"Big Boy Football" made its return to College Station Monday as the Aggies put on the pads for their third practice of the spring. Here are a few notes and observations:
Quite a number of familiar faces in the practice bubble today (it was 31 degrees when practice began): 2012 standouts Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart were around, as were recent departures Travis Labhart, Derel Walker and Nate Askew. A 2014 signee was there as well, as LB Otaro Alaka made the trip up from Cy-Falls. An aside: if there was any question that it was him in the A&M hoodie that was widely tweeted a week before he flipped from Texas, forget them. He was wearing it today. It was him.
The same group of guys who have been out all spring remain so: Jay Arnold, Daeshon Hall, Ivan Robinson, Tyrone Taylor, Brandon Alexander, Alex Sezer Jr. (injuries), Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden (suspension). I also noticed for the first time that Tommy Sanders hasn't been out there either, so we'll add him to the list. Kyrion Parker was also out today, which was new.
We learned over the weekend that Julien Obioha will be making the switch back over to defensive end this fall, getting him away from the rush end position that never really clicked for him. He feels good and seems to be moving a little faster than he did last year. We'll see if that continues as the grind of the spring wears on.
Did some watching of the linebackers for a good bit today (or, as long as possible). Two guys stood out in particular, both sophomores -- A.J. Hilliard and Shaan Washington. Hilliard is a lot bigger than he was last year, and he looks like he's picked up the intensity as he fights for a job. He's getting off the blocks well in drills and is hitting solidly. He's going to get a look at both the inside and outside, and it'll be interesting to see where he ends up. Washington is just really quick; he went through one of the agility drills today so quickly his fellow linebackers whistled. It sure would be nice if he were a little bigger, but he can certainly move.
Reggie Chevis has lost some weight from last year and seems to be a little quicker off the snap. I'm not sure if that's from being lighter or more comfortable, but it's an improvement. Brett Wade continues to look like he could gain some weight, but goes after people with the intention of hurting them. Donnie Baggs, the senior of the group, struggled in agility drills.
One thing A&M is going to need is more aggressive play from Devante Harris at corner. Today, there was a drill where outside receivers went against corners, and Harris jammed Edward Pope out of bounds. Considering that Pope is sort of slight, it was noted but not a big deal; when he turned around and did it to 200-pound Malcome Kennedy, however, that was of note.
While the corners and wideouts were going at it, the safeties and nickel backs were working on receiver handoffs in zone coverage. Fairly basic stuff, but a problem for A&M and something I have not seen them practice in front of the media before in three years Kevin Sumlin's been here.
Among the receivers, just in the short time he's been out there, it looks like Speedy Noil has already moved to the top of the charts and is a day one starter. First, he doesn't look like a true freshman; he's gotten a lot bigger since I saw him last summer. Second, he sure doesn't play like one. When he hits the gas, he can separate from just about anyone.
Ricky Seals-Jones was in the slot today. He has been the past couple of days -- but, then again, so was Mike Evans last spring. But A&M is looking for eight guys to be in the receiver rotation, so the more places they can find for guys, the better off they'll be. Right now, RSJ, Noil, Kennedy and Laquvionte Gonzalez seem set as half of that rotation; the rest is pretty open.
Kenny Hill continues to show just a little bit more touch than Kyle Allen and Matt Joeckel when we're watching. Hill hit a deep out route while we were watching that was perfectly timed; Allen's missed, largely because Josh Reynolds slipped coming out of his break. Joeckel's was well off. One thing that is noticeable for Joeckel is his release is a lot quicker this spring than it has ever been. Allen has missed some passes in terms of accuracy, but he hasn't thrown an ugly pass yet. Every one is a tight spiral with a lot of RPMs on it.
For a little while before the pads came on today, the Aggies experimented with a line of Cedric Ogbuehi at left tackle, Garrett Gramling at left guard, Mike Matthews at center, Joe Cheek at right guard and Germain Ifedi at right tackle. This is part of the cross-training they're doing, but it was still interesting to see.