It comes as no surprise, but Texas A&M sophomore receiver Mike Evans made his plans officially known Thursday when the school announced that Evans will declare for the 2014 NFL draft and forgo his final two seasons of eligibility.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound receiver was one of college football's best receivers this season and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. Evans caught 69 passes for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He led the SEC in receiving yards, tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns, and was No. 1 in the country in receptions of 30 or more yards with 17.
Evans showcased his ability several times this season, particularly when the Aggies hosted Alabama and Auburn. Against the Crimson Tide, Evans caught seven passes for 279 yards and a 95-yard touchdown. Against the Tigers, he hauled in 11 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. projects Evans as a first-round pick. If Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel follows Evans (the deadline to declare is Jan. 15), it means the Aggies will have to replace their two best offensive skill position players next season.
The journey Evans took to this point is an interesting one. He was a basketball star at Galveston (Texas) Ball High and played only one season of varsity high school football. After signing with Texas A&M, he redshirted his first year but broke out as a redshirt freshman with 82 catches for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns.
The Aggies will head into the fall minus three of their top four pass-catchers. Derel Walker (51 catches, 818 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Travis Labhart (51 catches, 626 yards, 8 touchdowns) were both seniors. Junior receiver Malcome Kennedy (60 catches, 658 yards, 7 touchdowns) looks to be the returning statistical leader in the group.
That means a lot of youth will be served at the position come next season. Freshman LaQuvionte Gonzalez, who saw playing time in the second half of the season and the bowl game, projects to have a role, as will freshman Ricky Seals-Jones, who caught a touchdown in the season opener but missed most of the season with a knee injury and is seeking a medical redshirt.
And there might be an even younger receiver who could make an impact. The Aggies got good news on the recruiting front Thursday when five-star athlete Speedy Noil announced at the Under Armour All-America Game that he has committed to Texas A&M. Noil, the nation's No. 1 athlete and the SPARQ national champion at The Opening this past summer, projects as a receiver in the wide-open Aggies offense. The talent pipeline at receiver appears to be flowing nicely.
As for Evans, he leaves College Station having rewritten some A&M receiving records and making a significant impact in a short amount of time.
Evans, a finalist for the 2013 Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver, just put the finishing touches on a career season in which he posted personal highs in receiving yards (1,394) and receiving touchdowns (12).
"After talking things over with Coach [Kevin] Sumlin and my family I have decided to enter the NFL draft," Evans said in a statement. "... I made this decision based on what I thought was best for myself and my family."
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Evans was a handful for opposing defenses this season. Against Alabama and Auburn, Evans combined for 18 receptions for 566 yards and five touchdowns and was the first player in SEC history to have two games of 225 or more receiving yards.
ESPN College Football and NFL Draft Analyst Todd McShay had Evans going 20th overall in the first round of his first mock draft of the 2014 cycle. Evans is ranked as the 24th-best draft prospect in Scouts Inc.'s Top 32 for 2014 and ranked as the third-best receiver in the draft.
"It's been a pleasure watching Mike's development as a receiver and a person the past two seasons," Sumlin said in a release by the school. "Mike was one of the team's hardest workers in whatever he was doing, and it paid off for him on the field."
Evans, who played only one season of varsity high school football at Galveston Ball High, signed with Texas A&M in 2011 and redshirted his first season. In 2012, Evans burst on the scene with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns.
- At this time last year, Gus Malzahn was just a month into his new job at Auburn. He wasn’t thinking national championship. He was busy recruiting.
- For the first time in the past three years, Alabama won’t play in the BCS title game. Nick Saban is still preaching the same things -- discipline and fundamentals -- but he’s doing so in New Orleans, not Pasadena.
- Missouri linebacker Andrew Wilson attended the 2008 Cotton Bowl with his father. Now he’s headed back to the AT&T Cotton Bowl and aiming to pass his old man on Mizzou’s career tackles list.
- Long before adding Texas A&M, the SEC established a stronghold in Texas by owning the Big 12 in the Cotton Bowl.
- As Vanderbilt prepares for Saturday’s BBVA Compass Bowl, athletic director David Williams says people have called and asked about head coach James Franklin. He didn’t rule out amending his coach’s current contract.
- He didn’t wow anybody, but LSU freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings got a win in his first start with the Tigers.
- South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney already announced he was leaving early for the NFL, but should teammate Bruce Ellington try his shot at the next level as well?
- Florida’s downfall started a year ago when the Gators were embarrassed by Louisville in the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
2. The state of Texas has a rich history of playing physical football. You line up and you hit the guy in front of you and you see who’s best. That’s how it went until the state’s schools fell in love with the uptempo spread. Texas A&M gave up 48 points and won. Baylor surrendered 52 and lost. Rice allowed 44 to Mississippi State and lost. Texas gave up 30 to Oregon and got embarrassed. You would think with all that talent in Lone Star State, someone could play defense.
3. Nebraska beat Georgia, 24-19, in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl and extended to six seasons head coach Bo Pelini’s streak of finishing either 9-4 or 10-4. Given the emotional highs and lows that Pelini has endured in Lincoln -- this week he’s popular -- the notion that he has become the model of consistency is a headscratcher. Here’s another one -- only three head coaches in the Big Ten (Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern and Mark Dantonio of Michigan State) have longer tenures than Pelini.
Following the first day of practice for the 2014 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, Swain said he has known for a while where he will play his college football and he has let the coaches of his finalists know his decision. The public will be let in on the secret during the game on Sunday, when the 6-foot-3, 229-pound linebacker will announce his commitment.
Swain is down to four schools -- Arkansas, Michigan State, Oregon and Texas A&M -- and all but the Spartans have received official visits.
As for his leaders, Swain gave a quick look into why they stand out in the race for his signature.
"[Michigan State has] always been in my top five ever since I started watching college football," Swain said. "At Arkansas, I have a good relationship with Randy Shannon and I fit in well with the players on my visit. At Oregon, it's the whole coaching staff. My mom really enjoyed them when they came to visit. They've been at Oregon so long, and the football there speaks for itself, when a 10-2 season is considered a bad season. With Texas A&M, I had a fun visit down there. A lot of people worry about what happens to them when Johnny [Manziel] is gone, but their recruiting class is really good and I don't think they're going to skip a beat."
Swain has been avoiding interviews and any real talk of recruiting in recent weeks, as he said he's been "relaxing and enjoying time with family." But he'll make some significant noise on Sunday, particularly for the program that receives a verbal commitment from the standout linebacker, who plans on pursuing a double major in marketing and finance.
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- An Auburn fan from Phenix City, Ala., was at the miracle victory against Georgia. He got to meet Gus Malzahn three weeks later. Now, thanks to a hotel guest, he’s headed to Pasadena to see the Tigers play in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game.
- With the impending departure of AJ McCarron, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon is primed to be the face of the Crimson Tide offense.
- South Carolina has won back-to-back bowl games against Big Ten teams, but yet the Gamecocks are underdogs against Wisconsin in Wednesday’s Capital One Bowl. Why?
- LSU and its fans have been uninspired in two of their last three non-BCS bowls. Will the Tigers be motivated for Wednesday’s Outback Bowl against Iowa?
- Georgia is used to playing its SEC East opponents (and Auburn) on an annual basis, but the Bulldogs will see a familiar foe when they face Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson, who worked together under Les Miles, share the same philosophy on offense.
- It was all about Johnny Manziel in Texas A&M’s comeback win over Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, but the seniors stepped up when the Aggies needed them most.
The ACC would like a word.
Because more than ever, the league needs both to stop the league bowl slide and win their respective BCS games. That would at least bring some much needed credibility to the league. Because right now, its rep remains in shambles.
A record 11 teams made bowl games, wonderful news for the newly expanded league. However, winning those games has been a different story. The ACC stands to finish with a losing record this bowl season, the same way it did back in 2008, when its record 10 bowl teams went a collective 4-6.
After a miserable New Year's Eve, in which the ACC went 0-3, the bowl record for 2013 stands at 3-6. What's worse is the way everybody lost, most especially the teams in the biggest games:
- Miami got blown out by Louisville 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl in what qualifies as the most disappointing showing among ACC teams so far. The Canes were inept on offense, completely dominated physically and exposed once again on defense -- by a roster filled with players from the South Florida area. It is inexplicable for a team coming off a two-year postseason ban to show such a complete lack of intensity or urgency. Headed into the contest, this was billed as one of the best non-BCS bowl matchups. Only one team came to play.
- Virginia Tech thought it might have a chance to contain Brett Hundley and the UCLA offense with its top-notch defense in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. But after Logan Thomas got hurt, the Hokies seemed to go in a shell. That still does not explain a horrendous fourth quarter in which UCLA turned a close game into a rout. It was Virginia Tech's most lopsided bowl loss since falling to North Carolina 42-3 in the 1998 Gator Bowl.
- Georgia Tech had one chance after another to beat Ole Miss in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, but once again the Jackets could not take advantage. The dagger came late in the fourth quarter, when a fumble in the end zone led to a safety and the end of any shot to win. Georgia Tech has lost eight of its last nine bowls.
- Then the heartbreaker on Tuesday night. Nobody gave Coastal champ Duke a chance to beat Texas A&M in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. But the Blue Devils looked like they would save the day for the ACC, jumping all over the Aggies from the start en route to a 38-17 lead headed into the fourth quarter. But Johnny Manziel saved his Manziel Magic for the end, and Anthony Boone threw two interceptions to turn the tide. Duke lost 52-48 in a thrilling game that nearly gave the ACC the upset of bowl season. Duke had an unbelievable season, but that loss will not be easily forgotten.
So that brings us to the two BCS games. No. 12 Clemson takes on No. 7 Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl on Friday night; No. 1 Florida State plays No. 2 Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.
If both win, they will go a long way toward erasing the nightmare that has been the 2013 bowl season. The truth is, these two teams have been the highest ranked ACC teams all season, the two that people across the country associate with ACC success. Two big wins over two big programs -- and most especially a national championship -- will show the ACC does have an elite upper class.
Does the middle of the league have work to do? Absolutely. What was already known headed into bowl season has been made even clearer. But the ACC ultimately will not be judged by what happened between Boston College and Arizona in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl. It will be judged by what happens on the biggest stage.
That's why the ACC needs Clemson and Florida State to come through.
ATLANTA -- They lined up inside the bowels of the Georgia Dome hoping to catch one final glimpse of Johnny Football. One boy wore his No. 2 Texas A&M jersey, shifting nervously from one foot to another as he waited impatiently for his hero's arrival. His father barely noticed, his eyes trained on where the team bus should arrive.
Suddenly a security attendant shouted something inaudible, a pair of doors swung open and a rush of cold air swept inside. The Aggies went by like a blur as they readied for the start of the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Duke on Tuesday night.
"Did you see him?" one Texas A&M fan asked another when all the players had passed.
"He must have come in earlier to avoid all this," they decided, shaking their heads in defeat.
Kevin Sumlin was easy to spot. Texas A&M's coach was as dapper as ever in a well-tailored navy blue suit, a baby blue shirt and a pink paisley tie.
Mike Evans couldn't be missed, either. Texas A&M's unstoppable sophomore receiver stood at an unattainable 6-foot-5, a head taller than most of his teammates.
But Johnny Manziel was nowhere to be found. Favorably listed as 6-foot-1, Texas A&M's quarterback instead kept to the middle of the procession, pulled a grey hoodie over his head and turned his face down as he listened to music on a pair of oversized headphones.
It was like he never was there. Some saw him pass by, most didn't. Like a ghost, Manziel reached the locker room without the usual glow of cameras flashing upon his every arrival.
"There he is. You see him?" a Duke fan shouted at his friends in the front row of the Dome a few minutes later, grabbing a buddy by the shoulder as he pointed to Manziel near midfield, now in shorts and a T-shirt as he warmed up, sporting the same headphones he used to block out the world.
If anyone missed Texas A&M's superstar quarterback, all they had to do was look for the hoard of cameras documenting his every move. Hundreds of photographers lined the end zone, snapping shot after shot of what could prove to be Manziel's final game with the Aggies. The NFL could be the next stop for the redshirt sophomore with mind-boggling statistics and breathtaking athleticism. He's done so much in two years at College Station -- some the NCAA would like you to know, some it would like you to forget -- that moving on seems natural.
But if the Chick-fil-A Bowl was indeed Manziel's final hurrah, it felt appropriate.
Two years ago the undersized quarterback won the starting job at Texas A&M to no acclaim. He hit the field to no applause and won fans over with each dazzling play. Not everyone came to his games knowing what he looked like, but everyone left with an impression of Manziel forever burned in their minds. Enough noticed that he won the Heisman Trophy.
Tuesday felt the same way. The nation's focus has been on places like New Orleans, Dallas, Miami and Pasadena, not Atlanta. But Manziel got fans' attention anyways by doing what he's always done -- the impossible. Manziel led a comeback for the ages, bringing the Aggies back from 21 down to beat Duke 52-48.
Manziel accounted for 455 yards and five touchdowns and was named the game's Most Outstanding Player on offense.
"It was an unreal feeling," Manziel said afterwards, not quite dodging questions about the NFL, but somehow avoiding them entirely.
He wanted to talk about the game, and who could blame him? While the Aggies defense was pulverized, failing to make a single stop in the first half, Manziel rallied the troops on the sidelines, grabbing teammates by the collar and even talking up defensive coordinator Mark Snyder -- saying and doing anything he could to end the season a winner.
Offensive tackle Jake Matthews had never seen Manziel so riled up.
"It was special to watch, special to be a part of," he said.
Fellow offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi was just as in awe.
"We forgot how great he is," he said of Manziel. "This game we saw that he is one of the best players in college football history."
After the game, Manziel wasn't the off-the-field diva he's sometimes been portrayed to be. He was reserved, sluggish even. He was getting sick, he said, coughing as he told reporters to keep a safe distance. He didn't know if he had the flu coming on. He slouched and sat on the floor outside the media room, checking his phone as he waited for Duke coach David Cutcliffe to finish up inside.
If he were listening, he would have heard Cutcliffe say how he "spun the ball really well" and just how "special" he was. All that coming from a coach who mentored NFL icon Peyton Manning.
Manziel, for his part, was as understated as ever at the podium, deflecting praise to his offensive linemen and wide receivers. He didn't thump his chest. He didn't bring his trophy into the news conference like his teammate Toney Hurd.
When asked to look back on his career at Texas A&M, he said what he had pretty much all night: that he couldn't believe it.
"It's unreal how things have played out," he said.
He didn't answer any more questions as he walked back to his team's locker room. A reporter asked once again if he'd turn pro, and he didn't answer. He just kept walking, his head down in that familiar zone.
But as he left the locker room, a fan begged him to stop and pose for a picture, and he obliged. He stood still for two shots and smiled before turning down the tunnel and out into the night.
Manziel wasn't a ghost as he left the Georgia Dome early Wednesday morning. He wasn't a blur. He was a legend in full view for the world to see.
After so much talk and so much acclaim the past two years, he left a quiet winner.
Johnny Manziel might have played his last college game on Tuesday night, but he's going to have to wait a little longer to be the owner of the trademark "Johnny Football."
An examining attorney in the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office sent a letter to Manziel's attorney earlier in the day, stating that he was suspending the trademark application filed by Manziel's corporation, JMAN2 Enterprises LLC, until an earlier application for the trademark "Johnny Football" is either abandoned or registered.
Manziel filed for the trademark on Feb. 2, 2013, three months after an organization called Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments, which is based in College Station, Texas -- the same city that calls A&M home -- filed for the trademark.
Manziel's team filed a letter of protest, suggesting that the previous filing can't be trademarked because it refers to Manziel and therefore requires his consent. The trademark filing specfically seeks to use "Johnny Football" on jerseys and footballs.
Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments has until Feb. 16 to answer why the nickname doesn't refer to Manziel. Failure to answer by that time will result in a refused registration and Manziel's trademark filing would then likely be further examined.
Manziel's "Johnny Football" trademark filing seeks to protect his use of the phrase on everything from jackets to padded elbow compression sleeves, from skirts and blouses to motivational speaking services.
If this was Johnny Manziel's final college football game, he couldn’t have scripted it any better if he tried. Behind the heroics of the former Heisman Trophy winner, Texas A&M overcame a three-touchdown deficit to stun Duke 52-48 and win the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Here’s how it all went down:
It was over when: The Texas A&M defense had struggled all night, but the Aggies came up with back-to-back stops on Duke’s last two drives to storm past the Blue Devils. First, it was Toney Hurd Jr. returning an interception 55 yards to give Texas A&M its first lead of the game. Then, with Duke driving, it was linebacker Nate Askew who preserved the victory with another interception. All Manziel had to do was take a knee at the end.
Game ball goes to: Seriously? Was there ever any doubt? Johnny Football might never play another down for Texas A&M, but if so, he ended his career with a bang. The Aggies’ quarterback went 30-of-38 for 382 yards and four touchdowns through the air. He also had 73 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The highlight came early in the third quarter when he went all Johnny Manziel on the Blue Devils. He eluded the rush, hurdled a defender and somehow found a wide open Travis Labhart for a 19-yard touchdown.
Unsung hero: Labhart. While Texas A&M star Mike Evans was losing his cool early in the game, it was Labhart who stayed calm and quickly became Manziel’s go-to wide receiver. The former practice-squad player for the women’s basketball team caught not one, not two, but three touchdowns and finished with seven catches for 76 yards. He might not have made the men’s basketball team, but the Aggies are glad he went the football route.
Stat of the game: Despite two late interceptions, Duke quarterback Anthony Boone played a tremendous game in his own right, throwing for 427 yards and three touchdowns. But even more impressive was his composure on third down. The junior went 11 of 12 for 144 yards on third-down passing attempts. The lone incompletion came on Duke’s final drive, but he turned around and completed a pass to convert on fourth down.
What we learned: If that was Manziel’s last game, he will be missed in college football. Despite his off-field troubles and fiery personality, he was fun to watch. Texas A&M might struggle next year without him, but the Aggies are clearly moving in the right direction under Kevin Sumlin. It doesn’t hurt that Sumlin recently signed an extension and looks to be staying for the long haul. As for Duke, it was an incredible season. The Blue Devils won 10 games for the first time in program history, and though they’re still looking for their first bowl win since 1960, the future looks bright in Durham.
To watch the trophy presentation of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, click here.
LB Williams: Law and order equals '98 percent'
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It looks like Kevin Sumlin will be staying awhile.
That news should come as no surprise, given that earlier this month Sumlin and Texas A&M put the finishing touches on a new six-year, $30 million contract that could keep the coach in Aggieland through the 2019 season.
But when it comes to a league like the NFL, you can never count out deep-pocketed owners and the allure of coaching at the highest level. That's hard for anybody to turn down. However, Chris Mortensen reported on Tuesday that Sumlin is essentially saying "thanks, but no thanks" to NFL teams that have openings.
Sumlin has publicly said that maybe there will be a time he chooses to look into NFL possibilities, but that it will be later. It seems he's making good on that promise.
The most ideal situation for Sumlin would have been in Houston with the NFL's Texans. Sumlin spent the 2008-2011 seasons as the University of Houston's head coach before the Aggies came calling. He had success there, and it would be an easy transition to move back and still keep his family in a familiar situation, which is important since he and his wife, Charlene, have four kids, all of whom are in school.
But Texans owner Bob McNair said after he fired Gary Kubiak that he was looking for someone who had both head coaching experience and NFL experience. So with the Texans off the table, it makes sense for Sumlin to stay put and continue to build on what he has already achieved in maroon and white.
Since taking over the Texas A&M program, Sumlin has guided the Aggies to success in the SEC faster than most anticipated. Heading into Wednesday' night's battle against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Aggies are 19-6 in two seasons under Sumlin, finished last season ranked fifth in the country and have a chance to finish in the top 25 once again this season should they win. Texas A&M is recruiting at a high level under Sumlin, turning in the No. 8 class in the country in the 2013 recruiting cycle, and the Aggies currently have the nation's fourth-ranked 2014 class with roughly five weeks until national signing day.
As the Aggies stockpile talent, Sumlin will be charged with continuing to move the program upward. In addition to incoming talent, facilities have and continue to be built (a $450 million renovation of Kyle Field is ongoing, and the Aggies added a new weight room, nutrition center and renovated the lobby of the football complex since Sumlin arrived), and the school continues to leverage its membership in the SEC in recruiting, marketing and myriad other areas.
When asked earlier this month why he believes so strongly in Sumlin, Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said that "the proof's in the pudding."
"You look at the excitement, the momentum and enthusiasm that the program, under his tutelage, has generated," Hyman said. "There's a wide cross-section of people in Aggieland who are so appreciative of the job that he has done. The future is in good shape. This is a long-term commitment to Coach Sumlin. I don't think there's any question about it, the belief that people in Aggieland feel toward their football coach, how he represents the university, how he goes about doing his business and his primary focus is on the student-athlete and that resonates with a lot of people."
While there was no question the Aggies were committed to Sumlin moving forward, this development of Sumlin declining NFL interview requests gives weight to Sumlin's idea of making a sincere commitment to Texas A&M in return.
"As Eric said, it speaks to the university's commitment to us as a program, to me personally, but also our commitment to the university," Sumlin said. "We've got a ways to go with what we're doing, but I think what it says is that people believe we're on the right track and not just from a contractual standpoint with me. But you look around this building and what's going on with Kyle Field and the facilities that have been put in place in the last couple of years and the what's coming down the road shows a commitment to all of our athletic programs, and particularly football, and you add all those things together and I think it's what Eric said, it shows a tremendous amount of commitment to where the program is headed and I'm extremely appreciative of that."
By all accounts, Sumlin and his family seem happy in College Station. The community has embraced the family in their return -- Sumlin was a Texas A&M assistant in the early 2000s under R.C. Slocum -- and he has a chance to build a strong legacy and elevate the program to a high level.
Charlene Sumlin said earlier this year that she knew they'd eventually return to town. How or when was unknown, but she had a feeling.
"I always knew the Sumlins had unfinished business here," she said.
Looks like they'll be staying awhile to finish what they started.
TAMU Asst. Tops Recruiter Power Rankings
TBD Temple Vanderbilt TBD Texas A&M South Carolina 8:00 PM ET Boise State Ole Miss
TBD Arkansas Auburn TBD Idaho Florida TBD Clemson Georgia TBD Tennessee-Martin Kentucky TBD South Dakota State Missouri TBD Southern Miss Mississippi State 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 9:00 PM ET LSU Wisconsin