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June 22, 2013Each week, AggieYell.com's Jeff Tarpley and Mark Passwaters take reader questions and respond to them in the AggieYell Mailbag. Here's this week's edition:
Q: Tarp, in the past, you've placed a lot of emphasis the Horns decline as being related to early recruiting of prospects by a their coaching staff. A&M has also recently been targeting players earlier and offering as Sophs or Juniors at a variety of positions. What's your comfort level that the A&M staff/program won't make the same mistakes and result in a gradual program decline as you seem to have proffered in relation to Horn recruiting? (LesAg)
Tarp: First of all, I think that A&M will develop its players better than Texas did. That's because coach Sumlin understands that you have to be a physical, well conditioned football program to be successful and Texas does not.
Second, Texas has already offered 36 members of the 2015 class in order to jump start their recruiting after what's happening in 2014. The Aggies have been more selective in offering 22 prospects and most of those guys already have multiple offers anyway, especially on a national level. As a result, A&M is a lot less likely to make mistakes in evaluations because they're not carpet bombing the class with offers,
Q: If you have a competitive edge, why not use it? I believe that stressing defenses with roll outs and similar plays is a great way to use JF's unique skillset. (Cal-aggie)
Tarp: You take away half of the field from a quarterback when you roll them out. You compress the field and give them less of it to work with. With a player like Johnny Manziel who has great athleticism and vision, you want them to be able to use all of the field to take advantage of their skills. He can still move outside of the pocket if he's rushed and make the play akin to a roll out anyway.
Q: Of the guys on campus, do we need to worry about NCAA Clearinghouse issues? Can you confirm that ALL guys currently on campus are good to go? (jtb6420)
Tarp: As far as we know, everyone is good to go. In addition, prospects that have had clearinghouse issues have not been allowed on campus until those have been cleared up. Now, don't confuse high schoolers with junior college transfers, who may need A&M to get clarification on any classes that transfers because JUCOs do not fall under the jurisdiction of the clearinghouse.
Q: The kicking game is going to be extremely important this season if we want to make a run for it all. How did Bertolet look this spring compared to last spring?
Did you see improvement or were his misses a game-only-phenomenon? (Smasher200)
Tarp: He looked better until the spring game. He was more consistent with his plant foot which helped him immensely. However, kicking in front of tens of thousands of fans is different than kicking in a scrimmage. People have a tendency to forget how young he is (still an underclassman) and also forget how past A&M kickers who were underclassmen have struggled in similar circumstances (like Groza Award winner Randy Bullock). In addition, it's not like A&M has upperclassmen at the position that they could turn to because you typically just have one scholarship player at the position. Like it or not, you are just going to have to let him grow up because you really don't have many other options there.
Q: Are we all in on Kevin Shorter? I am not sure what to make of V Nixon's comments regarding not having heard from the coaches in a while and also that we would not be taking any more running backs.
Do we lead for Shorter or does Arkansas? (BeefmanAg)
Tarp: Yes, A&M is all in on him. The staff is not going to turn down an opportunity to take the best prospect in the state at the position regardless of another prospect's feelings.
As far as who leads for him right now -- it's really hard to tell based on both his actions and his comments but you have to feel better about A&M's chances since they are closer to home.
Q: Does James White's performance mean Tra Carson doesn't see the field this fall? If so, would they try him at another position? (Vinz Clortho)
Tarp: It means that Carson is going to have to learn to run with better leverage and be a more physical runner, things that White already knows how to do and usually are prerequisites to be successful at the position. If he doesn't, then Carson isn't going to play.
In addition, if you are not physical, then you have very little chance of seeing the field in this or most football programs at any position. Carson's skill set is best suited to running back but if he's not physical there, he's not going to be physical anywhere else.
Q: Before spring ball there was optimism from Tarp and others that Pope would be a significant contributor at receiver this year, even with all the freshman talent coming in. Was his performance in the spring that disappointing that he is no longer being mentioned as a name to watch in the fall? (OneBAM27)
Tarp: He was a starter on the outside coming out of the spring and during that time he was going up against one of the better cornerback duos in the SEC and he's still learning the nuances of the position coming from a Class 3A program. If Mike Evans starts seeing more time on the outside in the fall than he did in the spring, then perhaps Pope fulfills a backup role. Even so, he had a nice spring game and showed that he's coming on. He just still needs more work.
Q: It's been reported that Daeshon Hall put on 12 pounds between signing day and reporting to campus. Any idea what he weighs now? At 6'6, what does he need to be at to have a chance of contributing? I'm having flashbacks of seeing Tyrell Taylor as a true freshman getting tossed aside with one hand by opposing OLs. That was a wasted redshirt. (A4NS)
Mark: If Hall has put on 12 pounds, that's good. It's also just a start. He needs to gain another 12 if he's going to be in a position to play this fall. Your comparison to Tyrell Taylor is a really good one, because there are a lot of similarities between the two physically. At the end of the day, Hall will almost certainly be the more productive player because he has remarkable physical gifts, but he is a guy who needs to get bigger if he's going to hold up in the SEC West. If they're looking for a guy who will be a pure pass rusher in 2nd and 3rd and long situations, Taylor may be a better option in 2013. It'll be interesting to see Hall when fall camp begins late next month.
Q: Can you please provide an update on injuries and status of healing going into the summer? (Zland77)
Mark: Trey Williams, Steven Jenkins, Kirby Ennis and Malcome Kennedy are all back and active. The only player who remains a question mark is linebacker Michael Richardson, and odds are very strong that his career is over. That's unfortunate, because he was really becoming a quality player at the time of his injury, but you can't mess with neck issues.
Q: Relooking at the 2012 A&M vs Bama game, in the second half (A&M only scored 9 more points) Alabama seemed to play much closer the LOS, blanketed our receivers and were a lot better containing Manziel, flushing him out quickly, but then not giving him any running lanes or passing targets. It seemed that A&M only had time for quick/short passes and our RBs weren't used much as. What did Bama do differently in the second half and is that going to be Bama's blueprint for Sept 14? Only in the last TD drive did we protect better and allow Manziel time for deeper throws to Evans, Swope and Kennedy. We seemed to regain offense momentum during that last TD drive. Was this an Aggie offense line and protection package change or did Bama back off pressure for some reason? I'm very concerned about the 2013 A&M vs Bama game, again looking at 2012 second half. Conversely, if you look at the second half of the OU Cotton Bowl win, A&M broke it open and ran, passed and generally had its way with OU. Why the second half differences between the two games? (agbq89inva)
Mark: I think one major difference is pretty simple: Alabama had a world-class defense with a ton of depth; Oklahoma's...well, not so much. A&M's gameplan on offense is simple: grind up the opponent and wear them out. That means be more physical at the line of scrimmage and wear opponents down with your pace. The only three teams who had the depth on defense to keep up with A&M were the only three teams to really give them a game (let's face it, A&M nearly beat themselves against Ole Miss, not the other way around): Florida, LSU and the Crimson Tide. Alabama is extremely physical and fast, which is why they're defending national champions (again). Still, A&M did a good job moving the football in the second half -- remember, they did miss a field goal -- before the breakthrough touchdown. As for Sept. 14: they think they've learned a few things about how to contain Manziel and are going to try to do that. They did contain him better in the second half, but he picked them apart through the air. They have to realize that they may be better prepared for Manziel -- but he's also better prepared for them.
As for Oklahoma, they were just very Big 12 in 2012. Their defense was thin, wasn't very talented and certainly wasn't capable of matching A&M's physicality and pace. Net result: A&M buried them in the second half.
Q: In Talking Points you gave a good rundown on starters and potential backups in the secondary. I didn't see a backup mentioned for Toney Hurd at nickel for coming season. Who is his likely replacement in 2014. Also, don't know the term "boundary safety" you used re: Wiggins. Equivalent to FS or SS? (Agnok)
Mark: The question on who's going to replace Hurd is a very good one and honestly, I don't know if there's a real answer yet. For this year, I could see Otis Jacobs, a more physical kind of corner, stepping in if there was an injury; next year, he's gone too. Three guys who are possibilities: Tavares Garner (6', 180), who's got the the size and strength; Victor Davis, who's about the same size but may be better suited on the outside, and newcomer Nick Harvey, who's a little shorter (5'11", 180) but has no problem mixing it up physically.
As for boundary safety, that would be closer to strong safety. Essentially, the A&M coaching staff is looking for someone who can be strong against the run and blitz.
Q: Which team is most likely to represent the SEC East in Atlanta? (LoeDownDirty64)
Mark: For the first time in a while, the SEC East could be as tough as the west, as there are three very good teams in that division. Florida is loaded on defense and got even better with an excellent recruiting class for that side of the ball; South Carolina has All-Universe Jadeveon Clowney and a solid defense, along with the Ol' Ball Coach pulling the strings on offense. But my pick is those Georgia Bulldogs, who still have Aaron Murray at quarterback, two first-class running backs and depth at all positions. But with those three teams locking up and A&M, Alabama and LSU brawling in the west, how can anyone say the SEC is not the conference to watch in 2013?
Q: Who are Offensive leaders for this year? Who are the Defensive leaders? (sml2007)
Mark: The offensive leader is some guy named Manziel. Players tend to gravitate towards him for some reason. After that, it would be Ben Malena. He's not a big talker, but guys respect him and he does things the right way. On defense, the example setter is Kirby Ennis. He works hard all the time and he's willing to share his experiences with his younger teammates. Two other guys who are expected to step into leadership roles this year are the Clear Springs duo of Donnie Baggs and Howard Matthews, who the coaches believe are ready to lead. The vocal leader, without a doubt, is Toney Hurd. He's another guy players respect and admire, and he's not one to be shy when it comes to speaking his mind.
Q: Which school or schools is hurting the most with the A&M program becoming the dominant brand in Texas. Easy answer is Texas and OU but with them getting less their draw is for lesser talent which means Baylor and TCU having to take bigger gambles, or is it LSU from the bayou? (lufkinag)
Mark: Sometimes, the easy answers are the right ones. Texas and Oklahoma are schools that are used to recruiting top-flight talent and they haven't changed their habits. What has changed, to their detriment, is A&M's ability to not just compete with them for that talent, but consistently win head-to-head. That's what's happened in 2013 and it's happening again, to an even greater extent, in 2014. Baylor and TCU both have very good coaching staffs capable of scouting, recruiting and snagging mid-level and occasional upper-level talents, and they're continuing to do so. That means OU and Texas are more frequently being left without a seat when the music stops. As for LSU -- they're LSU and pretty much have their run of things in a recruiting hotbed. The only teams that occasionally sting them are the Aggies and Alabama. They're going to be just fine.
Q: Is Brandon Alexander on campus going through summer workouts?
Q: What should RSJ's nickname be?(and don't say Candyman) (Jphillips97)
Mark: Not big on Candyman. Considering what we keep hearing about him, and that Javon Kearse is now quite retired, I like "Freak."
Q: What is going on with Ben Compton from Friendswood. Is he going to get some at time? If so what position? (ZeroAg)
Mark: Ben is the primary backup, at this point, at both center and guard. He may not start, but at this point, he's pretty much indispensable.
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