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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

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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Not-so-familiar faces

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A new year, a new stadium, a new team — so the post-Johnny Manziel era begins in Aggieland.
Our cherished “Johnny Football” has now gone on to supposedly greener pastures, and in the wake of his departure, a new-looking Aggie squad stands ready to prove itself as more than the Manziel show. After back-to-back top 10 recruiting classes, the Aggies are poised to begin the legacy of the next great A&M team, though many of the players we’ll see in maroon and white this fall may be unfamiliar.
The depth chart A&M released for the South Carolina game is littered with underclassmen, including 11 — yes, 11 — true freshmen in the two-deep. It’s a sign Sumlin and his staff’s efforts to raise the talent level on campus have been successful.
However, there are also some veteran players we’ll see on Thursday who’ve come out of the woodwork. At first glance, the roster may seem to lack in star power after the first-round departures of Manziel, Mike Evans and Jake Matthews. However, plenty of new stars are ready to emerge.
So who are the players to watch for this fall? Here are some I think you should keep an eye out for. And don’t be fooled — this list is nowhere near comprehensive and only scratches the surface of the not-so-familiar faces we’re going to see.
The Newcomers
As far as which freshmen should make the biggest immediate impact , two choices stand above the rest: wide receiver Devante “Speedy” Noil and defensive end Myles Garrett.
Noil won the 2013 SPARQ Rating National Championship, meaning he had better measurable athletic skills than 161 of the top recruits in his recruiting class. If you haven’t seen the video of Noil’s vertical on YouTube, it’s worth a watch as it’s nothing short of jaw-dropping. Listed as a starting perimeter receiver, Noil will handle punt-returning duties as well. Kevin Sumlin summed it up best in the pre-game press conference when he said that Noil “has a skillset that we think we need to utilize.”
I’ll have to agree with coach.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Garrett was rated as the top recruit in the 2014 recruiting class by some, so look for him to be on the field early as the Aggies look to solve their pass-rush woes. In the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game, Garrett registered four tackles for loss and a sack against the best high school players in the country — it’s safe to say he’ll be a household name for all Aggie fans very soon.
The Transfers
A couple of transfer players, AJ Hilliard and Josh Reynolds, have earned starting roles going into Thursday and should make an impact for A&M, too.
TCU transfer Hilliard has been with the Aggies since 2013 but had to sit out last season after transferring. He has earned a starting spot at linebacker and Sumlin has been high on him since his days at Houston, where he originally recruited him.
Junior college transfer Reynolds could have a similar role in the Aggie offense to the recently graduated Derel Walker, and Reynolds has made his way to the front of the wide receiver position group — arguably A&M’s deepest position group — in a matter of three months.
The Emerging Veterans
A pair of juniors who’ve made a name for themselves this fall are defensive back Devonta Burns and offensive lineman Joseph Cheek. Burns came out of relative obscurity to earn the starting nickel spot, and Cheek will start at right guard. Cheek and Burns are proof that working hard and trusting in the process can pay off for players who may not be five-star studs coming out of high school.
All the fresh faces we’ll see on the field this fall will keep Aggie fans guessing and perhaps a little confused. Expect the coaching staff to rotate players in and out more than the last couple of years, since quality depth is finally materializing on A&M’s roster. And to quote the great Rocky, “That’s how winning is done.”
This season, expect the superstars of the next great Aggie team to grow up in front of our eyes. And while we may get nostalgic about Mr. Manziel making touchdowns out of thin air, the Aggies that suit up in 2014 will be hungry to establish their own era under the lights at Kyle Field.

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