All-American offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is leaving Texas A&M for the NFL Draft, multiple outlets including AggieSports.com are reporting. Joeckel is likely a top five pick — some tout the tackle as the No. 1 overall pick. His decision to surrender his remaining collegiate eligibility is hardly shocking, though it could send tremors through Texas A&M’s offense.
Joeckel was the cornerstone to one of the best offensive lines in college football. His ability to protect against the SEC’s myriad talented defensive ends helped quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to flourish.
Experts are high on the Aggies’ 2013 potential — Bovada.com has Texas A&M at 12/1 odds to win next season’s BCS championship. The return of Manziel is obviously central to the confidence shown to Kevin Sumlin’s bunch, but Joeckel’s absence is sure to leave a notable hole on the Aggie line.
How substantial that hole proves to be will go a long way in determining Texas A&M’s strength next season. Manziel’s ability to create plays with his feet makes him a dangerous play maker, and a much different style of quarterback than former USC starter Matt Barkley. However, it is worth noting that Barkley returned for 2012, hot off a stellar 2011 campaign but without tackle Matt Kalil. Barkley’s production declined, and the Trojans allowed more than double the amount of sacks from the previous season, when Kalil was anchoring the unit.
A&M could still return Jake Matthews, however. Matthews was 1st Team All-SEC and another highly coveted NFL prospect.
Joeckel is the second notable early departure, with defensive end Damontre Moore announcing his intent to pursue the NFL on Dec. 30.