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April 4, 2013

AggieYell Mailbag

Each 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 sampling:

Q: After seeing what Johnny Manziel was able to do this past year, I would have thought we would look at dual threat QBs in the future. Instead, we're going after pro-style guys. Stressing the defense with the ability to make something out of nothing or extend the play takes away an all-out blitz. What gives? (bromannrn)

Tarp: Upon closer examination of A&M's two offers and other players that the Aggies have displayed interest in, that's not necessarily the case. Although four star Kyle Allen out of Arizona is your typical pro-style, drop back quarterback, four star Justice Hansen out of Oklahoma can run (although he does not necessarily fit the definition of a dual threat type). In addition, the Aggies have shown an interest in Louisiana's Brandon Harris who is definitely a dual threat player and combines a strong arm with 4.6 speed. Harris has yet to be offered but is coming in for Friday Night Lights this weekend and is probably next in line if A&M wants to take a quarterback within the 2014 class.

Keep in mind a couple of things. First off, 2014 is a down year for quarterbacks within the state of Texas. There's only one ranked in the Rivals 250 (Denton Guyer's Jerrod Heard, who is committed to Texas) and most of the others are either undersized or would be considered projects. Thus, it's hard for A&M to be too choosy in who they are going after. Second, most programs vacillate between both types of quarterbacks because your region is not going to offer the same quality or type of prospect every single season. Schools have learned to take the best player possible and restructure their offenses around what he can do. A&M went from Reggie McNeal to Stephen McGee to Jerrod Johnson to Ryan Tannehill in the past few years and they displayed a variety of skills. In addition, when you look at A&M's quarterback pipeline right now behind Johnny Manziel, you've got a similar mixture between dual threat (Matt Davis) and drop back (Matt Joeckel, Kohl Stewart) with Kenny Hill probably being more of a drop back type despite his big rushing numbers in high school.

The bottom line is this: you have got to be able to throw the ball in this offense. You can scheme around a quarterback who isn't a great runner but the guys who can't get the ball downfield and generate explosive plays simply aren't going to play.

Q: With A&M so hot in recruiting right now would they seriously consider offering D'Onta Foreman to get Armanti Foreman? (Ricky)

Tarp: Most schools rarely offer two brothers just get the more talented one if the disparity in ability between the two prospects is that significant. In the age of 85 total scholarships and the ability to sign just 25 prospects a year, it's very hard to justify. For example, in February four star corner Mackensie Alexander from Florida wound up at Clemson and his three star rated brother Mackenro signed with Auburn. Clemson did not offer Mackenro.

However, such tactics usually wind up being a bluff on the part of the prospects themselves. In an example closer to home, in 2011 four star rated running back Herschel Sims out of Class 5A champion Abilene signed with Oklahoma State. You'll remember that his cousin, Ronnell Sims, was the quarterback on that state title team but was somewhat undersized and had far fewer offers. Herschel publicly stated that the two of them wanted to play together but neither Oklahoma State nor any other BCS program would bite on offering Ronnell and Herschel signed with the Cowboys anyway even though SMU offered Herschel. In the end, both of them took the best opportunities available to them.

Q: What single position is considered the greatest recruiting need for 2014 and where do we stand with a recruit(s) to fill it? (AgFW73)

Tarp: It's the offensive line by a country mile. In my Monday morning thoughts, I noted that the Aggies will have lost four linemen currently in their rotation after the 2014 season (Cedric Ogbuehi, Shep Kline, Jarvis Harrison, and Jake Matthews). The Aggies were able to plug in true freshmen at tackle in 2010 and thrive on offense but those guys (Luke Joeckel and Matthews) were of rare ability. You want to be able to play people with at least a couple of years on campus so that they have an understanding of your system and have some physical maturity. Thus, if A&M wants to be able to field an effective offensive line in 2015, they need to sign multiple prospects in the 2014 class that can be redshirted and have at least another year in the weightroom before setting foot on the field.

As far as where A&M stands, the Aggies already have one commit in tackle Kealvin Davis from Lakeview Centennial and have offered Manvel's Koda Martin. However, it's a down year in the offensive line in the state of Texas so the vast majority of their offers have gone to out of state prospects such as Olathe, Kansas' Braden Smith. It's going to take those guys some time to make up their minds so don't be surprised if the Aggies don't hit the JUCO ranks during the May evaluation period.

Q: A lot has been made about Nate Askew's progress, do you see him potentially taking the starting job at LB come the fall? (jphillips97)

Tarp: He's still something of a work in progress but he's already proven to be something of an effective blitzer, someone who can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, and surprisingly physical for a guy who's never played the position. He's got really good length and uses that to keep people off of him and also to pop up in the passing lanes and deter quarterbacks from throwing in his direction. JUCO transfer Tommy Sanders might have a better first step off the edge but Askew may be a better overall package and if he can tackle and absorb everything mentally then you are looking at not just a starter but a guy who can be a little bit of a difference maker.

Q: In 2011, after losing an elite pass rusher in Von, Deruyter struggled to get pressure on QBs and was forced to dial up exotic blitzes that seemed to over-complicate our defense and leave us vulnerable to the big play. 2013...different coach, different players, different defense...but what can Snyder do from and X's and O's standpoint to get pressure, assuming the Taylor boys aren't able to match Demontre's production? (Shike Merman)

Tarp: I've looked at DeRuyter's schemes and calling them complicated doesn't do them justice…the terminology is overwhelming and it's no surprise that there were busted assignments and blown coverages.

However, Mark Snyder is a different animal philosophically from DeRuyter. DeRuyter showed a two high safety look but left people in man coverages far too often with minimal help down the middle in order to attempt to generate big plays defensively. Snyder uses more three deep coverages (either man or zone, both with a centerfielder at safety) but also has his corners play off of the outside receivers. They will give up the short gains but rarely let people behind them. Even if A&M blitzes, the corners don't try to press the line of scrimmage unless they are sure that they can stay with their man.

In addition, DeRuyter seemed to have an inordinate amount of faith in his charges to grasp the scheme even when they were unable to do so over and over. Under Snyder, you either learn your assignment and play your technique or you don't play. As a result, A&M may not garner as many sacks or turnovers but teams have to work their way down the field and eventually their drives stall out due to penalties or other mistakes and they don't put touchdowns on the board…and with Johnny Manziel at quarterback, field goals aren't going to beat A&M.

Given no marked improvement over the summer- do you see Kenny Hill or Kohl getting a legit shot at backup QB next year? I considered that inconceivable 2 months ago, but the reports continue to lean toward not having a solid #2. (Ag98)

Mark: Having watched a fair amount of Matt Joeckel this spring, A&M may indeed have a solid backup. He's certainly not as exciting or elusive as Manziel, but Joeckel knows the system and has been largely good this spring (though he has had his off moments). Also, as we saw last year, you can't count out anyone from spring to fall, so Matt Davis can't be excluded from the equation either. Will Hill and Stewart get a shot? Probably. How big a shot it'll be, however, is highly debatable.

Q: Mark, of the three receivers you discussed in yesterday's Tuesday thoughts, which one do you predict to have the largest impact come fall and what separates him from the other two? (Chance23)

Mark: The three guys Chance is referring to are JaQuay Williams, Edward Pope and Sabian Holmes. Of the three, I'd have to take Pope right now. He seems to be getting more consistent (and more open) as the spring has gone on, and he's going to benefit greatly from the matchup hell Mike Evans is going to cause. Williams is still very much a work in progress and will need to improve his route running a great deal this summer; Holmes needs to flat out catch the football. Pope may be slender, but he also could have a very big year in 2013.

Q: Which starters this spring are most vulnerable to losing their job in the fall? (3Dman)

Mark: This is an extremely good question and honestly, one that takes a little thought. Gavin Stansbury is going to lose his to Julien Obioha, there's no doubt about that. The same goes for whoever has been playing WILL with the first team linebackers (lately, that's been Nate Askew); Steven Jenkins will take that role back. Kirby Ennis will slide back in next to Alonzo Williams, giving the Aggies their four-man front. Aside from injuries, the only real guys in jeopardy would be Sabian Holmes and Tyrell Taylor. Taylor will have to hold off Daeshon Hall, in all likelihood; Holmes may have a ton of guys, from small and fast (Sebastian Larue, Jeremy Tabuyo and Laquvionte Gonzalez) to big matchup destroyers (Kyrion Parker, Ricky Seals-Jones) coming after that spot. The competition will likely be quite intense.

Q: Mark, what kind of stats or W-L record does Johnny have to put up for a legit shot at another Heisman? If he does win #2, what are the odds he sticks with us for a run at #3? (mackey25)

Mark: Depends on the competition, of course, but he'll need to up the touchdown passes, drop the interceptions -- and, to boot, win AT LEAST as many games as last year to counter the (probably absurd) perception that he took a step back in 2013. If Johnny does win the Heisman this year, I'll put his odds of going for a third at the same I'll put it even if he doesn't win, but has a strong individual season: zero.

Q: What do you make of all the 3-3-5 we are playing on D? Anticipating playing from ahead? (PJAMVedder)

Mark: That may be some of it, but more likely the answer is flat out depth. This coaching staff likes to keep its defensive groupings together, not just mix and match to fill holes. The reason is simple: they want them to get used to playing with one another, knowing where they'll be and how quickly they can get from Point A to Point B. A&M's running a 3-3-5 with the first team right now because one of the major elements, Kirby Ennis, isn't there to play inside. Could they move someone like Jordan Points up and use him with the first team? Sure, but what would be the point? He won't be asked to do that in the fall. If Isaiah Golden or Justin Manning or Hardreck Walker were on campus, that might be a different story.

But your point is well taken: they're going to make a lot of people throw this fall. A lot.

Q: Who would you put your money on being the Julien Obioha of the 2013 class, if there is one? (Coltr88)

Mark: Not sure that there is one, but if there is, it would probably be Hall. He's an athletic guy at a position where there's no obvious solution in the spring, so he might get his chance there sooner as opposed to later.


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