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June 14, 2013

AggieYell Mailbag

It's getting well into Friday afternoon, and you're just waiting for that push into the weekend. Well, here it is: the AggieYell Mailbag has arrived.

Q: Are any of our expected 2014 signees going to be "hat-turners" on signing day or will they all give a verbal pledge in advance? Who would you consider an unexpected commitment that may pick a TAMU hat on National Signing Day? (dgbert)

A: The way things are going, you're probably going to see fewer and fewer press conferences with the hats on signing day. The reason's pretty simple: with recruiting now seriously picking up two years before signing day, teams are pushing players to make a decision months in advance so they can either gameplan the rest of their class of finish it altogether. For instance, Texas A&M has 13 commits right now; Texas has 15 and Baylor is, supposedly, done -- in June. Teams like Alabama and LSU may be a little more willing to wait around for the truly elite guys who can wait until signing day, but that's going to be for players at positions where they're already deep. A&M is getting there, but isn't quite there yet. Looking at who they're after this year, the only guys I could see going that far would be Tony Brown or Jamal Adams, but I doubt even they would do it.

Q: Outside of crapping themselves, what will Def. Coordinators do to try and stop our passing attack this year when we trot out 6'5", 6'6", 6'7", 6'4" and 6'+ receivers in our 5 wide sets? (glenner09)

A: Really, they have two options, neither of which are overly favorable. Get five or six players who are fast and extremely athletic (big corners and safeties) and attempt to jam them at the line or play straight up man, because if they play zone there's no chance of stopping short passes -- or they can blitz. And blitz multiple guys, attempting to disrupt the pocket and force the quarterback out. When the quarterback is Johnny Manziel, that may not be optimal either. And you say you can't go five or six deep in the secondary like that? Well, most folks can't. And that's why A&M's offense is potentially deadly.

Q: Can you compare and contrast our plethora of stud DT's from 2013-14 & 15? Golden, Walker, Manning, Washington, Frazier(possible commit), Mack, and Lampkin? (pkag032)

A: I think Golden, Mack and Frazier are nose guards in A&M's system -- big, physical guys like Kirby Ennis that are intended to take up multiple blockers and free up other linemen or linebackers to make plays. Golden is built like a bowling ball at about 6'2", 320 lbs., and has natural strength and surprising speed for a big man. He's still a work in progress technique-wise, but he's not going to be moved. Frazier is even bigger at 6'3", 330 lbs., and he uses it. Sometimes, he just puts his shoulder down and bulls through people. He's not as fast as Golden and plays high, so he might need a little refining. Mack is just a physical freak. He's 316 lbs. right now, squats 600-plus and runs in the 4.8 range in the 40. With some coaching, he could be as good as any A&M's ever had -- and I'm really big on Golden.

Manning, Walker and Washington are more defensive tackles, or what Spencer Nealy played last year and Alonzo Williams will play this year. Manning is probably the most technically sound and quickest of the three, but he may also be the smallest (even though that still may be around 300 lbs). Walker isn't as quick or as refined, but he has the ability to get his hands on a lineman and physically abuse him. He also has gotten progressively better through his high school years, which is a good sign. Washington is by far the fastest, yet lightest, of the bunch. He's at about Nealy's weight now, and could push into the 280s this season. His first step is so quick he's frequently past blockers before they're out of their stance. He's going to be an interesting one to watch.

Q: With the strong push for Ledwick today and already having Davis, Martin, and Gustafson committed, would we take both Tucker and Smith or shut it down if we get either? That seems like a lot of OTs. (WOSAG)

A: It is, but if you can get 'em, take 'em. Nathan Gutekunst has been forced to retire; Jeremiah Stuckey didn't show much in the spring to inspire confidence and Germain Ifedi is back at guard (where the staff would like for him to be able to stay). With Jake Matthews gone, it would be thin pickings in 2014 with just Ced Ogbuehi and Joseph Cheek as your primary tackles and not much behind them. Ishmael Wilson and Joas Aguilar were projected to be guards as well (though that could change). So if you want a solid two deep moving forward, taking a lot of tackles now is a good move. Not all of them will be stars like the 2010 class.

Q: Did the Rivals camp give us any help on KD Cannon after playing with Allen? Compare Cannon and Speedy Noil. (lifeinharleton)

A: Receivers coach David Beaty has been in touch with Cannon but the long story short is no, not really. Cannon wants to be a primary target from day one, and A&M not only spreads the ball around a lot, they just brought in six receivers in the previous class. As far as comparisons go, Cannon is the more refined wideout, runs better routes and makes sharper cuts. Noil, who plays quarterback for New Orleans Edna Karr, is bigger, faster and stronger and could eventually develop into the superior receiver. But, for now, Cannon's more ready for an immediate role.

Q: Has the regression in advancement from Polo been one of attitude or lack of ability at this level? It's my understanding that he loves A&M and I can't figure out why he isn't advancing on the depth chart. (AgFW73)

A: He had his chance this spring, as he started off at the top of the depth chart at nose tackle. After a week, he was banished to the third team. He wasn't getting the job done, either due to lack of strength or technique. But, by the end of the spring, he was an afterthought. He's got serious work to do this summer, or he's going to fall even deeper on the depth chart.

Q: What has to fall in place for Texas A&M to win: The SEC West; the SEC Conference Title; a National Championship this year? (CHUCK70)

A: The answer to all three is the same -- Win. Every. Single. Game. When Alabama is in your division, you can't drop one. Period.

Q: It's my 14th wedding anniversary, I'm here on business and instead of calling my wife, I'm asking an Aggie question. First things first, right?If we beat 'bama again, how crazy does the hype get and 2ndly, does it affect our recruiting for the rest of the current class. Do we get someone to round out the class that we may have only dreamed about? Offer a guess. (Tsip despiser)

A: First, you should have called your wife. Now, to your questions -- if A&M beats Alabama, the hype goes to a level we've never seen before. You've got the incumbent Rock Star/Heisman winner on the (almost certain) No. 1 team in the nation in the SEC...yeah, it gets nuts. If you beat number one and you are number one, that's good; but you have to stay there. Remember, USF got to #2 at one point a couple years ago and their recruiting didn't do squat. A&M will, however, likely stay there, and it could mean getting someone like a Tony Brown or Jamal Adams to come on board. There are very few players A&M has an interest in that they're not already competitive for; a Sept. 14 win may just be enough to catapult them over the top.

Q: We are in on a lot of recruits and I'm curious how many slots are left. How many do we take in 2014 and give us your remaining position targets for those remaining slots. Two of commits can be applied to '13, correct?(Fhauser)

A: J.J. Gustafson will have one of those '13 slots, but in all likelihood, there will be two openings for midtermers (Kyle Allen could be the other). There are 11 graduating seniors, but that doesn't mean 11 spots open -- obviously. With injuries, guys being switched to academic scholarships, leaving early (I'm looking at you, Johnny and Mike Evans) or transferring, the attrition level will probably get the number to around 20. Tarp thinks it could go as high as 25, so we'll see. It's going to be an interesting few months to see how it all works out, because A&M is showing no signs of slowing down on the recruiting front.

Q: I guess my question is to you...Do you see this defense potentially being better than last year's D? (Chile Pequin)

A: Sorry to cut your question down some, but yes, the potential is there. A&M should be able to rotate more guys in the interior of the line and the secondary should be better, which is two things national analysts are overlooking. The linebacker corps will be faster and more athletic, but the depth is untested -- it has plenty of potential, however. If they can get the two defensive end positions squared away (as in, figure out which one Julien Obioha's playing and find a starter at the other), they should be all right. For a team supposedly in dire straits on defense, the Aggies aren't going into the season looking for many answers. They already have them.

Q: Outside articles are reporting this years Track National Championship got Tony Browns attention. Tony wants to compete in the Olympics and A&M is a good avenue to achieve this goal. Your thoughts? (Stormnorm)

A: I think A&M still has a lot of work to do with him, track title or not.

Q: Who is your breakout player for 2013? (sports2450)

A: It would be too easy to pick someone new, but let's go with Donnie Baggs. It's hard to believe that he's already a junior, but he's the guy who's going to have the middle linebacker job to himself in 2013. As the fourth linebacker on the field mostly in passing situations, Baggs was really productive in 2012 and made plays. As a starter, he picked up where he left off this spring. He's not as big as Jonathan Stewart, but he's faster, a better blitzer and an overall better athlete. If he's as good as Stewart when it comes to diagnosing plays and hitting gaps, A&M's going to be very happy with him this fall.

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