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November 22, 2013

AggieYell Mailbag

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

Q: Will it be decision time for Noil and Willis immediately following the LSU game? Does being competitive (even with a possible loss) get one or both commitments? (pebbycree)

A: No on both counts. Both guys are bigtime enough that they can wait and announce their decision on national TV at an All-Star game. And if you're going to pull highly regarded players out of Louisiana, it's going to take more than than playing LSU close to get them. It's going to require beating them, and if you can do it handily, so much the better. Close won't cut it.

Q: What is the situation with Tony Brown? That guy could instantly provide help at CB, kickoff and punt returns.

A: He's still taking official visits, but most people believe the two front runners are LSU and A&M. Of those two, LSU is believed to have a pretty good edge. Another reason, if you needed one, for A&M to win in Baton Rouge Saturday.

Q: Do you believe Harrison and Kennedy are seriously considering the draft? Why? Why not? (Ag4SEC)

A: No, and it doesn't really make sense for either of them to do so. Kennedy has 606 yards and 7 TDs receiving this year, which is nice -- but it's also the only season where he's actually ever really produced. He could still use another year to improve his hands, get stronger and run better routes. Leaving now means a spot in the bottom part of the draft if being picked at all. Harrison is a good left guard -- but guards don't get drafted early unless they're outstanding. Tackles get drafted early. Now, Jarvis did pretty well at left tackle in the two games he played and he could be an option at a tackle spot next season -- almost certainly if Cedric Ogbuehi leaves -- but he'd be a late-round pick now too. Better to come back for another season and improve your stock.

Q: Is JJ Gustafson going to be ready for Spring practice? Thanks. (dichotomic)

A: That's the plan. He'll need to get some serious bulk back on if he's going to be competing for playing time in 2014, though; last time I saw him, he was around 260 pounds.

Q: With the difficulties in defensive performance this year with inexperienced players, did Synder ever consider simplifying his schemes to make execution easier? If not, why not?

Are Synder's schemes complex compared to other DC's or not so much?

It seems like he has tried to maintain his schemes at all cost, limiting rotation to those he believes have mastered his approach regardless of any other considerations like resting players to prevent defensive breakdowns late in the game. Is that a fair assessment?

Along the same lines, he seems to put the players' mastery of his schemes above performance, as in Maestro at linebacker vs. guys that demonstrated good hitting and tackling in the Spring like Chevis and Wade. (I would love to see Maestro play well at Mike LB but so far it just hasn't happened.)
Is this an accurate take on Snyder or not? (Cal-Aggie)

A: 1 and 2) It's not an overly complex scheme -- certainly not compared to Tim DeRuyter's -- and it has been simplified somewhat due to the number of young players playing.

3) With A&M's offense, the objective has been for the defense to minimize big plays. Snyder really doesn't care how many yards are given up, so long as points are minimized. That hasn't really happened this year, but he's not going to put guys out on the field who don't know what they're doing. Mental lapses have been bad enough as it is, but if the other guys are not mentally prepared to play, what choice does he have? If more players understood their assignments, then he'd probably expand his rotation -- which may well happen tomorrow.

4) The problem with this premise is the guys you're seeing on the field were BETTER at hitting and tackling, as well as knowing what to do, this summer. That's why they're out there. I understand the frustration with seeing a lot of yards and points going up on the board, but I'm not sure how putting players that don't understand what you're trying to do out on the field will make things any better. Athleticism is an outstanding asset, but it can't make up for a player being in the wrong place at the wrong time because he's flat out confused.

Q: What do you expect out of the running game against lsu?

Will their schemes encourage us to run? Will we?


Can we get back to the success we had against Arkansas in the rain? (Richard23)

A: I suspect that, unless this game is played in a driving rainstorm, that the running game will take a back seat to Johnny Manziel throwing the ball. Good or bad, that's just how this offense rolls. Les Miles indicated that he'll probably use three down linemen and drop several, if not all, of his linebackers into coverage as he did last year to frustrate Manziel, so if you can get off the blocks against the front line, you should be able to run. Can they get back to the success they had against Arkansas? I honestly don't know. We've only seen that once, so was it an aberration, or something they can do if they decide to? That's a real question.

Q: It appeared that Synder rotated the front seven on a regular basis against Vandy and UTEP
with limited success, but against Miss St he stayed with the starters the majority of the game
And it cost him the forth quarter. What would be his reasoning to abandon a positive approach? (stormnorm)

A: A&M had had a relatively good amount of success in stopping the run for the first 40 minutes or so of the Mississippi State game, allowing them to rotate the big bodies for the faster ones in passing situations. In the fourth quarter, they just could not stop Dak Prescott, which left the big guys -- the guys needed to stop the run -- out there. They couldn't do their job and there was nobody behind them that could either, making for a tough situation.

Q: Will A&M start running the ball more? (Ag20)

A: No, not this year. Next year will be a different story, I suspect, but this is what you've got for 2013.

Q: In your opinion, do you see our defense getting better every week?

I know we have half true freshmen in the two-deep and I know Snyder says he can see it on film and I know that you/Tarp/AY believe to some extent that it is what it is, but I judge success on d by whether we are getting better (even if it's just a little) each and every week. Again, your opinion, are we getting better?

Second, what a realistic expectation of the defense this week in Baton Rouge? (tsip despiser)

A: 1) Yes, they are, a little bit. More young players are beginning to pick up the scheme and there are fewer botched plays. But still, there are teams that are lining up across from the Aggies and shoving it right down their throat in the running game. That's a real big issue, and not one that will be solved this year.

2) I expect the Aggies to sell out against the run, which worked pretty darned well for a good portions of both the Ole Miss and Mississippi State games. If the defense can get a few stops early and force LSU to throw, that works to A&M's advantage. Still, I expect this game to be a shootout, so getting a turnover or two could be decisive.

Q: Is there any chance that Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans will stay for the 2014 season? (Chuck70)

A: For Manziel, the chances are extremely slim. It's been my opinion he was gone after 2013 and nothing's changed that. If he's been meeting with agents, as we've heard, then there's no doubt. Evans, I believe, will also go, but he has not decided yet. The odds with him are better -- but not very good. Prepare for 2014 as if neither will be there and be happy if one of them is.

Q: Exactly how much money should we put on Kevin Sumlin. He's proved he can coach but should we be wary that we could be what UH was after losing Kasey Keenum (to injury in 2010), once we lose Johnny Football? Should we at least choose not to offer him what Alabama was offering coach Fran. I can't really remember what that was, but it was a what ever it takes deal and my question is are we there yet with Sumlin. If you want, in short, do we put the lump sum of his coaching career on this upcoming extension if that's what it takes to keep him? (Hurting_10toes)

A: The primary objective of this offseason should not be keeping Kyle Field's renovation on schedule, but making sure one of the primary reasons it was possible content. Sumlin has changed the entire nature of the football program, and recruits and players have all bought in. Losing him would be, for lack of a better term, catastrophic. Your thoughts on Manziel are valid, but look at it this way: Keenum and Manziel both became superstars in his system and under his leadership. Is that a coincidence, or did he play a big role in that? What can he do with Kenny Hill and Brandon Allen, who were far more sought-after recruits out of high school than either Keenum or Manziel? The answer's not clear, but I would certainly like to find out. Pay the man. He's won wherever he's been, and there's a reason other programs and the NFL have already come knocking.

Q: Y'all have talked before about how much better Von made our offensive line by giving him some great competition in practice and pushing them. Now obviously we are losing Matthews and have already lost Joeckel but how much better do you think guys like Golden, Garrett, and some of our other top defensive line recruits from last year and this year will make next years line? Not that we don't have quality O-linemen (obviously some of the younger guys will be small still) do you see us being able to coach up the lineman we do have to get it back to where it once was? (aggie2015)

A: I don't think you will ever see another recruiting class on the offensive line quite like Joeckel/Matthews/Harrison/Ogbuehi/Klinke. That's a pretty darned special group. But, having top caliber guys to compete with will only make you better. Hopefully the work they'll put in in practice will make for a good line, even if it's not great. And that may well be good enough.

Q: Kyler Murray and Soso-Aggies or not? Thanks. (dichotomic)

A: Kyler? Yes. Soso? No.

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