Meet Texas A&M's New Starters for 2014
The Texas A&M football team will be deeper than it was in 2013, but it still has some areas of questionable depth. The Aggies return 12 starters from the 2013 squad, so they will be breaking in 10 new starters when they open the season against South Carolina.
The Aggies defense was going to be rewarded for taking its lumps in 2013 while playing so many freshmen. That plan was foiled when two of the starters from 2013 in Darian Claiborn and Isaiah Golden were dismissed from the team. The expected starter at strong-side defensive end, Gavin Stansbury, decided to transfer.
This is a look at who the starters will be against South Carolina on August 28 with the information that is available right now.
QB Kenny Hill
Kenny Hill is a 6'1", 215-pound sophomore quarterback from Southlake, Texas. He beat out true freshman Kyle Allen for the starting position.
Hill played in four games in 2013, completing 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 37 yards on seven carries. Hill gives the Aggies a running option at quarterback that they would not have if Allen was under center.
When a play breaks down, Hill can be an extra running back on the field. He has a different running style than his predecessor Johnny Manziel. While Manziel dazzled fans with his elusiveness, Hill is more of a power runner and will lower his shoulder and steamroll defenders.
During his six years as a head coach, Kevin Sumlin's quarterbacks have averaged 360 yards passing per game. Hill should continue that trend in 2014. Aggies fans should expect Hill to pass for around 3,000 yards and rush for 500 yards, as the Aggies will have one of the top offenses in the country.
RB Tra Carson
The starting running back position is still in a state of flux. The Aggies can start any one of three junior running backs that include Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams.
The best bet to start against South Carolina is Carson. The 6'0", 235-pound athlete from Texarkana, Texas, rushed for 329 yards with seven touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2013.
He is the best pass-blocker among the three juniors. He excels at running the ball, providing pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield. He is the most complete running back on the roster, which is why he will be tapped to start on the road in Columbia, South Carolina.
Trey Williams and Brandon Williams will both see plenty of carries, but Carson will be the starter when the Aggies line up to play the Gamecocks.
WR Ricky Seals-Jones
Ricky Seals-Jones is a 6'5", 235-pound receiver from Sealy, Texas. He is a redshirt freshman who played against Rice in the 2013 season but suffered a knee injury and missed the rest of the year.
Seals-Jones caught three passes for 84 yards and a touchdown against Rice. He played outside receiver in 2013 but will play inside receiver in 2014. He will also spend some time in the backfield as an H-back and possibly split off the line as a flex tight end.
Seals-Jones has a rare combination of size and speed that makes it hard for any defender to match up against him. His size should be a major asset in the red zone.
With the departure of Mike Evans to the NFL, Seals-Jones can step into the role of the big receiver the Aggies quarterback looks to when he is in trouble.
WR Speedy Noil
Speedy Noil is a 5'11", 193-pound receiver from New Orleans, Louisiana. He played quarterback and receiver for Edna Karr High School and was ranked as the top wide receiver recruit in the country by 247Sports.com.
Noil will start at outside receiver for the Aggies. He has tremendous quickness and is very elusive. Noil will be a threat in the passing game and on returns in special teams.
He should put up big numbers in Kevin Sumlin's spread offense and will threaten to lead the Aggies in receptions as a true freshman. He will be an impact player from the moment he steps on the field.
WR Josh Reynolds
Josh Reynolds is a 6'4", 190-pound receiver who transferred to A&M from Tyler Junior College. He will be starting at outside receiver opposite from Speedy Noil.
Reynolds earned his starting spot with strong play throughout spring practices and fall camp. He caught 44 passes for 782 yards and 12 touchdowns during his lone season in junior college.
Reynolds will have three seasons of eligibility left with the Aggies. He did not enter the program with as much hype as Ricky Seals-Jones or Speedy Noil, but he has the potential to make just as big of an impact.
OG Joseph Cheek
Joseph Cheek is a 6'7", 310-pound junior offensive lineman for the Aggies. He will start at right guard in 2014. Sophomore Germain Ifedi played right guard in 2013, but he slid out to right tackle to replace Cedric Ogbuehi, which left an opening.
Cheek is a fourth-year junior who has seen plenty of playing time during the past two seasons and has earned two letters. He beat out junior college transfers Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy for the right guard spot.
The Aggies return four starters from their 2013 offensive line. If Cheek plays well at right guard, Texas A&M will have one of the top offensive lines in the country.
NG Hardrick Walker
Hardrick Walker is a 6'2", 300-pound sophomore defensive lineman from Spring, Texas. He is going to be the starter at nose guard in 2014.
Walker started the first game of his college career against Rice in 2013. He was ineffective and saw minimal playing time as the year went on. He registered five total tackles as a freshman in 2013.
Walker has played well enough to hold off true freshman Zaycoven Henderson for the starting spot at nose guard. It will be of utmost importance for Walker to play well in the season opener against South Carolina.
The Gamecocks are going to try to control the game by handing the ball to running back Mike Davis. If Walker is strong in the middle and can stuff the run, then the Aggies will have success in slowing down the South Carolina offense.
DE Daeshon Hall
Daeshon Hall is a 6'6", 260-pound sophomore defensive end from Lancaster, Texas. He will start at weak-side defensive end for the Aggies in 2014.
Hall did not record a sack in 2013 as a true freshman, but he possesses natural pass-rush ability. He can bend and get to the quarterback. He was simply too light in 2013 to beat the SEC offensive linemen.
Hall has added almost 20 pounds of muscle to his frame and should be a much more effective defensive lineman in 2014. He and true freshman Myles Garrett should give the Aggies a pass rush that was sorely missing from the front four in 2013.
If Hall can provide a consistent pass rush, he could end up being the most valuable player on the defense.
LB A.J. Hilliard
A.J. Hilliard is a 6'2", 230-pound linebacker from Klein, Texas. He transferred to Texas A&M after a year at TCU.
Hilliard will start at strong-side linebacker for the Aggies in 2014. He will offer more size at the position than the team had in 2013 when Tommy Sanders was playing. Sanders was the size of a quality SEC safety in 2013 at around 210 pounds.
The linebacker position is a huge question mark for the Aggies entering the season. The unit, as a whole, was simply too small to stand up to the SEC running games in 2013.
In 2014 the linebackers have more size, but it remains to be seen how effective they will be. If Hilliard and the rest of the linebackers are simply solid, that will be a quantum leap from the 2013 season.
CB Victor Davis
Victor Davis is a 6'0", 191-pound redshirt freshman cornerback from Rosenberg, Texas. He is expected to start against South Carolina because De'Vante Harris is still injured.
Davis will see the first live action of his career against the Gamecocks. He offers the Aggies more size than Harris, and that should help against a physical offense like South Carolina.
The Aggies will need him to come up and help defend the run against Mike Davis and the Gamecocks offense. It is not known at this point whether Davis will be serving some kind of suspension during the opening game.
He ran into some trouble off the field during the offseason. If he does not start on August 28, then look for sophomore Alex Sezer to step in for him.