Johnny Football now resides in Cleveland with LeBron and a flammable lake. It was fun while it lasted Johnny, but now A&M has to retool for the big bad SEC with a new quarterback, new number 1 wide receiver, and a new left tackle. How are Kevin Sumlin and crew going to handle it? Take out your books and turn to chapter 11, it's summer school in Aggieland.
Questions that need answering...
Johnny Football was appointment television for 2 years whether at Kyle Field or hanging with Drake, a swan, at Northgate, or with various coeds across the country. He belongs to Cleveland now, where all American celebrities go to make it big.
Manziel's departure leaves a void, but Sumlin and this offensive system are built to plug and play. Quarterbacks in the spread system put up numbers and Sumlin's track record replacing quarterbacks due to injury or graduation is pretty good. What A&M will miss are those 3 or 4 plays a game that Manziel made that no one else could.
Who replaces him? Well, A&M has two options, Kenny Hill a sophomore out of Southlake and Kyle Allen the true freshman 5-star recruit from Scottsdale, Arizona. The word out of A&M in the Spring is that quarterback is a pick'em.
Allen looks like a natural but he's never taken a college snap, but he did enroll early so he's had a spring under his belt. Allen has better size but he's also a pretty good athlete. Allen spent three days with offensive coordinator Jake Spavitol learning the system and he impressed coaches with his physical tools and grasp of the system. His biggest knock is the lack of experience, but that's never stopped Sumlin from putting the guy he believes to be the best on the field.
Hill meanwhile has seen limited action in his year plus on campus. Hill had a good spring by all reports on the field. Off the field Hill, along with what appears to be the rest of the squad, was suspended. That's what you get for passing out at Chimy's. He's back for summer workouts. On the experience front Hill doesn't really ad much more to the table than Allen, but he has thrown for 183 yards and taken real live SEC snaps.
With Kyler Murray's commitment, chances are the loser of this battle will find a new home. That's been A&M's recent history with quarterbacks. (See Joeckel, Davis, and Showers) The ripples of the August position competition will have long reaching consequences.
Whoever starts will have the benefit of an arsenal of talent. A strong offensive line, a troop of talented running backs, and a bunch of solid receivers return/join the Aggies. What the starter won't have is a cupcake to start off the season. A&M travels to South Carolina to kick off the season, the SEC network, and the SEC season with a battle against the Gamecocks. The Old Ball Coach hasn't been an accommodating host in recent years. But that's life in the SEC.
Can defense get any better?
A&M was historically bad on defense last season. They made Arkansas' offense look potent. The fault, at least by conventional wisdom, doesn't lie with defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. It seems to lie with the loss of talent due to graduation and injury.
The 2014 offseason wasn't kind to A&M's defensive prospects. Starting linebacker Darrian Claiborne and defensive tackle Isaiah Golden were dismissed from the team for armed robbery and being generally thuggish. Maybe passing out at Chimy's isn't so bad.
Claiborne may be the bigger loss after due to his upside, but losing an interior defensive lineman with Golden's ability is a big blow too.
They aren't the only losses by the way. A&M football players have struggled to work and play well with others. Gavin Stansbury is facing assault charges stemming from a visit he may or may not have paid to Rice's campus last spring. (I mean honestly, who assaults Rice students?)
So now what?
The kids need to start playing. They'll have to. The SEC is unforgiving. A&M offense will put up points, but if the Aggies are going to be serious about their SEC aspirations, they'll need to hold opponents below 40. Maybe the young players can make sure that happens.
Which leads us into...
Can the young defensive lineman contribute now?
The jewels of the A&M recruiting class were on the defensive line. At least that's what rivals will tell you. College football is a game where elite teams defensively have been able to track down and find the elusive dominate defensive lineman.
If you have them you can bring pressure with less and protect your back side. (Minds out of the gutter ladies.) The SEC annually produces coupious amounts of these man-beasts. Alabama and LSU have made a living signing defensive lineman and rolling them out like an assembly line, class after class.
If you want to pinpoint the issues with A&M defense you could start anywhere, but let's just say we start up front.
Myles Garrett, Qualen Cunningham, Jarrett Johnson, Zaycoven Henderson, and Deshawn Washington are all making their first appearance on campus at A&M. Garrett is the jeweliest of the jewels in the class, a 5-star defensive end from Arlington Martin. Is he the defensive end that A&M covets to fill the shoes of Von Miller? We're about to find out.
Zaycoven Henderson may be the most battle ready of the young defensive lineman. Henderson went through spring drills with A&M. Snyder appears sold on him, at least on a limited basis. "He's a little bit out of shape," Snyder said. "He does have a big rear end and he's a plugger in the middle. When he's fresh, he's not bad. ... Right now he's three plays and he's done. He's going to bring some beef up front for us."
I love it when coaches talk about how the size of dumpers.
Each of the young D-lineman will get a look during fall camp. Back in the day a program like A&M would love to redshirt a few of the freshman so they could grow into their bodies and get a year under their belts in the offseason program. That is not a luxury A&M nor many schools can afford. We'll find out fast who's ready for prime time. South Carolina is coming up fast.
Who's that guy?
Ricky Seals-Jones RS Fr. WR 6-5 225 Sealy
Ricky Seals-Jones young career is at a crossroads. Hard to say about a redshirt freshman, but when you missed your last two seasons with knee injuries it's Derrick Rose time. Can you perform or are you the dreaded injury prone athlete who might have been.
Such is the crossroads for Seals-Jones. He's physically more impressive than A&M's recent top 10 pick Mike Evans. He's got size, speed, hands, and wow. The problem has been his ability to stay on the field. Is it just bad luck or is it physiological?
In April the Dallas Morning News tipped Seals-Jones as a heisman trophy candidate for 2014. That's the upside. The downside would be another trip to the DL. If he can stay healthy, Seals-Jones could be the kind of unstoppable wide receiver that the spread teams rarely have. A burner with the body of a power forward. Someone has to step in for Evans' production and Seals-Jones might be that guy. He'll just need to stay on the field.