Texas A&M Football: 5 Things We Learned About the Aggies This Spring
The Texas A&M football team has completed its spring practices and is about to begin its offseason preparation for the 2014 season. The Aggie coaches and fans learned a lot about the team during the 2014 spring season.
College football programs run on a yearly cycle. The cycle is a building process that crescendos with the games in the fall. After the fall schedule and the bowls comes the offseason program and the push to signing day. That leads into spring practice, then summer workouts and the games.
The Aggies are basically in the middle of that cycle. The coaches are busy evaluating videos from the spring and assessing their recruiting needs for the upcoming year.
The 2014 spring season showed the coaches that some of the issues from the 2013 season are still present. Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff need to address these issues if they want to have a championship campaign in 2014.
This is a look at what the coaches and fans learned about the Aggies during the 2014 spring season.
Depth at Linebacker Is Still a Question
When middle linebacker Darian Claiborne was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, his replacement was fellow freshman linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni. Without Claiborne in the middle against Duke, the Aggie defense regressed to the sieve that it had been during the first three games of the season.
The coaches plan on moving Claiborne to the weak side in 2014 and Mastrogiovanni and redshirt freshman Reggie Chevis battled for the starting spot in the middle during the spring. Mastrogiovanni came out on top because of his ability to defend the pass.
The Aggie coaches cannot afford to be wrong at this position. They open the season against South Carolina and its star running back Mike Davis.
If Claiborne can stay out of trouble off the field, then the Aggies will have some options in the middle. If not, then they will have depth issues again at the linebacker position.
The Aggies have two linebackers on their roster in sophomores Shaan Washington and Claiborne who have proved they can make plays in the SEC. Other than those, though, two the position is a major question mark.
Newcomers at Receiver Are the Real Deal
The Aggies lost star wide receiver Mike Evans to the early entry into the NFL. But Texas A&M fans should not despair, because the Aggies have two new receivers who have impressed during spring practices.
Speedy Noil and Josh Reynolds both enrolled at A&M in January and took part in winter conditioning and spring practices. Both impressed their coaches and teammates with their ability to make explosive plays in the A&M offense.
Noil is very elusive and made A&M's veteran defenders look silly on multiple occasions during spring practice. Reynolds consistently displayed the ability to get open and make the tough catches look easy. Both players will be a major part of the Aggies offense in 2014.
Tight Ends Will Be Part of the Passing Game in 2014
Cameron Clear caught two passes for 38 yards against Duke in the Aggies' bowl game. In one game with Jake Spavital calling the offensive plays, he had two receptions. In 12 games with Clarence McKinney calling the plays, Clear also had two total receptions.
Spavital will call the plays for the Aggies during the 2014 season. The rising senior tight end was a major part of the passing game during spring practices and scrimmages. Aggies fans should expect Clear to catch 30 or more passes in 2014.
The 6'6", 270-pound athlete will make a huge target for whoever the Aggies line up at quarterback. He is a Sunday player who will be utilized to his full potential during his last season in Aggieland.
Do not be surprised to see redshirt freshman receiver Ricky Seals-Jones line up in some two-tight end formation along with Clear. The Aggie coaches are looking for ways to get the ball into Seals-Jones' hands, and the matchup with linebackers from the tight end spot is an inviting one.
New Starter Under Center for Texas A&M
The Aggies will have a quarterback who is making his first career start when they take the field August 28 against South Carolina. With Matt Joeckel's transfer to TCU, there is a total of zero career starts among the quarterbacks on the Aggies roster.
Joeckel had been competing with rising sophomore Kenny Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen for the starting quarterback position. He was third on the depth chart at the end of spring practice, so he decided to move to a program where he had a better chance at starting.
The Aggies started the 2012 season with a brand new starter at quarterback, and Johnny Manziel accounted for 233 total yards and a touchdowns in a 20-17 loss to Florida. In 2010, true freshman David Piland made his first career start against Mississippi State and passed for 301 yards in a 47-24 loss.
Sumlin has experience in getting quarterbacks prepared to produce in their first start. During his career, first-time starters at quarterback have passed for an average of 216 yards and produced one win and two losses. Aggies fans will have to hope that Hill or Allen can help even that record up at 2-2.
Better Depth on the OL
The Aggies entered spring practice looking for a starting right tackle. They finished spring practice with a new right tackle in place and more depth than they originally thought existed on the roster.
Sophomore Germain Ifedi moved from right guard to right tackle and impressed the coaches with his ability on the edge. Joseph Cheek and Garrett Gramling will both be seniors in 2014, and both impressed the coaches with their play at both guard positions during the spring.
Cheek, Gramling, Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy will all compete for the starting spot at right guard in the fall. If Gennesy does not win the starting spot at right guard, then he will likely back up Ifedi at right tackle.
The Aggies have four linemen available for one starting spot. The three who do not win the job will provide quality depth across the line. For the first time since Sumlin arrived in Aggieland, the Aggies will be able to sustain more than one injury on the offensive line without a major drop-off in play.