COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Four games into the season, No. 6 Texas A&M already has seven players with at least 100 yards receiving.
The deep group led by senior Malcome Kennedy has been a key to success for the Aggies and has aided in Kenny Hill’s seamless transition to starter.
Hill was asked what the depth of the group has meant to him in his first season since taking over for Johnny Manziel as the Aggies prepare for Arkansas on Saturday.
”It means a lot,” he said. ”You can’t just hone in on one person in our offense, you have to spread it out and be conscious of everybody because they can all go out and make plays.”
It is an eclectic unit that includes top-level recruits, a small-school standout and even a walk-on.
”We’ve got confidence in those guys,” coach Kevin Sumlin said. ”When you play in a system like we play, you’ve got eight guys at least that will rotate.”
Sumlin prides himself on giving the guys who are performing playing time, regardless of their path to Texas A&M.
”You have the right to play here if you earn it in practice,” he said. ”(It) doesn’t matter if you’re highly recruited or you walk in off the street. Do the things we ask you to do and you’ll play here.”
Kennedy, who leads the team with 30 catches for 334 yards and a touchdown, has taken over the role of Texas A&M’s top receiver after the departure of Mike Evans, the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft. Kennedy played high school football in the smallest classification in Texas, and his climb to becoming the Aggies’ top receiver is even more surprising considering he didn’t play the position in high school.
As a quarterback, Kennedy led tiny Cayuga to a Class 1A state title in 2009 by rushing for 2,356 yards and 24 touchdowns and throwing for 1,516 yards and 22 scores.
”We’ve got a diverse background in our receivers, but all the guys are fast, work hard,” Kennedy said.
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said Kennedy has long excelled on the field, but the coach began to look for more from him off of it this season.
”I really leaned on him on being the vocal leader,” Spavital said. ”He’s not just a leader of the receivers; he’s a leader of the entire unit. Malcome’s very important to the direction we’re going.”
Another member of the group is redshirt freshman Ricky Seals-Jones, who has 16 receptions for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Seals-Jones was a highly touted recruit, and with his 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame, combined with excellent speed, it’s easy to see why. The Aggies were confident he’d be a great target for Hill, but have been impressed early his blocking skills.
Texas A&M got a big game from Boone Niederhofer against SMU. The sophomore walk-on had six receptions for 73 yards last week and has 112 yards receiving and a touchdown this season.
”He’s a guy that goes over on the scout team, then comes over with us one day because we may need rest, and makes the most of his opportunity,” Sumlin said.
They’ve also received big contributions from freshman Speedy Noil and junior college transfer Josh Reynolds. Noil, who missed last week’s game with an injury but should play this week, has 12 receptions for 197 yards and a touchdown. Reynolds is second on the team with 247 yards receiving and has a knack for touchdown catches with four of his 12 receptions going for scores.
Also in the 100-yard club are Edward Pope, with 12 catches for 180 yards and two scores, and Sabian Holmes, who has 107 yards receiving and a touchdown.
”We have 10 to 12 receivers out there who can consistently make catches,” Spavital said. ”Speedy’s been out and other guys stepped up. Boone Niederhofer went in and played well. It was important for Kenny to build continuity with those guys. If you have backups you have confidence in, we can keep this offense moving consistently and not focus on certain receivers.”