The Texas A&M football team has almost completed week number four of spring practice. A few of the players are consistently standing out in the practices.
The Aggies will not have a spring game in front of the fans because of the ongoing construction at Kyle Field. All that the coaches will have to evaluate the players will be the practices and the scrimmages.
The question that everyone wants answered this spring is who will replace Johnny Manziel at quarterback for the Aggies? That question will not be answered until August, as head coach Kevin Sumlin will allow the quarterbacks to improve over the summer before making a final decision at the position.
The Aggies also have some major questions to answer on defense. The 2013 defense ranked No. 109 in the nation and that has to improve in 2014. Defensive linemen Jay Arnold and Daeshon Hall are missing the spring to recover from surgeries.
Nose guard Isaiah Golden and linebacker Darian Claiborne are both suspended from team activities. They are both expected to be starters in 2014, if they are on the team.
The Aggies have two more weeks remaining of spring practice. Then they will participate in offseason workouts as they prepare for fall practice and the beginning of the season in August.
Impressing on Offense
The quarterback position will be up in the air until the fall, but true freshman Kyle Allen has continued to impress his teammates and coaches. He has a good grasp of the offense and simply puts the ball where it needs to be so his teammates can make plays.
Allen is right in the mix in the quarterback competition with a fifth-year senior and a sophomore who saw action during 2013 and participated in fall practices. Matt Joeckel and Kenny Hill are really going to have to step up their game if they want to be the starter, because Allen is only going to get better with more experience in the system.
Junior center Mike Matthews has become a leader on the offensive line. Texas A&M offensive line coach B. J. Anderson said that Matthews has as much freedom to make line calls as any center he has ever coached.
True freshman wide receiver continues to make plays every day in practice. You never know how a freshman is going to react in a game, but the 5'11", 190-pound speedster has arguably been the best receiver on the roster during spring practice.
Ricky Seals-Jones continues to get looks at wide receiver, in the slot, at flex tight end and H-back. He had a 30-yard reception during the scrimmage on Saturday. Do not be surprised to see Seals-Jones lined up in the backfield with Noil and Laquvionte Gonzalez lined up in the slot in the fall. It appears that the coaches are experimenting with getting as many of their playmakers on the field at once.
In that formation, someone is going to be covered by a linebacker, which is a huge mismatch in the Aggies' favor. It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Jake Spavital uses formations and motion to create mismatches against SEC defenses.
Impressing on Defense
The story of spring practice on the defensive side of the ball has been the play of true freshman defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson. The 6'0", 300-pound athlete from Longview, Texas, has shown his coaches and teammates that he is ready to play in the SEC right now.
With Golden out due to suspension, Henderson has seen extensive playing time at nose guard. He has displayed surprising strength for a player who should be a senior in high school right now. Henderson has shown well against the first-team offensive line.
Senior safety Howard Matthews has gotten a new lease on life with new defensive backs coach Terry Joseph. Matthews has been playing some of the best football of his career.
This is welcome news, with the departure of Kam Miles from the team. The Aggies' safety play was terrible in 2013 and Miles was expected to compete for a starting spot. If Matthews can elevate his game to where he is just a solid college safety, that would be a welcome development for Aggies fans and coaches.
With the increased depth and experience in the front seven in 2014, the defense should have a more consistent pass rush. More pressure on the opposing quarterback will result in better play from the secondary because the defensive backs will not be in coverage for so long.
While the news on Howard Matthews is a positive development, he still has to make plays in the games. No one will know how much he has progressed until South Carolina throws the first wheel route to Mike Davis on August 28.
This spring has a different feel to it for Texas A&M fans because there is no spring game for the fans to get a sneak peek at what to expect in the fall. The coaches and players are working hard, but a lot will remain uncertain until the Aggies take the field against the Gamecocks in Columbia.