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No. 6 Texas A&M: Aggies rebuild their line, and Kenyon Green is a great place to start

Brent Zwerneman
Houston Chronicle
Texas A&M offensive lineman Kenyon Green (55) celebrates a touchdown scored by a teammate during an SEC game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., in December.

COLLEGE STATION — All-American Kenyon Green has every intention of becoming entrenched at left tackle for Texas A&M, with the all-important job of protecting his quarterback’s blind side on every snap.

Ironically, Green is in a position to do that after heeding his father’s advice to be willing to play anywhere on the line while learning the ins and outs of football back home in Atascocita.

“When I was little, my dad, Henry Green, just instilled in me, ‘Learn everything you can — it can help you in the future,’” Green recalled in April, during spring football. “That’s helping me — I can play anything. I’m comfortable at center, guard and tackle.”

A&M coach Jimbo Fisher is counting on Green focusing on the last of those positions after two standout seasons on the inside. Last year he developed into a consensus All-American at left guard.

“He’ll go down as one of the best we’ve had here,” Fisher said.

The Aggies have had some good ones, especially from the Mike Sherman era (2008-11). His recruiting produced four first-round NFL picks on the offensive line from 2013 to 2016: Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews, Cedric Ogbuehi and Germain Ifedi.

Texas A&M offensive lineman Kenyon Green is escorted to an interview room in the Hyatt Regency during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., last week.

Since Fisher’s arrival from Florida State in December 2017, recruiting on the offensive line is on the uptick again, with Green as a five-star prospect out of Humble Atascocita highlighting the haul to date.

Green has lived up to every one of those five stars, and now as the line’s veteran he’ll be counted on to lead four new starters.

Tackles Dan Moore Jr. and Carson Green, center Ryan McCollum and guard Jared Hocker formed one of the nation’s top lines last season, but are giving the NFL a shot, although they all had the option to return for one more year after the NCAA didn’t count a season of eligibility because of the pandemic.

“We can’t really duplicate that same O-line, but we can work on what we can get better at as a group with this unit," Green said. “Just work on the fundamentals, like always, so we can have a connection, a bond, like we did last year.”

Green (6-4, 325) played tackle in high school, and after his willingness to move inside where Fisher believed he needed him most early in his career, he's back where he’s perhaps at his best.

“I’m loving getting back in the groove of being on the outside,” Green said. “At guard you can ‘stone’ people — you can get on them quick. At tackle you’ve got to be a little more patient, be more loose. I was (focusing) on strength and stoning people. Now I’ve got to be more finesse.”

Tennessee offensive lineman Wanya Morris (64) holds back Tennessee offensive linemen Jerome Carvin (75) and Jahmir Johnson (58) during the first day of Tennessee Vols football practice at Haslam Field in Knoxville, Tennessee in August of 2019.

While every position but left tackle is up in the air — and Fisher described the spring as a time for experimentation at most spots — a potential starting offensive line might consist of Green at left tackle, Layden Robinson at left guard, Luke Matthews at center, Aki Ogunbiyi at right guard and Tennessee transfer Jahmir Johnson at right tackle.

Green, Robinson and Matthews are the three most likely starters at this point. Robinson filled in admirably for a dinged-up Hocker here and there last season, and Matthews is returning from a shoulder injury.

Matthews is the youngest son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, the former Houston Oiler. Luke Matthews’ three older brothers — Kevin, the aforementioned Jake and Mike — all played at A&M over the past 15 years.

"I've been pleased with Luke," Fisher said in April. "... With his knowledge of what’s going on up front, he’s a really good anchor and making really good calls. He’s understanding what’s going on on the defensive side of the ball, to get us in the right blocking schemes.”

Green added of Matthews: “Center is probably the hardest position on the line. You’ve got to (read defenses), you’ve got to snap the ball, you have to make the little adjustments. You’re a leader and you’re where the play starts. Luke is doing a phenomenal job coming back from his injury.”

The Aggies were fourth in the final Associated Press poll last season, their highest finish since winning the national title in 1939. They open Sept. 4 against Kent State at Kyle Field.

In the meantime, Green will continue mentoring his young teammates on the line.

“You have to lock in and be a student of the game,” Green said of his advice to up-and-coming teammates. “You have to be on top of everything, in practice and in the film room. And, of course, have fun with the game — you don’t want to come out here dreading the game.

“That’s the most important thing: Have fun with it.”

Our preseason Top 25

For the last 12 years, the American-Statesman's sports staff has spent July breaking down our own preseason Top 25 rankings. Last year's eventual College Football Playoff semifinalists ranked first, second, third and ninth in our 2020 poll.

Our previous Top 25 team stories:

No. 25 Ole Miss: Rebels are hoping, banking on good returns from Lane Kiffin 3.0

No. 24 Washington: Huskies' Morris looks like the quarterback to run with — for now

No. 23 Louisiana: Billy Napier could be college football's next big thing (if he wants that)

No. 22 Penn State: Nittany Lions' safeties honed their craft at Lackawanna

No. 21 Oklahoma State: The next Gundy (Gunnar) begins his Cowboys career

No. 20 Iowa: Hawkeyes' Dane Belton knows path to NFL goes through team's success

No. 19 Coastal Carolina: Ready or not, the Chanticleers intend to stay awhile

No. 18 Texas: Bijan Robinson looks ready to carry the load for Longhorns

No. 17 Wisconsin: Spirited spring helped Badgers bond, players say

No. 16 Miami: Manny Diaz seems intent on building Hurricanes from local talent

No. 15 Oregon: Ducks' program is now  reaching recruiting, NFL draft high marks

No. 14 LSU: Questions that Tigers have taken with them this summer

No. 13 Indiana: Texas A&M transfer Camron Buckley gives Hoosiers another weapon

No. 12 USC: All signs are pointing up for Trojans, making it sunny again in California

No. 11 Florida: Gators have holes to fill, but already sounding confident

No. 10 North Carolina: Tar Heels' Sam Howell managing the hype, expectations

No. 9 Notre Dame: All-American safety Hamilton could help Irish on offense, too

No. 8 Indiana: Fickel, Ridder have taken Hoosiers' program to new heights

No. 7 Iowa State: Breece Hall stays close to roots as Heisman talk builds