SDS will be looking at each SEC team’s spring practice and address concerns entering and exiting on both sides of the ball.
Ready for an encore: I’m not sure there has ever been as much of an anticipated season as what’s upcoming for Texas A&M. And at the center of all the hype is slippery and electrifying Johnny Manziel, and he’s absolutely ready for an encore. During this offseason, Manziel added muscle and came out throwing the ball harder than at any point last season. Skeptics abound over his arm strength, and he’ll prove them wrong this fall. Maybe his overall numbers can’t get better, but he will improve as a player and as a passer. Don’t expect a sophomore slump.
Stacked backfield: With returners Ben Malena and Trey Williams, TAMU already had a strong one-two punch. And now, with eligible transfers Brandon Williams and Tra Carson added into the mix, and it could become the SEC’s strongest backfield. Of the four, Malena and Brandon Williams should lead the rushing attack, but watch out for Trey Williams’ nasty self on special teams. LSU had a legit four-headed monster at running back last year, but the Aggies have four plus one, with Manziel taking every snap. That sound you hear is Bob Stoops still crying.
The Big Show: Call Mike Evans whatever you want, but I’m calling him The Radius. At 6-5, 220 pounds, Evans catches everything thrown in a 10’ realm. He quietly had a stupid season in College Station as a freshman, nabbing 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns. All the attention is on Johnny Manziel and offensive tackle Jake Matthews, but Evans could have the highest ceiling at the next level.
Quiet assassins: Texas A&M was home to one of the more underrated defenses in the country. Just ninth in the SEC in total defense, they progressively improved throughout the season, and the Cotton Bowl was a magnificent display of the body of work that took place all year. Losing Damontre Moore and four others in the front seven is a huge obstacle, but there’s complete confidence in defensive coordinator Mark Snyder to put all the pieces together enough to make a championship run. Auburn finished ninth in the conference in total defense in 2010 while still winning a national championship. That’s the goal.
New names emerge: The trio of linebacker Stephen Jenkins and defensive linemen Julien Obioha and Kirby Ennis all missed spring practice, leaving the entire front seven with fresh faces. Senior Nate Askew switched from receiver to linebacker, and he proved he’ll make an impact this fall. Defensive lineman Tyrell Taylor also had a strong spring, including two sacks in the Aggies’ spring game. He’s an edge rusher who will be needed with Damontre Moore’s absence. Another fresh face is defensive back Floyd Raven’s transition to free safety. Absent familiarity to the new position, Raven could become one of the better safeties in the league once he learns the position. However, depth and experience along the defensive line remains an issue.
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