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March 8, 2013

AggieYell Mailbag

Each week, AggieYell.com's Jeff Tarpley and Mark Passwaters take questions from readers and respond to them in the AggieYell Mailbag. Here's this week's edition:

Q: With so many good WDEs expressing interest in the Aggies and having us high on their list, and with so few slots available, do you see putting pressure on any of them to an earlier decision? (akinr)

Tarp: That would be a nice strategy and A&M probably hoped to employ it at some point. However, the candidates for those spots have so many other options that they can afford to play the process out and take their time. For example, Arlington's Myles Garrett has been offered by Alabama and just got done with basketball season. He's only seen A&M so far this year so you can't hold it against him if he wants to take other visits, especially when the defending national champions come calling. As a result, it's simply going to take some time for these guys to sort through things but with Friday Night Lights and A&M's spring game coming up, that's two more opportunities to get them back on campus and perhaps make them feel like committing.

Q: Are we to take the lack of Jordan Richmond & Kenneth Marshall on the spring roster to mean they're gone for good? (AggieInDC)

Tarp: Marshall has been there for the first two spring practices. Richmond has not so it looks like that the former four star is indeed gone.

Q: What can the Air Raid offense with actual 4 star talent across the board, accomplish? What great offenses in the past can you compare to what we are doing? Comparing talent and scheme.(RayRay11)

Tarp: For all of the talk about the Air Raid and comparisons to what Mike Leach did at Tech (and we are as guilty of that as anyone), probably a better comparison of what wants to accomplish from a scheme and production standpoint can be found at Oklahoma where Kevin Sumlin was an assistant from 2003 to 2008. During those years, the Sooners ranked third in 2003, 14th in 2004, 19th in 2006 (with Paul Thompson at quarterback), fifth in 2007, and first in 2008 in scoring offense. Although they produced quarterbacks such as Jason White and Sam Bradford, they also ran the ball well, even without Adrian Peterson (who was there from 2004 to 2006). For example, the Sooners ranked 20th in the country in rush offense in 2008 even though they were generating 350 yards a game throwing the ball and were 30th nationally in rushing in 2007.

That's the impetus for the changes in the running game that we saw in the Cotton Bowl in January -- A&M wants to be able to run the ball so that they can set up the pass and convert short yardage and red zone situations, all of which enhances your ability to score points.

Do you think the program will be better off in the long run if the coaches build up JFF'S stats in blow outs or get the #2 quarterback more reps (a lot more than Showers last year)? I am assuming JFF is gone after this next year.(burnag)

Tarp: You're always better off getting people reps due to injury or the inevitable turnover that four years of eligibility brings. Remember that last year when the Aggies started blowing people out, they were caught between getting Manziel some numbers and playing backups. In addition, early in the year, Manziel was a new starter, needed all of the reps that he could get, and no one was thinking that 2012 was going to be his next to last season at A&M. But even then, if you are up 40, how many times can you have the quarterback wing it down the field and get meaningful snaps?

I think A&M does what they did last year and simply plays it by ear on a weekly basis.

Q: What departing player from the 2012 team would improve this team the most, and why?

If Johnny leaves it will be tough to be better as a whole, but is the rest of the team better in 2014?

Who needs to step their game up the most this year for the team's ultimate goals to be accomplished? (_theDon_)

Mark: For the first, a lot of guys would be helpful -- but Damontre Moore would be the guy I would pick. At the other positions, there's some capable replacements, but rush end remains a question mark. Add in that he was a first team All-American with a year of eligibility left and he's a pretty understandable answer.

For the second, I would tend to agree with you. The only real concern would be at left tackle (and, of course, quarterback). Kirby Ennis and Toney Hurd are lost in 2014, but that's it on defense -- and A&M has plenty of defensive tackles to replace Ennis, and should have capable replacements for Hurd. Ben Malena, Nehemiah Hicks and Jake Matthews are gone, so perhaps Cedric Ogbuehi moves yet again (to left tackle) and Joseph Cheek takes on the right tackle job. All the offense's other weapons will not only be still around, but a year more experienced.

For the third, the secondary. Ironically, two run-first teams beat A&M last year through big plays in the passing game -- and it kept Alabama in the football game. A&M's defensive backfield is less experienced than it was last year, and teams will probably take their shots against it. They'll have to be ready.

Q: In the Cotton Bowl we saw a definite shift in the offensive play-calling. How do you see the offense changing this year? Have you seen any evidence thus far in spring ball? (wildabs)

Mark: We haven't seen much of anything so far this spring, so it's tough to say. But considering Clarence McKinney is the full-time offensive coordinator this year, and seeing the results of Cotton Bowl, why not stick with that style of play calling? A&M is going to run the ball with multiple backs, along with Manziel; they're going to keep the pace up, like they did last year and toss the ball to multiple targets. People who are expecting A&M to throw the ball 50 or 60 times a game, as Sumlin's offenses did at Houston, are probably going to be disappointed. One thing Sumlin and McKinney do well is utilize their deadliest weapons -- and they have tremendous ones in the backfield.

Q: How involved is Johnny going to be involved with a little toss and catch with the new recruits this summer? I know some will enroll this summer and be doing informal workouts with some team members voluntarily, just wondering if JFF is planning to put in time with them. (donnah1)

Mark: It won't be a little toss and catch; it'll be 7-on-7, just like last summer. Starting from when the new players get on campus at the end of the school year, the players will organize not only workouts, but 7-on-7 games as well. It helped last year, and should this year. The difference is in leadership; Sean Porter, Jonathan Stewart and Patrick Lewis got the workouts going last year, and this year there's not an evident group of leaders yet. This could be another area where Manziel is looked to to take over.

Q: How many of the incoming front seven recruits will play this fall? (Aggieluke04)

Mark: It wouldn't be a surprise if all three defensive tackles -- Isaiah Golden, Justin Manning and Hardreck Walker -- get playing time this fall. The only way that would change is if Ivan Robinson makes a miraculous recover, Polo Manukainiu shows he's more than just ready and fellow newcomer Jordan Points adds 15-20 lbs. between now and August. Otherwise, they'll be tough to keep off the field.

At defensive end, Daeshon Hall may well be needed at rush; Jay Arnold should get the chance to redshirt. At linebacker, one of either Reggie Chevis or Jordan Mastrogiovanni will get a chance to play -- both may end up getting a shot in the derby to back up Donnie Baggs. Brett Wade, Tommy Sanders and Darian Claiborne are all almost certainly going to play in 2013.

Is Ifedi on the Ced O plan... being too good to sit on the bench but too young to play tackle? Long term, is Ifedi a guard or a tackle? (SGMan)

Mark: I think he's a guard. He was in high school. He did play at left tackle last year, but Nathan Gutekunst got the playing time as he redshirted. The first thing A&M did when it became apparent Luke Joeckel was heading to the NFL was move him back inside to compete for the right guard job, which he could hold for the next four years. The idea of getting him on the field now and keeping him there -- at one position -- probably holds a lot of appeal.

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