Texas A&M Aggies: SMU Mustangs

2014 DB Bonney adds OSU offer 

December, 18, 2012
This is a special time for the Houston Lamar Redskins. They're making history as the first Houston ISD team to make a Texas Class 5A state championship game in 20 years. The last team to do it was Houston Yates in 1992.

And the Redskins ar doing it with defense.

Leading the way are two SMU commits, defensive end Zelt Minor and cornerback Cedric Lancaster, and rising 2014 prospect John Bonney, a safety. They'll lead the Redskins into a battle with Allen (Texas) High School for the Class 5A Division I championship Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Five from Friday: Whitley a leader 

December, 3, 2012
Each week, GigEmNation reporter Sam Khan Jr. will bring you five things he learned from watching high school football action in the Midlands region that week, including observations of Texas A&M commitments and targets and other players that catch his attention. Here's this week's installment:

1. Whoever lands 2014 inside linebacker Zac Whitley will be getting a hard-hitting, driven player who consistently plays hard. The ESPN Watch List prospect, who has offers from Texas, Texas A&M and Houston, showed each of those traits during Houston North Shore's 17-10 playoff win over Houston Elsik on Saturday at Reliant Stadium. Some of the hits he delivered to opposing players were impactful, he was almost always around the ball and showed he can get from sideline to sideline quickly and he showed leadership. When his team's offense turned it over, he could be seen firing up his teammates and they got a stop on the ensuing possession.

[+] EnlargeHoza Scott
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.comClass of 2014 linebacker Hoza Scott is all but committed to Texas A&M.
2. The race for La Porte (Texas) High School linebacker Hoza Scott is all but over with Scott openly saying that he wants to go to Texas A&M and that he will commit there soon. It was the third time I've had the opportunity to watch the 2014 ESPN Watch List outside linebacker, and Saturday, when he and his teammates took a 55-10 defeat to Texas Class 5A No. 1 Katy, it was by far the toughest challenge for the 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect. Early on, Scott was in on several tackles and was near the ball often but as the game went on, Katy imposed its will on the entire Bulldogs' defense, running it at will. Still, he's a big, fast, strong linebacker who will be a nice addition to the 2014 Texas A&M class when he makes his commitment official.

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Aggies add 2014 RB Shaun Nixon 

November, 29, 2012
Shaun NixonMiller Safrit/ESPN.comESPN Watch List tailback Shaun Nixon is Texas A&M's fourth commitment of the Class of 2014.
Texas A&M's momentum in the 2014 recruiting class continues to build.

The Aggies made their fourth addition to the class on Thursday morning, landing ESPN Watch List running back Shaun Nixon of Austin (Texas) Lake Travis. Nixon confirmed the news to RecruitingNation via text message.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back had five offers in total, with the others coming from Baylor, Clemson, SMU and Texas Tech. He was also receiving interest from TCU, Oklahoma, Alabama and Texas.

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2014 S John Bonney talks LSU offer 

November, 16, 2012
Before this season, Houston Lamar safety John Bonney already possessed an offer from his father's alma mater, Houston. This week, the 2014 prospect received one from his mother's, LSU.

[+] EnlargeAlabama defense
AP Photo/Bill Haber2014 safety John Bonney enjoyed his visit to LSU for the Alabama game.
The six-foot, 175-pound rising star got the news of the LSU offer on Thursday from his head coach at Lamar, Tom Nolen. It was met with excitement from Bonney, who came into the season with offers from Baylor, Houston and SMU.

"I was kind of surprised at first," Bonney said. "I didn't expect anything coming but it was pretty good and I was happy. It's great."

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Q&A: 2014 running back Shaun Nixon 

October, 19, 2012
Austin (Texas) Lake Travis running back Shaun Nixon and Texas A&M have had mutual interest for awhile. The Aggies have long been interested in the 2014 prospect who stands 5-foot-10, 180 pounds.

The Aggies originally offered Nixon in May but plenty of other schools have taken notice of him too. Baylor, Clemson, SMU and Texas Tech all offered him and several others have shown at least some interest, including Alabama and Texas.

GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr. spoke with Nixon to talk about his upcoming visit plans, who he has been hearing from and more.

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2014 safety John Bonney on the rise 

October, 10, 2012
For Houston Lamar safety John Bonney, this year has been a little bit of an adjustment.

The 2014 prospect, who traditionally plays safety, has spent a lot of time at cornerback this year. The transition hasn't been much trouble for the 6-foot, 175-pound prospect -- he has three interceptions in the Redskins' first five games.

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Notes: Aggies make mark on Savaiinaea 

October, 4, 2012
Isaac SavaiinaeaTom Hauck for ESPN.comHonolulu Punahou inside linebacker Isaac Savaiinaea remains committed to Stanford but said the Aggies are in his "top two" after a visit to Texas A&M.

There was a sadness that came over Honolulu Punahou inside linebacker Isaac Savaiinaea when Sunday afternoon arrived.

That's because it was the end of his official visit to Texas A&M, a trip that the Stanford commitment called "amazing." He enjoyed the visit so much that he said he didn't want to return home to Honolulu.

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While redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense stole the show and filled the highlight reels in the Aggies' first win of the season, a 48-3 domination of SMU on Saturday, the other side of the ball had plenty of its own success.

When the Aggies' offense was struggling to move the football in the first quarter against the Mustangs, it was the defense that held SMU off the scoreboard in the meantime -- and out of the end zone completely.

"I think the story of the game is really how our defense played early," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "They kept us not only in the game, but gave us some energy, too. We weren't hitting on all cylinders and couldn't hardly do anything on offense. I thought our defense really played very, very well and turned it into a field-position game."

[+] EnlargeKevin Sumlin
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesTexas A&M's defense has played well through two games under new head coach Kevin Sumlin.
One of Sumlin's statistical points of emphasis on defense is third-down conversion rate. It's no accident that as the Aggies have turned in two solid defensive performances in their first two games against SMU and Florida, that they've succeeded notably on third downs.

Against Florida, Texas A&M allowed only three third-down conversions in 12 tries. On Saturday against SMU, they limited the Mustangs to three conversions on 18 tries. Through two games, the Aggies are allowing teams to convert on third down a miniscule 20 percent of the time, good for eighth in the country in this young season.

Senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart attributes the success to what Texas A&M does before third down.

"Stopping the run," Stewart said. "Stopping the run on first down and they try to do a screen on second down, then its third-and-8-plus, it's easy for a defensive coordinator to call plays and it's tough for an offense. That was the key. Next week, if we're able to stop the run, we should have success like that again."

Last season,Texas A&M ranked 66th in the country, allowing opponents to convert third-down tries 40.4 percent of the time. Though early, the notable success this year has been a reason why the Aggies have allowed just 23 points in two games. The Aggies are allowing just 308 yards per game and 11.5 points per game so far.

Still, the players say there's room for continued improvement.

"(We're) a team that's improving," Stewart said. "Last week we made critical errors and it cost us the game. In college football, the game comes down to a handful of plays. Last week, Florida made those plays and we didn't. This week, it was the opposite. We just have to keep doing it and keep improving and keep getting better. To be a great defense we just have to do a whole bunch of little things right, just stack them all up on each other and then we'll be a very good defense."

Senior outside linebacker Sean Porter said it's early to read too much into the first two games.

"I think that once we get (further) into SEC play, we'll see how good we really are," Porter said.

"It wasn't perfect, but it was better. We still got a few little things to take care of. We didn't miss too many tackles from what I saw (against SMU). It's definitely an improvement and that's all you can ask for."

Stewart said the success on third down has to continue for the Aggies.

"We've got to do it again next week," he said. "We can't just be a one-hit wonder. We have to do it consistently."
DALLAS -- He juked tacklers. He threw on the run. He launched a pass off one foot and made throws from awkward body positions that some wouldn't dare try.

Johnny Manziel did about everything one could ask of a redshirt freshman quarterback and then some. The growth of Texas A&M's new starting quarterback appeared to take a significant leap on Saturday in the Aggies' 48-3 domination of SMU at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

The young man who is often called "Johnny Football," may be emerging with new nicknames already.

"He's 'Captain Amazing' back there," senior receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu said. "'Johnny Football,' 'Captain Amazing,' I'm pretty sure next week we'll have another one for him. It's a growing legend."

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Ray Carlin/Icon SMIJohnny Manziel threw for four touchdowns and ran in two more in Saturday's win over SMU.
The Kerrville (Texas) Tivy product had a hand in six touchdowns, throwing for four on 20-of-36 passing for 294 yards and dazzling with his legs, rushing for a game-high 124 yards on 13 carries, which included two more scores. He set an A&M freshman single-game passing record with his yardage and tied the freshman record for touchdown passes in a game.

But it wasn't just the sheer production of Manziel that impressed, it was the manner in which he did it. His first touchdown run was of the 48-yard variety, one in which he used a slight juke move to make a pair of would-be SMU tacklers miss before outsprinting the rest in pursuit.

When he found Nwachukwu for a 26-yard touchdown late in the second quarter, he did so on the run, moving to his right yet throwing back across the middle of the field, firing a strike to the senior receiver.

The one that best personified the day, however, was his 42-yard touchdown pass to senior Kenric McNeal in which Manziel spun out of the grasp of SMU linebacker Taylor Reed, rolled to his left and threw an off-balance pass on one foot while leaning forward, hitting McNeal right in the stomach.

"Wow," senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart said of Manziel. "Some of the things that Johnny does are amazing. You would have thought that he was back at Tivy High School again, running around."

Perhaps the best stat for Manziel through two career starts? Zero turnovers and zero fumbles.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin preached patience in judging his young quarterback.

"It's Game 2," Sumlin said. "A quarterback gets way too much credit when we win and all the blame when we lose. I think he's handling it very well."

And while Manziel was dazzling, he was far from the only one who impressed on Saturday. For the second straight game, the Aggies' defense turned in a good performance, this time holding SMU without a touchdown and showing a knack for getting off the field on third down as the Mustangs converted just three of 18 attempts in those situations.

Junior defensive end Damontre Moore picked up two more sacks, giving him five on the year, and the Aggies held the Mustangs to just 309 offensive yards. By comparison, Texas A&M almost doubled that offensively, netting 605.

While last week there was frustration from the Aggies' defense over penalties and missed tackles, both of those things were reduced on Saturday.

"[We're] a team that's improving," Stewart said. "Last week, we made critical errors and they cost us a game. In college football, the game comes down to a handful of plays. Last week, Florida made those plays and we didn't. This week it was the opposite. We just have to keep doing it, keep improving and keep getting better."

Joining Manziel on the offensive side was redshirt freshman Mike Evans, who had six catches for 123 yards -- all in the first half. Senior Ryan Swope (five catches, 70 yards and a touchdown) got going after being limited to just 16 yards receiving a week ago, and Nwachukwu caught two touchdowns after not being targeted last week. Freshman Trey Williams got his first career touchdown while netting 68 offensive yards.

"We had a number of receivers who made plays," Sumlin said. "Swope and EZ [Nwachukwu] both got in the end zone. That's good because they've been working hard. Mike had a big day. Any game that you score that many points, it's a lot of people playing well, not just the quarterback and the receivers."

Instant analysis: Texas A&M 48, SMU 3

September, 15, 2012
DALLAS -- Texas A&M's offense kick-started in the second quarter and rolled from that point on as the Aggies dominated SMU, 48-3. Here's how it went down at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Saturday:

It was over when: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel danced his way to a 15-yard touchdown run to give the Aggies a 34-3 lead with 4:27 to go the third quarter. The way SMU's offense produced, you could argue it was done before this point, but it was an answer to SMU's only score in the first three quarters, a Chase Hover 25-yard field goal.

Game ball goes to: Manziel. After a respectable debut against Florida, the redshirt freshman really turned it loose on Saturday against the Mustangs. He set a Texas A&M single-game freshman record with 294 yards passing (breaking Kevin Murray's record of 280 set against Rice in 1983) and accounted for six touchdowns -- four passing and two rushing. He also ran for 124 yards on 13 carries, leading all rushers on Saturday. He also wowed onlookers with his improvisation, whether it was throwing on the run, eluding tacklers or launching the ball from an awkward body position.

Game ball, Part 2: The Texas A&M defense. SMU failed to convert on 13 of its first 14 third-down attempts. Part of that was the Mustangs' execution, but the Aggies' pass rush and secondary deserves credit as well. Damontre Moore picked up two more sacks, giving him five on the year after getting three last week against Florida, and the secondary did a solid job in coverage and tackling.

Rising star: Mike Evans. The redshirt freshman receiver caught six passes for 123 yards, all in the first half. He has good size (6-foot-5, 218 pounds) and has the athleticism to go up and get jump balls. He also showed the speed to get to deep passes in coverage and is physical enough to shove tacklers aside and gain extra yardage. He has only played organized football since his senior year of high school, so it appears he can only grow and improve as he continues to play.

What it means: The SMU team that the Aggies faced is not in the same ballpark as Florida was in terms of talent, but it is good for the Aggies to get their first win of the Kevin Sumlin era. Some of the signatures of Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury's offense emerged -- the big plays, the high tempo -- and the Aggies were able to move the ball consistently, something they didn't do in the second half against Florida. And a second straight good performance from the defense has to be encouraging to Aggies fans.

Halftime analysis: Texas A&M 20, SMU 0

September, 15, 2012
DALLAS -- Texas A&M recovered from a slow start to reel off 20 second-quarter points and take a commanding lead into the locker room at halftime against SMU on Saturday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

Stat of the half: Texas A&M's defense has been effective in getting off the field, holding SMU to 1-of-10 on third-down conversion tries. They've hassled quarterback Garrett Gilbert some, though Gilbert is having his own struggles with accuracy, going 11-for-26 passing in the half. SMU running back Zach Line has 28 yards on seven carries and hasn't been much of a factor. Aggies defensive end Damontre Moore started the game with a sack on the first drive, his fourth of the year, and the secondary has played well despite missing starting safety Steven Campbell, one of two A&M players suspended for this game.

Player of the half: Once again, it's quarterback Johnny Manziel. You could make an argument for redshirt freshman receiver Mike Evans, but we'll give the nod to Manziel for his electric 48-yard second-quarter touchdown dash. Manziel, the redshirt freshman who is making just his second start, is 13-of-26 passing for 202 yards and has rushed for a game-high 82 yards on 10 carries, including that aforementioned touchdown run. He found Ryan Swope on a 29-yard catch-and-run for the first touchdown and made a difficult throw, rolling right and going to the middle of the field to find Uzoma Nwachukwu for a 26-yard scoring strike.

What’s working for the Aggies: Passes to Mike Evans. The redshirt freshman has been nothing short of impressive, catching six passes for 123 yards. The 6-foot-5, 218-pounder has only played organized football for two seasons -- his last year of prep ball at Galveston (Texas) Ball High and his redshirt year at Texas A&M -- but he appears to be ahead of the curve. He has effectively used his size against smaller defensive backs and has enough speed to be a big-time deep threat. Through two games, it appears he may be emerging into a receiver Manziel can lean on, lofting up deep passes and allowing Evans to go make a play on them.

What’s not working for the Aggies: The run game. With starting running back Christine Michael suspended, the Aggies are down to two backs -- junior Ben Malena and true freshman Trey Williams -- and neither has been particularly productive. Malena has 18 yards on four carries; Williams has 6 yards on three totes.

What Texas A&M needs to do to win: Continue to play solid third-down defense and move the football offensively. The offense, after being stagnant in the first quarter, appears to have hit a rhythm. If it can keep that going, the Aggies will cruise to an easy win.
GigEmNation writer Sam Khan Jr. chatted with readers on Friday about Texas A&M football and recruiting. Here's the full transcript of the chat. After their season-opening 20-17 loss to Florida last week, the Aggies travel to Dallas to take on SMU on Saturday.

Brandon (Austin): As a fan...how worried should I be about the same second-half problems from last year?
Sam Khan Jr.: Brandon, I wouldn't get concerned about it just yet. Last week's second half wasn't "a collapse" per se. It was a close game where the offense just couldn't get it going. The defense fared well, whereas last year I know the defense had its struggles in the second half. Unless you see something that looks like one of last year's games, I wouldn't get too concerned.

Tim (Harlingen): Which wide receiver do you predict will step up the most this week? They had trouble getting open in the second half last week, but we know Swope is a proven playmaker, and Mike Evans and Thomas Johnson showed flashes against Florida. This is a prime game for one of them to put up big stats.
Sam Khan Jr.: Tim, I really think you're going to see Ryan Swope have a big game this week. He had more than 100 receiving yards last year against SMU and they tried to get him the ball last week but Florida did a good job of limiting him (five catches, 16 yards). I'm sure he's anxious to get back on the field. I wouldn't be shocked to see Mike Evans put up big numbers, either; they clearly tried to get him the ball last week and he has a good mix of size and speed. Thomas Johnson, I think, is going to be a big-time player for the Aggies, but I don't know if he'll have a "breakout" game this week.

Clayton (Midland): Do you think we'll see a different look from the offense against SMU, such as fewer trick plays, more pounding the rock and downfield passing? Will it work?
Sam Khan Jr.: Clayton,I don't know that we'll see a "different" look per se, but I think you'll definitely see the Aggies attack more downfield. Much of that will come with experience for QB Johnny Manziel. As he gains more game experience, he'll get more comfortable progressing through reads and getting the ball downfield. And I definitely expect to see Texas A&M continue to run the ball. They did against Florida; it just got shut down in the second half.

Texas A&M-SMU prediction

September, 14, 2012
Texas A&M 52, SMU 13

This will be the fifth consecutive year that Kevin Sumlin and June Jones have met -- Sumlin annually saw Jones' SMU squads while at Houston -- and Sumlin has come out on the winning end each time. With Sumlin bringing a team with the type of talent and depth Texas A&M has, I expect to see a large victory for the Aggies. SMU appeared to struggle against Baylor's offensive attack in its season-opening 59-24 loss to the Bears and Baylor's offense has some similarities to Texas A&M's in terms of style and pace. And if the Aggies' defensive line can repeat the kind of effort they had against Florida, it may get ugly for Garrett Gilbert and co. quickly.

Player to watch: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M

The senior receiver, who broke school records in catches and receiving yards last year, was bottled up by Florida (five catches, 16 yards). I expect to see Swope continue to get looks and make some big things happen with them. Last year when the teams met, Swope had eight catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Matchups to watch: Texas A&M vs. SMU

September, 14, 2012
• SMU RB Zach Line vs. Texas A&M LB Jonathan Stewart
Stewart is coming off an impressive game against Florida, recording a game-high 17 tackles, including a half-sack. He'll likely see plenty of the senior Line, who had a productive day against the Aggies when they met at Kyle Field last year (22 carries, 128 yards and a touchdown), a 46-14 Texas A&M victory. Line already has a 100-yard game under his belt this year (135 yards against Baylor) and 16 100-yard games in his career.

• Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore vs. SMU RT Bryan Collins
The 6-foot-4 250-pound Moore was the SEC co-Defensive Lineman of the Week last week with a 10-tackle, three-sack performance against Florida. On Saturday, it will be Collins, a 6-3, 313-pound senior out of Keller, Texas, assigned to slow Moore down. Though a senior, Collins hasn't started more than three games in a season and has nine total career starts coming into Saturday's game.

• SMU WR Jeremy Johnson vs. Texas A&M CB Toney Hurd
Johnson, who plays the 'Y' position for the Mustangs, leads the team in catches (13), yards (122) and yards per game (61). When the Aggies are in a nickel package on defense, Hurd, a junior, will line up as the nickel corner and will likely see a lot of Johnson. Hurd had two tackles in the Aggies' season opener last week.

• Texas A&M RBs Christine Michael, Ben Malena and Trey Williams vs. SMU LB Taylor Reed
The Aggies used all three backs in their season opening loss to Florida and were able to mix up their attack well. The trio started the game well, but didn't finish strong, struggling in the second half. They combined for 74 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards. Reed -- who has nine tackles, including a tackle for loss, this season -- won't be the only one pursuing the three, but he'll likely see plenty of each.

• Texas A&M field goal team vs. SMU DE Margus Hunt
Hunt, who also starts at defensive end for the Mustangs, is best known for his kick-blocking ability. He blocked a pair of PATs against Texas A&M last season and last week blocked a field goal against Stephen F. Austin, the ninth such block of his career, which is an NCAA career record. Total, he has blocked 15 kicks (nine field goals, six PATs), so Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin and special teams coordinator Brian Polian are well aware of the threat Hunt poses.

Notes: Kevin Sumlin happy with effort

September, 11, 2012
A few days removed from the raw emotion of a 20-17 season-opening loss to Florida, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin noted several positives that he and his team could take away from the game, including effort and physicality. Sumlin said he was pleased with his team's effort on offense and defense and that he believed his team played physical. The fact that the Aggies did not turn the ball over was also a positive, but one of the negative sticking points he mentioned Saturday was repeated again on Tuesday: penalties.

"The three things we talk about going into every game: play hard, play smart and be physical," Sumlin said. " I thought we were extremely physical and I thought we played extremely hard. The intelligence part of the game, we did not. So when you're in a close game and you have nine penalties, for 78 yards, that's not going to cut it. I think Bill Polian, the NFL (executive) studied and said that there's a formula that every 10 yards of penalties is worth one point. So there's a lot of combinations into that. I think our players right now, after talking about that, they understand the importance of that part of the game also.

"And as I said, that was an emphasis coming into this year: turnover ratio and penalties. So we got one of them done on Saturday and really one of them, the other side, cost us the football game, which is a learning experience."

Familiar foe

With SMU on tap, it's an opponent Sumlin is plenty familiar with. While at Houston, Sumlin's Cougars met June Jones' Mustangs annually as they resided in the same Conference USA West division. This will be Sumlin's fifth year in a row to meet SMU.

"I have a lot of respect for June Jones," Sumlin said. "He's a guy who's taken SMU to a Conference USA championship game from nothing and really done a fine job with that program. June's a buddy. I think I asked him last time I saw him, if now he'll let me play in his golf tournament in Hawaii since we're not in the same league anymore. He said 'Well, we still play each other,' so I don't know if he's going to let me play in it."

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