With all that is being said and written about Texas A&M football and returning Heisman quarterback Johnny Manziel as the 2013 season approaches, the A&M running backs seem to be taking a backseat.
Outside of College Station not many people are aware of the depth and talent Coach Kevin Sumlin holds in his backfield arsenal—a quartet that could start at any program in college football. And that’s not even including a run-happy Manziel.
By season’s end, the Aggies could have the best running back corps in the Southeastern Conference, if not the nation.
The Aggies will welcome back senior Ben Malena and sophomore Trey Williams, and open up the backfield to Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams and Oregon transfer Tra Carson, after both sat out last year. Sophomore Brice Dolezal and incoming freshman James White will also help fill out the depth chart.
Let’s start with Malena: One of the most underrated backs in the SEC. As a junior, Malena started over senior Christine Michael—who went on to be a third-round NFL Draft pick with the Seahawks—onward to an 808 yard rushing season, including 111 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Malena finished behind Manziel as the team’s leading rusher and showed week-in-week-out his speed and physicality as a rusher and blocker for Manziel.
The below clip of Malena running over a Florida safety is quite impressive:
Trey Williams was a five-star running back coming out of high school, and flashed glimpses of his speed and talent on special teams last season, returning the ball for 557 yards on kickoff returns, including a 76 yard return against LSU.
Williams rushed for 376 yards on the season, and 171 yards receiving, scoring five touchdowns. Williams is a home run threat anywhere on the field, and will be a key cog in Sumlin’s offense this season.
So far, Brandon Williams has lived up to his hype and performed as advertised. The guy they call “Slim” is already a fan favorite among Aggies—one of the few players to ever get a celebration penalty in a spring game after scoring a touchdown, which garnered a grin from Coach Sumlin. Williams was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, attending Oklahoma his freshman year before transferring to A&M, where he rushed for 219 yards on 46 carries through eight games. The only performance Williams has delivered in maroon and white was this year’s spring game, rushing for 59 yards on seven carries and scored one touchdown. Williams has boundless opportunity to solidify himself as one of the best backs in the nation, and to start over Malena.
Much like Brandon Williams, Tra Carson found himself homesick for Texas after his freshman year, transferring from Oregon to A&M. Carson appeared in 10 games with the Ducks, and was the team’s fourth-leading rusher with 254 yards. Carson is the most interesting back on the roster. He is a bruising, 230 pound running back with soft hands and quick feet—reminiscent of former A&M fullback Javorskie Lane, but not quite as big. Carson is a pure athlete that can be utilized in many different ways. He is not only a first-and-goal and red zone threat, but is said to have the best hands out of all of the A&M running backs.
Last season Manziel accumulated about 20 percent of the total offensive yards on his feet. Some of the plays were designed; most of it was improvising/turning into positive yardage, which made him unpredictable and highly effective.
So what ever happened to Sumlin’s hokey “air raid” offense that “won’t work in the SEC?”
Well, the Aggies effectively ran the ball in 2012 for about 50 percent of their total offensive yards to win 11 games. In a league that’s played at the line of scrimmage, Sumlin’s Aggies either went through opponents or over them—at a rapid speed. The Aggies out rushed its opponents 3,384 to 2,139 yards, with only two primary running backs. The Aggies’ rushing yards will increase in 2013.
With the addition of Brandon Williams and Carson to the backfield, on top of veterans Malena and Trey Williams, the Aggies’ offense will be so dynamic and deep, it will be near impossible to game plan for—and that’s not even mentioning the receiving corps or Manziel.
Photo Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports