The season opener and SEC debut for the Texas A&M Aggies is a tall order on paper, but the home crowd in college station is going to be rockin’ and ready to help the Aggies’ new era off to a great start.
Florida has not been the same at all since Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season, and A&M is going through some major change with Ryan Tannehill off to the Miami Dolphins as a first round draft pick last April. Not only that, but Texas A&M lost leading rusher Cyrus Gray. The Aggies have put out two top ten picks in each of the last two drafts in Tannehill this past year and Von Miller to the Denver Broncos last year. Miller was the defensive rookie of the year and a pro bowl selection, so there is some good talent coming out of College Station.
Florida, on the other hand, is in a bit of a dry spell. Since Tim Tebow and Aaron Hernandez entered the NFL, a majority of their players from the title years are now departed and the roster was quite depleted. While Florida’s roster doesn’t look like it’s going to put out a great group of players this year, their talent for the future is excellent.
One of Florida’s top draft eligible prospects for this year is linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who had 75 tackles, six tackles for loss, and two sacks last year. He also had an interception for a touchdown, and as one of the top former recruits in the nation, I think he’s one guy you should really keep an eye on this year. He had three tackles and a tackle for loss in the Gators’ first game.
Another player to watch for Florida is junior defensive back Matt Elam, who finished last season with 78 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, and two interceptions. He was wildly productive as a sophomore and should be a key piece of the Florida defense as a junior again this season. He’s still got two years left like Jenkins, but those guys are two of the top players on the Gators’ roster.
One of the top young pass rushers in the country is Ronald Powell, a junior this season who is sitting out with a torn ACL he suffered in Spring practice. His loss is a huge one for the Gators, as he led the team last year with six sacks and nine tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd may be the best defensive tackle in the SEC, but he’s a young player who needs to prove his sophomore season wasn’t a fluke. He could be Florida’s best prospect overall.
For the Aggies, I really like wide receiver Ryan Swope, last year’s leading receiver and one of the top receivers in the conference. Swope caught 89 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns and is one of the leaders of this team.
Offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews are two of the top players at their respective positions. That will really help the Aggies transition to a changing of the guard at quarterback and head coach. Joeckel has a very good chance of being the Aggies’ third straight top 10 pick if he has a great season.
Linebacker Sean Porter has been called by some as the next Von Miller, but those are lofty comparisons. Porter doesn’t get to the quarterback as easily as Miller does, but he gets there just the same. Last year he had 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss, and is very solid in coverage. He has great speed and could be a potential first round selection in this year’s draft.
Running back Christine Michael has had a variety of injury concerns, including a knee injury last season, but he is big, quick, and has good vision. If he stays healthy this season, he could have a big year and draw the attention of NFL scouts.
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