HEAD COACH: Kevin Sumlin, 11-2 (1 year) |
OFF. COORDINATOR: Clarence McKinney, Jake Spavital |
DEF. COORDINATOR: Mark Snyder, Marcel Yates
Led by the return of quarterback Johnny Manziel, the first freshman in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy, the Aggies offense could be even better than the 2012 unit that became the first in SEC history to surpass 7,000 yards in a season.
With a firm grasp of coach Kevin Sumlin’s offense, added strength and even more poise in the pocket, the ultra-confident Manziel believes he will be a better quarterback as a sophomore. And he appears to have more weapons at his disposal, including a bevy of talented running backs like returners Ben Malena and Trey Williams, along with a pair of tremendously talented transfers, Brandon Williams from Oklahoma and Tra Carson from Oregon.
A&M will undoubtedly miss Ryan Swope, who departed as the school’s career leader in receptions and receiving yards. But Swope’s records won’t last long if 6'5" sophomore Mike Evans continues to build on his sensational debut. The physically imposing Evans, who finished last season with 82 catches for 1,105 yards, is a matchup nightmare for most defensive backs. Juniors Malcome Kennedy and LeKendrick Williams and senior Derel Walker all had impressive moments last season and could all play key roles in 2013. But they will be pressed for playing time by an extremely impressive array of newcomers like Ricky Seals-Jones and Ja’Quay Williams.
The offensive line could be among the best in school history even though Luke Joeckel left for the NFL Draft. Future pro prospects like tackle Jake Matthews, tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, center Mike Matthews and guards Jarvis Harrison and Germain Ifedi form a great front.
Losing Damontre Moore and Spencer Nealy will hurt the defensive front, but if nose guard Kirby Ennis (knee) and end Julien Obioha (back) can return at full strength — as anticipated — the line could again be an area where the Aggies exceed expectations.
Linebacker is another area of concern, as the Aggies must replace Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter. Fortunately, A&M returns one of its defensive anchors from last year in Steven Jenkins, who finished third on the team in 2012 with 79 tackles from his weak-side position. A&M needs a big season from junior college transfer outside linebacker Tommy Sanders, as well as hard-hitting Donnie Baggs in the middle of the 4-3 alignment.
A&M finished 12th out of 14 SEC schools last year in passing defense, but the Aggies should be dramatically improved this season. The trio of Howard Matthews, Toney Hurd and Floyd Raven form a solid combination at the safety positions, while De’Vante Harris and Deshazor Everett are outstanding cover cornerbacks.
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Johnny Manziel, QB – Already the most impactful player in A&M history in terms of the overall positive publicity he has brought to Aggie football.
Mike Evans, WR – Third in the SEC as a redshirt freshman in receptions per game with 6.3, including some remarkably clutch catches.
Jake Matthews, LT – Passed up opportunity to be selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft to return for senior season and play with his younger brother, Mike.
Steven Jenkins, LB – Big-play specialist is the most experienced returner among the defensive front seven.
Deshazor Everett, CB – Produced 56 tackles, broke up seven passes and intercepted two, including one to help secure the victory over No. 1 Alabama.
A&M needs a better year from placekicker Taylor Bertolet, who has a strong leg but was not dependable on field goal attempts beyond 29 yards. While Bertolet was 8-of-9 from 29 yards or less, he was only 2-of-9 from 30 to 49 yards. Drew Kaser appears to be a solid replacement for Ryan Epperson at punter, while the Aggies have some big-play potential with return specialists such as Trey Williams and Brandon Williams on kickoffs and Harris and Sabian Holmes on punts.
After leading A&M to an historic 11-win season last year and the school’s first top-five finish since 1956, Manziel is aiming even higher in 2013. He fully realizes that the Aggies must replace numerous key starters from a year ago and manage unprecedented expectations as one of the SEC West’s new powers. But Manziel and the Aggies have set their sights on a national title. That may be a tall task with an extremely inexperienced defense, but Manziel is already accustomed to overcoming long odds.
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Can Kevin Sumlin lead the Aggies to a BCS bowl in 2013?
Texas A&M took the SEC by storm in his debut season, recording an 11-2 record and producing a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Johnny Manziel.
After last year’s 11-win season, the Aggies are setting their goals even higher for 2013. Texas A&M is one of the top-10 contenders for the national title, and Manziel should be one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy once again.
One of the leaders of the Wrecking Crew defense, Holland became the program's all-time leading tackler when he ended his career with 455 total tackles (later broken). He led the team in stops twice with 155 tackles in 1984 and 147 in 1986. As a second-round pick in the 1987 NFL Draft, Holland went on to an excellent pro career with the Green Bay Packers. He was inducted into the Packers, Aggies and Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame.
Tank Lewis became only the fifth player in NCAA history to eclipse the 5,000-yard mark. His 5,012 rushing yards were a Southwest Conference record. He had two of the most consistent — and best — seasons in school history when he set the school rushing record with 1,692 yards in 1988 before coming back and rushing for 1,691 yards two years later. Lewis owns school records for rushing attempts in a season (306) and a career (909) as well as career rushing touchdowns (44). Lewis played three lackluster years for the Chicago Bears before a long line of poor decisions — and the fact that he "lost the love of the game" — caused his career to end prematurely.
You can bet quarterbacks knew exactly where Green was lining up on every play. He set the single-season sack record when he terrorized offensive lines and passers to the tune of 20 sacks in 1979. His 37 career sacks were also a school record for more than a decade. The All-American also owns the career forced fumbles record with 12. Green was a two-time all-conference performer who was selected with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 1980 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Green went to two Pro Bowls.
Although he played only two seasons in College Station, Glenn quickly made an enormous impact on the Aggies program. He was an two-time All-American — and All-SWC — selection in both of his seasons as the lock-down coverman. Despite playing such a short period of time, Glenn is still all over the TAMU record book. His 20 passes broken up in 1992 remain a single-season record, while his 33 career PBUs and nine career interceptions — including one massive 95-yard INT return TD against Texas — remain in the Texas A&M record books. His runner-up finish for the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's best defensive back, remains the closest an Aggie has ever come to winning the award. The 1992 Southwest Conference Newcomer of the Year was the 12th overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. Glenn was a three-time Pro Bowler.
Adams started all three years of his career in College Station. As a freshman, Adams garnered freshman All-America honors to go with his SWC Newcomer of the Year award. He vaulted to first-team all-conference in his second season after 56 tackles and 4.5 sacks. However, Man Mountain's tenacity and downright nastiness got national accliam in 1993 when Adams led the Aggies in tackles for a loss (13), sacks (10.5), forced fumbles (5) and fumble recoveries (3). He also made an impressive 78 tackles from his interior line position. He was a consensus All-American and Sports Illustrated Defensive Player of the Year nationally. Adams, who also starred on the track and field squad, was inducted into A&M's Hall of Fame in 2001. He posted 169 tackles, 23 TFLs, 20.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles and was selected with the eighth overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
Arguably the most feared and productive defensive lineman ever to play for Texas A&M, Childress is the only post-1970 Aggie to be inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame. As a junior, Childress posted 15 quarterback sacks and 117 tackles and was as a first-team All-American in 1983. As a senior in 1984 he was a consensus All-America selection. He was also a two-time All-Southwest Conference pick. As a senior, he anchored an Aggie defense that ranked No. 5 nationally in pass defense (127.5 yards per game). That year, he recorded 124 tackles and 10 sacks. His 25 career sacks were then a school record for a non-linebacker, and his 360 tackles then ranked fourth on A&M’s career list.
As a 220-pound defensive end, Miller earned All-Big 12 Freshman honors. After nearly quitting the team after his freshman season, Miller bounced back under the new coaching regime and produced a solid season — now at weakside linebacker. As a junior, Miller was moved to the 'jack' position where his pass rushing skills shone brightly. His 17 sacks and 21.5 tackles for a loss led the nation, and Miller was named a first-team All-American. After his fourth position change in four seasons — now to outside linebacker — Miller posted 10.5 sacks and 17.5 TFLs despite being slowed early on by a minor injury. The consensus All-American was named the Butkus Award winner as the nation's best linebacker. Miller was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.
As a redshirt freshman, Manziel set the college football world on fire with both his arm and legs. He led the SEC in rushing with 1,410 yards (and 21 TDs) and led the nation in total offense with 393.5 yards per game. The Texas A&M quarterback led his team to 10 wins in a new league and claimed the school's second Heisman Trophy. He accounted for 47 total touchdowns and led TAMU to the biggest win of the season by any team over No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He capped his record-setting season by posting one of the greatest bowl performances in the history of Texas A&M, Cotton Bowl, SEC and Heisman Trophy history. He threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 229 yards and two more scores in a blowout win over Oklahoma.
Known better for his lock-down cover corner skills in the NFL, Hayes got his nicknames "The Judge" and "Lester the Molester" for his physical bump-and-run coverage. However, Hayes got his start on the gridiron as an elite ball-hawking safety at Texas A&M. His 14 career interceptions rank second on the all-time Aggie list, while his eight INTs during his final season in 1976 rank third all-time. Hayes was selected in the fifth round of the 1977 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He would go on to five Pro-Bowls, two Super Bowl Championships and the 1980 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
The artist formerly known as "Fat" Nguyen turned his burly 5-foot-11, 240-pound freshman frame into a muscular, fercious tackling machine. Nguyen defined the terms hard-hitting and tough-nosed, leaving the A&M program with statistics that will be very difficult to ever duplicate. Nguyen won the Bednarik and Lombardi Trophies during his time in College Station as the nation's top defensive player. He also came a single vote shy of winning the Butkus Award — the closest vote in the history of the award. His 517 tackles are a school record, as are his 51 consecutive starts and 10.7 tackles per game. The four-year starter was a three-time all-conference selection and earned consensus All-America honors in 1998. Nguyen was selected in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys and is widely considered the best defensive player in the short history of the Big 12 conference.
1986: A&M held a tenuous 23-16 lead over Auburn in the Cotton Bowl when Auburn drove the ball 88 yards to the Aggie six-yard and looked ready to tie the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter. But Texas A&M’s defense stiffened, stuffing Heisman winner Bo Jackson four times to preserve the lead and key a 36-16 triumph.
Second-ranked A&M had lost seven straight and 16 of 18 toTexas, but the nasty Aggie defense and hard-running backs Bubba Bean and George Woodard keyed a thrilling, 20-10 win over the fifth-ranked Longhorns.
The Aggies were a pedestrian 5-4 when top-ranked, 8-0,defending national champion Oklahoma came to town for what looked to be a mere speed bump en route to another shot at the title. Freshman quarterback Reggie McNeal came off the bench to throw four TD passes in a 30-26 victory.
Number one Kansas State held a 27-12 lead at the beginning ofthe fourth quarter of the Big 12 title game, but backup QB Branndon Stewart, who had hyperextended his knee earlier in the game, led a comeback that forced overtime. In the second extra session, he completed a TD pass to Sirr Parker for a 36-33 win and the conference championship.
Although the Aggies had been a regional powerhouse, theyhadn’t gathered any credibility outside of Texas until the ’40 Sugar Bowl, when they took on Tulane on the Green Wave’s turf. Led by John Kimbrough’s 159 yards and two touchdowns, the last a game-winner from 24 yards out, A&M dumped Tulane, 14-13, to claim the national title.
HEAD COACH: Charlie Strong, |
OFF. COORDINATOR: Shawn Watson |
DEF. COORDINATOR: Vance Bedford
Charlie Strong ended spring practice by saying that he would not trade Teddy Bridgewater for Johnny Manziel — and nobody laughed. A creative playmaker, Bridgewater ignored a broken wrist to direct Louisville to a dominant 33–23 Sugar Bowl win over Florida. It’s difficult to imagine that Bridgewater could improve his 27 touchdown passes and 69.0 completion percentage season, but Strong says that Bridgewater knows the schemes as well as his assistants. Louisville’s only fear is another injury to Bridgewater, because the backups lack any game experience.
But that’s the only place Strong’s team lacks sizzle. Halfback Dominique Brown returned from a knee injury for the Spring Game to run like the power back Strong covets. He’ll share time with Senorise Perry, who is also returning from knee surgery. Bridgewater throws to an elite group of receivers. Junior DeVante Parker is NFL-ready, averaging nearly 19 yards per catch. Eli Rogers has been Bridgewater’s security blanket since high school. Speedster Damian Copeland led the team in receptions.
Strong’s only challenge is replacing two three-year starters on the offensive line. Coaches experimented with guard Jake Smith at the center spot during spring practice, a move Bridgewater endorsed, but Smith remains at guard for now. Tackle Abraham “Nacho” Garcia played as a true freshman and has star potential.
Strong made his name as a defensive coordinator, and he bristled last season over grumbling about the defense. But there were reasons for the unease. Louisville did not rank in the top half of the Big East in rushing or scoring defense, and the Cardinals did not play to their potential until the Sugar Bowl, when they recorded a pair of interceptions and three sacks against the Gators.
Only one full-time starter, cornerback Adrian Bushell, must be replaced from that group, so expectations will be extremely high.
Defensive tackles Brandon Dunn and Jamaine Brooks are confirmed run-stuffers. They demand double teams that create lanes for Deiontrez Mount to pursue the quarterback. Linebacker Preston Brown remains a foundational piece of the defense that Strong started building in 2010, and sophomores James Burgess and Keith Brown have star potential. George Durant fended off a challenge from the youngsters and held on to his outside linebacker spot. Terrell Floyd mans a cornerback spot, where he will benefit from the support of a pair of ferocious hitters — safeties Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor.
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Teddy Bridgewater, QB – Blossomed into one of the nation’s top quarterbacks last year, throwing for 3,718 yards and 27 scores. If he declares early, Bridgewater could be one of the top-five picks in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Hakeem Smith, S – Three-year starter and three-time all-conference performer at safety. Smith recorded 73 tackles and seven pass breakups in 2012.
DeVante Parker, WR – Emerged as Teddy Bridgewater’s big-play threat last season, catching 40 passes for 744 yards and 10 scores.
This is another area where Louisville needs improvement. The Cards failed to rank in the top 100 in either punt or kickoff returns. Perhaps freshman James Quick, who turned down offers from Ohio State, Tennessee and Oregon to stay home, can change that, because he excelled returning punts in high school and is a sprint champion. Placekicker John Wallace was 14-of-14 inside 40 yards. Ryan Johnson, the punter, is dependable, but not spectacular.
With 14 returning starters, a likely first-round draft pick at quarterback and memories of thumping Florida in New Orleans, anything less than a 12–0 season would be considered a disappointment by many Louisville fans. Strong’s team is loaded with speed, toughness and experience on both sides of the ball.
Another reason for raging expectations: the schedule. Louisville likely will not play a top-25 team during the regular season now that Boise State has snubbed the crumbling Big East — known now as the American Athletic Conference. Syracuse, one of two teams to beat Louisville in 2012, is gone to the ACC. That leaves a rivalry game at Kentucky and a season-ending visit to Cincinnati as the major obstacles.
Can Charlie Strong lead Louisville to a perfect season in 2013?
Thanks to a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, Louisville entered the offseason with momentum for its final season in the Big East/American Athletic Conference.
The Cardinals return a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and one of the nation’s best receiving corps. The offensive line is a question mark, as center Mario Benavides and left tackle Alex Kupper must be replaced.
In front of the largest crowd in Cardinal Stadium history, Louisville holds on to defeat Memphis State, 19-17, when sophomore free safety Ray Buchanan blocks a field goal with 1:31 remaining. The Cards had held a 19-7 lead but gave it up and then needed Buchanan’s heroics to overcome a Browning Nagle interception in the game’s waning moments.
Kerry Rhodes intercepts Jared Zabransky in the end zone as time expires to preserve a 44-40 victory over Boise State in the 2004 Liberty Bowl. The Cardinals overcome five turnovers and score nine-unanswered fourth-quarter points for the victory in a matchup of the nation’s top two offenses.
Playing in a downpour that is the residue of Hurricane Isidore, the Cardinals knock off fourth-ranked Florida State in overtime. The teams finish tied at 20 in regulation, and on the first play of OT, Anthony Floyd intercepts Chris Rix. Cardinals back Henry Miller then goes 25 yards for the winning touchdown in a 26-20 win. The drenched crowd storms the field and tears down the goalposts.
In its second Big East season, Louisville finishes 11-1 and earns its first BCS bid, to the Orange Bowl. Down 13-10 early in the third quarter, the Cardinals use touchdown runs by Anthony Allen and Brock Bolen to pull away and earn a 24-13 victory.
After several other teams turn down the chance to play in the Fiesta Bowl because Arizona wouldn’t recognize Martin Luther King Day, the Cardinals accept a bid to their first bowl in 13 years and roll to a 34-7 win over Alabama behind 453 passing yards and three TDs by quarterback Browning Nagle. Louisville outgains Bama, 571-189.
Athlon looks at the 10 greatest players since 1967.
Three Louisville quarterbacks are on the list and two others could have made a case (Stefan LeFors, Browning Nagle). Clearly, the quarterbacks aren’t doing it alone. Of Louisville’s top pass catchers during the John L. Smith/Bobby Petrino run, Branch was the best. He arrived as a junior college transfer in 2000 and became a 1,000-yard receiver in his first year – in a receiving corps that already included senior Arnold Jackson, who finished his career as the school’s leading receiver. Branch caught 71 passes for 1,016 yards with nine touchdowns in 2000 and caught 72 passes for 1,188 yards with nine touchdowns in 2001. In just two seasons, Branch finished his career as Louisville’s seventh leading receiver.
As a senior, Madison contributed to a defense that was a headache for opposing quarterbacks. The Cardinals’ defense intercepted 24 passes in 1996 while allowing only eight touchdowns. Madison paced a ball-hawking defense with 16 career interceptions, second-most in school history, and 44 career pass breakups, a school record. Madison earned third-team AP All-America honors in 1995 when he had five picks, but he only had one shot at the post season with an 18-7 win over Michigan State in the Liberty Bowl in 1993, his rookie season.
As a sophomore, McCloud recorded 133 tackles in 1994, coach Howard Schnellenberger’s final season at Louisville. He blossomed the next season as a third-team AP All-American and Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 1995. When he repeated as C-USA Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1996, he joined quarterback Dave Ragone as the only player in program history to win a conference player of the year award twice (keep in mind, Louisville was an independent for two decades). McCloud is one of seven players to finish his Louisville career with more than 400 tackles.
Wilson made the most of his only bowl appearance, even in a loss. As a sophomore in 1977, Wilson earned Independence Bowl defensive MVP honors as the Cardinals held Louisiana Tech to 48 rushing yards. The bowl trip turned out to be Louisville’s last for 13 years. Though Wilson would never again reach the postseason and played the remainder of his career in anonymity, he continued his dominating play into his final two seasons. The linebacker from Brooklyn was known as a ferocious tackler, finishing his career with 484 stops. Professional teams noticed his play when the Chicago Bears drafted him in the first round.
After Redman put up more than 12,000 passing yards in four seasons, Ragone proved he was up to the task of taking over for his predecessor. Ragone didn’t miss a beat in 2000, passing for 2,621 yards in his first season as a starter. He followed that with 3,056 yards in 2001. He was Conference USA’s Offensive Player of the Year in three consecutive seasons, giving Louisville a string of four consecutive quarterbacks to win the award. Working with his favorite target, Deion Branch, Ragone went 20-5 as a starter in his first two seasons before slipping to 7-6 as a senior.
A key player as coach Howard Schnellenberger started to build up the program in the late 1980s, Washington started with a team that went 3-7-1 and ended his collegiate career capping a 10-1-1 season in the Fiesta Bowl. Washington, an interior lineman, finished his career with 298 tackles, including 88 in 1988, and 14 sacks. With Washington anchoring the defensive line, Louisville allowed only 12.9 points per game in 1990, the lowest average at Louisville since 1972. Washington went on to be a first-round NFL draft pick and a long pro career.
Redman was the first in Louisville’s line of exceptional quarterbacks under coaches John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. Louisville went 6-16 in his first two seasons, but Redman blossomed under Smith as a junior, passing for a single-season record in 4,042 yards as a junior in 1998. Louisville’s first 3,000-yard and 4,000-yard passer, Redman also was the quarterback who helped begin the Cardinals’ run of nine consecutive bowl games from 1998-2006. Redman finished his career as Louisville’s record-holder in career passing yards (12,541) and touchdown passes (84) among other career marks.
Jackson was a two-time Missouri Valley Player of the Year in 1970 and ’72 and led the Cardinals in tackles in each of his three seasons under then-coach Lee Corso. Despite playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, Jackson earned All-America honors in 1972 from the Walter Camp Football Foundation (first team) and from the Associated Press (second team). Louisville went 23-7-2 during Jackson’s career and shut out five opponents in his final two years. Jackson had at least 120 tackles in each of his three seasons at Louisville to finish with 373, which was second-most in school history when he left campus. He remains ninth on the Cardinals’ all-time list.
At 5-foot-11, 256 pounds, Dumervil didn’t have the typical physique of an elite pass rusher, but the defensive end from Miami ended up as the biggest defensive star for a Louisville program that churned out prolific quarterbacks and receivers over the course of a decade. His 20 sacks in 12 games in 2005 remains second only to Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs in single-season sacks (Suggs had 24) and sacks per game (1.71 per game). Six of Dumervil’s sacks in 2005 came against Kentucky, which tied an FBS record. Dumervil also added 10 forced fumbles that season on the way to winning the Nagurski Award. He also was Louisville’s first consensus All-American since Leonard Lyles in 1957. Dumervil wasn’t a one-year wonder, recording 12 sacks as a junior on the way to 32 total in his 44-game career.
Brohm was the latest in a line of Brohms to play at Louisville and the last in an uninterrupted run of prolific quarterbacks for the Cardinals, dating back to 1996. He was the best of both. At a program that boasts Johnny Unitas as an alum, few quarterbacks could make the case they are the best in Louisville’s history. Brohm could at least argue his point. Brohm passed for 2,883 yards and 19 touchdowns as the Cardinals went 9-3 in their first season in the Big East. He topped that as a junior, passing for 3,049 yards and 16 touchdowns as Louisville went 12-1 with a Big East championship and an Orange Bowl win. Brohm finished his career with 10,775 yards and 71 touchdowns, both second in program history.