Friday, May 16, 2014
Five emerging A&M players on offense
By Sam Khan Jr.
On Thursday we took a look at five players on the Texas A&M defense who could see increased roles this fall. Today, we'll look at the offense. With three former A&M offensive stars as well as a few rookie free agents pursuing NFL careers, there should be plenty of new faces on the field in the fall. Some have seen the field before, but others are newcomers who arrived in January. Here are five to watch as we chug along the offseason toward the beginning of preseason training camp in August:
Kyle Allen, a high school All-American, hardly looks like a true freshman and is challenging for the starting QB spot at A&M.
QB Kyle Allen: As one of the most talked about recruits in the Texas A&M's 2014 recruiting class, Allen is someone that Aggies are watching closely. Allen, a true freshman, is competing with sophomore Kenny Hill for the starting quarterback job and though Hill has the edge in experience, Allen showed progress in the spring. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital tested Allen by giving him a large menu of offensive options and though there were some natural growing pains early, the nation's No. 1-ranked pocket passer in the 2014 class showed maturity beyond his years and progressed well as spring football drew to a close. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Allen also gained extra practice time when Hill had to sit out the final week-plus of spring football while serving a suspension (Hill has since been reinstated). The quarterback battle will play out into August and Allen looks like a worthy challenger to Hill, who got playing time last season in mop-up duty.
RB Tra Carson: Among the players on this list, Carson has played the most, but because the backfield was crowded with options (Ben Malena, Trey Williams, Brandon Williams and quarterback Johnny Manziel also received carries), Carson didn't get too many carries last season. He wound up with 62 totes and averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns, and showed flashes in late-season games against Missouri and Duke that he has plenty of ability. He had a strong spring, is good carrying the football as well as in pass protection, which is important in the Aggies' offense. With Manziel and Malena gone and a lot of carries to go around, Carson looks like a prime candidate to emerge from his third-and-short and goal-line role into something much bigger this season.
OG Garrett Gramling: A fifth-year senior, Gramling proved this spring that he'll be a serious candidate for a starting spot somewhere along the line this fall. He was a reserve last year who started in two games (Vanderbilt and UTEP) and filled in for an injured Jarvis Harrison midway through the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and performed well. With Harrison sitting out this spring recovering from shoulder surgery, Gramling stepped back into that left guard spot and played well all spring. With four of five starters returning on the offensive line, there's only one spot to fight for but how the position battle plays out at right tackle will dictate whether a guard spot is available. If there is one, Gramling should challenge for it. If not, he's a valuable reserve to have.
WR Speedy Noil: The five-star recruit arrived in College Station, Texas, with plenty of hype and didn't disappoint. His nickname gives off a pretty good hint at what he brings to the table -- he's an explosive player. He seems to be a natural fit for the Aggies' offense and looks like someone who will contribute right away as a true freshman.
WR Joshua Reynolds: Perhaps the least ballyhooed of the 2014 crop of receiver recruits for the Aggies, Reynolds quickly proved worth some attention. Though slender in frame (6-4, 190 pounds), he has a large catch radius and uses his height well. He has a year of college football experience under his belt (he spent last season at Tyler Junior College) and found himself getting time with the first-team offense as spring football progressed. Regardless of whether he challenges for a starting job, he has the look of someone who could find himself in the receiver rotation, especially if he's able to add some weight this summer.