More Aggies Not Named Johnny: Texas A&M’s Most Important Players Continued
This is the second portion of a look into Texas A&M’s other playmakers. Part One can be found here.
5. Julien Obioha – Defensive End
Questions about Obioha’s health still remain after a back injury that kept him out of the Cotton Bowl. If he does come back at 100%, Obioha will be a big time playmaker on defense. Most likely playing strong side d-end he will be a key in stopping the run against the many talented SEC running backs. He excelled at sealing the edge last year and will be a force coming off edge. Along with Ennis, he comes in with at least a year of experience of starting on the d-line. If he can draw the attention of the offensive line, guys like Brandon Alexander and Tyrone Taylor will be able to provide a deadly pass rush from the weak side d-end position.
4. Deshazor Everett – Cornerback
When looking at the A&M secondary there are plenty of choices of who could be the biggest playmaker. Tony Hurd Jr. could certainly make this top ten as he tends to make big plays in pressure situations. But in terms of talent and the player who could be A&M’s biggest breakout player this year, it is Deshazor Everett. Of course Everett broke out a bit last year when he registered the interception of A.J. McCarron that basically sealed the win for A&M in Tuscaloosa. This year the junior has a chance to develop into the SEC’s next big time cornerback. He has the versatility to play both corner and safety and will be expected to be a shutdown corner this year.
3. Ben Malena – Running Back
Malena is the sure-fire starter among the many Aggie running backs next season. This is not only because he is the most experienced or best runner (he averaged a ridiculous 5.9 yards per carry last year), but he may be the best running back in the nation at picking up the blitz. Throughout the 2012 season teams tried their hardest to get as much pressure on Manziel as they could, and with Malena in the game it was rare to see a blitzing linebacker get by him. He also was great at providing down field blocking for a scrambling Manziel. But that’s not it, without Manziel last year Malena would have easily been a 1000 yard rusher and could have flirted with 1500. With all the talent in the A&M backfield this year Malena may not even reach the 826 yards he gained last year, but he will bring an almost guaranteed gain of five yards every time he touches the ball. His ability to find the hole was on full display when gashing the LSU, Ole Miss, and Miss. State defenses for big yards last year. Malena will be an offensive leader this year, and from the standpoint of being the best all-around fit into the Sumlin offense, he’s the man at running back.
1 & 2. Jake Matthews – Left Tackle, Mike Evans – Wide Reciever
Though the last eight players are vital to a good season for the Aggies, there is no doubt that other than Manziel, Matthews and Evans are the most important figures on the team. Now deciding who is more important between the two non-Heisman winners…that’s nearly impossible. That’s why I copped out and put them together here.
I’ll start with Matthews; he could have easily gone to the NFL last year and been a first round pick but decided to come back. His decision was probably most affected by having an opportunity to play with his little brother, Mike, on the offensive line. It is possible that he also wanted to prove he could play left tackle just as well as he played right tackle last year, and many project that he will be even better than Joeckel. Those are big shoes to fill, but if anybody can do it, Jake Matthews is the guy. One of the most impressive things the o-line did last year was conform to blocking for Manziel. Matthews was dominant force last year, with the ability to hold blocks as long as Manziel needed him too, which at times was for a day or two. Now he’s protecting Manziel’s blind side, and by the end of the year he will be a no doubt top ten draft pick.
Mike Evans flew a bit under the radar nationally last year with all the Manziel hype. In Aggieland though, Mike Evans is loved as much as any other player. As a redshirt freshman he had 82 receptions for 1105 yards and 5 touchdowns. He comes back as one of the top three receivers in the SEC and top 10 in the nation, and by the end of the year he could very well be the best. At 6’5” 220 lbs, there is not a corner strong enough to compete with him. Add in a 39 inch vertical and the ball just has to be in his general vicinity and he’ll make the catch. With his enormous wing span he just reaches out and plucks the ball out of the air, rarely ever catching a ball with his body. With all that, perhaps the most special thing about Evans is how strong he is. Anytime he makes a catch he is going for another five yards at least after the catch. A&M utilized this tremendously last year, hitting him with a lot of three to five yard passes and letting him carry defenders another five. On 2nd and long he was the go to man to either make it 3rd and short or get the first down. He also made the catch last year that many Aggies say was the turning point in the Aggie season. Against Ole Miss, down by 10, with a 3rd and 20 plus from the one yard line, Manziel threw a prayer to Evans and he went over the top of the defender to make a tremendous grab for the first down and spark the comeback win in a game that saw the Aggies turn the ball over six times. Evans will be Manziel’s favorite target without a doubt, especially with a young and inexperienced receiving corp. Expect huge numbers this year from Evans and for him to be a main reason that the Aggie offense is as explosive as it was last year.
The other players that were just outside the top 10 include Jarvis Harrison at left guard, Tony Hurd Jr. at strong safety, and Brandon Alexander at defensive end. There are plenty of other players who could have made this list, but I believe these are the 10 guys who will be the most important to a National Championship run for the Aggies.
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