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April 10, 2013

An early look ahead at a two-deep

While there's still a long time and a bunch of practices left between now and Texas A&M's season opener with Rice, here's a bold (and possibly foolish) look at what the Aggies' two-deep may look like when they take the field against the Owls.

Will this be 100% accurate? Highly unlikely. Will it be how things look by mid-season? Almost certainly not. But it does give you an idea of where things stand right now, and what positions the freshmen who aren't already on campus may be asked to fill.

QB: Johnny Manziel, Matt Joeckel

Comments: Manziel, as we know, is the most exciting player in college football and a game changer by himself. Joeckel has proven himself to be capable of operating the offense efficiently if need be.

RB: Ben Malena, Trey Williams OR Brandon Williams

Comments: Malena is the unquestioned starter and deserves to be, as he's the most complete back. Trey Williams is still recovering from offseason surgery, but has looked very sharp in limited snaps. Brandon Williams is another home run threat, but he hasn't been as consistent this spring.

WR: Mike Evans, Ricky Seals-Jones
WR: Edward Pope, Derel Walker
WR: Malcome Kennedy, Gaston Lamascus
WR: Sabian Holmes, Sebastian Larue

Comments: There will be plenty of snaps for the likes of JaQuay Williams, Kyrion Parker, LaQuvionte Gonzalez and Jeremy Tabuyo, so long as they've proven mastery of the offense. Evans is the ultimate threat, and RSJ is a similar talent (though it may be unfair to push him into the two-deep for the first game). Pope has had a solid spring, and Walker is coming on after an excellent Friday Night Lights performance. With the exception of Evans, Kennedy and Lamascus may be the two targets Manziel is most comfortable with. Kennedy could be on the verge of a breakout year and, while largely overlooked, Lamascus just gets open and catches the football. Holmes has a year of experience in the system and Larue may be the most refined product among the incoming crop of receivers.

RT: Cedric Ogbuehi, Joseph Cheek

Comments: Ogbuehi has made the move back to tackle with little visible difficulty; Cheek has proven to be a solid reserve and has bulked up substantially since he arrived on campus.

RG: Germain Ifedi, Shep Klinke

Comments: Ifedi looks comfortable in his move back to guard and should be a formidable interior lineman. Klinke provides experience in the case of injury.

C: Mike Matthews, Ben Compton

Matthews could make the offense move even faster this year, as he moves at a higher rate of speed than Patrick Lewis did. He doesn't have the experience of Lewis, however, so that is something that bears watching. To this point, though, he's held up well, and, as we know, he's not your usual sophomore with just five games of mop-up experience. Compton has been the best member of the second team so far this spring and could also be the primary reserve at one of the guard positions this fall.

LG: Jarvis Harrison, Ishmael Wilson

Comments: Harrison is an established, solid starter. Wilson is the incoming lineman with the most impressive resume and brings a good skill set and a mean streak. He could, however, prove to be in the two-deep in name only (like Ifedi was last year) as Compton could be the real backup here.

LT: Jake Matthews, Jeremiah Stuckey

Comments: Matthews is already an All-American at right tackle and he looks like he's going to be fine taking over for Luke Joeckel. He may have played for the only team in America in 2012 where he wouldn't have started on the left side, and now he's got his chance. Stuckey has struggled mightily this spring, and will have to improve this summer or A&M will have to find another alternative here.

DE: Julien Obioha, Gavin Stansbury

Comments: Obioha hasn't played this spring, but the coaching staff says he's healthy and expects him to have a good 2013. Stansbury has largely stepped up his game this spring, giving A&M a solid combination here.

DT: Kirby Ennis, Isaiah Golden

Comments: Ennis has returned and will be the linchpin of the defensive line in 2013. He's a potential all-conference player if he improves his play a little over last year. Golden, a massive freshman, may not be on campus yet but the coaching staff has high hopes for him. He's already got the size to hold up against SEC competition, even if it is in limited snaps.

DT: Alonzo Williams, Justin Manning

Comments: Williams has shown he's ready to take over this position, as he was very impressive last Friday night. Matching him with Ennis gives the Aggies some considerable size in the interior. Manning's inclusion is an indication of not only his talent, but the lack of depth A&M has at both interior line positions. When Ivan Robinson returns, he may be a factor here -- but it's tough to fathom that would be in week one.

Rush: Tyrell Taylor, Tyrone Taylor OR Daeshon Hall

Comments: This position remains up for grabs. Tyrell Taylor has proven he's a more than capable pass rusher this spring, as he's been a challenge for both tackles; however, he's painfully undersized at 230 lbs. Tyrone Taylor sparkled last Friday night, but he's still a work in progress. Could Hall, who brings another long frame (6 feet, 6 inches tall) and is said to be up to around 240 pounds, be the answer here? We'll find out this fall.

SAM: Tommy Sanders, Nate Askew

Comments: Sanders was installed as the starter from day one and has remained there. He's fast and aggressive, but this summer will be important for him to fully grasp the defense. Askew has been a revelation this spring, and could be enough of a player here to allow Darian Claiborne to redshirt.

MIKE: Donnie Baggs, Shaun Ward

Comments: Baggs has been A&M's best linebacker this spring and has largely eliminated any questions about whether the Aggies had a capable replacement for Jonathan Stewart on hand. Ward has been good enough this spring to hold off Reggie Chevis for the backup job, but that competition will continue with the addition of Jordan Mastrogiovanni in the fall.

WILL: Steven Jenkins, Brett Wade

Comments: Jenkins' return will help solidify the linebacker corps. Wade has been as advertised this spring, showing he's a tough, aggressive tackler even as he adjusts to the college game.

CB: Deshazor Everett, Noel Ellis

Comments: Everett is A&M's best corner and an All-SEC candidate. Ellis has a very real chance to win the backup job here due to a lack of depth and his established corner skills.

CB: Devante Harris, Tavares Garner OR Tramain Jacobs

Harris has been the starter this spring and has gotten bigger and become a more aggressive tackler since last year. Jacobs has a year of experience, but is not a guarantee to hold onto the backup job with the arrival of Garner and Victor Davis (and even from Alex Sezer, if he becomes comfortable enough with his new position).

NICKEL: Toney Hurd, Tramain Jacobs

Comments: Hurd's as good as it gets here. Jacobs is probably the best tackling corner after Hurd, so he would be a logical reserve here.

FS: Floyd Raven, Kameron Miles

Comments: Raven has been excellent so far this spring, filling another huge need after Steven Terrell's departure. His emergence allows A&M the luxury of not rushing its three incoming freshman safeties, but Miles' abilities may make it impossible to keep him out of the two-deep.

SS: Howard Matthews, Clay Honeycutt

Comments: Matthews has moved into the role of the quarterback of the defense and has taken to it well. He's come a long way from the end of last summer's practices. Honeycutt has looked good this spring, and could be the guy to win the backup spot here.

Special teams: Drew Kaser, P; Taylor Bertolet, PK; Devante Harris, PR; Alex Sezer and Trey Williams, KR

Comments: Bertolet and Kaser have both looked good this spring, but their real competition will arrive in the summer. Their work in the spring, though, should give them a pretty sizable lead. Harris has already impressed special teams coach Jeff Banks, and Sezer and Trey Williams are A&M's most explosive options for returners.

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