Power Ranking Texas A&M's Positional Units for 2014
The Texas A&M football team will have more talent and depth on the field in 2014 than it did in 2013. The Aggies have multiple positions where their overall depth should lead to improved results on the field in 2014.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have done a tremendous job of turning over the roster with SEC-level talent. They have recruited consecutive top-10 classes and stocked the depth chart with players with the requisite size and speed necessary to compete for SEC titles.
The Aggies have improved depth, but they do not have great depth at every position. There are positions on the roster where there are multiple NFL prospects and other positions where they are struggling to put SEC-level starters on the field.
This is a look at the positions on the 2014 Aggies football team from the weakest to the strongest. The positions will be judged by overall depth and the presence of high-level players in the starting lineup.
The linebacker position is the weakest overall position on the Aggies roster. They have one proven playmaker among the three starters, and he did not start any games in 2013.
The starting lineup for the Aggies in 2014 will be Shaan Washington at strong-side linebacker, Jordan Mastrogiovanni in the middle and Donnie Baggs on the weak side.
Washington is a solid player. The 6'3", 230-pound sophomore registered 26 tackles with three sacks in 2013. He has the size and speed to be an effective linebacker in he SEC.
Mastrogiovanni started the bowl game at middle linebacker for the suspended Darian Claiborne. Now that Claiborne has been dismissed from the team, he will start in the middle in 2014.
Mastrogiovanni failed to consistently get off blocks in 2013 and did not display good instincts. He will need to make a monumental jump in his level of play in order to be a quality middle linebacker in the SEC.
Baggs had his only career start at outside linebacker in 2012. He was the Aggies' starter at middle linebacker in 2013 but was benched for ineffective play. Baggs' biggest issue is his lack of size. He is built more like an SEC safety than a linebacker.
The second-team linebackers are Reggie Chevis in the middle, A.J. Hilliard on the strong side and Justin Bass at weak-side linebacker. Incoming freshmen Otaro Alaka and Josh Walker will be given the opportunity to compete for playing time immediately.
This Aggies coaches could use a few surprises at this position because right now, it is not looking very strong.
The Aggies secondary struggled a lot in 2013. The safety play was particularly poor. With four returning starters in the secondary, there is more experience than in 2013, but whether that leads to better results on the field remains to be seen.
Deshazor Everett returns for his senior season at cornerback. Everett will be allowed to focus on playing corner this year after switching between corner and safety the past two years. He is arguably the best defensive player on the Aggies roster and should have a very good senior year.
De'Vante Harris will be entering his third season as a starter opposite Everett. It is time for him to step up and become the elite cover corner that everyone expected him to be coming out of high school.
At safety, the Aggies are returning senior starters Floyd Raven and Howard Matthews. Normally, that kind of experience would be a positive, but their play was so poor in 2013 that many Aggies fans were hoping they would be beat out.
If Raven and Matthews can improve their play in 2014 to where they are just average safeties, that would be a huge boost to the A&M defense. Simply being solid in pass coverage would be a tremendous leap in level of play from 2013.
Sophomore defensive back Noel Ellis returns to play nickel. He, along with redshirt freshman Victor Davis, will back up Everett and Harris at corner. True freshman Nick Harvey will be given a look at safety and corner. He will play in 2014; the only questions are at what position and how much.
Harvey could legitimately earn a starting spot at safety if the coaches like what they see from him. Clay Honeycutt and Jonathan Wiggins are the backups at safety. After linebacker, the safeties are the biggest area of concern on the team.
Sumlin has had great quarterback play on every team he has coached since becoming a head coach. That will not change in 2014 when either Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill take the snaps for the Aggies.
Allen was able to enroll early at A&M and complete spring practices and offseason workouts with the team. Hill is more of a dual-threat quarterback than Allen and has actually taken a few college snaps, completing 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown in 2013.
The Aggies will have a successful quarterback under center in 2014—it is just a mystery as to who that person will be right now.
The real issue for the Aggies at the position is that there is little depth. If the starter goes down, there is only one other scholarship quarterback on the roster. The Aggies are going to have to hope for good health at the position in 2014.
The Aggies return three of four starters from their 2013 defensive line. That defensive line struggled to consistently get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but it will have much-improved depth in 2014.
Gavin Stansbury returns at strong-side defensive end, Alonzo Williams at defensive tackle and Julien Obioha at weak-side defensive end from the 2013 team. Obioha is currently listed as the second-team end behind Stansbury on the strong side.
That is where Aggies fans should expect to see him in 2014, as he is simply not a good fit on the weak side. The starting lineup will be Stansbury on the strong side, true freshman Zaycoven Henderson at nose guard, Williams at defensive tackle and Daeshon Hall at weak-side defensive end.
Do not be surprised if this lineup changes throughout the season. Against powerful run teams like LSU and Mississippi State, you could see Williams move out to strong-side defensive end and Hardreck Walker start at defensive tackle.
The second-team defensive line will be Obioha at strong-side defensive end, Walker at nose guard, Justin Manning at defensive tackle and true freshman Myles Garrett at weak-side defensive end. Do not be surprised to see Garrett take over the starting spot on the weak side sooner rather than later.
Sophomore Jay Arnold will move back and forth from strong-side defensive end to defensive tackle depending on the coaches' preference. The Aggies have a lot more experience and depth on the defensive line than they had in 2013. Now, the players need to step up and show improvement on the field.
The Aggies will only use one true tight end in 2014—Cameron Clear. The 6'6", 270-pound senior is a tremendous blocker who also has soft hands. He was underutilized in 2013, but with offensive coordinator Jake Spavital calling plays, Clear will be a major part of the offense in 2014.
Clear is a physical mismatch for safeties and linebackers. He excels at holding the edge in the running game and will give the Aggies' quarterback a huge target underneath.
Senior Brandon Alexander is listed as the second-team tight end, but he rarely sees the field. If the Aggies want to go to a two-tight end formation in 2014, then expect Ricky Seals-Jones to line up next to the offensive tackle and give the Aggies another receiving option.
Tight end is a position of strength for the Aggies because Clear is such a physically gifted player. Aggies fans should expect him to catch 30 or more passes in 2014 before moving on to the NFL.
The Aggies only return one starting wide receiver from 2013, but the depth of talent at the position is exceptional. The Aggies will have three new starters in 2014, but they may be better as a unit than what the team had in 2013.
Senior slot receiver Malcome Kennedy returns after catching 60 passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. He is a solid possession receiver with good moves after the catch.
Junior college transfer Josh Reynolds was a revelation in the spring. He will start on the outside, and his 6'4", 190-pound frame should create mismatches with opposing defensive backs.
True freshman Speedy Noil enrolled at A&M in January and participated in spring practices. The top-ranked receiver recruit in the country impressed his coaches and teammates enough to earn a starting spot in the slot opposite of Kennedy.
Ricky Seals-Jones will start on the outside opposite of Reynolds. The 6'6", 240-pound receiver will use his size and speed to overwhelm opposing defensive backs.
The second-team receivers are Edward Pope on the outside, Sabian Holmes at slot receiver, LaQuvionte Gonzalez at the other slot and Kyrion Parker on the outside. Gonzalez is very dynamic with the ball in his hands.
Parker struggled with injuries during the spring but earned praise for his play on the scout team while he redshirted in 2013. Holmes has struggled with consistency since he arrived on campus. If he can become more reliable with his hands, he can become a difference-maker for the Aggies.
Sophomore Jeremy Tabuyo caught five passes for 21 yards in 2013. He should make a jump in production now that he has had a year in the system.
The Texas A&M football team will again have one of the best offensive lines in the country in 2014. The Aggies have produced at least one All-American offensive lineman in each of the past two seasons, and left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi will look to continue that trend in 2014.
The Aggies returned four of their five starting linemen from the 2013 team. Ogbuehi moves over to left tackle to replace the departed Jake Matthews. Germain Ifedi will slide over from right guard to right tackle to take Ogbuehi's spot. Senior Jarvis Harrison returns at left guard, and Mike Matthews returns at center.
Joseph Cheek, Garrett Gramling, Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy will compete for the starting spot at right guard. Aggies fans should expect Gennesy to win the competition to be the starter.
Texas A&M should have very good depth in 2014. The backup offensive line will be Jeremiah Stuckey at left tackle, Garrett Gramling at left guard, Ben Compton at center, Jermaine Eluemunor at right guard and Joseph Cheek at right tackle.
Gramling started two games at left guard in 2013. Compton, Cheek and Stuckey have seen extensive playing time. The Aggies have the talent and depth to have an elite offensive line in 2014.
The deepest position on the Aggies football team is at running back. The Aggies have three running backs who could start on other teams.
Junior running backs Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams are all very good running backs. As a group, they averaged over six yards per carry in 2013.
The Aggies will rely more on the running game in 2014 as they break in a new quarterback. Aggies fans should expect Carson, Williams and Williams to each get at least 100 carries in 2014.
James White redshirted in 2013, and the 6'0", 218-pound running back should make an impact in 2014. Aggies fans should expect to see White in short yardage and goal-line situations along with Carson.
The Aggies rushed for 2,406 yards as a team in 2013. Do not be surprised to see the running backs surpass the 2,500-yard mark as a position. They have as much depth and talent at running back as any team in the country not named Alabama.