Grading Texas A&M's Post-Spring Depth Chart
The Texas A&M football team has completed spring practice. The Aggies developed depth over the spring and will enter the 2014 season in a much better position than they did in the 2013 season.
Texas A&M put a young team on the field in 2013 with limited depth, especially on defense. Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have recruited well since they arrived in Aggieland. They had added an influx of young talent to the roster.
Their recruiting is beginning to pay off as the Aggies are starting to look like a typical SEC team with talented depth on both the offensive and defensive lines. They suffered a few suspensions during the offseason and the spring which limited their progress at certain positions.
Even with these setbacks, the Aggies appear well on their way towards becoming an SEC title contender in 2014. This is a look at how every position on the depth chart shapes up after spring practice.
Starter: Kyle Allen
The Aggies have talent on their depth chart but it is not yet proven at the SEC level. If the season opener were tomorrow, true freshman Kyle Allen would line up under center on the first offensive possession.
Hill and Allen were running neck and neck in the competition for the starting spot when Hill was arrested and suspended from the team. That has dropped him to third on the depth chart.
Joeckel has one career start in which he completed 14 of 19 attempts for 190 yards and a touchdown in one half of play against Rice in 2013. The fifth-year senior is a steady player who understands the offense and can get the job done.
Hill completed 72.7 percent of his passes in 2013 for 183 yards and a touchdown in limited play. He is a much better runner than Allen or Joeckel.
Kevin Sumlin has never had poor quarterback play during his career as a head coach. He will find a starter among the three candidates and will mold him into an excellent college quarterback.
Running Back: A+
Starter: Tra Carson
The Aggies have a wealth of talent at the running back position. Their 6'0", 230-pound hammer in Carson had a tremendous spring. He has very quick feet for a back of his size and enters the offseason as the starter.
Trey Williams is the Aggies' leading returning rusher with 407 yards in 2013. Carson had 329 and Brandon Williams rushed for 269. All three averaged more than 5.3 yards per carry.
James White has impressed coaches with his power and speed. The redshirt freshman will be given a chance to show the coaches what he can do against South Carolina. The Aggies will have a running back by committee approach in 2014.
Aggies fans should expect the offense to lean a little more on the running backs, as offensive coordinator Jake Spavital eases the new quarterback into that role.
Wide Receivers: A+
Outside Starter: Josh Reynolds
Slot Starter: Malcome Kennedy
Slot Starter: Speedy Noil
Outside Starter: Ricky Seals-Jones
The wide receiver position is the most talented one on the Aggies roster. They have a variety of talents in all shapes and sizes that they can put on the field, depending on what the coaches want.
If the Aggies want to go big in 2014, then they can line up 6'5", 225-pound Ricky Seals-Jones, 6'4", 180-pound Edward Pope, 6'6", 220-pound Frank Iheanacho and 6'4", 190-pound Josh Reynolds on the field at the same time.
If they want to go with a small, quick lineup then they can put Speedy Noil, Laquvionte Gonzalez, Sabian Holmes and Jeremy Tabuyo out there.
Seals-Jones will line up on the outside, in the slot, at tight end and likely at H-back in 2014. Look for the offensive coaches to move him all over the field to create mismatches.
Noil is big enough at 5'11" and 193 pounds, where he can play both in the slot and on the outside. The coaches will use him and Gonzalez on end around and push passes in 2014.
Tight End: B+
Starter: Cameron Clear
The Aggies have one of the most physically gifted tight ends in the nation in the 6'6", 274-pound Clear, but not much beyond that. Clear is a dominating blocker who should catch between 30 to 40 passes in 2014 before heading to the NFL.
Alexander was recruited to A&M as an outside linebacker and never made the successful transition to defensive end in the 4-3 scheme. It will be interesting to see if he has anything to offer the Aggies at the tight end position.
Do not be surprised to see Ricky Seals-Jones line up as an inside receiver or "flex" tight end spot in 2014. The Aggies may put some two-tight end formation on the field with Clear and Seals-Jones lined up on the line of scrimmage.
Offensive Line: B+
LT Starter: Cedric Ogbuehi
LG Starter: Garrett Gramling
C Starter: Mike Matthews
RG Starter: Joseph Cheek
RT Starter: Germain Ifedi
This grade would be an "A" if the Aggies were healthy. Their depth chart will look quite different in the fall when Jarvis Harrison returns after offseason surgery and takes over his starting spot at left guard.
That will allow Gramling and Cheek to fight it out for the starting position at right guard. Ogbuehi will make it three years in a row that the Aggies will have a left tackle drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. He is the most physically gifted of the group that includes Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews.
Ifedi will likely take over at left tackle in 2015 when Ogbuehi moves on to the NFL. Gennesy has been a pleasant surprise at tackle. He and Eluemunor give the Aggies talented depth on the second-team, which they have lacked in recent years.
Gustafson is a tackle prospect who would move inside to guard if the Aggies were in a pinch. If he plays in 2014, expect him to see minutes at right tackle. He is a redshirt candidate.
Defensive Line: D
Starting SDE: Gavin Stansbury
Starting DT: Alonzo Williams
Starting NT: Zaycoven Henderson
Starting WDE: Julien Obioha
Injuries and suspensions have decimated the defensive line for the spring. Isaiah Golden is the projected starter at nose guard but missed the spring due to a suspension and some personal issues.
Daeshon Hall will start at weak-side defensive end once he recovers from surgeries to both of his shoulders. Jay Arnold offers depth at defensive tackle and strong-side defensive end but missed the spring to recover from surgery.
Zaycoven Henderson was a revelation at nose guard and will be in the rotation on the interior in the fall. The 2014 recruiting class will bring in an influx of talent at weak-side defensive end. The depth chart will look completely different in the fall, but at the end of spring practice, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Starting SLB: Shaan Washington
Starting MLB: Jordan Mastrogiovanni
Starting WLB: Donnie Baggs
One could make the argument that all three starting linebackers coming out of spring practice have seen extensive action in SEC play, so a grade of "C-" is too low. The issue with that theory is that other than Shaan Washington, none have flashed the ability to be high-end SEC linebackers.
Mastrogiovanni and Baggs have a long way to go to be impact players in this league. Chevis is excellent against the run but struggles against the pass.
Hilliard can play all three linebacker positions and will be a valuable piece of the depth chart. The Aggies really need Darian Claiborne to return from suspension and add some playmaking ability to this unit.
The front seven for the Aggies defense as they come out of the spring practice would struggle to produce better results than the sieve that was the 2013 Aggies defense.
Defensive Backs: B
Starting CB: Deshazor Everett
Starting BS: Howard Matthews
Starting FS: Floyd Raven
Starting CB: De'Vante Harris
These secondary responded well to new coach Terry Joseph. Howard Matthews, in particular, looked like a born-again player and showed the consistency that has been lacking during his career in Aggieland.
In Everett and Harris, the Aggies will have one of the more experienced cornerback duos in the conference. They need to prove on the field that they are one of the better cornerback duos.
Victor Davis impressed coaches with his transition from safety to corner. This was a welcome development for the coaches because they wanted to get bigger in the secondary, and Davis has excellent size at 6'0" tall and a shade over 190 pounds.
The Texas A&M secondary is talented. If they can cut down on the coverage busts in 2014, then they will be a solid unit.