Trevor Knight (above) is a graduate transfer quarterback for the Aggies.
Each of the last three seasons the Auburn-Texas A&M game has been a pivotal one to the season for both programs and this year’s contest is expected to be no different. With the Tigers and Aggies both looking to take a step forward in 2016, Saturday night’s game is huge to open SEC play.
How well the Auburn defense fares against Texas A&M’s powerful offense will go a long way towards telling the tale for this one and that starts with dealing with quarterback Trevor Knight. A transfer from Oklahoma who made a name for himself with a huge performance in a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, he eventually lost his job and now finds himself guiding one of the most dynamic offenses in the country.
Completing 43-79 passes for 583 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions, Knight has started off well for the Aggies against UCLA and Prairie View A&M throwing the football.
Also a very capable runner, Knight is third on the team with 109 yards on the ground and is tied for the team lead with three touchdowns.
That part of his game is something that Gus Malzahn said is a concern for his defense heading into the 6 p.m. kickoff.
“He can run,” Malzahn said. “Any time a quarterback can run that definitely changes some things. He's a veteran guy that's played in some big games. He's done a good job running so far. He's done a good job throwing to the receivers, which are extremely talented.
“He's also carried the football, specifically off the zone read. He's made some plays with his feet on straight drop-back passing when it's not open. He's been very good at that. He's a very good runner and that's one thing that definitely concerns you.”
When he’s not running the ball Knight is usually targeting one of a group of half a dozen wide receivers who are capable of making the big play. Leading that group is speedy Christian Kirk. A player Auburn recruited out of Arizona before he eventually chose the Aggies, the sophomore has 13 receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
“Auburn is a really good team,” Kirk said. “Obviously, defense is their strength and we’re going to have a challenge this week offensively facing them, especially that defensive front. They are really clicking right now and the way they came out and played Clemson was pretty impressive. We have our work cut out for us, but we’re excited to come out and get ready for that game this weekend.”
Kirk is far from the only big-play threat for the Aggies as physical receivers Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones have combined for 12 receptions, 231 yards and a touchdown. Also dangerous, Speedy Noil has just four catches for 25 yards and a touchdown, but has the ability to take is the distance every time he touches the ball.
Christian Kirk is one of the SEC's top offensive playerrs.
In the running game James White entered the season as the guy to beat, but Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams have taken over at that spot for Texas A&M so far. Leading the team with 127 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries, Ford combines with Williams (20-109) to give the Aggies a solid one-two punch. Knight said all three guys give them something different and have created a good environment for the offense.
“I’m extremely confident,” Knight said of the running game. “We talked about Keith Ford and everything he’s capable of and you see in week one what Trayveon Williams is capable of doing and kind of electric-type player he is. Then James White as well, who actually entered the season as our starter, is a really solid back as well. That tandem of backs can be and will be a really big thing for us going into this week.”
Up front the Aggies had to replace three starters but return big Avery Gennesy to lead the group. Starting every game last season after redshirting in 2014, Gennesy played his first two seasons at East Mississippi Community College. The only other returning starter for the Aggies is right guard Keaton Sutherland, but he’s running behind Connor Lanfear through two weeks. The key for the line is center Erik McCoy. A redshirt freshman, he will be making his first road start this week at Auburn.
In the kicking game sophomore Daniel Lacamera handles the duties for the Aggies and has connected on 12-12 extra points and 4-5 field goals this season. His longest kick of the year is 48 yards with his only miss coming from 38 yards in his first attempt of the season.
In the return game Kirk leads the way for the Aggies on punts with strong safety Justin Evans, Ford and Williams also in the mix.