Here's this week's edition of the AggieYell Mailbag:
Q: what would make you feel comfortable about our safety situation? (Richard23)
A: Man, that's a tough one. Without seeing improved play on the field because we're still three weeks away from playing, I'd like to see Floyd Raven and Howard Matthews communicating better and sticking to their responsibilities. That goes back to the "play smart" mantra we've been hearing a lot so far. I'd also like to see improved depth, whether that's from the freshmen like Armani Watts and Donovan Wilson, or veterans like Jonathan Wiggins. But, until they really show improvement on the field, everyone's justified in sweating bullets.
Q: Does Nick Harvey take a DB's place sometime this year? Could it be Raven? (Ag in CircleC)
A: It could be, but I'm suspecting right now that it will be Noel Ellis at nickel. Ellis is still going to play a lot, but Harvey's going to be a starter.
Q:Has Roney Elam set a commitment date? What are your predictions/confidence levels? (dub_e28)
A: I have not heard one, but I also haven't followed that element of things very closely. I think that, at this point, A&M has a right to be very confident with him. Texas really screwed something up when he visited Austin, and I don't know if they can recover from that.
Q: Already questions about the safety position above....but in the limited time y'all get to see reps, how does the safety play look compared to this time last year/end of the season? (OferAg)
A: We really haven't seen enough to make a judgment. I can say that, in what little we've seen, there has not been an instance of one being out of position yet.
Q: What's your projection of our 3 deep for WR and TEs. (Carterr66)
A: Outside receiver 1: Josh Reynolds, Frank Iheanacho, Kyrion Parker
Outside receiver 2: Speedy Noil, Edward Pope, Jamal Jeffery
Slot receiver 1: RSJ, Quiv Gonzalez, Boone Neiderhofer
Slot receiver 2: Malcome Kennedy, Jeremy Tabuyo, Sabian Holmes
TE: Cameron Clear, Brandon Alexander
Q: I know this is a total what if question but...
If this team had Johnny, Mike, Claiborne, Golden and Stansbury playing this year what do you think we would be ranked and what would our chances be to win SEC? (aggiewoo)
A: On paper, they'd look a lot better. But you have to wonder how some of those guys who were kicked off the team would have affected the locker room, which could have been a big problem. But, that aside, they're a top 5 team probably.
Q: No talk yet as to how Nacho is performing... Does he redshirt? I'd like to think we have the depth to not need him this year. (LTGRENADER)
A: He's running with the twos right now. As a result, I'd say that early returns indicate he's going to play.
Q: Is Victor Davis still suspended? If so, how is able to practice with the team? (PilotAg)
A: He is practicing, and his status is, officially, suspended. But guys we knew were suspended last summer went through training camp and practiced every day until it came time to actually prepare for Week 1. I would guess we'd see something similar here.
Q: How do you see recruiting in 16. Texas does not have very many top 250.? (aechapajr)
A: I expect A&M will do very well again, though the process may be a little longer with fewer guys committing early. That's for two reasons - one, you're right that this is not the greatest of years in Texas, and A&M will be looking nationally for some players. Also, the coaches are going to be a little more cautious in their evaluations after the arrest debacles of the last year.
Q: Devonta Burns was supposedly much improved in the spring, will he be able to push the safeties in front of him?
What about Wiggins? Physically, he's the closest thing we've had to Patrick Bates since Bates. (AggieinDC)
A: Right now, Burns is playing more at nickel than safety. They want to see what the freshmen can do right off the bat. Wiggins hasn't really pushed anyone for playing time yet, so he'll have to play more aggressively and with a better command of the defense in order to do so.
Q: Do you see any scenario where we run a 2 QB system? I assume (and hope) the answer is no, but if they're neck and neck and given we're razor thin at QB, is it possible Sumlin tries to get the "backup" QB 10 snaps a game? (JCW AgMan)
A: No. It's contrary to Sumlin's thinking. He's going to pick a guy and stick with him. He's never been a fan of rotating quarterbacks under any circumstances and I can't see him starting now.
Q: Any position changes to report? Freshmen you thought were going to RS who are likely to see the field? Are we going to RS any upperclassmen? (The Stein)
A: No position changes, outside of someone like Qualen Cunningham moving from what we had expected to be a slot at rush end to the strong side. Cunningham is one guy I can see playing quickly, because he's much bigger than I had anticipated; Otaro Alaka is another. J.J. Gustafson may break into the two deep. As for redshirting upperclassmen, I think Tavares Garner could end up shirting if he doesn't make a push in the two deep quickly.
Q: I think we feel confident with kirk merritt, but what is plan b? If he goes to LSU, what are our next options at rb for this class? (the p man)
A: The alternatives include Corey Dauphine, the Texas Tech commit who visited last week, and, in a longer shot, Damien Harris, the nation's top running back prospect. I don't think LSU is really that much of a threat for Merritt, unless they've made up serious ground of late; I think Oregon is a greater danger.
Q: Can you tell us more in depth about uSC(strengths, weaknesses, and their personnel)? How about a weekly feature, moving forwards, to understand more about our opponent's strengths, weaknesses, and their personnel? (Mr. Magoo)
A: I'm going to start digging into just that subject next week.
Q: Since our offense is practicing with 4&5 wide, when will our defense get the chance to practice in a 4-3 formation?
I'm not a coach, but shouldn't they get used to the 4-3 being in the SEC, and starting the season with USC? (Smasher200)
A: What we see at the start of practice is not necessarily what they do the rest of the time. The defense is in a 3-3-5, like you said, to defend the Aggie offense. For large portions of practice, the defense will be going up against a scout team, filled with redshirts and backups, who are there to simulate the offense they'll be seeing that week. So they are getting a good amount of work in the base 4-3 - we just don't see it.
Q: I asked this earlier in the summer, but it seems more relevant after watching Hill's 12 yard scramble TD on the highlights.
Can Allen hold a slight lead over Hill as a passer, but Hill still get the nod because of his feet? (Ag4SEC)
A: I think that's a possibility, but they're going to want the guy with the best overall command of the offense, mobility or not.
Q: 1. Does anyone from our list of visitor's commit this weekend?
2. Any walkons making noise? Is there a sleeper out there that might?
3. What was your favorite part of the new football facilities? What do you think was the players favorite part?
4. My 10Yr. old wants to know your opinion on if Derrick Rose deserves to be on Team USA with his bad knee and not being at 100%? (tsip despiser)
A: 1. I doubt it.
2. Boone Niederhofer is getting some snaps at wideout and Malcome Kennedy has compared him to Travis Labhart.
3. My favorite part of the new facilities was probably the computer screens over each guy's locker, with their picture, name, position, home town (written out as well as on a map) and their Twitter handle. I think theirs is probably the TVs everywhere, or the barbershop.
4. I think a better question is, why in the world would Rose risk another injury playing this summer?
Q: Is DeVante Harris bigger? Has does J Wiggins look at safety? Burns gonna be a factor there or is nickel his new home? (Chance23)
A: In order - yes, he is; we have seen very little of Wiggins, and Burns we've only seen at nickel to this point.
Q: Our run offense was a little underwhelming last year. Can Cheek, at 6'7, get low enough to blow DTs off the ball to open up the run game? If not, why not have Grambling on the right and Harrison on the left?
Craziest/most awkward thing you've seen or heard since you've been following recruiting and football closely? (_TheDON_)
A: Cheek has actually been, in the estimation of the coaches, very good since he took over at right guard. He's certainly big enough to play there now, and he's done a good job getting off the ball and pushing opposing linemen around. I think he's done a better job of that than Gramling, honestly.
The craziest/most awkward thing? I can't go there. Children may read this.
Q: Gotta say, I'm drinkin' the Kool-Aid as to the majority of our front-seven defense being bigger and deeper, but we seem scarily-thin at MIKE, IMO the most critical high football IQ position on defense. Great to be hearing that Mastro is developing nicely, but who's next should Mastro go down? Does Chevis have the mettle, and if not, who does?
The potential scenario just evokes memories of "what could have been" had Michael Hodges not gone down on the opening kick-off against LSU in the 2011 Cotton Bowl… (email@example.com)
A: Right now, I'm beginning to think Jonathan Bass may be option two at MIKE, because we haven't seen Chevis yet. I could well be wrong, but when Bass is out there and they're pushing a true freshman in Josh Walker to get ready fast, it makes you wonder. Bass isn't the most physically gifted guy, but he's smart, he's experienced and he knows what he's doing.
Q: I may be too late for this week's mailbag, but I'm curious about the team's mindset going into this season. Aside from JFF having a Heisman-winning season two years ago, a big part of the team's success was an "Us against the World" mentality - no one thought that A&M was going to have any success their first season in the SEC - so the team went out and proved them wrong. Now everyone thinks again that the team will fail with Johnny gone, along with Evans and Matthews. Are you seeing or sensing that fighter's attitude again this season, where the players feel that they have to go out and prove everyone wrong? (Dave2941)
A: I think a lot of guys feel like they screwed up a good thing last season and are looking for an opportunity at redemption. There's no question things are more relaxed this year, and that's probably because the three superstars are gone (and the media horde that followed Johnny), but the coaches feel more comfortable with the talent they have on both sides of the ball. They certainly feel like they're being overlooked and hope to prove a point.
Q: Is the use of a 3-3-5 in practice in any way related to A&M having inexperienced QB's? (DriverD)
A: No, it's just because A&M is using 4 and 5 wide sets.
Q: With 90 Million in viewers to start the SEC Network, what kind of money is A&M now looking to have next year?
This is 15 Million more viewers than the original goal of the SEC.
What would happen if Verizon picks up the SEC Network....how many more viewers would that come out too and what kind of money would each school in the SEC get? (sml2007)
A: With DirecTV and Charter both on board, I have heard estimates that each team may get as much as $20 million a year from the network. At launch, it's going to be the fourth-largest cable sports network in existence, with just more than Fox Sports 1. That would mean SEC schools, with their TV contracts with SECN, CBS and ESPN alone, could be pushing $40 million a year in revenue. That's a nice chunk of change.
In the last several days I've noticed a reserved sense of confidence growing in both the players and coaches. When you listen to Hagan, Snyder, Sumlin and many of the players on both sides of the ball they talk about the team in a much more confident manner than I recall in some time. They also seem to relish that they are being overlooked a bit, like they know something nobody else knows. Do you get the same impression? If so, what is it that is giving them that confidence so early into the fall practice? (CuriousGeorge85)
A: I think they're more confident in what they have this year, in terms of talent, depth and knowledge of the defense. I think the time the coaches got to spend in the classroom with the freshmen (as well as the rest of the players) during the summer this year thanks to new NCAA rules helped immensely, in their opinion. They feel the young guys have a better grasp of the defense, certainly compared to last year. In spite of the losses they've suffered up front and at linebacker, they feel better about their depth and the ability to rotate players. They think they have guys who can rush the passer. And, maybe most importantly, they think Terry Joseph can fix a lot of the horrific problems the secondary dealt with last year.
We'll see if they're right.
Q: Have Mastro and Chevis ever been on the field at the same time?
Seems like they would do well in a 5-2-4 esp against power running teams. (Hot Sauce Hoy)
A: No, not that we've seen.