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October 18, 2013

AggieYell Mailbag

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

Q: I have seen continuous improvement in our D, it seems like right now the critical area we're experiencing across the board is over aggressiveness in the players covering receivers or identifying receivers, releasing them to assist in run protection thus leaving people wide open. Has there been any additional attention from the defensive coaches to reverse that strategy and cover deep/stay with your assignment and then break off once the play develops? (84aggiect)

A: I think this is something Mark Snyder was hitting on Tuesday, when he said the defense has to get away from "explosives." Recently, A&M isn't getting beat on big plays; they're not contesting them due to mental blunders and blown assignments. In the scheme A&M runs, the linebackers will have to slow down (and sometimes cover) receivers (by this I mean normally backs); safeties then come over the top to pick them up as they go downfield. Corners usually have the wideouts deep, but play off them at the snap. That gives up yards, but Snyder said, that that works, that the series end up in punts when the team does what they're supposed to. But blowing assignments or trying to do too much has gotten them into trouble. Long story short, yes, I think there is a greater emphasis on this stuff now. There has to be, because it's problem number one.

Q: Elite OL recruits have been scarce in Texas but if A&M can sign Braden Smith or Casey Tucker (plus one Juco), it will be a good year. What do you think our odds are of landing one of these 2014 tackles? (rustyo)

A: Honestly, not real good. I think Tucker may be heading to Stanford and Smith seems to be leaning more towards TCU than anywhere else at this point (though A&M could still make a play for him). One reason I'm bearish on A&M's chances is the sudden spate of offers for offensive linemen -- Nick Gates, Fahn Cooper and Chris Smith have all been offered in the past couple of weeks, the Aggies after Roderick Johnson from Missouri and JUCOs Chad Mavety and Avery Gennesy. Not to say any of those guys are subpar talents, but it's not a good indication A&M is happy with where they are with some of their remaining early offers.

Q: "A&M is a middle-of-the-road SEC team without Manziel." Does this accusation become true? Is recruiting going to adequately fill the holes to prevent it? (DriverD)

A: I think it is true ... if we're talking about 2013. In 2014, I'm not a buyer on that. Here's why: I believe you will return four of your five starting offensive linemen (with Cedric Ogbuehi replacing Jake Matthews at left tackle); you will have a healthy Ricky Seals-Jones to pair with Malcome Kennedy at two of the receiver spots, and there's still a chance you'll get Mike Evans back. JaQuay Williams will have a full year in the system, Kyrion Parker and Sebastian Larue will be ready to go and Jeremy Tabuyo will have a year under his belt. Add in the two Williams in the backfield with Tra Carson (and James White), and things look good outside of quarterback. There, Matt Joeckel has proven he can manage a game well and I think Kenny Hill can be a star.

On defense, you lose Kirby Ennis, Steven Jenkins, Nate Askew and Tramain Jacobs. Big losses, to be sure but you've got 10 freshmen getting real experience now; Isaiah Golden will be better, Daeshon Hall will be bigger and you'll have reinforcements in the secondary from both the '13 and '14 classes who are very good. Add in guys like Myles Garrett, (hopefully), Josh Walker and Justin Manning and you've the makings of a very talented, if still very young, defense.

Net result: A&M isn't going anywhere, Johnny Manziel or not. If Manziel returns -- look out.

Q: How many games does it take on average for the game to slow down for our freshman? I know it depends on the person (JFF never played like a fish while some seniors might still look like fish in practice and never see the field). I am just curious if/when we can expect any huge strides this season from the fish or will we have to wait until after the extra bowl practices or even worse, spring practice next year. (jaywcjr)

A: It really all depends. For Darian Claiborne, I think things are already slowing down; for Isaiah Golden, he's already strong enough to be a force. On offense, there was no doubt RSJ was ready, but he's a freak. For guys like Jordan Mastrogiovanni, I'm not sure. The corners are being taken slowly, and that's ok because Jacobs has been way better than anticipated and Devante Harris gets better each week. Some guys aren't physically big enough to handle things yet, and that's been shown. I don't think you will see any incredible leap in improvement this year -- you can look for steps to be taken each game. I would expect greater steps to be taken postseason and in the spring, and then further into the summer.

Q: Assuming everybody in the secondary is healthy, what is the most effective starting lineup for the back 4? (Naytch)

A: My preference at this point would be Harris and Jacobs at the corners, Everett and Raven at safety and Toney Hurd at nickel.

Q: Several posts on the Defense this year and next....give me your starting 11 for next year? (SML2007)

A: Strong defensive end: Julien Obioha OR Gavin Stansbury
Nose tackle: Alonzo Williams
Defensive tackle: Isaiah Golden
Rush defensive end: Myles Garrett OR Daeshon Hall

SAM: Shaan Washington
MIKE: Jordan Mastrogiovanni
WILL: Darian Claiborne

CB: Deshazor Everett
CB: Devante Harris
Nickel: Noel Ellis
BS: Howard Matthews (Kameron Miles could take that job if he's as good as advertised)
FS: Floyd Raven

Still a young team, but there will be a lot more depth starting to enter into the system. And no, I don't believe Deshazor will leave after this season.

Q: Outside of points allowed, what specifically are you looking for from the Defense this weekend to be able to continue the "this D gets better every week" storyline?

Heard a lot of talk about the AU defensive front being the best we see all year. Is that true? Does it really matter? (Ag4SEC)

A: 1) Strong play near the line of scrimmage from the linebackers; continued cutting off of the edges by the ends; fewer missed tackles and no blown assignments.

2) I think they may well be the best A&M's seen this year. I really Gabe Wright and Dee Ford, and Carl Lawson's a bad man as a freshman. But A&M's still got a great offensive line, the elusiveness of Manziel and Auburn has a subpar secondary. This will be a problem for them.

Q: What is your opinion on the defensive backfield: Is the team better or worse with Everett playing safety, Jacobs at Corner, Raven or Matthews on bench...OR Everett at corner, Matthew and Raven at Safety, Jacobs on bench. Do you see us adding any more CB's to this recruiting class, is Ced Collins going to be a health issue, that would put our CB recruiting at 0 for all intensive purposes...OR do you think we are counting on our "safety" recruits converting to CB's. (Fatrobby)

A: I think cornerback Deshazor Everett is the best defender on the football team. Safety Deshazor Everett is the second best defender on the football team, though, and that's where he's really needed right now. As said up top, Harris and Jacobs have been pretty good as a tandem, and teams have tried to pick on both with some success, but it hasn't been horrific. Having Everett and Raven at safety makes A&M fast and really athletic (if a little undersized) at safety.

Now, to the corner situation: I don't have anything new on Ced Collins, but I don't expect him to play at this point, either. Nick Harvey will probably be a corner at the next level, and A&M is still after Tony Brown. There have been no new offers made, so they must like what they see from Alex Sezer, Ellis and Tavares Garner at least a little bit. Dylan Sumner-Gardner and Armani Watts will be the safeties from this group.

So, if Collins can't go next year, you'll still have Everett (yes, I am optimistic), Harris, Ellis, Sezer, Garner and Harvey. Victor Davis may also be a corner; that's up in the air right now. That has the potential to be pretty strong.

Q: Give me more info on Fahn Cooper. Is he a 3 for 2 guy? Spring enrollee? Likely Ag? (Walter Peck)

A: He was a redshirt in 2011, so he would be two to play two. He got some preseason All-Mac run at Bowling Green before he left there, so he's got some talent to him. At 6'5", 315, he's certainly a big dude. And, since he was actually in the D-1 ranks, that 6'5", 315 is probably legitimate. As far as his offers go at this point, A&M appears to be the best -- but we'll see how it goes.

Q: How many OL do you think A&M will sign this year? 5 or 6? (ag20)

A: Depends on how you count J.J. Gustafson. Right now, you have three -- Kealvin Davis, Zach Ledwick and Koda Martin. They'd like to sign at least two more, and wouldn't mind at all if they could grab a third. If you just talk about new bodies out there in the summer, they would like to have six or seven.

Q: Any info on Kameron Miles status? At this point are the coaches leaning toward inserting him into the lineup or just going the RS route. (Roy Munson Jr.)

A: We'll have a better sense of things after tomorrow's game (just to see how he's suited up), but I haven't seen anything to indicate he's not doing anything but redshirting.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Tuesday press conference questions from the media? Seems like they are very light, only looking for good stories. I'm not looking for NY style media questioning but would like harder questions about play calling and explosive plays given up on defense. Does the local media not ask those type of questions for fear of alienating the coaching staff? (silsbeeaggie)

A: I think part of it is that a lot of the reporters there aren't looking for X's and O's conversation, really; they're looking for stuff to fill space and catchy quotes in their papers. There are guys from this site and others who more interested in the X's and O's of things, and you'll hear from them. I'm not saying newspaper guys don't know their stuff -- Brent Zwerneman certainly does -- but that sort of stuff isn't what their editors are sending them there to get.

Is it fun to ask questions that could be mean to guys you genuinely like? No. It never is. But what you see, mainly, is a difference in priorities, not being soft.

Q: I remember during the Spring ball Kimo tipoti played some NG for goal line defense and short yardage. It seems like he wasn't amazing but he was a mountain and took up two blockers and held his ground. Is he not an option at all when we know a team is going to try to run? (bigstu)

A: No, he isn't. He's on the offensive side of the ball.

Q: What did the offense do differently on the final drive (the entire second half for that matter) that they moved the ball so effectively. Did the Ole Miss defense make a poor adjustment (prevent) or did we do shift something?

A: Pretty simple, really: they stopped going east-west and went north-south. They used the middle of the football field in the passing game, where there were huge gaps, instead of throwing horizontal passes at or near the line of scrimmage. If Ole Miss' speed at the line doesn't get you, you'll get them. Add in Johnny Manziel and A&M had the formula to beat on them after a pedestrian first half.

Q: After Everett, who are our best instinctive/high-football-IQ guys on defense? Or who has the most potential? (texasoriginal)

A: Darian Claiborne immediately comes to mind for having a very high football IQ. Suggest an adjustment, as Mark Snyder did to him at the start of the second half against Ole Miss, and he makes it big -- an interception. That kid gets after the football. Shaan Washington also seems pretty instinctive, but he's raw.

Jordan Mastrogiovanni has been raved about for having a high football IQ, and he could be someone to watch for next year. I also really like Daeshon Hall's instincts; if he can add 15 pounds in the offseason (20 would be nice, too, if we're asking), he could be deadly at rush end.

Q: Per your post on recruiting, what does this staff need to do or change (including staff) to get the quality and depth the team needs to be a top 20 defense? (DentonAg80)

A: Finish this class strong with guys like Qualen Cunningham, Josh Frazier and Kenny Young (Gerald Willis III, Tony Brown and Jamal Adams wouldn't hurt, either), continue winning and recruiting well in the 2015. That's about it.

Q: With Mike Evans seeing more and more double coverage, any chance we see him sometimes moved to the slot and get Pope or Williams on the same side, as we practiced in the Spring/Fall camps? (Adam Dubya)

A: No. I doubt we see much of JaQuay Williams for the rest of the year.

Q: Will the commitment of Myles Garrett have a domino effect with any other recruits? (SGMan)

A: I doubt it. You're talking about national-caliber kids who can afford to march to the beat of their own drummer. Keep winning, let guys like Garrett and Kyle Allen do some recruiting of their own and you could see some more seriously big names come in -- but I really don't expect a flood of commits in the next couple of weeks. The guys A&M is after can afford to make their own schedule.

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