Texas A&M Aggies: Thomas Johnson

SEC's lunch links

April, 8, 2014
The SEC has been pumping out internet memes lately. Over the weekend there was Gene Chizik staring down his daughter's prom date. Then during Monday night's basketball national championship game, rapper Drake's many sports allegiances (Kentucky among them) were on display. Oh, and the kid Cats lost to UConn and then acted like they'd never heard of the NBA draft.

Let's swim back into the friendlier waters of SEC football, shall we?

Freshman WR LaRue could make impact 

May, 22, 2013
When it comes to freshmen, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has never been shy about putting them on the field.

Going back to his time at Houston, Sumlin has long been a "best players play" coach, regardless of age or experience. If a player can help his team win and does the right things, that player will see the field.

Sebastian Larue
Tom Hauck/ESPNHSTexas A&M signee Sebastian LaRue could see the field early and often in 2013.
Last season, Texas A&M had several true freshman either start or contribute to the Aggies memorable 11-2 season. Cornerback De'Vante Harris and defensive end Julien Obioha both started large portions of the year. Others found themselves in the two-deep as contributors or spot starters, like receiver Thomas Johnson, defensive tackle Alonzo Williams and running back Trey Williams.

So it stands to reason that more than one freshman will have an impact this fall. But who will have the greatest impact?

Several true freshmen who have a chance to impact the Aggies are already on campus -- linebackers Reggie Chevis and Brett Wade, defensive tackle Jordan Points, cornerback Alex Sezer and receiver Ja'Quay Williams -- but for this exercise we'll look at only those who aren't yet on campus.

The candidates are still plentiful. At defensive tackle, the Aggies could use more depth. ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Isaiah Golden are prime candidates to make an impact. ESPN 300 cornerback Noel Ellis is a tremendous playmaker in the return game and in the secondary, though the Aggies do have more returning starters in the defensive backfield than any position group on defense. At defensive end, the Aggies are searching for someone to help replace the production of Damontre Moore. Could Jay Arnold or Daeshon Hall help in that role next season? Perhaps.

But the one place where it stands to reason that there will be spots up for grabs and several incoming freshmen to battle for them is receiver. The Aggies only return one starter from last season's quartet (Mike Evans), so there are other spots up for grabs for takers.

Position breakdown: Receiver 

February, 18, 2013
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.

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Signing day primer: Texas A&M 

January, 23, 2013
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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Changing the game: 2013 Texas A&M class 

January, 21, 2013
The recruiting momentum that Texas A&M has is strong.

One could argue that there were a pair of recruits -- 2012 signees De'Vante Harris and Thomas Johnson -- who sparked the start of that momentum for the Aggies. Johnson, the No. 33 player in the 2012 ESPN 150, and Harris, the No. 144 player in the elite list, both decommitted from schools that the Aggies have long battled on the recruiting trail -- Texas (Johnson) and Oklahoma (Harris) -- and wound up at Texas A&M.

And while landing those two were huge, the work that Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have done in the Aggies' 2013 recruiting class has really changed the game in the recruiting landscape.

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Grading the positions: Receivers 

December, 11, 2012
In the weeks leading up to Texas A&M's bowl game, GigEmNation will take a look back at how the Aggies performed position by position and give each group a grade based on that performance. Today, we look at the receivers.

GradeHighlights: Redshirt freshman Mike Evans was a pleasant surprise this season for the Aggies. He led the team in catches (75) and receiving yards (1,022), becoming just the third Texas A&M player to haul in 1,000 or more receiving yards in a season. He's big (6-foot-5, 218 pounds), fast and physical, rarely running out of bounds voluntarily. Senior Ryan Swope recovered from a few early-season games with low statistical outputs to become one of Johnny Manziel's most trusted and consistent target as the year progressed. Swope was second on the team in receptions (64) and yards (809) and had a team-high seven touchdown receptions and made some huge catches down the stretch. Senior Uzoma Nwachkwu also had a nose for the end zone, catching six scores. Sophomore Malcome Kennedy emerged throughout the the season as a reliable target and caught the memorable touchdown pass against Alabama that served as Texas A&M's final points in the upset win.

Lowlights: The lack of production early in the season by receivers not named Mike Evans wasn't necessarily their fault. As head coach Kevin Sumlin often said, "Guys were open; we just weren't finding them." Much of that had to do with Manziel getting used to and comfortable with the offense while taking care of the ball since the coaches were adamant about him not being reckless and turning it over. Thomas Johnson was a bright spot in terms of the ability he showed as a true freshman but his brief disappearance near the end of the season leaves questions about his future. Sumlin has said only that Johnson is with his family in Dallas and has not commented on Johnson's future with the team.

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Thomas Johnson found safe

November, 15, 2012
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M freshman receiver Thomas Johnson, missing since Monday, was found safe on Thursday in Dallas, the University Police Department and the player's mother confirmed.

A police department spokesperson told ESPN.com Thursday morning that further information was forthcoming, but confirmed that Johnson was safe.

His mother, Linda Hanks, said A&M University police called her early Thursday to say the 18-year-old has been found unharmed.

Police said Wednesday that Johnson was last seen leaving his College Station residence around 5 p.m. Monday.

Hanks told WFAA-TV she had traveled from Dallas to College Station as authorities searched for her son. Meanwhile, Johnson turned up 180 miles to the south, in Dallas.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Film Review: LSU 24, Texas A&M 19 

October, 22, 2012
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M lost a close, hard-fought battle with LSU 24-19 on Saturday at Kyle Field, a day where the Aggies struggled taking care of the ball and met a defense that is filled with speed, athleticism and depth. Here's a closer look at three plays that helped tell the story of the game:

[+] EnlargeThomas Johnson
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireTexas A&M receiver Thomas Johnson has 21 catches and 269 yards receiving on the season.
Situation: Texas A&M ball, third-and-6 at the Aggies' 35 (4:33 left second quarter)
Score: Texas A&M 12, LSU 0
Result: Interception by LSU CB Jalen Collins, returned to the LSU 42.

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Several Aggies freshmen making impact

October, 18, 2012
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Based on the highlight reels, it would be easy to surmise that Texas A&M has been a one-man show in its inaugural Southeastern Conference season.

Johnny Football, Johnny Football and more Johnny Football. Even his nickname is starting to catch on with analysts and commentators across the country.

[+] EnlargeMike Evans
AP Photo/Kita K WrightFreshman Mike Evans has become Johnny Manziel's top target for Texas A&M.
Johnny Manziel, the Aggies' redshirt freshman quarterback, has provided seemingly a season's worth of highlights already in six games with his playmaking ability. His improvisational skills and his quick development have helped the No. 18 Aggies to a 5-1 record heading into their SEC West tilt with LSU.

But he's not the only freshman getting it done for Texas A&M.

Even on nights when Manziel has broken SEC records, Kevin Sumlin has called the Aggies' wins "team wins," and he's right for doing so. It's easy for others to get overshadowed in the hype.

One of the Aggies' most dynamic freshmen along with Manziel has been the one who has caught most of Manziel's passes, redshirt freshman receiver Mike Evans.

In the Aggies' two most recent wins, both of which had wild finishes, Evans made some of the biggest plays. When the Aggies had their backs against the wall, down 10 points with less than eight minutes to go at Mississippi on Oct. 6, it was Evans who made a leaping catch over a defender near the sideline on third-and-17 when the Aggies were backed up at their own 3-yard line. The 32-yard catch triggered a scoring drive that pulled the Aggies to within four, and they later scored once more to pull out a 30-27 win.

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DT Kerrick Huggins solid to Texas A&M 

October, 3, 2012
DALLAS – You couldn’t miss Kerrick Huggins on Friday night.

At 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, the three-star Dallas Skyline defensive tackle usually towers over his peers. This night was no different from the rest, with the Texas A&M pledge serving as the key disruptive cog in Skyline’s defense in a 56-24 rout of Dallas Jesuit.

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Instant analysis: TAMU 58, Arkansas 10

September, 29, 2012
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M put the pedal to the metal and didn't ease up, rolling to a dominating 58-10 win over Arkansas on Saturday at Kyle Field. Here's how it played out:

It was over when: Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore forced a Knile Davis fumble that was picked up and returned 28 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Tramain Jacobs to give the Aggies a 44-10 lead over the Razorbacks with 7:06 remaining in the third quarter. Arkansas never truly threatened in the second half, but after that scoop and score by Jacobs, it seemed that any hope Arkansas had of getting back into the game washed away.

Game ball goes to: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. He has been impressive in his first three starts for the Aggies, and his fourth was even more so. The redshirt freshman set school records for passing yards (453) and total offense (557). He was 29-of-38 passing, threw for three touchdowns and ran for 104 more yards and another TD. He broke Ryan Tannehill's school passing record of 449 yards and Jerrod Johnson's total offense record of 487. Most importantly, Manziel had no turnovers and hasn't committed one yet this season.

Game ball, Part 2: The Texas A&M defense. The Aggies trailed 10-7 after a quarter, but the Razorbacks didn't score again. Arkansas moved the ball plenty, finishing with 515 total yards, but it didn't equate to points. The Aggies' red zone defense was outstanding, as Arkansas finished 1-of-5 in that department. Steven Terrell had two key interceptions to help lead the D.

Rising star: Texas A&M running back Ben Malena. The junior got his third straight start and was effective in his limited touches, gaining 59 rushing yards on eight carries and catching an 11-yard touchdown pass from Manziel. He's a good contrast to Christine Michael, who is effective between the tackles and more of a north-south runner. Malena is good in the passing game and the running game and has the speed to make big plays. Honorable mention to true freshman receiver Thomas Johnson, who caught five passes for 108 yards, although 88 of them came on two plays in the fourth quarter.

What it means: The Aggies are a different ballclub from a year ago, clearly. They led Arkansas last season by 18 points at the half, and on Saturday they led by 17. Last year, they fell 42-38. This year, they continued to score and blew out the Razorbacks. This is an explosive offense with an aggressive mentality and a ton of playmakers, coupled with a defense that appears to be much better than it was expected to be in the preseason.

For the Razorbacks, this season is slipping away quickly. Now, one must wonder whether Arkansas will even make it to a bowl game. The Razorbacks looked wholly defeated in the second half, and though they kept fighting, their efforts were futile. It already has been a long season in Fayetteville, Ark., and it looks as if it will continue to be.
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.

[+] EnlargeMike Evans
Brett Davis/US Presswire'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."

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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.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M will host its second open-to-the-public scrimmage of fall training camp and third overall scrimmage at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Kyle Field. Here are some things to watch for in the scrimmage:

Johnny Manziel: Now that the redshirt freshman has officially been named the starting quarterback, it'll be worth closely watching how he performs in a public setting. The Aggies are fewer than two weeks away from their season opener, so his continued progress will be key to Texas A&M's success. It will be also worth watching to see how the other quarterbacks perform in the wake of the decision.

• The return game: Finding a kick returner is something that still needs to be crossed off the to-do list for coach Kevin Sumlin and special teams coordinator Brian Polian. Polian mentioned that he's not afraid to look at freshmen as candidates and that includes running back Trey Williams and freshman receivers Sabian Holmes and Thomas Johnson.

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Practice notes: QB battle continues 

August, 14, 2012
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- No matter who wins the ongoing quarterback battle at Texas A&M, it's worth noting that there won't be any rotation of sorts or time-share between two or three of the candidates. Coach Kevin Sumlin indicated on Monday after the Aggies' evening practice that whoever it is, it will be one quarterback.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.comRedshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel took the majority of first-team snaps during Texas A&M's scrimmage over the weekend.
"I have traditionally not been a two or three-quarterback system guy," Sumlin said. "I think a guy's got to feel like he's got the team and I feel like a guy's got to feel like he's the backup and when his opportunity comes, if it comes, then he needs to be ready to play instead of shoveling guys in and out."

The battle between the trio of sophomores Matt Joeckel and Jameill Showers and redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel continues. Manziel and Joeckel shined during Saturday's scrimmage at Kyle Field and on Monday during a brief team session during the open portion of practice, Manziel lined up with the first team and Showers went with the second team, perhaps indicating that Manziel has taken the lead.

With a smile, Sumlin reminded reporters that despite the thought that Showers might have had the job all but wrapped up heading into fall training camp, that it was still and is still very much open.

"You know they were all good," Sumlin said of their performances in Saturday's scrimmage. "They all did some good things. I thought that Johnny operated very very well. Like I said Saturday, just by his numbers, you can tell that he had an excellent day. I thought his progressions were good. He took care of the football and I thought all of them did a pretty good job of doing that. It wasn't that Jameill was bad, it's just that the other two guys were playing pretty good, too.

"I'm not surprised by the development of all three of them. Like I said in the spring, you guys are the ones that said we had a quarterback picked. I never said that. I'll keep reminding you guys of that all of the time."

Other notables from Monday's practice:

• Defensive tackles Kirby Ennis and Jonathan Mathis, who sat out a few workouts last week including Saturday's scrimmage with minor injuries, returned to the lineup and worked with the first-team defense.

• One true freshman that saw significant field time on Saturday and continues to push for playing time is defensive end Julien Obioha. Sumlin specifically cited him for what he has shown during camp. Like fellow true freshman De'Vante Harris, who worked with the first team at cornerback during Saturday's scrimmage, Obioha is pushing for a spot in the starting lineup. Obioha got some work with the first-team defense also at defensive end on Saturday and on Monday.

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John Chavis Suing Texas A&M, LSU
ESPN.com SEC reporter Sam Khan Jr. reports the latest on Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis, who has sued both LSU and Texas A&M over a buyout he claims he doesn't owe.