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October 11, 2013

AggieYell Mailbag

Here's this week's edition of the AggieYell Mailbag:

Q: I mean no disrespect, but is the Ennis injury a blessing in disguise knowing Snyder is now forced to play the more talented Golden next to an emerging Zo-Will? (Chance23)

A: If not for this year, certainly for 2014. Having eight games of experience as a true freshman starter should make Golden pretty dynamic in his sophomore campaign. Williams has, indeed, played better the past couple of games and has put forth come of his best work when Golden's on the field with him. If Golden's aggressive style frees up Williams to make more plays, that would be a real plus for the Aggies.

Q: Some of the young/new receivers had more looks early, but are now not getting the game time, is this due to the no block no play? Also, along the same lines, it seemed that Jaquay got upset when he got called out for not running the route that lead to the int in the endzone and a 14 point swing in the game, is he 'punched out'? (84aggiect)

A: Well, there's no doubt the receiver rotation has tightened up the past couple of weeks, with the starting four of Mike Evans, Derel Walker, Malcome Kennedy and Sabian Holmes getting the overwhelming majority of the snaps. Against Arkansas, only Edward Pope and Travis Labhart got snaps along with the front four.

What's the reason? Probably a few things are at work here. "No block, no play" can certainly be part of the equation, as the four starters, Pope and Labhart have blocked the best of the receivers. I also think that the coaches and Johnny Manziel have the most faith in that group to run the right routes and adjust when Manziel changes plays at the line of scrimmage. In Williams' case, sheer talent was enough to get him on the field for a brief stretch, even though he's still figuring out route running. After the busted fade route against Alabama, however, it looks like the coaching staff has decided that the risk of playing him wasn't worth the potential reward.

I want to be clear on this, though: I still have really expectations for Williams, Ricky Seals-Jones, Jeremy Tabuyo, Kyrion Parker and Sebastian Larue. But this offense is reliant on a lot of option routes, and wideouts have to be on the same page with their quarterback for it to succeed. Add the additional need to learn how to get open for Manziel when he scrambles and, of course, blocking, and that can be a lot for a young wideout to figure out in a short period of time.

Q: What is the problem with the defensive line coaching? (SEC_Ian)

A: Nothing? You now have four players starting that didn't start at their positions last year, and only Julien Obioha, a sophomore, started at all last year. The Aggies are starting a true freshman, two sophomores and a redshirt junior (with zero career starts before this season) up front, and Obioha is arguably playing out of position. Ennis, the only real veteran up front, was playing well before his season was ended abruptly. So now, along with the starters, you have three undersized ends (Tyrone and Tyrell Taylor and Daeshon Hall), true freshmen backing up at defensive end and nose tackle (Jay Arnold and Hardreck Walker) and an inexperienced redshirt junior coming off a torn Achilles tendon backing up Williams. They're undersized, inexperienced and not overly athletic. Their primary talent rests with underclassmen. Don't know if you can blame that on the coaching.

Q: With the bye week now gone, will this week's defense be a precursor to what we can expect from them here on out? (Waymore blues)

A: Good question, considering we didn't get to see how the defense progressed after the bye week last year. The personnel, barring additional injuries, should remain the same from here on out (assuming Floyd Raven returns Saturday). Hopefully they'll continue to improve week to week as the season goes on, as last year's outfit did.

Q: When will Cam Clear start catching passes and start running over Safety's? (LTGrenader)

A: When the Aggies start calling his number. The Aggies are racking up yardage and points at a remarkable rate, and Clear has been needed in other ways. Maybe they'll start using him more as a receiver over the next few weeks, but don't expect him to be a superweapon that takes away a ton of catches from receivers and running backs.

Q: What's the status of our defensive tackle recruiting for 2014? Are the coaches satisfied with Washington, is it Frazier or bust, or who are some other tackles we are looking at? (pkag032)

A: The coaches are very happy with Washington, who was the first defensive tackle they targeted in the 2014 class and had him locked down before he shot up the rankings. Washington is the fourth-rated defensive tackle in the nation according to Rivals.com, and Frazier is ranked right behind him. Frazier is massive (6 feet, 3 inches tall and 334 pounds), and most people think either A&M or Arkansas will get him. If the Aggies don't, they seem to be content to stand pat -- they haven't made a new offer at the position in a long time.

Q: Should I ignore the last 2 weeks of football that Ole Miss has played when looking at the Ags -6?

A: Yes and no. Their backs are against the proverbial wall, they're at home and they want revenge for blowing last season's game. But they are what they are: potentially explosive but inconsistent on offense; fast and athletic but small and thin on defense. They'll put up points on the Aggies, but A&M should put up more because they can do so many different things. The Aggies have played largely poor defense this year, but they have gotten turnovers. If A&M plays the way it has for a year now on offense and gets a turnover or two, they'll cover a six-point spread easily. I don't think this will be a blowout, but it's going to be hard for Ole Miss to keep up without help.

Q: How is opening up the running game against Arkansas going to affect the game this week? (DryBones)

A: That's one of the "many different things" I was referring to in the last response. If A&M is worried about getting into another shootout, it has the capability to pound away on Ole Miss on the ground. Arkansas was bigger, stronger, and deeper on the defensive line than Ole Miss, and A&M abused them two weekends ago. The Rebels are more athletic and faster, but that didn't do them a whole lot of good against the offensive lines of Alabama and Auburn -- and they're not as good as A&M's front line is. So if the Aggies want to play smashmouth again and keep the Rebels off the field, that's doable.

Q: Sumlin's teams seem to do very well in road games. They don't seem to just win, but improve their play on the road. What characteristics about his approach or his teams help achieve this? (CheekySchneider)

A: Sumlin and the coaches are big believers in a consistent routine, so they do pretty much the same things when they're on the road that they do at home. The same guys room together at the hotel both at home and on the road; they go to a movie and pretty much stick to the same schedule no matter where they are. The little bit of a comfort level this provides seems to have made a difference for Sumlin's teams.

Q: Raven: go or no go? (AggieInDC)

A: Just a hunch, but I think he's a go.

Q: Does the play (plus the loss of Kirby Ennis) of our defense change our game plan on offense from here on out? Do we not want to play less defense and do we alter our offense to make that happen? (Hurting_10toes)

A: We saw against Arkansas that they can if they want to, but I wouldn't count on it much. The Aggies are at their most effective when they're pushing the pace and letting Manziel run opponents into the ground. They could slow things down some when they have the lead, but as a matter of routine it doesn't seem likely.

Q: What is the latest on the placekicking competition? (gangtackle)

A: After his performance at Arkansas, Josh Lambo is going to be the guy again this weekend. Taylor Bertolet will kick off.

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