Texas A&M wide receivers: Are they overrated or underutilized?
Since the arrival of quarterback Johnny Manziel and a fast-paced attack that coach Kevin Sumlin brought to College Station, big passing numbers have been the norm at Texas A&M. It’s worked, and it’s been entertaining.
Until this year. The Texas A&M passing game wasn’t up to par. In fact, it wasn’t even close to par.
The Aggies struggled mightily in the passing game this season. Three different quarterbacks were called to duty to try to fix the problem. None succeeded with any consistency, although sophomore Kyle Allen was far and away the most dependable of the trio.
Struggles at QB led to problems for a highly-touted receiving corps starved for touches. But it’s not all on the Aggies quarterbacks, who completed 87 fewer passes and attempted 80 fewer passes than last year. Receivers dropped their share of passes and the result was a significant drop in production. The Aggies averaged 254.4 yards passing this season, a dropoff of some 50 yards per game over last year’s 305.5 average.
So that begs the question. Are the Texas A&M wide receivers overrated or underutilized? Perhaps it’s a combination of both. Neither the quarterbacks nor wide receivers performed up to standards this season.
Last season, the Aggies boasted a quartet of receivers that combined for 200 catches and 2,501 yards alone. They were four of 18 different players to catch at least one pass in 2014.
Three of the four returned this season, and big things were expected. But they combined for only 103 catches.
Ricky Seals-Jones caught 42 passes during the regular season and has a chance to equal last year’s 49 receptions with a good game at the Music City Bowl against Louisville, on Dec. 30 in Nashville. Josh Reynolds would have to have a huge game to equal last year’s totals. He needs 12 catches to match the 52 he hauled in last season.
Injuries hampered Speedy Noil after a sensational freshman season. In just nine games this season, Noil pulled in only 21 passes. That’s less than half of his output (46) in 2014.
None of the three led the team in receiving this season. That achievement belonged to a true freshman that took College Station by storm. Christian Kirk not only far and away led the Aggies in pass receptions with 70, which was fourth-best in the SEC, but he also led the nation with an average of 24.4 yards per punt return – taking two back for touchdowns.
Kirk became the go-to receiver from the very beginning. He caught six passes for 106 yards and a touchdown in the season opener against Arizona State and never looked back. Three games later, against Arkansas, he had a season-high 173 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches.
With his 130 all-purpose yards against LSU in the regular season finale, Kirk broke the school’s freshman single-season record (1,659) set by Cyrus Gray in 2008. He needs 75 receiving yards in the Music City Bowl game to reach 1,000 for the season.
Aggies quarterbacks seemed to have no trouble finding Kirk. Why he was far and away the favorite target is up for debate. Special attention in the form of double teams on Reynolds and Seals-Jones could be part of it, especially early. The quarterbacks seemed to find a comfort level with him, even though his production dropped off the down the stretch.
Either way, the addition of Kirk to the receiving corps trio can only add to its potency. Finding someone to consistency get the ball to them is the big question mark heading into the 2016 season. This should be a dynamic group, and we’re waiting on them to explode.