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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Sophomore LHP Shane Sdao (38) reacts after a strikeout during Texas A&Ms game against Texas at Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
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The Battalion May 4, 2024

Freshmen take center stage in win over Sam Houston State

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Freshman WR Evan Stewart runs downfield after completing a pass from sophomore QB Haynes King (13) during the Aggies’ game against Sam Houston State at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.

The Texas A&M football team’s season-opening victory over Sam Houston State on Saturday, Sept. 3 offered a glimpse into the future of football in Aggieland.
The maroon and white shut out the Bearkats 31-0 at Kyle Field, overcoming not just a nearly three-hour-long weather delay, but absences from some of their top players. Sophomore center Bryce Foster, junior defensive back Jaylon Jones and senior tight end Max Wright were out for the game, providing the young recruits more opportunity in the team’s rotation.
As a result, a host of freshmen from A&M’s No. 1-ranked 2022 recruiting class were forced to step up and play significant roles on both sides of the ball for the maroon and white. Wide receivers Evan Stewart and Chris Marshall, defensive lineman Walter Nolen and defensive back Denver Harris all had productive performances.
“They’ve got to play,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “They’re freshmen now. The depth it takes to play in this league and build these guys and get them out there playing, hopefully they’ll keep playing each and every week.”
Stewart started as a wide receiver for the Aggies, as expected, and reeled in five catches for 57 yards, including a 23-yard grab. The Frisco native was one of eight five-star signees in A&M’s recent recruiting class and is regarded by many to be a game changer for the Aggies’ offense. Marshall, a fellow five-star recruit, also played a key role in the passing attack with four receptions for 41 yards.
“I thought they played pretty well,” senior wide receiver Ainias Smith said. “Coming in as freshmen, they had the little jitters walking out of the tunnel, but it seemed like all of that went away as soon as the game started. I was excited for them, very happy for them. [They] came out, and they didn’t play like no freshmen. They played well.”
Adding the two highly talented wideouts to the offensive depth is a welcome change from last season, in which injuries to current junior wide receiver Chase Lane and current Oregon senior wide receiver Caleb Chapman hampered the team’s scoring ability. With the duo now playing alongside Smith and senior wide receiver Jalen Preston, the A&M passing attack should be more than fruitful this season.
With the injury to Wright, freshmen tight ends Jake Johnson and Donovan Green made appearances during the contest, with Johnson receiving a 2-yard pass from his brother, junior quarterback and LSU transfer Max Johnson. The position group must fill the void left by Jalen Wydermyer, who has since gone to the NFL. Freshman Theo Melin Ohrstrom, a native of Sweden, is another valuable option at the tight end spot.
The highlight of the game for the Aggies was perhaps the defense, which allowed no points, forced two turnovers and gave up just 198 total yards by the opposition. It was led by the usual suspects, with senior defensive back Demani Richardson amassing five total tackles, while junior defensive back Antonio Johnson added four tackles and a sack.
The defensive effort featured plenty of youth, though, as freshmen defensive backs Bryce Anderson and Denver Harris each had two tackles, while freshmen defensive linemen Walter Nolen and L.T. Overton had three and two tackles, respectively. Overton added a sack, as well. Freshmen defensive linemen Shemar Stewart, Enai White and Tunmise Adeleye each had one tackle, with Stewart being credited with half a sack.
“Those guys are very talented,” sophomore defensive lineman Fadil Diggs said. “They’re going to strain, run to the ball. I’m glad they got to do that today, because, you know, it can be nerve-wracking playing your first game as a freshman. So I’m glad that they got that out today.”
As much as this freshman class was hyped up during the preseason, it’s not until the regular season begins that a coaching staff can get an idea of what the players are capable of. As beneficial as practice and scrimmages may be, the only true way to gauge a player is to see how they perform in true game action.
“You can simulate games all you want,” Fisher said. “Like I say, ‘Til the lights on the scoreboard matter,’ that’s when you can see what guys do. Some guys, it may bother them, and other guys, it enhances [them]. We’ve got to get better each and every game in what we do and grow and get these guys growing and get them playing with the older guys. Hopefully we can develop into a good football team.”
All in all, Fisher said he was pleased with the production of the freshmen players, saying it was likely the most he’s played in a game across his 35-year coaching career.
“You didn’t realize there were freshmen out there,” Fisher said. “The guys played well. They caught the ball, they covered, they rushed, they blocked. They did the things that weren’t jumping out at you that, ‘Hey, he’s a young guy and he’s going to have a lot of mistakes.’ But once they got to playing, man, they were naturally doing things.”

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