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The Replacements

Courtesy: NC A&T Sports Information
          Release: 04/08/2012
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Wide receiver Demonta Brown should play a big part in the Aggies passing game in 2012. Photo by Kevin L. Dorsey
Courtesy: NC A&T Sports Information
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GREENSBORO - North Carolina A&T quarterback Lewis Kindle trusted wide receiver Wallace Miles.

What evidence is there for such a claim? Kindle has completed 191 passes in his career. Eighty-eight of those completions found their way into Miles' hands. In fact, it may be safe to say no other quarterback in school history had more trust in a receiver than Kindle had for Miles considering Miles caught a single-season school record 70 passes in 2011. In 2011, Miles also became the first player in school history to record more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season.

There will be no Miles for Kindle in 2012, however. Miles' eligibility ended last season, therefore, Kindle must find other targets. On Saturday, during the Aggies annual Spring Game at Aggie Stadium, Kindle seemed to be comfortable doing just that.

He completed an array of passes to different receivers, including two touchdown passes to senior Larry Raper. Raper also caught a deep ball to end the intrasquad scrimmage. Demonta Brown, Quentin Thomas and Christian Carver also got into the action. And of course, the talented Torrian Warren is always lurking.  

Kindle was pleased to see so many receivers contribute because even he doesn't shy away from his past dependency on Miles.

"It is important we develop multiple receivers," said Kindle. "We got one dimensional in the passing game to where teams could key on that one guy last year. It will be great to have multiple weapons to go to because there is a big void there without Wallace. Everybody knows they're going to have to step up this season."

 Miles, who was on the sideline as an observer on Saturday, hinted toward the possibility of his production from 2011 being split among many different names. Miles' confidence stems from what he has seen since the Aggies 5-6 season ended in November. Miles and Kindle were known to hold their own private workouts, to where Miles ran numerous routes, and Kindle threw him hundreds of passes. Apparently, this exercise has rubbed off on others.

Attendance at voluntary wide receiver workouts has increased greatly. The improvement has been vital considering the Aggies predicament. The instructional time the Aggies coaching staff can spend with players was reduced from 15 days to seven this spring in order to help the football team improve its academic progress rate (toward graduation) score.  

"We've all been working with (Kindle) a lot," said Raper. "Our time as a team has been cut short, so we really have had to go out on our own to catch extra balls. We really have had to make it happen ourselves. Any way we can be better, we're out there doing it."

Raper should be a comforting sight to Kindle as he grows accustomed to life without Miles. It was Raper, not Miles, who led the Aggies in touchdown receptions with seven. It was Raper's 22 receptions that helped him lead the Aggies in yards per catch (18.6). If spring practice is any indication, Kindle will have to expand his inner circle in 2012.

"We did a lot of passing this spring," Kindle said. "We didn't get to practice as many times as we wanted, so we focused on our passing. We know we have (Co-MEAC Offensive Player of the Year and running back) Mike Mayhew in the backfield, so we're trying to get better at passing."

SPEAKING OF RUNNING BACKS: Star running back Mike Mayhew didn't get many reps on Saturday. But seeing Mayhew with the ball after an injury-filled 2011 spring is all most Aggie fans needed to see. What was as encouraging as Mayhew's participation was the apparent help he will have in the backfield this season. Junior Ricky Lewis saw a lot of action at running back and looked fantastic in spots. Redshirt junior Dominique Drake, who carried the ball 76 times for 4.1 yards per touch, also looked much improved from 2011. Mayhew comes into the 2012 season chasing history although the race may be short. He only needs 163 yards to surpass Maurice Hicks as the Aggies all-time leading rusher. Mayhew will also try to become the first player in school history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He should be healthy enough to accomplish all those feats if Lewis and Drake are able to shoulder some of the load.

LET'S HEAR FOR THAT AGGIES DEFENSE: There was some defense played on Saturday, and no one should ignore the Aggies defense. A&T had the eighth best defense in the country and the best rush defense in the MEAC last season. The Aggies also had a Jerry Rice Award Finalist for top freshman in Division I FCS on the defense in linebacker D'Vonte Grant. Tyree Hearn, Xavier Robinson and Tony Mashburn recorded sacks on Saturday. Linebacker Dareon Mays intercepted a Kindle pass.

THE VIRTUES OF FACEBOOK: One of the great scenes at Aggie Stadium was the numerous former Aggie football players who were in attendance. Reports are the plans to bring about the reunion started on Facebook. Of course, the tailgate that was set up for the occasion didn't hurt either. To see so many record-breakers and Aggie history at A&T again shows what is good about social networking.

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