COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- When Christian Kirk[1] arrived at Texas A&M as a true freshman, he did so with high expectations, high praise[2] and plenty of opportunity.

So far, he has lived up to the expectations, showed himself worthy of the praise and taken full advantage of the opportunities he has had, catching more passes (163) and logging more all-purpose yardage (3,207) than any other player in the SEC over the last two seasons.

Now, Kirk looks to not only elevate his on-field play, but also his sideline and locker room presence.

"I think this year the main emphasis is becoming the best leader that I can be to lead this team," Kirk said after a recent practice. "Obviously, with losing Trevor [Knight], he was our main leader, so somebody has to step up. I'm looking to take that role and be the vocal leader of this team, so that's the No. 1 thing I'm focused on right now."

The departure of Knight, who arrived in Aggieland for one season but was a catalyst for the 2016 squad and quickly became one of the team's leaders with his maturity and approach, leaves a void that needs to be filled. And it's not just Knight. Several key veterans from the 2016 Aggies are gone, including Myles Garrett[3], Justin Evans[4] and Josh Reynolds[5], to name a few. The presence of those types of players -- multi-year starters who are upperclassmen -- is invaluable in college football, where roster turnover is an annual thing. Establishing new team leaders is something every team goes through at some point.

While Knight became an important one, Kirk makes perfect sense as his successor. He'll be a junior this fall but has been a starter since his first spring on campus. He has been the Aggies' most consistent and best offensive player and has displayed the type of work ethic -- both on the field and in the film room -- that coaches look for.

When discussing some of the Aggies' young receivers -- A&M's other three starting receivers from 2016 are now gone, leaving room for young blood to emerge -- he even sounded like a coach.

"They're coming along fast," Kirk said. "Like I said, they're always willing to learn. What's good is they came in during the spring and now we're going to be able to work with them through the spring, through the summer and then go on to fall camp and know what they're able to do and who we'll be able to play."

What will be the next important task for Kirk and the rest of the receivers is developing a chemistry with whoever the starting quarterback will be. With Knight gone, senior Jake Hubenak[6], redshirt freshman Nick Starkel[7] and true freshman Kellen Mond[8] are the primary competitors for the job. If Starkel or Mond happen to win the gig, it will be the fifth different starting quarterback Kirk will have played with since his arrival in 2015.

Whoever wins the job will have his duties made easier by Kirk's presence, though.

"It's our job as receivers, whoever is there throwing the ball, to go and make them look good and just go out and make plays," Kirk said. "So it's just a standard that we have to play to as receivers."