On Thursday Head Coach Kevin Sumlin released an updated depth chart as the team wraps up fall practice and begins preparation for their opener against UCLA on Sept. 3. Let’s take a look at some of the notable happenings at each position:
QB: Trevor Knight is the starting quarterback, which we’ve known since the end of spring practice, with Jake Hubenak serving as backup. While he is not listed on the depth chart, there has been a lot of buzz around freshman Nick Starkel. All signs still point to him being redshirted this year and competing for the starting job in 2017, but reports have said he is very poised and has a stronger arm than most expected. He’s not ass my dude.
RB: We really don’t get any clarity here, as juniors James White and Keith Ford are listed as co-starters along with freshman Trayveon Williams. Expect to see all three of these guys handling the ball.
WR: Speedy Noil is completely absent from the WR depth chart, only listed as a backup kick returner. Interesting. Noil is suspended for the first game of the season, so perhaps this is simply reflective of that. Regardless, this is the most talented position group on the team with juniors Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones and Damion Ratley and sophomore Christian Kirk.
TE: I think most expected Virginia Tech transfer Kalvin Cline to be the starter, but he appears to be in a deadlock with fellow junior Tanner Schorp. We may also see freshman Aaron Hansford thrown into this mix, whether it’s at tight end or the “H-Back” position (kind of a TE/FB hybrid). Let’s hope we actually get to see some passes thrown to these guys this season.
OL: This was easily the biggest question mark on the team. Going into camp we weren’t sure who would play where, and which freshman would push for playing time. The coaches have done little to quell the conjecture, playing musical chairs with the lineup in recent days (at least during the portion of practice open to the media). But at the end of the day, the starting five is as follows:
- LT: Avery Gennesy, Senior
- LG: Colton Prater, Freshman
- C: Erik McCoy, Redshirt Freshman
- RG: Connor Lanfear, Sophomore
- RT: Jermaine Eluemunor, Senior
The biggest surprises are that Eluemunor moved from RG to RT, Koda Martin moved from starting RT to backup LT, and freshman Colton Prater/sophomore Connor Lanfear beat out sophomore Keaton Sutherland at the guard spots. Let’s hope the coaches got this one right, as the play of this unit was easily the weak spot of the 2015 team.
DE: Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall are probably the best defensive end tandem in the country. So no depth chart drama here. They’re backed up by Jarrett Johnson, Qualen Cunningham and James Lockhart, and the rest of the DE depth is filled out by freshman Justin Madubuike and former linebacker Landis Durham.
DT: Linebackers get all the talk, but the play here may define A&M’s season more than any other position. It’s certainly interesting to see that senior Hardeck Walker is listed as starter over highly touted sophomore Daylon Mack. At the other position junior Zaycoven Henderson and sophomore Kingsley Keke are currently listed as co-starters. Add in recently qualified freshman T.D. Moton and depth on the defensive line should be much improved as A&M hopes to be better against the run this season.
LB: Aggies love to rag on linebacker play, and it’s not without merit, but A&M enters 2016 with the deepest corps of linebackers they’ve had under Kevin Sumlin. Senior Shaan Washington, junior Otaro Alaka and sophomore Richard Moore make up an experienced starting three, and they’re backed up by capable players in the form of senior Claude George and sophomore Dwaine Thomas. The presence of sophomore Cullen Gillaspia on the two-deep is a surprise, as is the absence of sophomore Riley Garner and freshman Tyrel Dodson, who has been the talk of fall camp. Even without Josh Walker, this group has the talent to play well in 2016.
CB: While this is group is a bit unproven, A&M seems comfortable with the guys they have at corner. Junior Nick Harvey, who basically split time with Brandon Williams in 2015, leads the group, and will be joined on the other side by UCLA transfer Priest Willis. The backups, sophomore Deshawn Capers-Smith and redshirt freshman Roney Elam, are inexperienced but talented. Oh, yeah, and there’s nickel corner Donovan Wilson, who many are comparing to Tyran Mathieu in Chavis’ defense.
S: Armani Watts and Justin Evans. Need I say more? Losing Justin Dunning does hurt the depth at this position, but the starters are as good as you’ll find anywhere. Don’t be surprised if we also see sophomore Larry Pryor and Donovan Wilson lining up here from time to time as well.
K: This position has finally come into focus with Daniel LaCamera winning the starting job.
P: Replacing perennial Heisman favorite Drew Kaser is no small task, but junior Shane Trupika appears up to the task. He’ll be backed up by freshman Braden Mann.
The bottom line is this: A&M has a few question marks, but outside of a small handful of programs, everyone has perceived weak spots. The encouraging thing is that for the first time since 2012, you can look at the depth chart and be optimistic without counting on the contributions of multiple true freshman in key positions. The depth is the best it’s been in years. The defense particularly could be the best it’s been since the RC Slocum era. This team isn’t perfect, but there are lots of reason for optimism.
Only nine days until kickoff. BTHO UCLA!