Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Texas A&M at the quarter pole
By Sam Khan Jr.
Texas A&M's season already has been an eventful one. At 3-1, the Aggies have enjoyed the fruits of starting the season with four consecutive home games before taking their first road trip of the year this week when they head to Arkansas. The only loss was a thriller against Alabama on Sept. 14, but there are plenty to take away from the first four games. Here are a few:
Best game: The Aggies' most complete game was their most recent one, a 42-13 win over SMU. The offense was its usual, productive self, and the defense showed it could get stops and get off the field on third down. Though it wasn't an opponent the caliber of Alabama, it was important for the Aggies to play well a week after the loss to the Crimson Tide.
Best player: Though he has played just a little more than 11 quarters of football, sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel picked up where he left off from 2012. He has completed 70 percent of his passes (77-of-110) for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns with four interceptions. He is the team's second-leading rusher with 255 yards and three touchdowns, while averaging a team-best 6.5 yards per carry.
Sophomore receiver Mike Evans enjoyed a breakout performance in the Sept. 14 loss to Alabama.
Best performance: While Manziel's performance against Alabama was impressive, the best performance goes to sophomore receiver Mike Evans. He was on the receiving end of seven Manziel passes in the Sept. 14 loss, to the tune of a school-record 279 yards. That included a career-best 95-yard touchdown reception. The Crimson Tide tried three different defenders on Evans and had trouble covering him throughout the day. He's emerging as one of the nation's best.
Best surprise: True freshman linebacker Darian Claiborne has proven himself worthy of being on the field for the A&M defense. He had a strong preseason training camp and earned himself a lot of playing time in the season opener against Rice. On Saturday against SMU, he earned the starting nod at middle linebacker even though he has spent the season working at weakside linebacker. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder was impressed by Claiborne's ability to make the quick transition and was pleased with the energy he brought. A three-star recruit in the 2013 class, Claiborne looks like a diamond in the rough prospect that the Aggies landed in their top-10 recruiting class.
Biggest disappointment: The run defense has been poor. Yes, the Aggies were shorthanded for the first two weeks of the season because of suspensions, but they've given up an average of 218.25 rushing yards per game, including at least 200 in the first three games. The Aggies rank 105th in the country in that category. They have to get better if they expect to contend in the SEC West.