Johnny Manziel, eight games into his college career, has Texas A&M fans dreaming of a National Championship. The freshman is dominating the SEC, and if you’re the type to look ahead … Texas A&M has enough returning talent on offense to open next season ranked in the Top 3.* The defense? Well …
2013 Depth chart:
Lose senior Christine Michael, who is 2nd on the team in TDs (10), but junior Ben Malena (687 yards) returns. So does freshman Trey Williams, who was the 15th-rated rivals recruit in the country in 2012. But the big addition to next year’s offense: two star transfer running backs. Brandon Williams, who played as a true freshman at Oklahoma, will be eligible. Tra Carson, a who went to Oregon and played as a true freshman, transferred to the Aggies and will be eligible.
Lose senior Ryan Swope, the team’s second leading receiver (56 catches, team-leading 6 TDs). Freshman Mike Evans, a budding star at 6-foot-5, leads the team in receptions this year (61 catches). Another freshman, Thomas Johnson, is 3rd on the team in receptions (30). They’ve got a highly-touted 6-foot-6 freshman coming in, Derrick Griffin. He’s considered the 3rd best WR in the country by Rivals, and the 6th best player in the State of Texas.
Only one senior on the line (center Patrick Lewis), but could lose junior tackle Luke Joeckel to the NFL draft (1st rounder). If they return four starters to go with that running talent … look out, SEC.
Experienced front seven is loaded with juniors and seniors. DL Damontre Moore leads the team in tackles, tackles for loss (20), sacks (12.5), and if the junior opts for the NFL, it’ll be a big loss and mean the Aggies lose their top four tacklers from this season. The biggest loss at linebacker will be OLB Sean Porter, who is an early-round draft pick. Sophomore Donnie Baggs will be the best returning LB on a young unit. They’ll lose just one starter in the secondary (senior Steven Terrell). The secondary, which features talented freshman DeVante Harris, will probably be the strength of the defense next year.
Recruiting: Texas has six Top 100 rivals recruits locked up; the Aggies just one. Will the Longhorns be able to retain all those recruits, or are some watching Johnny Manziel and maybe having second thoughts about going to Austin? And how many undecided talents will look at what Sumlin has built and want to play in College Station?
2013 Schedule: Eight home games. Eight! No Georgia. No Florida. No South Carolina. More good news: out-of-conference games are a joke – Rice, Sam Houston State, SMU, New Mexico. They get Alabama at home (early, too). Road games: at rebuilding Arkansas, at Ole Miss, at rebuilding Auburn. The toughest part of the schedule is at the end: Nov 23 at LSU; Nov. 30th at Missouri. If you don’t think much of Missouri, expectations will be 10-2 or 11-1 in the regular season. My guess is Vegas will set the over/under at 10.
* Without doing a deep dive on the rosters, I’ll just assume Oregon and Alabama are right there jostling with Texas A&M. LSU will lose a lot on defense. Notre Dame might be No. 4.