Texas A&M Aggies: Uzoma Nwachkwu

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."

(Read full post)

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).


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Johnny Manziel has wowed the college football world with his performance this season. With his production (4,600 total yards, 43 touchdowns responsible for), his athleticism and his knack for making highlight-reel-worthy plays, turning the impossible to possible, he has received significant praise from teammates, coaches, opponents and media.

We'll find out Saturday night whether he'll become the first freshman in college football history to take home the sport's most coveted individual award. In the meantime, here's a glance at some of the comments made about Manziel throughout this season:

• "Johnny Manziel is a fantastic athlete." -- Florida coach Will Muschamp, after the Gators' 20-17 win over Texas A&M in the Aggies' season opener Sept. 8.

• "With Johnny, of course, he's Captain Amazing back there, not getting sacked ... Johnny Football, Captain Amazing, I'm pretty sure next week we'll have another [nickname] for him. It's a growing legend going on." -- Texas A&M receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu, after a 48-3 win over SMU on Sept. 15.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Three Aggies Arrested After Traffic Stop
Chris Low discusses the offseason trouble being encountered by Texas A&M football players, including the recent arrests of Howard Matthews, Edward Pope, and Gavin Stansbury.Tags: Texas A&M, Howard Matthews, Edward Pope, Gavin Stansbury, Chris Low, arrest
VIDEO PLAYLIST video