Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Adjustment period quickens for A&M frosh
By Sam Khan Jr.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- With so much in and around the Texas A&M football program being new -- from the conference to the coaching staff to the schemes and even the uniforms -- it seems only natural that on the field, some of the most significant impacts have been made by new players.
Or, in other words, freshmen.
Some are true freshmen completely new to the program. Some are redshirt freshmen who have already spent a year as part of the Aggies' program. Across both spectrums are players who are already contributing significantly and will likely continue to do so throughout the season.
'Raw' receiver Mike Evans has proven to be one of Texas A&M's most-dynamic offensive options.
In the Aggies' 48-3 win over SMU on Saturday, freshmen were statistical leaders in six different categories: redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel led the team in passing yards (294), rushing yards (124) and all-purpose yards (418), redshirt freshman receiver Mike Evans led in receiving (six catches, 123 yards) and true freshman cornerback De'Vante Harris led the team in tackles (seven).
Naturally, much of the focus has been on Manziel, the quarterback who won the starting job during fall camp and is already beginning to dazzle observers with his athleticism and ability to freelance, which has resulted in a handful of big plays for the Aggies (1-1).
There is an adjustment period for those freshmen though, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said.
"You saw that in high school," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said of Manziel and his playmaking ability. "What he's finding out is that he's not the fastest or most talented guy on the field. So for a lot of players, they go through that, you have to figure out what you can do with your strengths and what you can't do with your weaknesses."
Trey Williams, a blue-chip recruit out of Spring (Texas) Dekaney, has been productive in each of the first two games but has yet to break one of the signature 40-, 50- or 60-yard runs that became a signature of his when he was donning the blue and white for the Wildcats.
That's part of the process, Sumlin said.
"He's finding out that there's some other guys out there that are pretty good," Sumlin said. "Everybody says he's been two or three times an ankle tackle away from a touchdown. Well, that's the difference between Trey Williams in high school and Trey Williams in college football."
Williams is also one of two freshmen in a specialist role on special teams. He is serving as the primary kick return specialist while redshirt freshman Taylor Bertolet has handled placekicking duties thus far.
Evans, who came to the Aggies as a raw talent who had played only one year of varsity high school football, has emerged as a playmaker in the receiving game for the Aggies. He currently leads the team in catches (13) and receiving yards (183) through two games.
"He will get better as time goes on," Sumlin said. "He really hasn't played very much. He's understanding the game, understanding the coverages; he's still very, very raw."
True freshman receiver Thomas Johnson (seven catches, 58 yards) is another player who, while not getting as much field time as Manziel or Evans, has already been a contributor and is someone the coaching staff has high hopes for.
On the defensive side, Harris impressed the staff in fall camp enough to win the starting job at one of the cornerback spots. And he isn't the only true freshman to get into the starting lineup on defense: that also applies to defensive end Julien Obioha, who recorded his first career sack and forced a fumble in the process on SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
"(What impresses me) is the maturity he's had," said defensive coordinator Mark Snyder of Obioha. "To grasp what were doing, play with effort and try to play physical ... he's a total buy-in guy. I think he's a great role model for guys on our team and future guys that will be on our team."