Texas A&M has the best freshman wide receiver in the country in Christian Kirk. What makes this group so impressive, however, is that they also have Speedy Noil, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Josh Reynolds to line up next to him. Louisville has faced off against some really good receivers this year as well as a couple of strong groups of receivers. They haven't faced a group as versatile and explosive as this group, however. Each of the four leading receivers have a different skill set and role in the offense.
Christian Kirk is just as good as you will hear he is heading into the game and during the broadcast. Kirk exploded onto the national scene this year when he scored two long and extremely impressive touchdowns against Arizona State. On his first touchdown he caught a punt on his left hash and took it across the field to get to the wall that had been set up. While crossing the field he blew two angles and when he hit the wall he absolutely took off. On the second touchdown he caught a quick screen, made one guy miss by just running by him, and made three guys miss in the open field as he reversed field to score in the opposite corner of the endzone. Kirk is one of those guys that's a "loose pit bull" type of player. When he gets loose you get a pit in your stomach and you just hope that somehow someone makes a play to stop him. Pat White, Devin Hester, Dalvin Cook, and maybe a few others fit that mold to me.
UofL needs to kick the ball away from Kirk on special teams. That sounds obvious but people have been doing it anyway and he's an All-American because of it. On defense it's important to tackle Kirk in space. He's not unbelievable quick to the point where he will put on moves and make guys miss. Where he really worries me is with his strength. Kirk will throw out a very good stiff arm and he's very good about keeping his top speed while making guys miss. Louisville's defense has to put on their best tackling game of the season.
The second leading receiver for the Aggies is Josh Reynolds. Reynolds is the tall, deep threat for Kyler Murray. At 6-4 and lanky as all get out, Reynolds is the go-to redzone receiver. Reynolds wasn't a highly recruited player like the other receivers but he has been the most consistent player for the Aggie offense after transferring in before last season. Like the rest of the offense, Reynolds has seen his production slip this year after leading the team in yards and touchdowns with 13 last season. He's still averaging 18.5 yards per catch this year and he poses a huge issue for Louisville as they haven't fared to well against deep balls this year.
Ricky Seals-Jones is one of the biggest wide receivers I'e eve seen and he plays like it. Seal-Jones is the Aggies possession receiver and he typically plays in the slot. The Aggies run a lot of "stop" or "hitch" routes with him to get quick and easy throws for their quarterback. Seals-Jones does a good job of turning 5-7 yard passes into 9-11 yard games because he's so hard to bring down. While the other receivers my blow past a guy to make a play, Seals-Jones is much more likely to blow by a guy or surprise a defender with his agility in the open field. He's not a small guy by any standard but he does have the ability to make a guy or two miss after the catch. Kyler Murray seems to like throwing to Seals-Jones from what I've seen. Louisville might key on him to make things a little harder on Murray.
One of my favorite high school players over the last handful of years has been Speedy Noil. I mean, his name is Speedy. How can I not love this guy. Noil came to TAMU last season and had a similar impact as Kirk. He averaged 118 yards per game of total offense and was a threat on special teams. This year hasn't been as kind to Noil as he's missed a couple of games to due to injury and disciplinary reasons. The addition of Kirk has also played a role in Noil's lack of production. Even though he's the fourth receiver in this group, Noil is much more likely to break a big play than Reynolds or Seals-Jones because of it. You know that Reynolds is the guy that'll be running down the sideline. Seals-Jones will be in the slot as and he'll be running slants and stops. Noil gets moved around more and he runs a more diverse route tree. He's also just more likely to take off if he gets in the open field. UofL cannot let Noil and Kirk beat them with big open field plays.