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December 20, 2013

AggieYell Mailbag

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

Q: I haven't followed Duke football closely this year.
What areas do we match up favorably against Duke?
Unfavorably? How would you expect us to attack their defense? (j_me2001)


A: Duke is a very, very experienced football team -- similar to the way Rice was at the start of the season, with seniors and redshirt juniors all over the field. They are very big upfront and their offensive line has worked together for years; add in the fact that they like to run the football with a lot of guys, and that sounds like a problem for A&M.

However, the Blue Devils aren't very athletic, and are definitely outmatched by the Aggies across the board in this category. They turn the ball over a lot, but are also pretty opportunistic (26 turnovers forced, 23 giveaways). They're pretty average throwing the ball, completing around 63% of their passes (with 17 INTs) with two quarterbacks; their primary receiving threat is junior Jameson Crowder, who will be looking up at DeVante Harris as he's only 5'9", 175 lbs.

The biggest problem for Duke is that they are not very big on the defensive front and they don't pressure the quarterback. When the opponent is Johnny Manziel and you're not getting into the backfield after him, that's a recipe for disaster. Bottom line: A&M's faster, more athletic and a better team than Duke; as long as they don't make stupid mistakes, they should win the football game going away.

Q: Any further insight on Alaka or others that we might pilfer from tu? (tsip despiser)

A: I don't think A&M has any interest in anyone except Alaka at this point. He's going to take officials to A&M, UCLA and Ole Miss, and expect the Aggies to really try to woo him. If there's one area A&M can't be happy with their defensive haul for '14, it's linebacker. Alaka (and Kenny Young, who's also visiting in January) could change that in a big way.

Q: It seems like we are really only in on a handful of prospects. These are strictly guys who we are still recruiting and who haven't publicly eliminated the Ags. Give us a quick rundown on where we stand and your commitment prediction for:

Nick Gates
Braden Smith
Frank Ihenacho
Speedy Noil
Edwin Freeman
Kenny Young
Otaro Alaka
Steven Parker
Tony Brown (Walter Peck)


A: Gates is down to Oregon, Nebraska and A&M. Just a hunch, but I think he's going to be an Aggie.

Smith: Allegedly (and only the NSA probably really knows where he's going), he's got TCU and A&M at the top of his list. Considering his sister goes to TCU, I'll give them a 51/49 edge right now. And if the guys at Fort Meade would like to tell me differently they have my number (and yours too).

Nacho: Has the whole nation after him, but I think he comes to A&M. They've been at the top of the list the whole time and were one of the earliest to show interest. They're also close to home, and he goes to Germain Ifedi's old high school, Houston Westside.

Noil: Is down to A&M and LSU. His buddy, Gerald Willis III, is down to LSU and Florida. Considering they've always said they're playing together in college, looks like he's off to LSU.

Freeman: Sure wants to commit to Texas, it seems, but the coaching change has thrown all that out of whack. A&M keeps on coming consistently, and if he goes anywhere else, it would be to Aggieland. But you can't really give a percentage or prediction right now without knowing what Texas will do.

Alaka: Same situation as with Freeman, but the Aggies are going to try like mad to get him.

Young: I may be nuts, but looking at LSU's numbers and from what Young has said about A&M, I would not be surprised if the Aggies actually pull a Louisiana kid with an LSU offer out of state.

Parker: Can't judge him right now, either, because he's waiting to see what A&M does to replace Marcel Yates at DB coach. If you had him pick now, he'd probably go to OU.

Brown: A&M's trying really hard, but I'd make it 70/30 he goes to LSU.

Q: To me one of the biggest benefits of bowl games is extra practice time. What kind of performance by the defense against Duke would show we are headed in the right direction ? (Reecol)

A: I'm going to be watching yards per rush. Duke averages 4.5 YPC and their top three backs average 5, 6.1 and 5.6 YPC respectively. If Duke tries to run their normal offense and A&M holds them to 4 or below, that would be a sign of improvement. The other thing to watch is 3rd down conversions: Duke is not good here, only converting 38%. Beat that and you're in good shape.

Q: Out of the current commits and the possiblitiy of getting Swain, Freeman and Young.....which one of those is the best candidate to break into the 2 deep roster since we have Baggs, Maestro and Claiborne as your possible starters? (sml2007)

A: Of those three, I'd pick Young. He's bigger and faster than Freeman and, I believe, would be able to make a smoother transition to one of the OLB spots. Honestly, the guy I could see getting into the two-deep the fastest is Josh Walker, who is really aggressive and already has the size of Darian Claiborne while supposedly being a little faster. He's the most underrated player in this class, to me.

Q: Since Coach Sumlin's buyout option ends on 31 December 2015, it would appear we're only certain he will be with us two more seasons. Is that your assessment as well? (Chuck70)

No, because the buyout provision ends after the last bowl game three seasons from now, which means 2014, 15 and 16.

Q: Who is our top offensive weapon next year (assuming Johnny and Evans are gone)? Who is our top defensive performer next year? Will we have any true difference makers? Anyone the other coaches have to gameplan around? (BeefmanAg)

A: At the start of the year, the biggest threat on the offense, to me, would be Trey Williams. As the season goes on, the passing game develops and if he stays healthy, Ricky Seals-Jones becomes matchup hell for opponents. Both of those guys could be real difference makers, and Laquvionte Gonzalez has that potential as well. On defense, your best player to start next year is probably Claiborne, but by late in the year it would be no surprise if offenses are having to figure out what in the world to do to stop Daeshon Hall or Myles Garrett. I also expect Deshazor Everett to bounce back next season, which would be a big help.

Q: O/U conference wins for bball? (Ag4SEC)

A: The goal should be 10, which would be a better than .500 record in conference. South Carolina is terrible and A&M gets them twice; Vandy's average and the Aggies have them twice as well. Georgia is not very good, and A&M can beat them, then there's the likes of Ole Miss, who you split with last year, and Arkansas, who you torched at Reed last winter. Auburn and Alabama are both beatable. Is LSU as good as their record (7-2) indicates? The Aggies can't take anyone lightly, but there's opportunities for wins in conference.

Q: What have you seen from Kenneth Marshall either lately or in the offseason. I know he was in the dog house, but I always thought this guy was a player and would eventually contribute here. I know he wasn't on the roster for parts of the season, and I also realize Wiggins, Miles and Victor Davis are already on campus with DSG, Harvey and Parker on their way. Just wondering if you see Marshall being able to crack the two deep next year? Also wondering on a couple other guys and how they are coming along, ie Jordan points
Ish Wilson and if you see Sebastian larue being a difference maker here. Sorry so long but I just don't remember hearing much about these guys in practice reports and I'm looking forward to their development. (Cc-Sa Ag)


A: I don't see Marshall being part of the program next year. He wasn't on the 105 this year, so he's pretty much gone as it is. Points redshirted this year, and he's going to have to do some work to crack the two deep with a lot of guys in front of him at both defensive end and defensive tackle. Wilson should have a shot at not only the two deep, but playing time next fall if his development is going as we've heard it is. As for Larue, the Aggies are sure hoping he'll be an impact player, because you're likely going to have four new starters at wideout next fall.

Q: WE NEED TO HIRE ONE OFFENSIVE AND ONE DEFENSIVE LINE COACH...LIKE SHERMAN WAS OLC AND HC...WHAT DO YOU THINK??????? (aechapajr)

A: If I understand your question correctly, no, I don't. I want a guy coaching the offensive line solely, and one guy coaching the defensive line and nothing else. And Sherman wasn't the offensive line coach; Jim Turner was. That was just an area where Sherman had a special personal interest.

Q: Have you heard anything on Johnny's hand and if it should be healed by the bowl game? (tdubya80)

A: He's going to start and he's had a few weeks off, so hopefully he'll be healed enough to play like the Johnny Manziel we all know.

Q: What effect will losing Yates have with currently committed recruits and recruiting? (Have Gun Will Travel)

A: It sure doesn't help. Yates was the primary recruiter for Steven Parker, had a big hand with Kenny Young and recruited New Orleans. Parker, we know, is in a holding pattern until A&M makes a decision on a replacement, and it's hard to blame him. Young is still visiting. The biggest loss will be what Yates could have brought to the 2015 class in terms of his ties in Louisiana and the West Coast, and A&M will have to adjust their plans accordingly.

Q: We are keeping our OC, but having someone else (and not the HC) call the plays. How does that work? (The Stein)

A: Well, A&M's keeping their offensive coordinator -- but not as offensive coordinator. Clarence McKinney is now just the running backs coach, and Jake Spavital is the offensive coordinator and playcaller. Whether that means Spavital moves up to the booth or not is a question that remains unanswered, but he's the guy calling the shots from here on out.

Q: Which redshirt freshman do you expect to contribute the most next year?
Which of this year's true freshman who played do you expect to show the most improvement next year? (JCW AgMan)


A: It would be nice to see Larue and Kyrion Parker contribute, because that's a pressing need. If you count RSJ, the conversation's over. Justin Manning should get a good look at breaking into the two-deep as well.

Of the true freshmen, I'm excited to see the development of Isaiah Golden with a full year on campus, and Shaan Washington can be really special once he really gets things figured out. Everyone had better hope for Kenny Hill to make a big leap forward, because odds are there's going to be a lot of eyes on him come Aug. 28.


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