2013 Opponent Preview: Texas A&M

Auburn will make its first trip to Texas A&M this fall with the Aggies a member of the SEC.

Coming off an 11-win season that included victories over Alabama in the regular season and Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, Texas A&M doesn't have much room to improve in 2013 short of winning it all. That won't be easy as the Aggies must replace a load of talent on both sides of the ball, especially up front.

Losing first round draft choice Luke Joeckel at offensive tackle and Patrick Lewis at center, the Texas A&M offense must also replace three wide receivers led by four-year letterman Ryan Swope.

The good news is that Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, running back Ben Malena and talented young wide receiver Mike Evans return from one of the top offenses in the country last season.

While Manziel gets the majority of the attention, Malena ran for 808 yards, averaged 5.9 yards per carry, and scored eight touchdowns. Evans was one of the top newcomers in the country last year with 82 catches for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman. With likely NFL first rounder Jake Matthews back at tackle, the pieces are in place for the Aggies as long as Manziel doesn't suffer a sophomore slump following his busy offseason of concerts and games across the country.

Mike Evans will be a big target for Manziel this season.

Defensively, the Aggies must replace big Damontre Moore up front as well as linebackers Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter. Moore led the team with 85 tackles, 12 1/2 sacks and 21 tackles for losses last season. His presence was one of the biggest reasons why Texas A&M's defense took a big step forward in 2012. Stewart and Porter were second and fifth, respectively, in tackles last year and combined for six sacks. No returning player had more than two sacks for the Aggies, leaving a big void in the pass rushing department heading into the new season.

Julien Obioha and Kirby Ennis will be counted on to carry the load up front in 2013 and they shouldl get plenty of help from a talented secondary. Deshazor Everett is one of the top cover guys in the SEC and should be a good matchup for the Aggies with top receivers in the league, but will likely miss some of the season following an arrest this summer.

Top Offensive Player

It's a pretty easy call to say Manziel is the top offensive player for the Aggies after his monster redshirt freshman season in 2012. The speedy quarterback completed 295-434 passes for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns with just nine interceptions in his first season as a starter. He also ran for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Top Defensive Player

Although he started just seven games last season, talented defensive back Tony Hurd Jr. is a playmaker and joins Everett as part of a solid secondary for the Aggies. Fourth on the team in 2012 with 67 tackles, Hurd had four tackles for losses and one interception year.

Schedule Tough Stretch

The schedule sets up nicely for Texas A&M in 2013 as the Aggies have a pair of tune-up games before facing Alabama at home in week three. Following that they will face SMU at home before a tough four week stretch that begins with a road trip at Arkansas.

Following a week off the Aggies will travel to Ole Miss on Oct. 12 before returning home the next two weeks against Auburn and Vanderbilt.

Newcomer To Watch

Even with the physical Evans back at receiver, the Aggies have plenty of room for newcomers to make plays this fall. The biggest name is the nation's top receiver in the 2013 class, Ricky Seals-Jones from Sealy, Tex. The 6-5, 220 playmaker had more than 1,000 yards of total offense and scored 17 touchdowns as a senior.

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