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March 29, 2013

AggieYell Mailbag

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

Q: Where will RSJ fit in once he hits campus? (PJAMVedder)

A: He'll be catching passes, that much we're sure of. Outside of that, it depends on how inventive the offensive staff gets. He seemed like a classic outside receiver before last week, when Mike Evans started lining up in the slot and creating havoc. Odds are he'll be moved around a lot, playing both outside and in the slot, creating mismatches similar to those created by Evans. For his part, RSJ told us he'd like the opportunity to play in the slot, as he agrees that it would cause all kinds of problems for defenses. It's a really nice problem to have if you're A&M.

Q: In your opinion, were the lack of injuries last season more attributable to Larry Jackson's strength/conditioning program or just good luck? (Mudhouse)

A: Any time you go through a season with as few injuries as A&M did last year, there's an element of luck involved. But the Larry Jackson element is one that shouldn't be overlooked. He not only made A&M a more physically prepared team in 2012, he made them tougher, too. Nobody wanted to be the first guy to limp off the field; if they were coming out, they were going to be carried out. So you had guys like Damontre Moore, Ryan Swope and Kirby Ennis playing with injuries that could have knocked them out in other situations, and they played at a high enough level that they helped win games.

Q: Taking into consideration player movement, pipeline and the resultant potential attrition, any estimate on the number of 2014 scholarships we will have available? (Ricky)

A: There's always some wiggle room here, and there may be more with A&M next year than most seasons. First, you have no idea what Johnny Manziel is going to do. Second, you have no idea what Kohl Stewart is going to do. Is Michael Richardson going to be able to play? Is Jordan Richmond finished, as it appears now? That's four potential spots that you just don't know about yet (or, maybe three, if Richmond's finished). You have Shayvion Hatten and Jameill Showers' slots to fill, and who knows what other attrition is down the line. It's a small senior class, on the other hand, so my guess at this point would be around 20. That means A&M is more than halfway home at this point and needs to be judicious with its selections.

Q: Was Mike Evans play at the slot a permanent move, an experiment, or a situational position depending on in-the-game matchups? (3DMan)

A: Really good question. It's probably a situational thing, but you'll probably also see it each game. It's an advantage that A&M has, so they're likely to exploit it.

Q: Taking an overall look at the receiver depth and pipeline, how do you see the 2 deep looking as of right now realizing that we have a lot of time for things to change between now and the end of August?

A: Receiver is probably the one position that could see the most turnover, as most of the rest of the team is pretty much set. Edward Pope has taken over first team snaps from Derel Walker, but he's still more potential than production. Sabian Holmes gets open, but he's dropping too many passes. JaQuay Williams is still learning. Net result: the only two guys you feel like can be put in the starting lineup in pen right now are Evans and Malcome Kennedy. The two guys who may benefit most from this are Sebastian Larue and Kyrion Parker, who may be more polished than their incoming teammates. One way or the other, the competition level will skyrocket at receiver this summer.

Q: Who will be the starting wr's (in your opinion - including incoming freshmen like rsj etc) , who as a freshman will be a starter on d? (AggieKyle08)

A: At this point, you've got to go with the four out there -- Evans, Holmes, Kennedy and Pope -- just because you haven't seen anything else. As said above, Parker and Larue could make it really interesting, and RSJ has an unlimited ceiling; you just don't know yet. On D, there's only one freshman who could start -- Daeshon Hall. For A&M's sake, he'd better be ready to go.

Did anybody see Ifedi being this imposing force at guard? Does anybody really think Askew will take meaningful snaps at LB once the season starts? Does anybody have a pulse on comfortable he feels out there? (Fatrobby)

A: When Ifedi was at Houston Westside, he was a guard -- a left guard. He was a huge guy, but had a pot belly and didn't look all that imposing.

He does now.

One thing that people don't realize when they see all 6 feet, 6 inches and 340 pounds of Germain Ifedi is the kid is also really smart and plays with an attitude -- ask Tyler Godwin, who he head-slapped a la Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Tony DiNozzo during the last scrimmage. All of that makes him a potentially outstanding offensive lineman. For all of his flaws, Mike Sherman was a great judge of offensive linemen, and he wanted Ifedi. We don't know exactly how good he'll be yet, of course, but he sure looks the part.

As for Askew, A&M has a guy who has the speed and size to handle backs and receivers who line up in the slot. He proved that last Saturday. Last season, Donnie Baggs was primarily used in passing downs because he was a superior pass defender; this year, Baggs is an every down lineman, but Askew may be need to fill that role. That, at least, is how I see him.

Q: I've heard Mark talk about how great Donnie Baggs is for two years. To me, he looked good in coverage last year but I didn't see him as a run stopper with a an old school linebacker mentality. True, he had limited snaps, but will he be a factor against SEC teams when they want to pound it at the Aggie's front seven? What are the odds Reggie Chevis is an all-conference linebacker before he graduates? Deathburger)

A: This probably isn't what you wanted, but you got Baggs' foremost supporter answering the question. Baggs is up to around 225 pounds, which isn't shabby. He's also still plenty fast and doesn't shy from contact; he's proven that much this spring. One reason you didn't see Baggs on run downs last year much is it wasn't his role; he was the rotating fourth linebacker and the guy they turned to on passing downs. When he did get in the game on a full-time basis, it was when teams were well behind and were throwing. The staff has a lot of faith in him and he's shown no reason for doubt this spring.

As for Chevis, if size alone is an indicator, he'll be an All-American. It's just too early to tell. But he's going to play this fall, and that's a good first indicator.

Why wouldn't starting D-line be Obioha, A Williams, Kirby, Stansbury? Seems the best 4 and Stansbury is getting in the backfield. (Renz_Man)

A: Stansbury just doesn't fit what A&M wants out of a rush end. For that matter, Obioha doesn't either. They want a guy like Damontre Moore, who was the prototype for the position: someone who is tall, long and maybe a little bit undersized, but has the speed to get to the quarterback. Moore, of course, was everything A&M wanted and more in 2012, and it's going to be very tough to replace him. The guy who fits the bill closest, however, is Daeshon Hall, and we'll see if he's ready for playing time this fall. Stansbury, on the other hand, has earned more snaps this fall when he moves back over to back up Obioha, and that's not a bad problem to have.

Q: Your best guess, will Johnny Manziel declare for the NFL after this season, whether we win the MNC or not? (CHUCK70)

A: Barring a total personal disaster in 2013, Johnny Manziel will be in the NFL in 2014. Enjoy him while you can, because Johnny Football will be going prime time.

Q: Another Alexander question. If y'all think he may end up being the rush end why is he not getting reps on that side of the line? With obiaha coming back he is essentially running 3 rd team at SDE. What are the differences in the responsibilities of the two defensive ends and why / why not it doesn't matter which side he is getting the reps at?

A: Alexander is at DE because there's really nobody to back up Stansbury this spring. At least the Taylor twins are at rush end. The primary differences between the two are pretty simple: one guy is tasked with holding up offensive linemen (and, preferably, getting into the backfield) to disrupt running plays with strength and some speed; the rush end, Moore's old position, is a guy that is being counted on to apply pressure in passing situations. In order to keep teams from homing in on one undersized lineman, you'll see the Aggies frequently flip the sides their ends play on. Alexander isn't as fast as the Taylors, but he is longer and stronger. He doesn't seem to be a precise fit at either position, but he could end up being indispensable depth this fall.

Q: If I said hi to you at the spring game, would you put your head down and act like you don't know me? (Catorano)

A: We live in the same town and you haven't bothered to introduce yourself yet. That one is on you.

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