Texas A&M Aggies: Kenric McNeal

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- It was a little more than four months ago that Malcome Kennedy caught a pass that would long be remembered by Texas A&M fans.

The then-sophomore made what was arguably the biggest reception of the season hauling in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Manziel on a corner route that gave Texas A&M a 29-17 lead over No. 1 Alabama, a lead the Aggies wouldn't relinquish, eventually upsetting the Crimson Tide 29-24.

[+] EnlargeDavid Beaty
Sam Khan Jr./ESPNTexas A&M receivers coach David Beaty said he has liked what he has seen this spring from Mike Evans and Malcome Kennedy.
It was a brief moment in the spotlight and one of two touchdowns on the season for Kennedy, a product of tiny Cayuga, Texas, home to a Class 1A football program in East Texas. With seniors in front of him at the inside receiver positions -- Ryan Swope and Kenric McNeal -- Kennedy didn't have to shoulder a load as a go-to offensive option for the 2012 Aggies.

This year, that changes -- for Kennedy and several others -- as the Aggies have waved goodbye to three senior starters and are working in a new crop of receivers this spring.

"Well, I've got a lot of new guys out there, obviously," Texas A&M receivers coach David Beaty said Tuesday. "Lost three starters from last year and some guys that played part time are back with us. A lot of youth in there getting a lot of reps. This is valuable, valuable time. This is exactly what spring ball is for. You get to evaluate new guys, guys that haven't played a lot, so it's a good opportunity for us to get to see those guys that didn't get to play a lot last year, how they've developed, and for guys that did get to play, them moving into new roles."

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Jerrod JohnsonThomas Campbell/US PresswireFormer Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson still has hopes of playing in the NFL.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- While several Texas A&M NFL draft hopefuls ran routes and caught passes, the throws were from a face familiar to Aggieland.

One by one, the crisp, well-spun tosses from former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson fell into the hands of guys like Ryan Swope, Christine Michael, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Kenric McNeal -- each of whom recently wrapped up their Aggie careers.

While Texas A&M's pro day on Friday at the McFerrin Athletic Center was a showcase for the Aggies' 2013 class of prospects, it was also a chance for Johnson to show his retooled throwing motion to the nearly 50 NFL personnel on hand, representing all 32 NFL teams.

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Position breakdown: Receiver 

February, 18, 2013
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One area that will be a point of focus for Texas A&M fans this spring and heading into the fall will be wide receiver.

Three of the top four receivers from 2012 [in terms of receiving yards] and four of the top six will not be back in 2013. Senior starters Ryan Swope (72 catches, 913 yards), Uzoma Nwachukwu (26 catches, 485 yards) and Kenric McNeal (19 catches, 265 yards) have all graduated and freshman Thomas Johnson (30 catches, 339 yards) withdrew from school in November and appears unlikely to return.

Mike Evans
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesTexas A&M loses three of its top four receivers, but Mike Evans' 82 receptions for 1,105 yards is a good foundation to build around.
The good news for the Aggies is that their top receiver in terms of catches (82) and yardage (1,105) will be back: redshirt freshman and soon-to-be-sophomore Mike Evans.

Texas A&M Aggies Class of 2009 review 

January, 24, 2013
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The 2012 season was one to remember for Texas A&M.

The Aggies' first season in the Southeastern Conference was better than almost anyone could expect. And while much of the focus centered around a redshirt freshman -- Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel -- first-year A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin repeatedly praised his seniors for their leadership and buying in when they didn't have to.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireRunning back Christine Michael was Texas A&M's top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2009.
As Sumlin often said this year, "They didn't sign up to play for us."

Sumlin was referring to the upperclassmen -- and, really, anybody who wasn't a true freshman or transfer who joined the squad this season -- who signed up to play for previous head coach Mike Sherman.

Many of the Sherman recruits (Manziel included) played critical roles in the Aggies' ability to go 11-2, finish tied for second in the SEC West and conclude the season ranked in the top five. When looking back four years ago at the 2009 recruiting class, roughly a dozen of them wound up being key players in the memorable 2012 season.

There were several diamonds in the rough. Among them were Ryan Swope, who was ranked the No. 116 athlete in the country in 2009. The running back from Austin (Texas) Westlake became a receiver at Texas A&M and eventually set the school's career receiving yardage record, among other marks, such as single-season catches, single-season receiving yards and career 100-yard games.

Another lightly heralded player was defensive tackle Spencer Nealy. Ranked 105th nationally at his position, the San Antonio Reagan product always brought high energy and effort and this season became a catalyst in the Aggies' transition to a 4-3 from a 3-4 the last two years. Nealy, a defensive end the previous two seasons, moved inside to defensive tackle and took on double teams week after week. The job he did inside helped facilitate the terrific season outside by defensive end Damontre Moore.

The other starting defensive tackle in 2012, who had a solid season of his own -- Kirby Ennis -- was also a member of the 2009 class.

One of the most important offensive players in 2012 not named Manziel was center Patrick Lewis, another class of 2009 recruit. As one of the "Louisianimals" as Lewis referred to himself and his fellow Louisiana natives, Lewis was the man who made the offense go, literally. The Aggies installed a high-tempo attack upon Sumlin's arrival, and dictating tempo was one of Lewis' primary jobs. He had to get to the ball before the ref spotted it and make protection calls as well. As one of the team captains, Lewis was a true leader.

The two senior linebackers who started for the Aggies, who also served as leaders for this year's team, were also part of the class of 2009: Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart. Both started all 13 games this year. Stewart was second on the team in tackles with 81, while Porter was fifth (66) and second on the team in tackles for loss (6.5).


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Signing day primer: Texas A&M 

January, 23, 2013
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Team needs: There are three key need areas for Texas A&M in this recruiting class: defensive tackles, linebackers and receivers. The defensive tackle need stems from the Aggies' scheme switch. The 2010 and 2011 seasons were spent in a 3-4 alignment, and recruiting was tailored to that. Once Kevin Sumlin arrived and hired Mark Snyder as his defensive coordinator, the Aggies switched to a 4-3, meaning another defensive tackle on the field, meaning more were needed. At linebacker, the Aggies say goodbye to a pair of senior leaders, Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart, both of whom were starters. The other starting linebacker, Steven Jenkins, will be a senior this season. At receiver there are several contributors leaving as well. Ryan Swope, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Kenric McNeal were all seniors. Thomas Johnson, a true freshman who appeared in 10 games and was one of the gems of the 2012 recruiting class, withdrew from school and might not return. There's another scholarship spot at the position in the form of Brandal Jackson, who was on scholarship but not part of the 105-man roster at the start of fall camp.

Help is on the way: At defensive tackle, A&M scored commitments from ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Isaiah Golden. Three-star prospect Hardreck Walker and three-star Jordan Points (who is already on campus) round out that group. There are six linebackers in the class, led by ESPN 300 ILB Jordan Mastrogiovanni. Three are already on campus and enrolled: Brett Wade, Reggie Chevis and Tommy Sanders. At receiver, the Aggies have plenty. Ricky Seals-Jones tops the list, prep school standout Ja'Quay Williams is already in school, and there's a pair of three-star receivers as well. Not to mention, No. 1 tight end prospect Derrick Griffin would be a receiver at A&M if he makes it in, and athlete LaQuvionte Gonzalez likely would be an inside receiver.

Other key commits: A pair of Under Armour All-Americans, guard Joas Aguilar and cornerback Noel Ellis, plus a U.S. Army All-American, safety Kameron Miles, round out a group 10 prospects that are among ESPN's top 300. Two quarterbacks are in the class (Kohl Stewart and Kenny Hill), but it's worth keeping an eye on them as Stewart is a potential high MLB draft pick and Hill took official visits to Baylor and Kansas State. Eight early enrollees in the class are already on campus (Chevis, Points, Sanders, Wade, Williams, Cameron Clear, Alex Sezer and Jeremiah Stuckey), and there are plenty of promising three-star commits, including guys like cornerback Tavares Garner and outside linebacker Darian Claiborne.

Other key targets: There aren't a ton of targets left for the Aggies at this point. Their focus is on a small handful of guys. Adding a defensive end would be ideal for the Aggies, and they're pursuing Washington commit Daeshon Hall and USC commit Torrodney Prevot in that regard. Hall visited recently, and Prevot could soon. They are also still looking at another receiver. Former USC commit Sebastian LaRue is one of those targets, and he was in on an official visit recently. They are also looking at Florida State commit Levonte Whitfield, who said he plans to officially visit Feb. 1.

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Film Review: Cotton Bowl edition 

January, 7, 2013
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Johnny ManzielMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsTexas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel scrambles for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma.

Texas A&M capped off its memorable first season as a Southeastern Conference member with a dominant 41-13 win over No. 11 Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Friday. The win gave the No. 9 Aggies an 11-2 record for the season and assured that they will finish with a top-10 ranking for the first time since 1994. Here's a look at three plays that helped the Aggies finish on the winning side against the Sooners:

Situation: Texas A&M ball, third-and-9 at the Oklahoma 23 (12:33 left, first quarter).
Score: Texas A&M 0, Oklahoma 0.

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2014 WR Jeffery commits to Texas A&M 

December, 14, 2012
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Jamal JefferySam Khan Jr./ESPN.com2014 receiver Jamal Jeffery wants to play in the Aggies' Air Raid offense.
This week, Texas A&M has literally scored a commitment from a recruit every other day. On Monday, it was Ricky Seals-Jones. On Wednesday it was Hoza Scott.

On Friday, 2014 receiver Jamal Jeffery became the latest to jump on board.

The 5-foot-8, 165-pound receiver from Lufkin (Texas) High School gave his verbal pledge to the Aggies, becoming the sixth member of Texas A&M's 2014 recruiting class.

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Top 5 moments: 'How'd he do that?'

December, 10, 2012
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GigEmNation is counting down the top five moments of Texas A&M’s 2012 season this week. No. 5 ...

When Texas A&M traveled to Dallas to take on SMU, redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel made one of the "Wow" plays that makes fans and observers wonder, "How did he do that?" in the third quarter of the Aggies' 48-3 victory. Part of the reason Manziel is nicknamed "Johnny Football" is because of plays like this.

Texas A&M was leading 20-0 and facing third-and-9 at the SMU 42. Manziel dropped back and SMU linebacker Taylor Reed found a hole in the middle of the offensive line, shot the gap and had a clear shot at Manziel and a sack.

Manziel had other ideas. He spun out of the would-be sack and sprinted left as SMU linebacker Ja'Gared Davis sprinted toward him. Before Davis could get there, Manziel leaped off one foot, leaned forward and fired a pass over a leaping Davis. The pass hit senior receiver Kenric McNeal directly on the No. 5 on his jersey and he turned toward the end zone. He sprinted the final 29 yards untouched for the 42-yard touchdown.

It was one of many highlight-worthy plays of the day for Manziel, but it was probably the most impressive, considering how accurate the throw was after he dodged two defenders.

"With Johnny, of course, he's Captain Amazing back there, not getting sacked," senior receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu said after that game. "Johnny Football, Captain Amazing, I'm pretty sure next week we'll have another [nickname] for him. It's a growing legend going on."

Nwachukwu was right. It was a legend that only grew bigger as the season wore on.

Film study: Texas A&M-SHSU 

November, 19, 2012
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Texas A&M cruised to a 47-28 win over FCS foe Sam Houston State on Saturday. The Aggies were productive on both ends of the field. Here are three examples of notable plays where the Aggies' shined:

Situation: Texas A&M ball, first-and-goal at the Sam Houston State 7 (10:28 left, first quarter)
Score: Texas A&M 0, Sam Houston State 0
Result: 7-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Manziel to Mike Evans.

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Focus on '14: Receivers/tight ends 

November, 6, 2012
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GigEmNation is taking a weekly position-by-position look at the 2014 recruiting class as it relates to Texas A&M, whom the Aggies are targeting, as well as 2013 commits and who on the roster will graduate. Today, we look at receivers and tight ends.

[+] EnlargeK.D. Cannon
Max Olson/ESPN.comESPN Watch List receiver K.D. Cannon is one of the most sought-after players in Texas.
2013 commits: Derrick Griffin, Rosenberg (Texas) Terry; Quincy Adeboyejo, Cedar Hill (Texas) High School; Kyrion Parker, Manvel (Texas) High School; Jeremy Tabuyo, Honolulu St. Louis School. Two athlete commits -- LaQuvionte Gonzalez of Cedar Hill and Cameron Echols-Luper of Auburn (Ala.) High School -- are also possible receivers

Receivers and tight ends who will graduate: Brandal Jackson, Michael Lamothe, Kenric McNeal, Uzoma Nwachukwu, Ryan Swope

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Film review: Texas A&M 38, Miss. State 13 

November, 5, 2012
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Texas A&M dominated Mississippi State to the tune of a 38-13 road win on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium and again, the Aggies were efficient and explosive offensively as well as strong on defense. Let's take a closer look at three plays that tell the story of the Aggies' dominance:

Situation: Texas A&M ball, third-and-2 at the Mississippi State 36 (10:09 left in first quarter)
Score: Texas A&M 0, Mississippi State 0
Result: 24-yard pass from Johnny Manziel to Mike Evans.

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Aggies hang with LSU, but fall short

October, 20, 2012
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Johnny ManzielRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesJohnny Manziel and Texas A&M hung tough, but LSU prevailed.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Are they good enough?

That is a question that many fans, observers and pundits posed or tried to answer when Texas A&M initially announced it was moving to the Southeastern Conference.

Are the Aggies good enough to compete with the best the SEC -- college football's premier league -- has to offer? There were many skeptics and there still will be some after the No. 18 Aggies' 24-19 loss to No. 6 LSU on Saturday at Kyle Field.

But if you watched closely, one thing became evident as the events unfolded in front of the 87,429 in the building. Not only are the Aggies good enough to compete with a top-10 team from the SEC, they're good enough to beat said team.

The Aggies lost for many reasons, some self-inflicted, some imposed by the Tigers. But it wasn't because they were outclassed or simply weren't good enough. The Aggies proved to be more than up to snuff against the physicality of one of the SEC's traditional powers, LSU, a two-time BCS champion since 2003.

Saturday was evidence that Texas A&M, by the looks of it, is ready to go toe-to-toe with the SEC's big boys. But it was also evidence that the Aggies have a long way to go.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Florida 20, Texas A&M 17 

September, 9, 2012
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- With Texas A&M's Southeastern Conference debut in the books, let's take a look at some of the good and the bad from the Aggies' 20-17 season-opening loss to Florida on Saturday:

THREE UP:
1. Damontre Moore does some damage: The junior defensive end wreaked plenty of havoc on Saturday, tallying 10 tackles and three sacks. After 8.5 sacks last year, it looks like Moore's ready to take another step forward and at this pace, could be a premier defensive end in the SEC.

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As fall practice and the 2012 season approaches, GigEmNation will take a look at where the Aggies stand currently and in the future at each position group. Today, we glance at the receivers and tight ends.

Current
Starters: Mike Evans, Michael Lamothe, Kenric McNeal, Uzoma Nwachukwu, Ryan Swope


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Offensive position battles to watch 

July, 30, 2012
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Fall practice is nearing for the Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies begin workouts on Friday, so let's take a glance at some of the key position battles to keep an eye on in the coming weeks:

Quarterback: Jameill Showers, Johnny Manziel, Matt Joeckel
Head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury did not name a starter coming out of spring drills, which means the competition for the starting quarterback position continues in fall camp. Showers, a 6-foot-2, 219-pound redshirt sophomore appears to be the favorite coming into camp and has the best arm of the trio. Each has their own strengths: Manziel is a playmaker and Joeckel is patient in the pocket and has picked up the offense well.

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