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January 11, 2014

AggieYell Mailbag

Here's the AggieYell Mailbag for the second week of January, 2014:

The money guys aren't behind the hire. The assistance he's bringing in appear to be minor league. 3 quick defections in a place of need on the HC's side of of the ball and a 4th likely to switch to A&M. Could Strong have had a worse start in the A&M-tu arms race? And likelihood that if Alaka shows in CS that he commits? (Ag4SEC)

A: Yes, he could, and he has since you posted the question -- he not only lost one of those defensive tackles you mentioned, he lost him to the Aggies and fast. A&M didn't even have an offer on the table to Zaycoven Henderson before earlier this week, and now he's in College Station. That, as Ron Burgundy put it, escalated quickly. As for Alaka, he seems to be approaching the coaching change in a pretty mature fashion: he's giving Texas and Strong a chance, but he's looking at other options to see if there's now a better fit for him. If he does switch, it would likely be to A&M, and people in Austin are giving that switch a very good chance of happening.

Q: After DSG leaving and UT hiring a new coach, what commitments could be on the fence? I know they all say they are staying but so did DSG. If you had to guess the 3 guys that would be most likely to leave, who would they be? Thanks. (garymannino)

A: Can't help you here. Texas, certainly, will try to make a run at some guys but the longer they go without a coaching staff, the tougher it's going to be for them to get any traction whatsoever. Kevin Sumlin took the A&M job on Dec. 11, 2011, and brought nearly all of his offensive staff with him immediately, giving him a jumpstart on recruiting. Strong was hired on Jan. 5 and has essentially no staff with him at this point. The guys who could have helped him at Texas are in limbo. As for the guys A&M has, they all seem to be pretty solid and none have the overriding desire to be "the face of the program" that led Dylan Sumner-Gardner to defect to Boise.

Q: Compare and contrast the difference in Secondary philosophies between Yates and Joseph? Do you think we upgraded DB Coach? Do you think we upgraded recruiting in LA with Joseph? (sml2007)

A: Whether it was a part of Mark Snyder's system or not, Marcel Yates' defensive backs weren't very aggressive, tended to lay off of receivers and tight man coverage wasn't used as often as Joseph's charges have in the past. Looking at the record Joseph brings, you'd say he's an upgrade, but Yates was no slouch at Boise, either. As for Louisiana, having a guy from the state can't hurt, but Yates was doing a pretty nice job there too -- you can thank him in large part for Speedy Noil, for instance. If he can at least maintain, and hopefully improve, the talent A&M gets from the state, he'll be a home run hire.

Q: Why Johnny why? (Junior 07)

A: Because he's accomplishing a life-long dream and could be the first overall pick in the NFL draft. Can't spite him for that.

Q: Who will be the leader(s) on the team?
Who will be the QB of the defense ,getting everybody in the right place? (69Ag)

A: This is a really good question, because a lot of A&M's leadership left with Manziel, Mike Evans, Ben Malena and Toney Hurd. A couple of guys worth watching in this area are Mike Matthews (who is far more vocal than his older brother), Cedric Ogbuehi and Deshazor Everett. Trey Williams can also take on this kind of role if he wants it. As for the QB of the defense, it's going to either be Jordan Mastrogiovanni or Darian Claiborne -- two true sophomores with a lot of responsibility.

Q: Handicap Kenny vs Kyle. Does either rush for 500 yds? Who's faster? (DriverD)

A: Kenny Hill is definitely a better runner than Kyle Allen; that's not really up for debate. During his junior year at Southlake Carroll, for instance, he rushed for 1,400 yards and 24 touchdowns. Allen can move around some, but he's doing it to keep plays alive, not to get up the field. If either guy could rush for 500 yards, it would be Hill, but I don't expect either guy to get his number called the way Manziel did. In other words, I don't see either getting close to 500.

Q: With the strange switch of DSG to Boise State, has A&M completely moved on with him or is the door still open to see if the new DB coach can establish a relationship with him where he might rethink his decision? (3Dman)

A: He's an early enrollee and the way he left probably didn't sit well with the coaches, so I doubt they have the time or desire to pursue him further.

Q: 1. With JFF leaving, how does next year's offense look right now, assuming we keep all of our current recruits, particularly on the O-line.

2. What did you see from Kenny Hill's limited playing time this year that makes you feel more confident about next year's offense? (Mattowander)

A: The offense looks very different, but still has the potential to be effective the way Sumlin's old offenses at UH were. Here's how I see things right now:

Kenny Hill should get the first shot at starting, with Kyle Allen getting a long look. Trey Williams should be the starter at running back, but you'll see Tra Carson, Brandon Williams and James White plenty. There should be a greater emphasis on the running game this season with an inexperienced quarterback. The wideouts have more potential than maybe any group in A&M history, but they're very inexperienced as well. Ricky Seals-Jones, Malcome Kennedy and Quiv Gonzalez are three likely starters, but then you can choose from Edward Pope, Speedy Noil, JaQuay Williams, Joshua Reynolds, Jeremy Tabuyo, Kyrion Parker, Frank Iheanacho and Jamal Jeffery for your last starter and your second wave of receivers. You've got a lot of size and speed to choose from.

At tight end, Cam Clear showed he can be a weapon in the bowl game, and he should get more touches. Brandon Alexander, the former defensive end, spent most of the season at tight end and should stay there with the loss of Nehemiah Hicks. On the offensive line, the Aggies suddenly have options with Ced Ogbuehi back. Jarvis Harrison can play left guard or move out to right tackle; Garrett Gramling could start at left guard, or Joseph Cheek or one of the JUCO (Avery Gennesy or Jermiane Eluemunor) could start at right tackle. Mike Matthews and Germain Ifedi stay at center and right guard. Spring ball should be a chance to mix and match and see what group works best together.

In all, lots of potential. This group could be very good, but has yet to really prove anything.

For question two, I like how Hill handles himself as a player and the leader of a huddle. His mechanics are good, he's got very nice touch on his deep passes and makes good decisions. Even though we didn't to see a ton, I was very impressed from what we did see of Kenny Hill.

Q: Give me your starters in 2014 on both offense and defense? (sml2007)

A: This kind of plays off the last question, but here's a real early stab at it:

QB: Kenny Hill
RB: Trey Williams
TE: Cam Clear
WR: RSJ, Quiv Gonzalez, Malcome Kennedy, Speedy Noil (going out on a limb here)
OL: Ogbuehi, LT; Gramling, LG; Matthews, C; Ifedi, LG; Harrison, RT

DE: Gavin Stansbury
NG: Isaiah Golden
DT: Ivan Robinson
RUSH: Daeshon Hall OR Myles Garrett
SAM: Donnie Baggs
MIKE: Jordan Mastrogiovanni
WILL: Darian Claiborne
FS: Kameron Miles
BS: Howard Matthews
CB: Devante Harris, Deshazor Everett
Nickel: Noel Ellis

Depending on how some of the other corners perform, it wouldn't shock me to see Everett at safety and Ellis, Nick Harvey or Tavares Garner as the other outside corner. We'll see. A long, long time before anything is decided.

Q: We added 3 4* defensive tackles in 2013 and, with the addition of Zaycoven Henderson, have 2 4* DT's committed in 2014 class. Will the abundance of talent at DT have any effect on Daylon Mack's commitment and is this position shut down for 2015 class? (wspuds)

A: That's up to Mack, but it doesn't appear to have fazed him at this point. He's still actively recruiting for A&M. As far as '15 DTs go, an additional one is certainly not a priority at this point. If someone underperforms, then it may become an issue, but right now you've got bigger fish to fry.

Q: Your early preseason ranks of the SEC East and West. Who should we worry about the most based on who is returning? (3s2ghill)

A: I can't really say much about the East -- haven't really looked -- but in my mind there's no doubt who the king of the mountain is: Auburn. Before Tra Mason decided to leave, they were looking at returning all 11 starters. I expect LT Greg Robinson to leave too, but that's still stout. Alabama is Alabama; McCarron and Mosley or not, they're still going to be deadly. LSU looks like they're caught in a bit of a transition, especially at quarterback. A&M got lucky in that a lot of teams are rebuilding in the SEC in 2014 and that could work to their advantage -- but finding a way to win at Auburn and at South Carolina is no mean feat.

Q: With the down year A&M had this year on defense with playing so many true freshman what makes anyone think that the new freshman coming in will have more success than last years? Thanks. (Aggieday17)

A: For one thing, you're not asking them to do as much. In the starting lineup I put together up top (which is probably wrong), I have two freshmen (Garrett and Miles, who is a redshirt) in potentially starting roles -- and Garrett is not your normal true freshman. There's no freshman three deep at SDE, in my mind (Stansbury, Julien Obioha and Jay Arnold), none at either DT or NG and only redshirts likely in the two-deep at linebacker (Shaan Washington -- a sophomore -- Reggie Chevis, A.J. Hilliard and Brett Wade as the backups, though Josh Walker could break in). Another not normal true freshman is Nick Harvey, who should threaten the two-deep in the secondary. Unless Steven Parker commits, I don't see another being there at the start of the year. Compare that to last year, when you had 10 freshman in the two-deep, and it's a big difference.

Q: How far away are we from a respectable SEC defense? (Hurting_10toes)

A: It could be this year. It largely depends on the maturation of the kids who just finished their freshman seasons and the ability to put together a pass rush. That puts a lot of pressure on Hall and Garrett, but that's the fact of the matter.

Q: What is your projection for how A&M finishes the 2014 recruiting class? With the underclassmen who could've gone pro, what are the team weaknesses going into the 2014 season? (CHUCK70)

A: I'm guessing they have six spots left, so here's six that would work well for A&M: Steven Parker (safety); Mattrell McGraw (safety); Kenny Young (linebacker); Otaro Alaka (linebacker); Davon Godchaux (DE); Braden Smith (OL). Personally, I think it's more likely Parker, McGraw, Young, Alaka and Nick Gates, but there's still a lot of moving pieces.

Team weaknesses? Inexperience at quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and safety; lack of a proven pass rush.

Q: What "lesser regarded" or "un-heralded" candidate do you believe could have the largest impact? (Specifically non Rivals 250 prospects) (JPhillips97)

One guy immediately comes to mind, bold-type: Gilmer LB Josh Walker. This guy is a 3-star, but I'm not sure why. He's quick, aggressive and will put a hit on someone. If he picks up the defense quickly, he could play this year. I was big on Darian Claiborne last year, and there's a lot of similarities between the two -- except Walker's supposed to a little faster.

Down the road a bit, I like Koda Martin's upside a lot. I think a year of weight training will make him a very capable tackle. He's smart, driven and a coach's kid, so he knows what's going to be expected of him. There's a reason he got offered by Alabama, Auburn and UCLA.

Q: Considering all the turmoil over concussions (and other injuries), do you see football being replaced by another game (say, basketball) in the next 20 years? (DNC)

A: No, I see opportunity for someone smart to make a ton of money. A decade ago, for instance, the American oil and gas industry was on its way out; now, we're in a renaissance thanks to the genius of guys like Texas Aggie George Mitchell, who combined horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to allow the exploitation of shale oil and gas. There was a pressing need, and they came up with the answers to spur a trillion-dollar industry (and made bank themselves). We're not talking about such huge numbers in football, but there is a demand from millions of fans to keep it going and keep players on the field. Someone's going to figure out a way to reduce concussions, protect the spine and protect the knees, reducing catastrophic injuries. And the game will be better for it.

Q: Do you think with the playoff system coming that the conferences not named Big 12 will make a push for every conference to have a Championship game? Seems like they would want every conference to be on equal footing. If that happened who would the big 12 realistically target to get to 12? (bigstu)

A: That would make sense, but the Big 12 may kill itself in the eyes of the playoff committee with a lousy strength of schedule. As for the Big 12 -4 +2 adding two more, I honestly have no idea who they'd target. No major program in their right mind is going to want into that Texas-led trainwreck. Maybe SMU and UH would do it, but outside of that, the experience TCU and WVU have had since arriving should be sufficient to keep others away.

Q: Call your shot, Kenny or Kyle? (SkidMarx)

A: Kenny. Won't cry if it's Kyle.

Q: How involved was our track coach in Tony Browns recruitment. Seems like he should have been a zero fail mission for both our football and track program. Him picking Alabama seems to be based on football Any chance we can make him flip. Maybe our track coach can get him second guessing his decision to leave his family behind to play football at a school w mediocre track program. (Rbowen)

A: Brown is already enrolled at Alabama, so it's a moot point.

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