The Texas A&M football team has completed their second full week of fall practices, and some pieces to the puzzle are starting to emerge. A few of the questions about positions that are up for grabs are being answered.
The Aggies have had one scrimmage, which has helped the coaches better evaluate where all of the players are at. They have suffered some injuries, which may necessitate a change to the starting lineup for the South Carolina game.
The goal for the remainder of camp is to have a few players step up and claim the starting spots that are up for grabs and remain as healthy as possible. The Aggies have about one more week of camp before they will begin game preparation for the Gamecocks.
Hill Remains in Lead at Quarterback
There has been nothing official released about the quarterback competition between sophomore Kenny Hill and freshman Kyle Allen. However, Hill has been spotted working with the first team by the media at multiple practices and started the scrimmage on Saturday leading the first-team offense.
Hill led the ones on a two-play touchdown drive against the first-team defense to start the scrimmage. From what he has shown during the short periods that the media can watch him, Hill seems more than capable of leading the offense in 2014.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin has reported that the competition is even at this time, according to The Houston Chronicle's Brent Zwerneman.
Either he is trying to fool the media by showing Hill with the first team so often, or Hill has a slight lead in the race to start.
Speedy Noil Making His Presence Felt
True freshman receiver Speedy Noil did not take long to impress the spectators at the scrimmage on Saturday. On the first play of the scrimmage, he caught a long pass from Hill.
Noil was blanketed on the play by senior cornerback Deshazor Everett but went up and high-pointed the ball. Hill found Noil in the corner of the endzone on the next play to complete a two-play touchdown drive.
Noil appears to have locked up his starting position at outside receiver opposite from Ricky Seals-Jones. The uber-talented freshman should be able to help the Aggies out at wide receiver and on special teams while returning punts.
Recruiting is an inexact science, but Noil appears ready to be a difference-maker right away and live up to his ranking as the top receiver recruit in the nation in 2014.
Defensive Ends Are Looking Better
The defensive end position may have transformed from a position of weakness in 2013 to a position of strength in 2014. Sophomore Daeshon Hall and true freshman Darrell Jackson flashed during the portion of the scrimmage attended by the media on Saturday.
Hall got consistent penetration, and Jackson had a sack of Kyle Allen. Anything the team can get out of Jackson is icing on the cake. He was a late addition to the 2014 class who transferred from Blinn Junior College.
If the former high school safety can apply some of that quickness to his pass rush, the Aggies will have a much improved situation at defensive end in 2014. The strong play of Hall, Jackson and true freshman Myles Garrett has allowed Julien Obioha to move back over to his natural position on the strong side.
Obioha spent the 2013 season at weak-side defensive end where he only registered one sack on the season. He is simply not a natural pass-rusher. Obioha will excel on the strong side where he can hold the edge and prevent teams from running wide on the Aggies.
There was no real depth at defensive end in 2013. In Hall, Garrett, Jackson, Obioha, Jarrett Johnson and Qualen Cunningham, the Aggies have nice rotation of talent at the two defensive end spots.
Davis for Harris at Corner
Texas A&M starting cornerback De'Vante Harris is out right now with an injury to his urinary tract. There is no timetable for his return.
It appears that redshirt freshman Victor Davis will start at corner opposite Everett if Harris misses the season-opener against South Carolina. Davis was playing with the first-team defense during the scrimmage.
The 6-foot, 191-pound cornerback has the size to match up well with SEC receivers. Davis may offer a better defender against the run than the 5'11", 175-pound Harris. Even if Harris is better against the run than Davis, it is still a blow to lose a three-year starter at cornerback and replace him with a player who will see his first career action in a hostile SEC environment.
Harris got into some trouble off the field during the offseason. It is not yet known whether he will be eligible to play in the South Carolina game or serving some kind of suspension.
There are multiple younger players who are stepping up when given the opportunity and making an impact during practices. Whether this will continue when the lights go on in Columbia on August 28 remains to be seen.
Aggies fans should be cautiously optimistic about the strides their defense is making, but the starters lost to injuries and suspensions on the defensive side of the ball remain a major concern.