Texas A&M Football: Midseason Grades for Players and Coaches
The Texas A&M football team is 5-1 at the halfway point of the season, with a 2-1 record in the Southeastern Conference. There have been many surprises and a few disappointments during the first half of the season for the Aggies.
Texas A&M has extended its road winning streak in the SEC to six games. It lost its matchup with No. 1 Alabama 49-42, but for the most part is right on schedule for where most pundits had it through six games of the season.
The Aggies are halfway through the season and are still on pace to qualify for a major bowl game. They need to run the table during the second half of the season to remain in contention to qualify for the SEC Championship Game.
These are the positional grades for the Aggies at the midseason point.
This grade is not an "A" because of the offensive play-calling. Head coach Kevin Sumlin has done an outstanding job keeping the team focused after an offseason of distractions.
Offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney has had some questionable play-calling this season, with the Ole Miss game standing out the most.
McKinney forgot that he has a very nice stable of running backs and used quarterback Johnny Manziel as a battering ram against the Ole Miss front. He went five-wide and passed the ball when Ole Miss had five in the box.
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder is still competing with one hand tied behind his back. The Aggies simply do not have the playmakers on the defensive line to compete with the elite teams in the SEC.
Aggie defensive line coach Terry Price was a miracle worker in 2012 with Spencer Nealy and the rest of the defensive line. In 2013, he has been unable to will his defensive ends into being difference-makers.
Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel is a once-in-a-generation type of player. Everyone who sees him play will tell their grandchildren stories about what he did on the field.
Manziel has completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,835 yards and 14 touchdowns, while rushing for 427 yards and five touchdowns.
Matt Joeckel filled in for Manziel during the first half of the season opener and when Manziel was dinged up against Ole Miss. Joeckel has completed 64 percent of his passes for 254 yards and a touchdown.
The quarterback play through the first half of the season has been excellent.
The Aggies have a group of four running backs as good as any in the nation. Senior Ben Malena is the rushing leader among the group, with 375 yards on the season and eight touchdowns.
Tra Carson has shown surprising wiggle to go along with his power. He has rushed for 237 yards and four touchdowns. Trey Williams brings speed to the position and has scored three touchdowns while averaging 7.8 yards per carry.
Brandon Williams is fighting to find carries. He has rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries. The only knock on this group is that it has probably been underutilized. Clarence McKinney and the offensive coaches should lean on the running backs a little more.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Sophomore wide receiver Mike Evans is having an All-American-type year. Evans has caught 32 passes for 737 yards and five touchdowns.
Junior Malcome Kennedy has stepped up in the slot. He has 30 catches for 331 yards and four touchdowns.
Derel Walker has been a pleasant surprise with 24 catches for 336 yards. Sophomore Sabian Holmes is a work in progress in the slot across from Kennedy. He has caught 16 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown.
Senior Travis Labhart has come out of nowhere to be a difference-maker. He has caught 11 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.
The tight ends have been non-existent. Cameron Clear has been targeted twice in the first six games. He has one reception for a touchdown. Nehemiah Hicks has no receptions.
The Texas A&M offensive line is once again among the best in the nation. The Aggies are averaging 5.5 yards per carry and are passing for 361 yards per game. The Aggie offensive line has paved the way for 586 yards per game on offense.
Senior left tackle Jake Matthews has lived up to his All-American billing. Junior right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi had a false start against Ole Miss but has probably been the most dominant lineman on the team.
Junior left guard Jarvis Harrison continues to be a road-grader for the running game. Sophomore center Mike Matthews has been solid. Freshman right guard Germain Ifedi has been dominant at times and has looked like a freshman at others.
Both Ifedi and Mike Matthews should improve as the season goes on. Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi will both compete for All-American honors.
If you want to know why the Aggies are 5-1 instead of 6-0, you need look no further than the defensive line. The defensive line's inability to stop the run and generate any kind of pass rush has prevented the Aggies from putting a decent defense on the field.
Sophomore defensive tackle Alonzo Williams has been solid, with 17 tackles and two sacks. True freshman Isaiah Golden is starting at nose guard. He is replacing the injured Kirby Ennis.
The defensive end position for A&M is the least-productive position on the team. Julien Obioha and Gavin Stansbury have combined for 24 tackles and two tackles for loss through six games.
Their inability to generate a pass rush and hold the edge against the run has led to many frustrating games for Aggie fans.
The Aggies are allowing 5.7 yards per rush because their defensive line is pushed around by every offensive line they face.
This grade would have been an "F" right along with the defensive line had these grades been given out two games ago. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder benched Donnie Baggs and Tommy Sanders and started freshman Darian Claiborne and senior Nate Askew in their stead.
Claiborne gets better every game, and he is one of the few Aggie linebackers who is effective at getting off a block and making a play. Askew is a former receiver who has used his speed to be a difference-maker on defense.
Claiborne leads the team with four tackles for loss and added an interception against Ole Miss. Askew has three tackles for loss and one of the Aggies' five sacks for the season.
Senior outside linebacker Steven Jenkins has been active, but has not been making as many big plays as he did in 2012. He is second on the team with 34 tackles.
This is a hard position to grade. Good defensive lines make good secondaries look great. Bad defensive lines can make good secondaries look mediocre.
The Aggies are allowing opponents to complete 58 percent of their passes for 273 yards per game. At the same time, their play at cornerback has been very solid.
Deshazor Everett has played both cornerback and safety and is having an All-SEC type season. He is the Aggies' best defensive player and has made 33 tackles with two tackles for loss and two interceptions.
Sophomore cornerback De'Vante Harris has improved monumentally over his freshman season. Harris has 29 tackles with a tackle for loss through six games. Compare that to 2012, when he had 30 tackles in 12 games.
Harris has developed into a much more physical player against the run and is much more consistent in coverage. Tramain Jacobs has stepped in and been a solid corner opposite of Harris.
Everett moved to free safety because Clay Hunnicutt was a liability at the position. Howard Matthews is the strong safety and leads the team in tackles with 38 on the season.
He has struggled mightily in coverage in 2013. He was particularly poor against Ole Miss, when two coverage busts led to Rebels touchdowns. The silver lining for Aggie fans is that Matthews played very poorly during the first half of 2012 and then came on during the second half of the season and was a very effective defensive player.
Aggie fans must hope to see a repeat of that in 2013.
The Aggies have finally found a place-kicker in Josh Lambo. The former MLS goalkeeper has connected on four of five field-goal attempts, including the game-winner against Ole Miss.
Drew Kaser is averaging 47.5 yards per punt. He has been consistently great in 2013. The question for Kaser is whether he will have enough punts on the season to qualify for conference and national honors.
De'Vante Harris is averaging a very good 12.3 yards per return. The Aggies are averaging 20.3 yards per kickoff return.
The Aggies are solid on special teams overall. They are not yet at the level where they can win games with their return game alone or block a lot of kicks. They are solid and are not getting hurt by poor special teams play.