|With the return of Jake Matthews, the Aggies line could be among the nation's best again. (US Presswire)|
Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel left some truly enormous shoes to fill when he elected to enter the NFL Draft this week (and potentially become the No. 1 overall pick), but Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin announced Thursday he'll have just about the best possible candidate for filling them.
Per the San Antonio Express-News, junior right tackle Jake Matthews will spurn the draft for one more year and return to College Station to play his senior season with the Aggies. A first-team All-SEC selection at right tackle in 2012, Sumlin said Matthews would be sliding to left tackle in 2013.
“I'm excited that Jake has decided to come back for his senior season,” Sumlin said. “Not only because he's one of the top offensive lineman in the country, but because of his approach and his leadership in our locker room.”
Matthews said that his "No. 1" reason for remaining with the Aggies -- and turning down the payday that would have come with being a likely top-20 first-round draft selection, possibly even top-10 -- was the "opportunity to play with my younger brother, Mike," a rising sophomore lineman at A&M and a former consensus four-star recruit.
Even with Joeckel and pass-rushing terror Damontre Moore off the to NFL, Sumlin won't feel too bad about his team's junior retention rate with Matthews still in the fold. The son of former NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, Jake has started 33 consecutive games -- the final seven of his freshman season and every game for the past two seasons -- and will be a much-needed professional-grade anchor for a line losing Joeckel and senior center Patrick Lewis.
As it stands, though, the Aggie offense will return three starters from what many would argue was either the nation's best or second-best offensive line; explosive tailbacks Ben Malena and Trey Williams; three of its top-five receivers, including 1,100-yard freshman Mike Evans; and, lest we forget, the first-ever freshman Heisman winner at quarterback.
With that kind of talent and Sumlin's expertise, A&M would be fine even without Matthews. But his return nonetheless could be the tipping point between the kind of offense that wins 11 games again ... or brings home Texas A&M's first crystal football.