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August 29, 2013

McKinney takes charge of a potent offense

After offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury left Texas A&M last winter to take the head coaching job at Texas Tech, running backs coach Clarence McKinney stepped in to the role for the Cotton Bowl matchup against Oklahoma.

The 41-13 trashing of the Sooners was one of A&M's most complete offensive performances of the season and helped McKinney snag the coordinator job on a full-time basis. Now that he's on the verge of beginning his first season as offensive coordinator, McKinney seems less than intimidated by the responsibility.

"I've called plays before. The good thing about my position is that we've got a lot of weapons," he said. "You put those guys on the field and you give the ball to your weapons. I think it makes it easier when you have those guys who can do things with the ball."

One area where McKinney has plenty of weapons is at running back, which may come in more handy than usual against Rice Saturday as quarterback Johnny Manziel sits out the first half. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Williams likely will not play as he recovers from an injury suffered before camp, but sophomore Trey Williams may see a lot of time behind starter Ben Malena. Trey Williams, McKinney said, has done what he has needed to to earn increased playing time.

"Trey's biggest improvement is his pass protection. That's one of the things that held him back last year," he said. "When Trey has the ball in his hands he's just as dynamic this year, if not more, than last year. His biggest improvement has been his ability to pick up blitzes and protect the quarterback."

With the loss of Ryan Swope, Kenric McNeal, EZ Nwachukwu and Thomas Johnson from last year's receiver corps, the Aggies need for a number of players to step up to replace a huge amount of lost production. After seeing his veteran receivers in both the spring and summer, McKinney said he believes several players are up to the challenge.

"We definitely feel like Derel Walker is a much better receiver this year than he was last year. He got here that first spring, had some injuries and didn't quite perform on offense as we thought he would. He's been doing a tremendous job this offseason and fall camp. We are looking forward to having him out there running around, as well as Sabian Holmes," McKinney said. "He was a backup last year and we're expecting big things from him. He has accepted a position vacated by Kenric McNeal and we are expecting good things from Sabian. Malcome Kennedy made some big plays and had some good catches. We feel like he has made great strides and become one of the leaders of that group. Mike Evans is a better receiver this year than he was last year."

If the veteran receivers can't fill the void, McKinney has the good fortune having six new, talented receivers on the roster who are part of the recruiting class of 2013. Just how many of the six will play in 2013, he said, remains up in the air.

"I'm not really sure, but a guy like Ricky Seals-Jones we are expecting to play some. Laquvionte (Gonzalez) has the chance to play a bit. I think he is going to be on some special teams as well," McKinney said. "The other guys have been coming along. There's a chance you will see all six of them this year."

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