In my opinion, the most athletic, skilled, and experienced position on the team is the defensive secondary...specifically the cornerbacks. Coryell Judie perfectly baited Jameill Showers and timed a break on a sideline route and had himself a pick-6 in the highlight play of the afternoon session. That makes about four pick-6 plays by the corners this fall, and it's coming against what many believe is one of the best offensive units in the nation.
From what I've seen over the past 10 days, the Aggies can go to battle with any two of Terrence Frederick, Coryell Judie, Lionel Smith, and Dustin Harris and still have one of the best defensive backfields in the Big 12. That's not even considering Toney Hurd who isn't that far behind.
If Judie had a clean bill of health, he'd be a strong candidate to be A&M's next 1st round draft pick. Terrence Frederick will likely be a mid-round pick. The sleeper of this group in terms of athletic ability, size, and skill level is Smith. He won't get drafted because of his lack of playing time throughout his career and the fact he'll likely see part time duty this season, but I think he has a decent shot to sign on as a free agent and earn an NFL roster spot. I've already told Marvin Lewis to keep an eye on him because he's going to be a sleeper. Time after time the offense tries to go deep against Smith in man coverage and he is all over the receiver. Today, he had great inside position on Uzoma Nwachukwu on a fly route and he perfectly used his body and inside position to force Nwachukwu to the sideline and away from the pass.
Oh, and while I'm lauding the three seniors, junior Dustin Harris collects another interception and is showing improvement. Remember, Harris was Texas A&M's starting cornerback as a true freshman two years ago. He's gotten better and he'll likely be the fourth CB coming off the bench. That's all you need to know about the improvement of this roster and the depth chart.
OK, now that I've gotten that off my chest let me get back to the practice report at hand.
Garrick Williams has slowly moved out of the doghouse and he worked with Jonathan Stewart as the pair of first team inside linebackers for a good part of the day. I think you'll see a constant rotation at the position early in the season because there are so many young prospects that are close enough (Baggs, Thomas, Jenkins) that the staff will probably want to see all of them play in front of 84,000 Aggies when the lights come on...and watch the cream rise to the top.
You have to take your hat off to defensive linemen Eddie Brown, Kirby Ennis, Spencer Nealy, Gavin Stansbury, and Ivan Robinson. They are taking all the reps while Tony Jerrod-Eddie, Rhontae Scales, Stephen Barrera, Shayvion Hatten, and Ben Bass are nursing injuries. Ennis, Nealy, and Robinson are the only DL's who have fully participated in every practice.
The injuries don't appear to be serious, although Barrera, Scales, and Hatten have now missed almost a week of valuable work. Jerrod-Eddie has been working through a sore, surgically-repaired foot, but he showed up at practice today in a walking boot. Coach Sherman wouldn't elaborate other than to say it's sore and it is a concern he's not out there. When guys are healthy and practicing, the defensive line looks very salty. I think A&M is going to see huge dividends from the emergence of Kirby Ennis, and the Louisianimals (Stansbury, Robinson) are looking like quality players. But overall, this important position that looked like a strong point two weeks ago, is now a question mark because there are so many guys in shorts watching on the sideline. They will come back, but guys like Barrera desperately needed reps to get better. Instead, he's missing a majority of fall camp after missing last spring. You don't get better on the sideline watching.
On the flip side, the offensive line has seen just one injury (Jarvis Harrison) in the first two units, and he was back in action after missing a couple of days. It's been a quiet, yet productive fall for the offensive line. Coach Sherman mentioned today what I said earlier in the week that the right guard position is in place. Actually, Sherman said today that he has four guards battling for two spots. Well, Brian Thomas has a spot. That leaves Eike, Klinke, and possibly Harrison competing for the right guard spot. It's very close, but I think Eike has been a little more consistent and his size allows him to stay low. Klinke gets high coming out of his stance at times which is understandable at 6-foot-6, but he's so long and has the highest upside of the group.
The other storyline on the OL has been the move that Joseph Cheek has made this week. Last week, Jim Turner was ripping him a new one every day. Then, on Monday and Tuesday the light bulb started to turn on and he had several good sets in one-on-one drills and Turner has been giving him double and triple the reps as others in this high profile drill. Today for the first time, Coach Turner started slowly working Cheek into the second unit at right tackle in place of Jeffrey Hyde. He still needs some seasoning and he's not ready this season, but he should be ready to step in by 2013 if Luke Joeckel goes pro after his junior season.
Drew Kaser was back punting today, although it appeared he wasn't 100%. His punts were under 40 yards, but very high with good hang time. Still, it wasn't a head-turning performance given his pedigree. Maybe he wasn't unleashing it 100% because of the hamstring...but why would he be punting if he wasn't 100%? I'll ask Sherman that this evening. Ken Wood probably looks the best of the group right now.
Howard Matthews got plenty of reps at RB in short yardage, goal line situations. He scored on two runs, and fumbled another (he may have been down by contact but it was ruled a fumble.
There was plenty of hitting and physical play in the goal line sets. In the last session of practice, C-Mike snuck it into the end zone behind the left side of the line. Then Matthews went the same direction running behind Brian Thomas and Luke Joeckel, and barely got the ball over before getting smashed and turned back. On the next rep, Matthews was trying to stick the ball out for the end zone and he fumbled. On the last set, C-Mike came back in and went in motion to the outside and drew the defense's attention. Tannehill looked his way wide, then Touchdown Tommy Dorman released and Tannehill had an easy touchdown toss in the middle of the end zone.
Fall Camp Practice Report - Day 10
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