In the weeks leading up to Texas A&M's bowl game, GigEmNation will take a look back at how the Aggies performed position by position and give each group a grade based on that performance. Today, we look at the receivers.
Highlights: Redshirt freshman Mike Evans was a pleasant surprise this season for the Aggies. He led the team in catches (75) and receiving yards (1,022), becoming just the third Texas A&M player to haul in 1,000 or more receiving yards in a season. He's big (6-foot-5, 218 pounds), fast and physical, rarely running out of bounds voluntarily. Senior Ryan Swope recovered from a few early-season games with low statistical outputs to become one of Johnny Manziel's most trusted and consistent target as the year progressed. Swope was second on the team in receptions (64) and yards (809) and had a team-high seven touchdown receptions and made some huge catches down the stretch. Senior Uzoma Nwachkwu also had a nose for the end zone, catching six scores. Sophomore Malcome Kennedy emerged throughout the the season as a reliable target and caught the memorable touchdown pass against Alabama that served as Texas A&M's final points in the upset win.
Lowlights: The lack of production early in the season by receivers not named Mike Evans wasn't necessarily their fault. As head coach Kevin Sumlin often said, "Guys were open; we just weren't finding them." Much of that had to do with Manziel getting used to and comfortable with the offense while taking care of the ball since the coaches were adamant about him not being reckless and turning it over. Thomas Johnson was a bright spot in terms of the ability he showed as a true freshman but his brief disappearance near the end of the season leaves questions about his future. Sumlin has said only that Johnson is with his family in Dallas and has not commented on Johnson's future with the team.
Surprises: One surprise might be that the receiver totals weren't as eye-popping as you might expect for this kind of offense. At Houston, Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury routinely had multiple 1,000-yard receivers in a single season. There are two reasons for that: One, a higher level of competition and two, Manziel's growth at the quarterback position. The emergence of Kennedy might be a mild surprise, but even during scrimmages in fall training camp, he showed signs of his ability to contribute. Evans' emergence as the go-to guy might be the biggest surprise. He played just one year of varsity football in high school so to think he's this far along is mind-boggling.
Grade: B-plus. This is a good group that played well for much of the year. The ball was spread around with six pure receivers having at least 19 catches. They also were good in two other areas: getting open when Manziel improvised and blocking downfield during run plays. Both were keys to success and a nod to the training from receivers coach David Beaty.