One job: catch the football
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 01:02
Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was a vital part of the success the 2012 A&M football team experienced through its inaugural season in the SEC, though a critical part of Manziel’s own success was the players on the other end of his tight spirals: the wide receivers.
The 41-13 victory over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl marked the end of the collegiate careers of two of the top three receivers on the Aggies’ roster. Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu combined for 1,398 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns during their senior season. Swope is leaving A&M with school records for most career 100-yard games, most career receptions and receiving yards and most single-season receptions and yards.
The Aggies will look to replace Swope and Nwachukwu — as well as fellow graduating senior Kenric McNeal and, possibly, sophomore-to-be Thomas Johnson, whose status with the team remains uncertain — with a 2013 signing class loaded at receiver.
Signees such as Ricky Seals-Jones from Sealy, Texas and Sebastian LaRue from Santa Monica, California will look to maintain the high level of production in head coach Kevin Sumlin’s offense, which often employs five-wide sets and an eight-receiver rotation. Seals-Jones is currently No. 61 on the ESPN 150 while LaRue is ranked No. 74 on the list.
“I think guys understand where we’re headed as a program,” Sumlin said. “When we go out, particularly for a junior college player or a prep school guy, we’re looking to fill a hole. Those guys understand that and that’s why the quality of those guys to come into our program, we need that. (The last sentence of this quote doesn’t make sense to me.)”
Seals-Jones — a former University of Texas commit — is a top recruit in Texas and one of the best recruits landed by A&M this season. He chose to commit to A&M over SEC rival LSU on December 10, days after Manziel claimed the Heisman. At 6 feet 5 inches and 230 pounds, Seals-Jones will be a top target in the redzone, a potential replacement for Nwachukwu on the outside and a great compliment to fellow 6-foot-5-inch receiver Mike Evans, the top returning receiver after recording a team-high 82 catches for 1,105 yards in 2012 as a freshman.
Seals-Jones said he can’t wait to apply his skillset to the A&M offense.
“I’m just going to do what I can do best to make A&M win,” Seals-Jones said to TexAgs on signing day. “A&M is already on the map but we’re going to make sure everyone knows us.”
Seals-Jones was also a key voice in the recruitment of LaRue. After plenty of persuasion on Twitter (was Twitter what really influenced his decision?), LaRue de-committed from USC on January 25 and announced that he was headed to Aggieland. At 5 feet 11 inches and 185 pounds, LaRue is known for his speed and will be a great fit when it comes to replacing Swope in the slot position.
“He’s going to be really dangerous on the inside of the football field,” LaRue’s high school football coach Travis Clark said. “He understands how to run good routes, and I think [LaRue] is going to excel in that situation.”
The Aggies signed a total of six receivers to add to their roster and the average height and weight for that class is just over 6 feet 1 inch and 191 pounds. Ja’Quay Williams, a 6-foot-3-inch redzone threat from Tyrone, Georgia, chose to enroll at the midterm. Like Seals-Jones, Williams will be an option for jump ball passes and act as a compliment to Evans.
Laquvionte Gonzalez of Cedar Hill and Jeremy Tabuyo, hailing from Honolulu, Hi., will likely see targets from the slot position. Manvel’s Kyrion Parker, at 6 feet 3 inches, will look to use his height to earn playing time.
While some are likely to get redshirted, if these incoming receivers hope to see any playing time they will have to fight for it. It is likely that there will be position battles between these recruits and upcoming seniors Nate Askew, Travis Labhart, and Derel Walker as well as juniors-to-be LeKendrick Williams and Malcome Kennedy. One can also expect to see sophomore Sabian Holmes compete for a starting spot.