Position Battles: Wide Receiver

The wide receiver unit will feature plenty of new faces in 2014. The departures of Mike Evans, Derel Walker, and Travis Labhart have left a large void in our receiving production. Together they accounted for 25 touchdowns, 171 receptions, and 2,838 yards although the bulk of it came from Mike Evans. Evans alone had 69 receptions for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns and should hear his name called in the first round of this year’s NFL draft. That being said, A&M loses 3 of its 4 starting receivers and over 60% of its total production through the air. At first glance, one would expect our receiving units to go through some growing pains. But I believe we will not only reload at this position but actually be better and more balanced in 2014.

It starts with our sole returning starter, Malcome Kennedy. In 2013, Kennedy accounted for 60 receptions, 658 yards, and 7 touchdowns. This was good for 3rd best on the team and he should provide a reliable target for whoever wins the QB Battle. It is safe to say that Malcome Kennedy will be one of the 4 starting receivers for the 2014 season. That leaves 3 starting spots available for the taking.

Ricky Seals-Jones entered the 2013 season as A&M’s prized recruit. He held offers from nearly every top program in the country including Oregon, Oklahoma, LSU, Texas and USC. He was the top rated WR in the state and a 5 star recruit according to Scout.com. At 6-5 230lbs. he is a monster target and nearly impossible to bring down. His sub 4.6 breakaway speed was on display in 2013 season’s opener against Rice when he caught a slant pass from Matt Joeckel and raced past the safety for a 71 yard touchdown. However, this would be his last touchdown for the season as he reinjured his knee and was out for the rest of the season. Sumlin has applied for a Medical redshirt and said last week that he is confident it will be approved. Now with surgery out of the way and a successful rehab, he is ready to fill the big shoes of Mike Evans. Both being jumbo targets that played football and basketball in high school, Seals-Jones has every opportunity to establish himself as a deadly threat along the perimeter. He will battle junior Edward Pope and early enrollee, JUCO transfer Josh Reynolds for the spot. However, should he stay healthy A&M will not miss a beat with Mike Evans departure.

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Speedy Noil lives up to everything his name suggests. He possesses blazing speed and is the ultimate game changing x-factor every time he touches the ball. Coach Sumlin has pulled in many impressive recruits in his short career as the Aggies head coach. None may be more impressive than Speedy. Not only was he the top rated athlete nationwide, but he lived in Louisiana and was a priority target for LSU. Sumlin has started to build a pipeline to the Bayou State and Speedy could prove pivotal showing he can steal elite talent from LSU.

Noil stands at 6-0 and weighs 175lbs but he has the leaping ability and strength to beat out taller and bigger SEC corners. As a 2014 recruit and early enrollee, Speedy has already begun to win over teammates and coaches alike. From dominating in the Oklahoma Drill to making catches like the picture shows, Speedy Noil is proving he can be an immediate starter and big impact from day 1.

The final available starting position is a bit tougher to predict and should prove to be a heated competition through the spring and into fall camp. Both LaQuivionte (Quiv) Gonzalez and Sabian Holmes played in most games but only notched 1 touchdown each in 2013. Quiv has a slight edge on Sabian in terms of receptions and yards, but it is minimal. Further intensifying this competition is the emergence of RS Freshman Kyrion Parker who has impressed in week 1 of spring camp. Expect all three players along with true Sophomore Jeremy Tabuyo to be part of the rotation of receivers in 2014. However, the majority of the minutes and touches should fall to Quiv and Sabian.

In Kevin Sumlin’s first true recruiting year (2013), he pulled in 6 receivers. One, Sebastian LaRue, has since transferred back closer to his home in California and is now playing for Washington State. The other 5 receivers will figure into both the depth chart and starting spots. In 2014 Sumlin hauled in 4 more receivers including 2 that enrolled early; Speedy Noil and Josh Reynolds. Look for both to see the field in 2014 while the other two, Frank Iheanacho and Jamal Jeffery will most likely redshirt.

Sumlin’s first two years as head coach, we watched primarily Sherman recruits light up the SEC with his hurry-up, no-huddle offense. 2014 will be the year where we get to see mostly Sumlin recruits in action. In all, there will be several new faces in the mix this upcoming season. One thing is certain though, A&M will not be lacking for talent.

Predictions:
Outside WR: Malcome Kennedy
Inside WR: Speedy Noil
Inside WR: Quiv Gonzalez
Outside WR: Ricky Seals-Jones

 

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