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February 14, 2014

AggieYell Mailbag

Here's your AggieYell Mailbag for Valentine's Day, 2014:

Q: Now that signing day has come and gone for 2014 and we know somewhat what the 2 deep and 3 deep players we got on campus, where do you see A&M ranked going into the South Carolina game?

Would you say this 1st game could dictate how our season goes between a 7-5 year and a 10-2 season? (sml2007)

A: I think A&M is probably in the neighborhood of the 15 to 20 range going into the year. People who just do the cursory glance will say, "Oh, no Manziel, so they're toast," but that's not an accurate assessment. The Aggies are still pretty talented on offense and the defense should improve.

As for the first game, no, I don't think it will have a huge bearing on the whole season unless A&M comes out and is totally overmatched. The Aggies didn't win their opener against a strong Florida team in 2012 and still ended up with 11 wins. This is a team that will likely improve as the season goes on as the new quarterback and key young players improve. If you win, great, that's a confidence boost; if you lose, well, that's a tough game to start with. You just don't want to be demolished, which could mess with the team's psyche.

Q: 1. Any news or updates on Kyler Murray? He visited Tech this past weekend. Wondering how it went and what's our coaching staff doing, hearing, etc. with respect to him?

2. Any news or updates on Mike Mitchell's interest in A&M? (tsip despiser)

A: 1) Murray doesn't talk a whole lot, but it does look like he enjoyed his visit to Lubbock. He gets along with Kliff Kingsbury well and the Red Raiders can certainly offer playing time with their depleted quarterback stable. As for A&M, they remain in his top five -- almost universally regarded as the leader -- and the Aggies continue to work him. He's got the luxury of picking a school at his convenience, but it probably won't come anytime soon. But if you consider him an A&M lean, you're probably right. Tech is probably the biggest competition.

2) No real reports on Mitchell at this point because Ohio State hasn't granted him a release, making it tough for anyone to talk to him. Based on his recruitment last year, you would think the Aggies have a viable shot -- but this isn't last year and things are different for him. SMU and Baylor are going to make a hard push, but A&M definitely has interest. This one could take time to play out, because Ohio State kind of has control of the situation.

Q: In the context of moving/leaving Deshazor and shoring up our backfield- who is most likely to step up at corner this year? Is Kam Miles a definite "should be" at safety or a TBD? You were pretty excited about him as an immediate impact guy at one point. Early prognosticating caveats understood... (Ag98)

A: If a move is to happen this spring, you're going to need two of three guys to step it up: Devante Harris is one, and either Tavares Garner or Alex Sezer is the other. Harris has to be the top-flight corner for the defense, and Garner or Sezer has to prove himself capable of handling quality competition. In the fall, you'll add Nick Harvey, and I can see him starting at corner from the word go. He may also get a look at safety, but he played corner in the Army All-American Game and he's better-sized there.

As for Miles, I can only give a "we'll see." He's big enough to be really good at 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 215 pounds, it's just a matter of whether he's 100% and can adjust to the college game. I'm cautiously optimistic, but that's all I can be right now.

Q: Who is out for part or all of spring ball due to injury/offseason surgery? (Nickel)

A: I haven't heard anything definitive yet, but Gavin Stansbury and Darian Claiborne are possibilities. Stansbury's leg injury may still need time to heal and Claiborne had surgery a couple of weeks ago. I expect Ricky Seals-Jones, the best-known question mark, to be 100% on Feb. 28.

Q: How much different do you think the secondary will play because of Joseph? (jwfleming)

A: At Louisiana Tech, Tennessee and Nebraska, Joseph has shown a desire to be aggressive with his coverage schemes and has gotten a lot of turnovers. That had to have been attractive to A&M, but I'm not sure how much overall control he'll have on that. In 2012, A&M's secondary was a little more aggressive because they Aggies could muster a pass rush; last year, they couldn't and the secondary played extremely soft with the idea of eliminating the big play (which didn't happen). This year, you'll have Noel Ellis as your nickel, who likes to play physical with receivers, a bigger guy (for a corner, in terms of size and not height) in Nick Harvey and Deshazor Everett, both of whom aren't afraid to mix it up. Harris still needs to get bigger on the other side. But, it seems like this group can be a little more capable of playing an tougher style of defense if the pass rush is there -- which, of course, is the biggest question the defense has.

Q: Isn't Travis Labart applying for a 5th year waiver? If so, what is the timeline & status of the application, and what is the likelihood of success? Meantime, will Labart participate in spring drills? (SGMan)

A: At this point, I have not heard whether he has applied for a waiver and, if he does, the odds are very slim he would get it. He would not be eligible to practice without one. He may want to look towards the NFL instead, where guys like Bruce Feldman think he has a legitimate shot to catch on. Guys like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola should give Labhart hope, as both went from supposedly undersized slot receivers to high productivity guys in the league.

Q: Is there an uncommitted recruit or JUCO player that we might bring in to help with depth at any position since we didn't sign a complete class? (Chuck70)

A: I said no last week, and A&M went after one. So this week, I'll say that there are no prospects on the horizon, but it's always possible something could happen to allow one to come on the market. If that happens, A&M could have an interest.

Q: Can you explain in more detail the coach's strong desire to put Mastro in at mike over Darian Claiborne? Claiborne seemed to do great for a true freshman and he will only get better over time. At a critical position that is lacking depth, why not play the player who is more proven (Claiborne)? (Mattowander)

A: The belief is that having Mastrogiovanni in the middle and Claiborne outside gives them their best defensive grouping. They like how Mastrogiovanni handles things and they like his size, and they think Claiborne can be an outstanding outside linebacker. We'll see if they're right pretty quickly.

Q: What are your thoughts on Daylon Mack? He seemed like this year's Matt Davis. Gung ho Aggies, recruiting other kids, then suddenly announces he's visiting Auburn & a Florida School and talking them up. Do you think he's solid? If he bolts, so others do the same. (Hogtide)

A: I think he's enjoying the process but his school is, and has been, Texas A&M. Maybe I'm just burned out on the drama, but I can't take this stuff too seriously anymore. I think he sticks and the rest of it is overblown.

Q: After watching his film, I think Tank Davis is our replacement for Mike Matthews at C- thoughts? (AggieInDC)

A: The thought has crossed my mind a few times. He's got the athleticism for it and, of the guys they've got coming in in this signing class, he was the one that seemed most "center like" to me. I like his footwork, and if he can make the adjustment, I think he'd be a pretty good one.

Q: Much has been made at the other Texas flagship university about its new, more strenuous conditioning program, its guru, Pat Moorer, and how much better the fans expect the football team to be because of it. Is Larry Jackson's notorious system here still as challenging as it once seemed? And how, if you can speculate, does our conditioning program compare to that other school's? I want ours to be the toughest, but still provide Gatorade, smoothies and protein bars. (Tidewater_Ag)

A: Coach Jackson wants you to go run 15 50-yard sprints for mentioning smoothies and protein bars. A&M doesn't have those. What they do have is a pretty nice gym (which is getting nicer) and a brutal S&C program. There's a reason they call Jackson "Black Death." Jackson has developed different training regimens for different positions, and he stresses not just reps, but reps with very little break time. It's rapid, tough work that builds your body and your cardiovascular system. I've had a couple guys tell me that if you don't puke, it's a rare day at the office.

Oh, Gatorade is provided.

Q: What's holding Wiggins and Davis back at S? (Old Army 74)

A: Youth and inexperience. Davis didn't even play safety last year, and Wiggins was thrown into the mix when he could have used a redshirt year to get used to things and get bigger -- he was still pretty slim last fall. They'll get a chance this spring to see where they stand. They can both be good players, but they weren't guys that should have been counted on for immediate help.

Q: What is the outlook of our baseball team? (darrelljones1212)

A: Stop me if you've heard this before: Solid starting pitching, still looking for bats and seriously need to improve hitting with running in scoring position. They're a Top 25 team, but still only mid-level in the SEC. They need to find some sticks in order to go any higher than that.

Q: If you had to apply %'s to the reasons for our resurgence in recruiting against our biggest recruiting competitor "texas" what would it be.
1. aTm's move to the SEC
2. Sumlin
3. Manziel
4. tu being mediocre to bad over the past few years.
5. Other (David123)

A: 40% Sumlin, 40% SEC, 18% Manziel and 2% Texas not being good. Here's the deal: Sumlin breathed new life into the program, and was able to sell his style and the nation's best football conference. From there, he got a boost from the best player in America, which stole the headlines from virtually everyone else in the nation. Texas would have had to win the Big 12 to keep up, and they didn't. The fact that they fell flat on their face was convenient, but the Aggies didn't wait on them to collapse: Sumlin and company went and stole the momentum from them.

Q: What Percentage do you give the new proposed rule change actually going through? (GmoneyAg)

A: About zero, but the ill will isn't going anywhere when it comes to Saban and Bielema. The Arkansas coach will feel it first, because teams will be able to run it up on him easier. If the Aggie offense clicks in 2014, Sumlin will not pull his foot off the gas in Arlington against the Razorbacks. Ole Miss won't either, nor will Auburn. It didn't take long, but Bret Bielema has really made himself unpopular in the SEC.

Q: What could we possibly expect to see Sumlin do the next two year in lieu of Spring Games, in regards to recruiting? (Dave2941)

A: He'll come up with something, we just may not be able to see what he does.

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