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January 7, 2014

Five players who could have made '13 special

Texas A&M finished the 2013 season ranked 18th in the nation with a 9-4 record. With the exception of a blowout loss to LSU in which Johnny Manziel was banged up, A&M's losses were by 7, 4, 7 and points, respectively. In other words, a play -- or player -- or two could have made the difference between a respectable finish and a trip to Pasadena for the BCS Championship game. Even though it means little in the grand scheme of things -- it is the offseason, so the mind does wander -- here are five players who could have been difference and on the field this season had things gone differently.

5. Steven Terrell, safety: Terrell was four years and out, but was a team leader and a vital cog in the secondary in 2012. Fast and smart, he helped Howard Matthews develop significantly in the second half of that season. He was not only missed in terms of play -- neither Clay Honeycutt or Floyd Raven was able to come close to replacing him -- his ability to help Matthews was also painfully absent. Little used for his first two seasons on campus, he nonetheless played instead of getting a redshirt year to develop. He's now on the Houston Texans' practice squad.

4. Thomas Johnson, wide receiver: Johnson was third on the team in receptions in 2012 with 30, but his season -- and career -- ended shortly after the Alabama win when he suffered a breakdown and went missing for two days. He never returned to campus. In a perfect world, he would have added a huge weapon to go with Mike Evans, likely surpassing Travis Labhart, Malcome Kennedy and Derel Walker as the second look while giving Johnny Manziel five excellent targets.

3. Sean Porter, outside linebacker: Porter was very good at A&M for four years, but just how good wasn't clear until he was gone. A guy capable of rushing the passer, beating blockers to make tackles or covering receivers down the field, Porter was one guy who played on a consistently high level all the time. Another guy who just played his four seasons and was gone, a redshirt year for Porter in 2009 would have meant big things for the Aggies in 2013. Instead, he's a Cincinnati Bengal.

2. Jonathan Stewart, inside linebacker: Stewart was one player who was truly coming into his own when his senior season rolled around. A redshirt year in 2009 or 2010 would have been perfect for him -- especially during his sophomore campaign, which was largely wasted -- and would have given him an extra year as the leader of the linebacking corps. Stewart had SEC size, made the right calls and helped out Steven Jenkins immensely. His presence would have allowed Darian Claiborne to come along slowly and could have meant a redshirt for Jordan Mastrogiovanni. Instead, he's on the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad.

1. Damontre Moore, defensive end: Moore was phenomenal in 2012, racking up 85 tackles, 21 TFL and 12.5 sacks in his junior season. Just how good that was only became clear when the All-American left for the pros after last year. With him went the Aggie pass rush, which meant disaster for both the linebackers and the secondary. A 2013 Moore allows Julien Obioha to play at his more natural spot at the other defensive end, allows Daeshon Hall to redshirt and means major changes to how the Aggies approach opponents defensively. When he came to visit A&M during the New York Giants' bye week this fall, he was told he was probably the missing piece in a championship puzzle. "Yeah, I've heard that a lot," he said, shaking his head. "And they're probably right."

We'll never know, though.

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