Texas A&M Football: Spring Practice Position Battle Tracker
The Texas A&M football team is participating in the second half of spring practices, and players are continuing to fight for starting spots at multiple positions. Spring practice is a time for coaches to experiment with different players in different roles.
With the addition of Terry Joseph to the coaching staff, the members of the Aggies' secondary have a new lease on life and began the spring with a clean slate. There has been a lot of competition in the secondary as some of the younger players have seized this opportunity to try to impress their new coach.
The Aggies lost six starters on offense and two on defense from the 2013 squad. Some of the positions like left tackle have a clear-cut starter who has stepped in. Other positions will not be decided until well into fall practice in August.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have recruited well and have re-stocked the roster with plenty of talent and depth. Now that talent has to compete to earn playing time in a process that can only improve the quality of the team.
This is a look at the position battles currently going on during the spring.
This is the position battle that most of the fans and media want to talk about. Everyone wants to know who is going to replace Johnny Manziel.
The Aggies will not name a starter at quarterback until the fall. Fans should expect Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital to make an announcement two weeks before the South Carolina game on August 28.
True freshman Kyle Allen, sophomore Kenny Hill and fifth-year senior Matt Joeckel are all battling for the starting spot. It appears that this competition has developed into a two-man race, with Hill and Allen pulling away from Joeckel.
The race between Hill and Allen is too close to call at this point. Something to keep in mind is that Allen had no experience in this offense while Hill had a season of backing up Manziel in games. If Hill and Allen are tied at this point, it is reasonable to expect Allen to make huge gains during the summer as he gains more experience in this offense.
The right tackle position has been one of the bigger stories of spring practice at A&M. It was expected that junior college early enrollees Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy would fight it out to start at right tackle.
The coaches experimented with sliding 2013 right guard Germain Ifedi over to right tackle and have been blown away with the results. Ifedi has secured the starting spot at right tackle, which has left an opening at right guard.
Now Eluemunor, Gennesy and Garrett Gramling are fighting it out to start at right guard. Gramling is running with the first team right now with Eluemunor backing him up.
Aggie fans should expect Ifedi to start at right tackle and Gramling to start at right guard when the offense takes the field against South Carolina on August 28. Eluemunor will back up Gramling at right guard, and Gennesy with back up Ifedi at right tackle.
Do not be surprised to see Ifedi move over to left tackle in 2015 to replace Cedric Ogbuehi.
The Aggies have to replace both starters at outside receiver from the 2013 team. Mike Evans and Derel Walker have moved on to the NFL and taken 120 receptions, 2,212 yards and 17 combined touchdowns with them.
The Aggies have multiple receivers fighting it out to replace those two. Kyrion Parker, Ja'Quay Williams, Joshua Reynolds, Edward Pope and Sabian Holmes are all trying to make their mark.
Parker was a scout-team star during the fall, but injuries have limited his participation in spring practice. Williams and Pope are both very gifted physically but have not displayed the consistency that the coaches prefer.
Holmes played some of his best football of the year in 2013 when Kenny Hill was under center. It will be interesting to see if the quarterback race affects Holmes' playing status in the fall. Holmes and Hill were high-school teammates at Carroll Senior High in Southlake, Texas.
Reynolds has impressed coaches and teammates with his size, speed and body control. If the Aggies were to start the season tomorrow, Reynolds would be one of the starters on the outside.
The other outside receiver spot is still up in the air and will not be decided until fall practice is complete.
The inside or slot receiver position is in a state of flux right now. The Aggie coaches have not decided what their best formation will be for the talent available in 2014.
They could leave tight end Cameron Clear in the game at all times, which would mean they would be in a three-wide set. They could decide that their best formation involves keeping Clear or Ricky Seals-Jones in the backfield as an H-back and run a three-wide set.
It is possible that their best formation will be their base formation in 2013, which was the four-wide set with no tight end or H-back on the field. Seals-Jones is getting cross-trained at inside receiver, outside receiver, tight end and H-back, which further complicates the issue.
There will always be one slot receiver on the field, and senior receiver Malcome Kennedy returns after catching 60 passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. He has one of the slot positions locked down.
Laquvionte Gonzalez and Speedy Noil are competing for the other slot position. Noil has been so impressive during spring practice that he is a safe bet to start somewhere on August 28.
If the coaches choose to go with a three-wide formation with Clear at tight end, do not be surprised to see Noil start as the outside receiver opposite from Josh Reynolds. Noil has been the best receiver on the field during the spring and will see extensive playing time during the fall.
The coaches will look for ways to get the ball in Noil's hands, and outside receiver may be where the best opportunity arises. If Noil moves outside, then expect Gonzalez and Kennedy to be the starters on the inside.
Aggie fans should not be surprised to see formations in the fall where Seals-Jones and Clear are split off the line as inside receivers in a four-wide formation.
The Aggies have three running backs who saw significant action in 2013 returning, in addition to a talented back coming off a redshirt season. Trey Williams led all of the returnees with 407 yards rushing in 2013.
He averaged seven yards per carry and has been an explosive playmaker ever since he arrived on campus. Tra Carson rushed for 329 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. Brandon Williams rushed for 269 yards and a touchdown in 2013. James White redshirted during the 2013 season.
Each back brings a little something different to the table. Trey Williams is explosive and elusive. Carson brings a lot of power to the table but is surprisingly nimble for a player of his size. White is somewhat of a cross between the two and has drawn praise from the coaching staff during the spring. Brandon Williams brings pure speed to the position.
South Carolina has a very physical defense, so the question of who starts on August 28 might simply have to do with who matches up the best. Trey Williams offers the Aggies the most versatility as a runner and receiver, but Carson is probably the better blocker right now.
If Trey Williams can improve his blocking, then he will start for the Aggies in 2014. If not, then expect Carson to get the starting nod as the Aggies look to protect their young quarterback.
There is a three-way battle for the middle linebacker spot going on right now. Jordan Mastrogiovanni, A.J. Hilliard and Reggie Chevis are all battling it out for the starting spot.
Mastrogiovanni appears to have the inside track for the starting spot and is spending most of the time with the first-team defense. He had 26 tackles along with an interception in 2013 and started in the middle in the Aggies' bowl game.
Mastrogiovanni struggled to get off blocks as a true freshman and was not always an effective middle linebacker. He was solid in coverage, which is why he is running with the first team right now.
Chevis redshirted during the 2013 season. He excels against the run and is the prototypical 250-pound middle linebacker you expect to see in the SEC. Chevis struggles in coverage, so he would be a liability any time the opposing quarterback dropped back to pass.
Hilliard is getting a look at all three linebacker positions. It is looking more and more like he will be a utility linebacker who will step in if any of the starters are injured.
Sophomore Darian Claiborne is the best linebacker on the team, but he is suspended for the spring and his status for 2014 is unknown. If he plays in 2014, he could be the starter in the middle or on the weak side. Because of his lack of ideal size, expect the coaches to open the 2014 season with Mastrogiovanni at middle linebacker and Claiborne on the weak side.