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May 21, 2013

Tarp's Tuesday Thoughts

- Recruiting will start to heat up again toward the end of the spring after being relatively dead during the past few weeks. The A&M staff is in a battle on a national level for many prospects and those types of prospects usually take some time to make their decisions, especially they can use the summer vacation for unofficial visits. It's understandable that everyone is pretty frustrated right now but if history is any indication, June should be a productive month for the Aggies.

For example, the Aggies nabbed five commits and all of them came during or immediately after A&M's first football camps in mid-June. Reggie Chevis was the first of the five and had taken unofficial visits to several schools before committing to A&M on June 12. Noel Ellis and Tavares Garner were next on June 14 and both of them participated in A&M's camp. Garner helped influence his teammate, Kyrion Parker, to switch from LSU to A&M on June 25. In the midst of this flurry, Alex Sezer was offered at a satellite camp and committed on June 17. Finally, the Aggies picked up a couple of commitments from Brett Wade and Jordan Points at the end of spring practice.

A&M's first football camp this summer will be on June 2 and they will continue almost non-stop until June 15. During that time, prospects will visit A&M as well as other programs and the A&M staff should be able to swing a few guys A&M's way.

- For those of you wanting to talk football, we've focused primarily on the offense in terms of schemes and calls. We haven't talked too much about the defense even though most of the turnover in personnel is on that side of the ball.

Under Mark Snyder, the Aggies run multiple fronts with a three deep look. Snyder was able to change things up from week to week last year in order to stop what the opponent did best and convince people to accept reduced roles in some weeks and play a major factor in others.

Damontre Moore is gone and no one really stepped up in the spring to replace him from a pass rush standpoint. A&M would probably like to be able to stay in a three man front as much as possible, especially if that situation continues. Last year, A&M blitzed out of that front and played all kinds of coverages behind it. However, the Aggies also didn't play a lot of press coverage because the corners were young or hadn't proven themselves.

Based on what we saw in the spring and the second half of the Cotton Bowl, A&M's corners have developed to the extent that Snyder was much more comfortable with them being aggressive nearer the line of scrimmage. As long as he's comfortable with them, you'll see many more blitzes out of A&M with press coverage and less of those completions of ten yards on third and eight that drove people insane at times.

- Since I've been less active due to my back in recent weeks, I've watched a lot of the NBA playoffs. They've tended to reinforce some of my concepts about how teams win and they're applicable to any sport you choose to pick.

Any basketball team that makes a championship run must have a star or superstar that subjugates himself to the team concept. For them, it's not about numbers, it's about winning. As a result, they will sacrifice parts of their game to the benefit of their teammates even though the system is set up for people to get paid on the basis of their numbers.

You look at New York's Carmelo Anthony and it's amazing to me that he was mentioned in the same breath as Miami's LeBron James when it came to the MVP vote. Anthony put up great numbers (he led the league in scoring) and helped carry the Knicks to their best season in years. Yet, Anthony's game has a ceiling to it that negatively affects his teammates. He's a ballstopper of the highest order, averaging just 2.6 assists per game and registering more shot attempts than any other player in the league. He gets the ball while his teammates stand around and watch, not even trying to free him up with a screen at times because he needs space to work one on one. As a result, when he's on, the Knicks usually win but when he doesn't, his teammates have to pick up the slack and they are just not used to doing it because they've deferred to him over a 82 game schedule. Everything and everyone rotates around him, including the head coach who has a job depending on how well he gets along with his star.

On the other hand, you look at someone like Tim Duncan who is in the twilight of his career. Duncan has always put up big numbers like Anthony but even more importantly, he's unselfish, taking over a game only when he knows that he needs to. Since his teammates are involved and feel like they have a personal stake in the outcome, they play harder. In fact, Duncan did not play down the stretch of one of San Antonio's wins in the previous round against Golden State because he would not have been a good matchup versus the lineup the Warriors had on the court. Even so, there was no outcry by Duncan over this when many stars would clearly have had a problem with it. Instead, he accepted the situation because he knew it was the best for the team, stayed on the bench, and rooted for his teammates.

Duncan sacrificed his own numbers and even his own pride for the good of the team. That kind of sacrifice sets an example to less talented teammates who then are more likely to sacrifice themselves as well. In addition, although Gregg Popovich is considered one of the league's best coaches, he has the security of knowing that his goals and the organization's goals are the same as those of his star player…winning. Duncan defers to Popovich and his teammates know that since he is willing to do that, they should be able to do it too.

Texas A&M was able to get great leadership out of its upperclassmen last year. In the interest of winning, players sacrificed their playing time or worked at different positions and the underclassmen followed suit. Now, with another off season to think about all of last season's success and perhaps worry about getting a proper share of the credit, it's up to the coaching staff to keep the players focused on winning. In turn, the players have to be open to what the coaches are telling them and again make the necessary sacrifices both on and off the field.

Nonetheless, no matter how hard the coaches preach it, the players have to be open to it, especially the upperclassmen. Younger players or those without a lot of playing experience respond much more favorably when their peers set the bar. A&M is counting on productive people to set that bar such as Johnny Manziel, Jake Matthews, Kirby Ennis, and Donnie Baggs. If those players understand their roles and set an example for the younger guys, then A&M's whole should once again be greater than the sum of its parts.

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