Texas A&M started six freshmen in Saturday’s 24-17 victory over Ole Miss, a good sign for the future.
True freshman running back Isaiah Spiller led the way with 78 yards rushing on 16 carries with a touchdown and true freshman tight end Jalen Wydermyer had four catches for 67 yards. That was on the heels of him having three catches for 49 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama.
Junior wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon doesn’t think starting first-year players is a big deal.
“I was once a freshman,” said Ausbon who had 50 catches for 571 yards and three touchdowns in 2017 to make the All-Southeastern Conference freshman team. “Maybe in fall camp it was [unusual to see so many freshmen in the huddle], but as the season goes on, they’re really not freshmen, they’re pretty much sophomores. So, they’re all maturing pretty well. And it’s pretty normal, now.”
Offensive tackle Kenyon Green and safety Demani Richardson have started every game. Wydermyer has started five games and Spiller three.
Defensive end DeMarvin Leal and safety Brian Williams, a pair of true freshmen, both made their first start Saturday. Leal had five tackles.
The defense also had strong play from true freshman linebacker Andre White Jr. (two tackles, including a sack), and sophomore defensive back Devin Morris (two tackles, including one for an 8-yard loss).
“Man, a lot of these guys have just been preparing to play,” sophomore linebacker Anthony Hines III said. “Coach [Jimbo] Fisher always says, ‘You don’t want to wait to play, but prepare to play.’ So these guys going in and doing their part and making plays, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”
A&M (4-3, 2-2) played only two scholarship seniors Saturday. The Aggies are a junior-oriented team, but 13 freshmen and 12 sophomores helped Fisher earn his first SEC West road victory.
“The ups and downs of a game with a lot of young guys can get frustrating at times,” Fisher said. “But at the same time, they showed a lot of maturity in those situations going on and making the plays at the end of the game.”
Senior safety Larry Pryor no longer with team
A&M had to rely on more underclassmen and inexperienced players because of injuries.
Junior defensive end Micheal Clemons, who had make six straight starts, missed the game as did senior cornerback Charles Oliver (four starts), junior cornerback Keldrick Carper (two starts) and sophomore tight end Glenn Beal (three starts). Fisher said he’s hopeful to get some of those players back for Mississippi State (3-4, 1-3) on Saturday.
Senior defensive back Roney Elam, who started the first three games, has been unavailable, Fisher said. Senior cornerback Larry Pryor is no longer with the team, and junior safety Derrick Tucker is taking a redshirt, Fisher said.
Pryor played in the first six games, getting 12 tackles. Tucker played in the first four games, getting two tackles.
Buddy Johnson wins SEC defensive player of the week
Buddy Johnson, who returned a fumble 62 yards for a touchdown to give A&M the lead for good in the third quarter, was the SEC’s defensive player of the week. Johnson also had 10 tackles in becoming the first Aggie this season to earn an SEC weekly honor.
Aggies set for 11 a.m. kickoffs against Mississippi State, UTSA
A&M will play Mississippi State at 11 a.m. Saturday at Kyle Field on the SEC Network. The Aggies also will play at 11 a.m. next Saturday against Texas-San Antonio on the SEC Network.
Braden Mann named to this week's Ray Guy Award Ray's 8
Senior punter Braden Mann was named to the Ray Guy Award Ray’s 8 after averaging 52.2 yards on five punts against Ole Miss. He’s joined by Houston’s Dane Roy (47.5 average on six, three inside the 20); Kansas State’s Devin Anctil (49.0 average on six, two inside the 20); Wake Forest’s Dom Maggio (46.6 average on six, four inside the 20); Cincinnati’s James Smith (49.2 average on four, two inside the 20); South Carolina’s Joseph Charlton (45.9 average on seven, four inside the 20); Iowa’s Michael Sleep-Dalton (47.2 average on four, two inside the 20); Florida’s Tommy Townsend (44.7 average on seven, three inside the 20). The punter of the week from the group will be announced Tuesday morning after fans’ voting closes.