Texas A&M Football: 2016 Season Awards and Superlatives
The Texas A&M football program was carried by tremendous seasons from four key players. It’s time to recognize some of the very best Aggies in 2016.
Freshman of the Year
No freshman in the history of Texas A&M football had topped 1,000 rushing yard prior to this past season. Williams, who shared carries with running mate Keith Ford and quarterback Trevor Knight, yet still managed to surpass the 1,000 yard mark. He finished the year with 1,057 yards on the ground and eight rushing touchdowns.
Williams seemed to have mastered the game-breaking touchdown run in his freshman season. All but two of his touchdown runs came from outside the redzone, and he averaged 36.5 yards per scoring play. He also caught 19 passes for 91 yards.
Texas A&M has been known for it’s aerial attack under Kevin Sumlin. During his tenure only two other players have topped 1,000 yards on the ground: Johnny Manziel and Tra Carson. Johnny Football was Johnny Football, and Carson needed 242 attempts to reach 1,165 yards. Williams averaged two more yards per carry than Carson.
With the Aggies close to running out the clock against Tennessee, Williams had the opportunity to make the play of the year. He came within inches before a Volunteer defender knocked the ball out of his arms at the goal line. If Williams completes that play he ends the game and potentially catapults himself into the Heisman conversation.
Fortunately for the Aggies, they’ll get to watch Williams for at least two more seasons. Running the football might not have been a focus in prior seasons, but the Aggies would be fools not to get the football in the hands of number five as often as possible.
Defensive Player of the Year
Coming into the 2016 season all the focus was on All-American, future first round draft pick Myles Garrett. That hype was well deserved, but injuries curtailed the impact of one of the best players in college football this past season. A hobbled Garrett was still a tremendous asset to the team, but it was Justin Evans that showed up in every single game.
Evans played through injuries and still managed to lead the team in solo tackles (52) and interceptions (4). His ability to make the big hit at the right time is hard to quanity, but anybody who watched him play knows what I’m talking about. The love Evans has for football and the passion he plays with on every play were evident. He was a fun player to watch.
He played his biggest game on opening day, picking off Josh Rosen twice in what would be an overtime victory against UCLA.
In addition to his 52 solo tackles, he registered 31 assisted tackles (87 total), five tackles for a loss, and eight passes defended. On special teams, Evans was an underated kick returner. He handled 15 kickoffs this year, averaging 28.5 yards per return including a 90 yard return against Ole Miss.
His impact on the defense cannot be overlooked. This senior leader rallied the troops and led a secondary that endured a lot of snaps. That workload was magnified by the miscues in the front seven that led to more tackles than expected for the safeties and corners.
Evans will be a first or second day selection in the NFL Draft. His spot will be a tough one to fill in 2017.
Offensive Player of the Year
Reynolds will end his Aggie career third all-time in receiving yards, fourth in receptions, and second in touchdowns. That’s impressive in itself, but it was his senior season that was the most spectacular stretch of an incredible career.
He finished the 2016 campaign with a touchdown reception in eight consecutive games. Reynolds failed to get into the endzone in just two of the Aggies’ 13 games and scored 12 touchdowns in total. No other Aggie surpassed 1,000 yards receiving, while he racked up 1,039 yards including a 12 catch, two touchdown, and 154 yard performance in his final game against Kansas State.
The 12 catches in the AdvoCare V100 Texas bowl were the most by any Aggie receiver in a bowl game in Texas A&M history. The previous owner of that record? Josh Reynolds, who had 11 catches for 177 yards in the 2015 Music City Bowl against Louisville.
As good as he was it seems strange that he only caught 61 passes in 2016. The strategy of “when in doubt, throw it to Josh” seemed to work out more often than not. Reynolds finished sixth in the SEC in yards per receptions, but first in receiving touchdowns.
Most Valuable Player
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The most accurate measure of an MVP is considering how a team would fair if that player was removed from the roster. It wasn’t a hypothetical for Texas A&M last season. A 6-0 start was quickly turned upside down when Trevor Knight suffered what appeard to be a season ending shoulder injury against Mississippi State.
Just days removed from being named to the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, Knight was done and the Aggies feel on the road to Mississippi State. The week after the team lost it’s second consecutive game, dropping a home contest to true freshman Shea Patterson and Ole Miss.
Knight threw for 2,342 yards with 19 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He also carried the ball 102 times for 614 yards and 10 touchdowns. Knight’s legs proved to be the most important piece of an effective Texas A&M offense.
He scored the go-ahead touchdown in overtime on the ground against UCLA. Against the Razorbacks he broke off, not one, but two 40+ yard touchdown runs. His 62 yard touchdown run against Tennessee put the Aggies up by 14 points with a little less than four minutes remaining in regulation.
Through the air, he was just good enough to keep the offense on schedule. Knight finished dead last in the SEC in completion percentage. In spite of that, the Aggies were second in the conference in scoring offense.
Knight was far from perfect, no one will deny that. However, he was far and away the most important player on the Texas A&M team both on and off the field.
***Stats from Sports Reference and ESPN***
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