Heading into the season, all the attention paid toward Texas A&M's ground game went directly to running back Christine Michael.
If the Aggies were going to run the ball, Michael was going to be the guy to do it. He had been tremendously efficient in Texas A&M's two-back system last season with Cyrus Gray before his season-ending knee injury late in the year, and was one of the team's top overall players.
Michael even came back near full strength this spring, so most just assumed that he'd be the workhorse in the Aggies' offensive attack.
However, it's been a bit of a process for Michael's knee and he's still trying to adjust to the Aggies' new offensive scheme. With Michael inching along at times, junior Ben Malena has been what coach Kevin Sumlin called "a light in the storm" when it comes to being a steady player in Texas A&M's backfield.
"What Ben has given us is a steady guy who understands everything, who is a potent threat with the ball in his hand and also a pass-catcher and a protector," Sumlin said.
Malena is second behind quarterback Johnny Manziel on the team in rushing, with 462 yards and has four touchdowns. He also has 11 receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Freshman Trey Williams received a lot of hype coming into the season, and the thought was that he would be the one helping Michael the most. But with Williams still struggling with pass protection, Malena's emergence has been huge. He's really done a good job of helping Manziel out this season.
While this might have come as a surprise to some, Sumlin said he saw this way back in spring and tried to tell people about Malena's potential, but it's OK if people are just now catching on.
"I don't think he's gotten better," Sumlin said. "I think people weren't listening to me when I said he was playing well in the spring.
"He's having a great year, plays with great energy, and is really, really solid."
Malena might not have the flashiest numbers, but he's been able to help this team in many different ways. He's also on the front line for the Aggies on kick returns, so he's been a very unselfish player. His play will only continue to boost A&M going forward.