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August 25, 2013

AggieYell Mailbag

Here's this week's edition of the AggieYell Mailbag, where AY staff members respond to reader questions.

Q: How would you rank our receivers as far as hands, ability to catch the ball? (3DMan)

A: The top of the list, at least to me, is Mike Evans. He's been a real consistent pass catcher since the start of spring camp last year, and nothing's changed. Malcome Kennedy has become a very good receiver of the football, which is one reason he's become a primary target of Johnny Manziel. Consistency has become the hallmark of both Gaston Lamascus and Travis Labhart, which is a major reason both of them where awarded scholarships Saturday. Of the young wideouts, all seem to be very consistent pass catchers. The one that looks the smoothest, amazingly, is Ricky Seals-Jones. He uses those big hands to catch the ball well away from his body, then pulls it in quickly to complete the catch. Considering how little time he's really been a wideout, his ability to catch the ball is very impressive.

Q: What do you believe John Sharp's memo implies about the (Johnny Manziel) situation? (Hustlin' One)

A: I think that memo, and subsequent public comments by the A&M System Chancellor, are a very public indication that an internal investigation into Manziel's activities has turned up nothing damning; in fact, it appears that it may have dug up something that clears the Heisman winner. Critics on the national level have accused Sharp of braggadocio and arrogantly defending a cash cow; those critics don't know John Sharp and they're not paying close attention to his full comments. Sharp did not become a highly regarded politician as a Democrat in conservative Texas by being a buffoon; he's a very smart man who is calculating in his comments. His statements on the matter are both a challenge to ESPN to lay all their cards on the table and an indication that he believes he has a trump card on the matter -- at least, in my opinion. One way or the other, the insinuation is very clear: Manziel is playing football in 2013.

Q: The offensive line is fine when it comes to pass blocking; run blocking looks like it can use work. Either that or the combination of Alonzo Williams and Kirby Ennis are going to be dominant in 2013.
Can you provide a little more analysis? I've noticed a lot of short runs and although we don't have enough work to really draw conclusions I find it interesting. I guess we won't know until we are playing guys in different colored jerseys. (Richard23)

A: Your point is well taken. To this juncture, the Aggies haven't run the ball very well in practice situations against the first team defense, save for a few big plays by Trey Williams. But at the point of attack, Ennis and Williams have held up very well in the middle and there hasn't been much room for the backs to run. Granted, the offensive linemen are operating out of a two-point stance and really can't get going downhill, but the going has been tough. This could just be what we've seen and not representative of full practices, but it seemed to be true in the big scrimmage as well. Last season's offensive line started off slowly in run blocking as well and became very good at it, so we'll just have to wait and see where this goes.

Q: Honeycutt has been trotting out with the one's during your last few observations...Is this a motivational move on Sumlin's part to push the starters or is Honeycutt truly improved to the point he warrants a starting job. What's the change up say about Matthews and Raven? (Chance23)

A: It says nothing about Matthews, who has been out there with the first team every practice we saw and in the scrimmages. It could be a precautionary measure, with Raven now suspended for a game (either Rice or Sam Houston State, in all likelihood). Other probable starters have worked with the twos in the past (see Tommy Sanders this fall, for instance), so it may mean nothing. Honeycutt, however, has had a very strong fall and brings a lot of size and hitting ability the secondary. No matter who starts, Raven and Honeycutt are both going to get a lot of snaps.

Q: LB recruiting- what's our back-up plan for Hoza Scott and losing Whitley? Do you expect to see us finally go after Mabin? What about OOS prospects? (AggieinDC)

A: If A&M is going to go after a new batch of linebackers for '13, it will probably start in a few weeks after high school football gets underway and new prospects can be evaluated. Josh Mabin is now committed to Oklahoma State and still has no A&M offer, but he would likely flip if he ever got one. Another possibility may already be on campus: AJ Hilliard, who was initially expected to be a middle linebacker but has the size and speed to be an effective outside linebacker. With Donnie Baggs, Jordan Mastrogiovanni, Justin Bass and Reggie Chevis already in the middle for 2014, it could be a decent move for him.

Q: What do you make of all the reps for the walk on receivers over the large number of scholarship blue chips? Jacquay obviously has work to do, but are the rest that far behind, too? (Ag98)

A: You're talking about guys who have been in the system for a couple of years now and have worked extremely hard. They do things right and catch the ball when it's thrown their way. But, keep in mind that Lamascus was in the two deep at the start of 2012 and was eventually overtaken by more talented receivers. Seals-Jones, Quiv Gonzalez and Sebastian Larue are all going to play; Jeremy Tabuyo might. But if the youngsters aren't going to play much, why not put the veterans out there for the occasional play or two when you get that deep into the receiver rotation? It gets them an extra year of experience that could prove vital later.

Q: How many OL do you see this staff trying to sign in 2015? Also, it appears as though the staff is targeting some Juco OL prospects, is this an indictment on the 2015 OL class OR more to do with us needing immediate help for the two deep OL position for 2015? (Chile Pequin)

A: A&M needs to take at least four offensive linemen in the 2015 class; the need to take a couple more in the '14 class, even though they have four (J.J. Gustafson, Koda Martin, Kealvin Davis and Zack Ledwik) committed. The scouring of the JUCO ranks is simple: you've got two redshirt juniors and a senior in your starting lineup and very little experience behind them. Bringing in a guy or two that has the size and experience to play in the SEC immediately makes an awful lot of sense for not only 2015, but 2014 as well.

Q: Do you think Matt Davis pulled the trigger too early? I mean, Ken Hill has only been on campus for a couple of weeks, Joeckel is gone after this year and the new guy comes in next year. Or was Hill simply that much better?

Is Ivan Robinson ever going to be a factor for us? (The Stein)

A: Matt had to do what he had to do, and when it became clear he had no shot at backing up in 2013, he made his move. Hill has been very impressive with his poise and decision-making so far, and Joeckel has another season and will be around through 2014 (he's a redshirt junior). With Kyle Allen coming in for spring practice, the numbers weren't in his favor even if Manziel leaves.

As for Robinson, he could be a factor later this season. Will he ever start? I wouldn't think so, but he can provide valuable experience and snaps backing up Alonzo Williams.

Q: Based on fall camp, are you making adjustments in the top 15 of 30 for 30? Would you change any of the released players? (brAG)

A: Yes and yes. It'll be more like 14 in 6 now, but this summer was a little more busy than anticipated. If I had a do-over, guys like Ricky Seals-Jones and Derel Walker would be higher; Quiv Gonzalez would be on the list. Edward Pope would be one guy who would be lower. But A&M has so much high-quality talent, it's tough to rank them all. But, when the season's over, I'll do a re-rank and see how seriously I screwed up this year. It can't possibly be as bad as last year, when I had two guys who didn't even start at 1 and 2 and the Heisman winner not on the list.

Q: With the QB position we are in do we go after another 2014 QB? If so who? Maybe more of an athlete/ QB type that could play another position if everything works out well for us. (Adam Dubya)

A: If A&M is going to go after a quarterback, they're going to go after a quarterback; they're not going to mess around with projecting other positions. That said, A&M isn't going to go after another quarterback in 2014. They'll look to 2015, and probably try to add both Jarret Stidham and Kyler Murray. A look at the depth chart and the example of Matt Davis will be proof to both of them that they'll get a chance to compete; if they win, they'll play. Odds are neither will back away from a challenge. If they do, they're not the players A&M deems them to be anyway.

Q: Will A&M come out and publicly defend Manziel (other than Sharp) to try to improve the perception of our star athlete and the university? To me it seems they were too silent for too long and this has hurt A&M and Johnny Football in the court of public opinion. Haters are going to hate but there seems like a bunch of level-headed normal citizens are getting awfully tired of Johnny and have formed a negative opinion based on the non-truths that ESPN has publicized. Is there any recourse going forward? (Stav)

A: I'm not exactly sure what you wanted them to do; they were faced with serious accusations and had to investigation them internally before they made any public comment. They handled the situation professionally and efficiently; unlike Darren Rovell and ESPN, they chose not to prosecute their case in the court of public opinion. Honestly, A&M had more important things to worry about than Manziel's reputation; it had to protect the program, period, and that's more important than any one player. The recourse will come when (or if) the NCAA drops any case against Manziel. The backlash against ESPN will be massive and humiliating for a network already being zinged for a lack of journalistic responsibility.

Q: Compare the units (QB, RB, etc) the the team as of this week to what you saw at the end of last year. Is the unit better, worse, or about the same? (akinr)

A: I'm going to do a full breakdown on this tomorrow (Monday), but I'll say this: I like where the quarterbacks, running backs and defensive backs are. The wideouts are far better than people will anticipate, and I feel better about the defense as a whole than I expected. This is a very solid football team in all areas.

Q: Who are the fastest 3 or 4 players in the two-deep? (silsbeeaggie)

A: Good question. Here are a few guys to consider: Alex Sezer, Devante Harris, Trey Williams, Quiv Gonzalez and that Manziel fellow. He is, really, that fast.

Q: In your opinion, who were our biggest misses in the class of 2013 that really would have put this class over the edge? (_THEDON_)

A: For me, the first guy who comes to mind is LB Mike Mitchell, who signed with Ohio State. That kid is going to be a superstar and would have started from day one, no question. Put him with Steven Jenkins and Donnie Baggs and that linebacker corps is not just good, it's outstanding. Guard Caleb Benenoch is going to start for UCLA, and he would have brought nice depth. JUCO DE Z'Darius Smith would have been a great addition at rush end, and Vernon Hargreaves III is a top-flight corner. But that's about it. In other words, A&M had a great class and it looks better this fall than it did in February.

Q: Which freshman D-Lineman will be the future studs on defense? My gut feeling is Walker & Hall. (MM-PM)

A: I think they all have a chance to be really good. For me, the list starts with Isaiah Golden, who is just an absolute monster of a human being who will only get stronger and smarter during his time on campus. Justin Manning showed a real ability to get off of blocks and make tackles, and Hardreck Walker is fast for his size. Daeshon Hall may not contribute a lot this year, but he's got the speed and length to be a disruptive pass rusher in the future.

Q: How cohesive is our offensive line so far? (tsip despiser)

A: I'm surprised at how cohesive it looks, considering the turnover. But they've been together since the first day of spring ball and seem to have got a lot of things put together already. That may be one of the advantages of having guys like Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Matthews and Germain Ifedi who have trained (and played) other positions outside of the ones they're starting at now. They not only know their responsibilities, but the ones of the guys they're playing with as well. That's led to limited busted assignments and a group that works well together. You've got five talented guys who know their positions very well, which works in A&M's favor. Will they be as good as last year's line? I don't know, but I haven't seen much falloff.

Q: Do you have any insight on Ags in the NFL? Who will make a team? Who is going practice squad? Who is on the bubble? (Monte Jr)

A: Well, you know guys like Luke Joeckel and Ryan Tannehill are slam dunks; Christine Michael is probably going to be the primary backup to Marshawn Lynch in Seattle. Since the Dolphins didn't add another fullback, Jorvorskie Lane is going to stick around there. Jordan Pugh is fighting for a spot with the Redskins, and injuries to some young players may keep him around. EZ Nwachukwu is fighting for a roster spot with the Texans, but he looks like he may be in some trouble. The same with Jeff Fuller, who caught one pass for four yards Saturday night. Patrick Lewis is fighting for a roster spot with the Packers and it looks like he's got a real shot; the same with Jonathan Stewart in St. Louis. Sean Porter's a slam dunk to stay with Cincinnati. Steven Terrell is fighting to stay with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who cut Lionel Smith this morning.

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