Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: The 2012 season was Texas A&M's first as a member of
the SEC, and its inaugural campaign in the nation's most difficult conference
managed to exceed even the most ambitious expectations.
Following the offseason departure of Mike Sherman, the team was led by first-
year head coach Kevin Sumlin, who had gone 12-1 with Houston in 2011. The
season got off to a slow start, as the Aggies dropped their opener at home to
Florida, 20-17, but then they ripped off five straight wins to creep into the
They experienced another difficult loss to LSU on Oct. 20 (24-19), but that
would be their final setback. On Nov. 10, the Aggies went into Tuscaloosa and
shocked the college football world by upsetting eventual-national champion
A&M's regular season efforts allowed it to earn a bid to the Cotton Bowl,
where it dismantled former Big 12 rival and 12th-ranked Oklahoma, 41-13.
The program's No. 5 ranking in the final AP Poll was its highest since 1956,
and to add to the exceptional season, quarterback Johnny Manziel became the
first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy.
OFFENSE: With Manziel running the show, the A&M offense shined in 2012,
scoring 44.5 ppg behind 558.5 ypg, both of which ranked the team in the top-
five in the nation. The Aggies showed plenty of balance between the run (242.1
ypg) and pass (316.5 ypg) as well.
Manziel's historic freshman campaign saw him break the SEC record for most
yards of total offense in a single season (5,116). He completed 68 percent of
his passes for 3,706 yards with 26 touchdowns against only nine interceptions.
He was dazzling on the ground as well, rushing for 1,410 yards (an FBS
Freshman QB record) and 21 touchdowns. It's hard to envision Manziel improving
upon such a dominating year, but that's his goal heading into 2013.
"I've worked a lot to get better," Manziel said. "I've worked with the new
guys, and that's the biggest thing is making sure my teammates are prepared
because we're the one who will take it to the next level."
With the fame Manziel has gained in the offseason has come a slew of bad
press, including some controversial tweets and high-profile partying, although
Sumlin is sure that once football gets in full swing again, all of Manziel's
energy will be focused on the field.
"I think off the field, there's no question that he's made some mistakes,"
Sumlin said. "I think he has done some things that he's not very proud of, has
made some poor decisions. He's made some good decisions. Unfortunately, the
poor decisions are the ones that are really publicized."
Manziel established a strong rapport last year with fellow freshman Mike
Evans, who hauled in 82 balls for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns. Derel
Walker and Sabian Holmes are slated to be the other starters at receiver, and
they combined for only 14 receptions in 2012.
Ben Malena returns as the team's top running back after racking up 808 yards
and eight touchdowns a year ago, and the departure of Christine Michael (417
yards, 12 TDs) could mean more goal line work for Malena.
Even with the loss of Luke Joeckel, who was the second overall pick in the
2013 NFL Draft, the offensive line still remains one of the team's biggest
strengths. Jake Matthews will take over protecting Manziel's blind side and is
also anticipated to be a very high draft pick.
DEFENSE: Although the offense grabbed all the headlines in 2012, the defense
quietly played very well too, holding opponents under 22 ppg on average while
recording 31 sacks and 75 TFL.
Steven Jenkins (79 tackles, 5.5 TFL, one interception, FF) is the unit's most
experienced playmaker, and is expected to take over a leadership role in the
absence of Damontre Moore and Jonathan Stewart.
The secondary remains largely intact with Howard Matthews (58 tackles),
Deshazor Everett (56 tackles, two picks) and Dustin Harris (49 tackles, one
pick) all putting together productive seasons a year ago.
Julien Obioha started 12 games at defensive end but recorded just one sack,
and he'll need to step up his production to help make up for the loss of Moore
(21.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks).
SPECIAL TEAMS: Taylor Bertolet will be the team's placekicker once again as he
tries to improve upon a lackluster season (13-of-22 on field goal attempts).
The strong-legged kicker was 3-of-4 from 50 yards and longer, but he was just
2-of-9 from 30-49 yards. Drew Kaser will take over punting duties from the
departed Ryan Epperson.
Trey Williams ran back 25 kickoffs for 557 yards last season and will handle
those duties once again. Harris is a dynamic punt returner, piling up 432
yards on 34 returns, including a 96-yard touchdown versus South Carolina
OUTLOOK: Texas A&M surprised many by the way it was able to adjust to the SEC
so quickly, but after such an outstanding campaign, it isn't going to sneak up
on anybody this season. Sumlin in excited for the opportunity to live up to
"It's a great time to be at Texas A&M," Sumlin said. "People ask me all the
time what about expectations. There's a lot of expectations on our program.
For us, that's a good thing. I think you want to be a part of a situation
where you have some relevancy in your own league. We work very, very hard at
that. The excitement level is really, really high."
After upsetting Alabama last season, the rematch between the two powerhouse
squads is set for early in the 2013 campaign, as the Aggies host the Crimson
Tide at Kyle Field on Sept. 14. If they can take down 'Bama once again,
playing in the SEC Championship will be a very real possibility, especially
considering its relatively soft schedule by SEC standards (other than Alabama,
LSU and Vanderbilt are the only teams on the schedule ranked in the Top-25).
However, if A&M can't at least make it to the conference championship game,
its weakened strength of schedule will likely keep it out of a BCS bowl.
The Sports Network