Texas A&M took a step back in 2015 when it finished with a 8-5 (3-5 SEC) record and fell to sixth in the SEC West. It was the second consecutive year that the Aggies won less games than the prior season.
In its first season following conference realignment, A&M finished 11-2 and was the only team to defeat inevitable BCS Champion Alabama. Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy while offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury earned a head coaching position at Texas Tech following a successful 2012 season.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was regarded by many as the “next great young coach” in the SEC has yet to find the same success without Manziel and Kingsbury. But the Aggies still have a young, talented offense thanks to several stellar recruiting classes during Sumlin’s more successful seasons.
The Aggies also have two of the SEC’s top breakout freshman from 2014 expected to see even more success in Year Two. Here’s a look at the five players to watch for Texas A&M in 2015.
QB Kyle Allen
Allen ended last season as the Aggies’ starting quarterback but his sample size is small. He sat behind Kenny Hill before taking over in October.
Allen threw for 1,322 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 118-of-192 passing in nine appearances. Despite Sumlin entertaining the option of giving incoming freshman Kyler Murray reps in a two-quarterback system, Allen will be the centerpiece for a talented A&M offense loaded with young talent. But first he must live up to the lofty expectations set by fans and SEC media members, who have already named him a preseason All-SEC candidate and potential breakout star.
WR Josh Reynolds
The Aggies have several returning receivers that could start for any other SEC team, but Reynolds was the most productive in 2014.
He led A&M in both receiving yards (842) and touchdowns (13), while finishing one catch shy of tying Malcolm Kennedy’s team-best 53 catches.
WR/KR/PR Speedy Noil
Noil has the potential to be A&M’s biggest star in 2015 as both a wide receiver and return specialist. He led A&M with 1,418 all-purpose yards and averaged 118.2 per game.
Noil had the second-most receiving yards (583) among returning players and added 645 kick return and 180 punt return yards, while averaging 15.1 per play.
The sophomore is expected to add to his outstanding debut season and will be one of the most dynamic players in the SEC. With several other options at wide receiver, Noil should see favorable matchups against opposing SEC defensive backs.
DE Myles Garrett
In 2011, consensus No. 1 prospect Jadeveon Clowney set the SEC freshman sack record with eight in his debut season. Three year later, Garrett surpassed him with in 2014 by recording 3.5 sacks against Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 1 with a month remaining in the regular season. The freshman finished with 11.5 total which was second only to SEC Defensive Player of the Year Shane Ray of Missouri (13).
He also had a team-best 14 tackles for loss. In 2015, Garrett must prove that his first-year success was the beginning of a stellar career, rather than a freshman fluke. But the 6-foot-5, 255-pound defensive end should find success under the tutelage of revered defensive coordinator John Chavis.
DB Armani Watts
Like Garrett, Watts found immediate success as a for the Aggies defense. He had a team-best three interceptions and added 58 tackles — including two for loss — and eight passes broken up.
Watts shares the field with two senior defensive backs — De’Vante Harris and former running back Brandon Williams. However, he should be the most productive member of A&M’s secondary during his second season.
The Aggies secondary should also improve under Chavis, who helped LSU rank first in passing defense with an average of 164.2 and a total of 2,134 yards allowed per game.