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December 9, 2013

Evans stands out in wideout crop

AggieYell.com continues its position-by-position postseason review of the 2013 Texas A&M football team. Next up: the wide receivers and tight ends.

Mike Evans (65 catches for 1,322 yards and 12 TDs; 20.3 YPC, 110.2 YPG):

Evans didn't break records for yardage and touchdowns in 2013, he shattered them. Amazingly, his 65 catches only tie for seventh in school history for a single year, a testament to his ability to make big plays repeatedly. He now holds the record for not only the most receiving yards in a single game (287 against Auburn) but second as well (279 against Alabama), and broke Ryan Swope's receiving yardage record by more than 100 yards in spite of catching 24 fewer passes than Swope did in 2011. But, when Johnny Manziel's performance dipped in the last two games of the year, so did his numbers: 6 catches for just 59 yards combined against LSU and Missouri. In spite of a disappointing two games, Evans was easily the nation's best receiver for most of the season, a deserving first team All-American and has a strong argument for the Belitnikoff Award. Unfortunately, such greatness has a price: we'll likely see him in an Aggie uniform for the last time New Year's Eve.

Malcome Kennedy (55 catches, 606 yards, 7 TDs; 11 YPC, 55.1 YPG):

Kennedy was expected to become the second option to Evans and largely did just that, picking up a hat trick of touchdown passes against Alabama and becoming a reliable target. However, there were periods where he was also invisible, and he slipped to option three late in the season as Travis Labhart emerged. He had a solid season, but nothing spectacular in a pass-heavy offense -- but he appears poised to turn pro anyway.

Derel Walker (45 catches for 705 yards and 4 TDs; 15.7 YPC, 58.8 YPG):

Walker was a guy the Aggies were hoping could develop into a receiver who could stretch the field, and he became that by about midseason. His hands and route running became much better, and he started to get open more regularly. But A&M won't get to benefit from his continued development, as he's out of eligibility. He did enough this year, though, to merit a look from NFL scouts.

Travis Labhart (44 catches for 550 yards and 5 TDs; 12.5 YPC, 45.8 YPG):

One of the feel-good stories in all of college football in 2013, the former walk-on became an indispensable part of the A&M offense as the season went on. He understood the offense and the role of each receiver on the field, and had the ability to find openings in the defense when Manziel would start scrambling. He was well on his way to becoming a high caliber air raid receiver, but his time at A&M is up as well.

Laquvionte Gonzalez (18 catches, 222 yards, 1 TD; 12.3 YPC, 18.5 YPG):

One of the biggest projects of this year, the fast and elusive Gonzalez had made the transition to wideout well enough that, by the end of the season, he was the guy called on to replace Kennedy when he couldn't play against Missouri. His expanded role should continue to grow in his sophomore season.

Sabian Holmes (17 catches for 210 yards, 1 TD; 12.4 YPC; 21 YPG)

Holmes came into this season with a lot of questions to answer and did well enough in the offseason to earn a starting job early this season. He'll enter 2014 with the same questions to answer, as he was passed up by both Labhart and Gonzalez. The expected turnover at wideout will give him another chance, but his hands and route running will have to improve if he's going to start again and keep his job.

Edward Pope (9 catches for 65 yards in 8 games; 7.2 YPC, 8.1 YPG):

A guy who shined on the scout team last year, Pope entered 2013 with high expectations. After being suspended for the first two games of the year and having to cope with the excellence of Evans and Walker, Pope became an afterthought by the end of the year. Still, it was just his redshirt freshman year and he's shown good hands and speed. A bigger role for him in the offense is likely in 2014.

Jeremy Tabuyo (5 catches for 21 yards in 6 games; 4.2 YPC, 3.5 YPG):

Tabuyo didn't play a big role in the offense in his freshman season, but he showed the coaches enough that they didn't redshirt him. The speed that drew A&M to Tabuyo to begin with is still there, so an opportunity is there for him to expand his role next year.

Ricky Seals-Jones (3 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD; medical redshirt)

RSJ only played in parts of a couple of games after suffering an injury on his 71-yard touchdown catch against Rice, but he showed enough in that brief appearance to show his ranking coming out of high school was right on. He's big, fast, strong and picked up the offense very quickly. He could become a huge weapon as early as 2014 -- provided he can stay healthy.

JaQuay Williams (3 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD in 9 games; 21.7 YPC, 7.2 YPG):

After a pair of splendid catches against Sam Houston State, the Aggies thought Williams was ready for an expanded role in the offense; unfortunately, his busted route on a fade pattern against Alabama was a difference maker in the 49-42 loss and helped severely limit his role. Big and very fast, the Aggies used him solely as a deep threat the remainder of the year, but he didn't make an impact. The sky's the limit for him talent-wise, but he'll have to figure out the offense and run better routes if he's going to become the great player he could be.

Nehemiah Hicks (2 catches, 6 yards, 1 TD):

Hicks caught the first touchdown pass of his career against Mississippi State, but was otherwise didn't get used much in the passing game -- but had a couple of key drops anyway. He ends his A&M career as a guy who did his job, but never had his talent fully utilized.

Cameron Clear (2 catches, 4 yards, 1 TD):

The massive Clear became more of a factor in the running game as the season wore on, as he became the primary blocker in the backfield. Like Hicks, his role was that of a blocker, not a receiver, and he did that job well.

Brandon Alexander (moved at midseason; no catches):

Blessed with good size and tremendous athletic ability, Alexander was an absolute bust at defensive end. His midseason move to tight end may have saved his spot on the roster. With Clear the only set tight end on the roster, he will likely stay here for blocking purposes.

Overall Grade: A-

Looking ahead to 2014:

Returning players: Seals-Jones, Williams, Tabuyo, Gonzalez, Holmes, Pope, Clear, Alexander

New additions: Kyrion Parker and Sebastian Larue (redshirts); Jamal Jeffery and Joshua Reynolds

What to expect: A lot of auditioning. If Kennedy follows through and leaves, the Aggies will have to replace all four of their starters at wideout. Seals-Jones will certainly get one spot, and Gonzalez will probably get another; Pope, Williams, Parker and Larue will all get looks, and Holmes will try to regain his starting job in the slot. There's a lot of talent still on the roster, but not much in terms of a track record.


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