. We’ll all be reminded of just how good he was by the midway point of the first round in the NFL draft two weeks from now. Tannehill is expected to be the third quarterback selected and with good reason. He passed for 3,744 yards and 29 touchdowns last season and completed 61.6 percent of his passes. He also ran for 306 yards and four touchdowns and was one of those quarterbacks who could beat you in a number of different ways. Those guys don’t come around very often, and when they’re gone, they’re never easy to replace.

IN: Jameill Showers, Johnny Manziel, Matt Joeckel or Matt Davis. The race for Tannehill’s replacement is wide open, and further mystery is added by the fact that the Aggies will be running a new offense with Kevin Sumlin taking over as head coach. Whoever can handle the fast-paced tempo the best while taking care of the ball and also making enough plays to keep the defense honest is going to win the job. The Aggies just opened spring practice last Saturday, so there hasn’t been enough time for any real separation. But offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury likes the way all four have picked up things. Showers, a sophomore, was Tannehill’s backup last season, but only threw four passes. Manziel, a redshirt freshman, is a terrific athlete and one of those guys capable of extending the play. Joeckel, a sophomore, is more of a pocket passer, while Davis, a true freshman who enrolled early, is also versatile enough to be effective as a passer and a runner. Kingsbury said they recruited all four quarterbacks when he was at Houston with Sumlin, so the Aggies already have a good feel for all four.

Opening spring camp: Texas A&M

March, 30, 2012
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Schedule: Texas A&M opens spring practice on Saturday and will play its Maroon & White spring game on April 28 at 2 p.m. ET. The Aggies will give fans a couple of chance to see open scrimmages prior to the spring game. Fans are invited to the April 14 scrimmage at 11 a.m. and the April 20 scrimmage at 8 p.m.

What’s new: Really, just about everything. The Aggies will begin play in the SEC in 2012, and Kevin Sumlin takes over as head coach after spending the last four seasons as Houston’s head coach. Sumlin worked under R.C. Slocum at Texas A&M in 2001 and 2002 and called the Aggies’ plays for most of the 2002 season. Sumlin’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach will be Kliff Kingsbury, a record-setting quarterback during his time at Texas Tech. Clarence McKinney will coach the running backs and serve as recruiting coordinator, and B.J. Anderson will coach the offensive line. Kingsbury, McKinney and Anderson were all with Sumlin last season at Houston. David Beaty will coach receivers after serving as Kansas’ co-offensive coordinator last season. Brian Polian, who was previously at Stanford, will coach tight ends and oversee special teams. Former Marshall head coach Mark Snyder will be the Aggies’ defensive coordinator. Snyder was the defensive coordinator at South Florida the past two seasons and also served under Jim Tressel at Ohio State. Marcel Yates will be the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach after spending the last nine seasons coaching defensive backs at Boise State. Former Texas A&M player Terry Price will coach the defensive line. He was previously on the Ole Miss staff. Matt Wallerstedt will coach the Texas A&M linebackers after serving as associate head coach, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Air Force the past two seasons.

On the mend: Senior running back Christine Michael, who tore his left ACL toward the end of last season, is ahead of schedule in his recovery, but the Aggies won’t chance it with any contact this spring.

On the move: Junior Damontre Moore, who had 17.5 tackles for loss as the “joker” linebacker in the Aggies’ 3-4 scheme last season, is moving to defensive end in their new 4-3 defense. Also, the Aggies may not have running back Brandon Williams, who transferred from Oklahoma. Williams is a former five-star recruit, but his appeal to the NCAA to be eligible in 2012 was reportedly denied, and he’ll have to sit out the season. Texas A&M officials said Friday, however, that they have yet to send anything to the NCAA on Williams' behalf and are in the process of putting something together.

Key battle: With Ryan Tannehill taking his talents to the NFL, the Aggies hope to settle on a new quarterback this spring. It could take longer, as nobody has any real experience. Third-year sophomore Jameill Showers played in four games last season and threw all of five passes in mop-up duty. He’s the “veteran” of the group. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel might be the most dynamic athlete of the bunch, and Kingsbury also likes the way midterm enrollee Matt Davis can move around and make plays. Sophomore Matt Joeckel is more of a pocket passer. Kingsbury said all four have their strengths and do different things well, which should make for a close race.

New faces: Being on campus early and going through spring practice will give Davis a legitimate chance to win the starting quarterback job as a freshman. Defensive back Kenneth Marshall of South Houston, Texas, also graduated high school early and will go through the spring. Derel Walker of Trinity Valley Community College was rated among the top junior-college receivers nationally. Cornerback Tremaine Jacobs is another junior-college newcomer who’s enrolled and will go through the spring. Jacobs is from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

Breaking out: Even with Moore moving to defensive end, the Aggies have a chance to make a big splash at linebacker. There’s already a buzz surrounding senior Jonathan Stewart and his move to middle linebacker. He led the Aggies with 98 total tackles last season, including 55 solo stops. He’s had a terrific offseason, and by all accounts, is poised for a big senior season. It only helps that he’ll have fellow senior Sean Porter playing alongside him at outside linebacker. Porter led the Aggies with 9.5 sacks last season and racked up 17 tackles for loss.

Don’t forget about: One of Sumlin’s biggest coups this offseason was convincing star receiver Ryan Swope to return for his senior season. Sumlin got a big assist from Kingsbury, who painted an enticing picture of what Swope’s role would be in this new offense. Swope was third in the Big 12 last season in both receptions (89) and receiving yards (1,207). He also caught 11 touchdown passes and will be key player in keeping opposing defenses from loading up against the Aggies’ running game.

All eyes on: What will the offense look like? Chances are that it won’t be quite as much of an “Air Raid” attack it was in Houston. Sumlin is always going to utilize the passing game, but the strength of this team will be the offensive line. Tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews are future pros, and senior Patrick Lewis also proved to be a devastating blocker at center after moving over from right guard. The Aggies will lean heavily on their offensive line, which has a chance to be one of the top units in the SEC.

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