With game week finally here, we take a quick look back at the biggest storylines of the fall camp to give Aggie fans an insight and context into what you'll see on the field Sunday night when Texas A&M hosts Southern Methodist. Here are the top 10 storylines of fall camp 2011.
1) Lack of serious injuries
2) Too many nagging injuries
3) Questions at punter
4) Development of veterans at inside linebacker
5) Emergence of Kirby Ennis at nose guard
6) Surprising performance of freshmen at OLB
7) Healthy Return of veteran defensive backs
8) Questions about running back depth
9) Health of the offensive line
10) Emergence of Nate Askew
Let's take a deeper look position-by-position at the storylines for each unit on the team.
Ryan Tannehill remained solid throughout fall camp and does not appear destined to be hit with the senior QB jinx. He did throw a few too many interceptions at times staring down a target occasionally, but it wasn't a major issue. Jameil Showers appears to have secure the back-up position as he continues to exhibit the best arm on the team and showed better decision-making and accuracy. Matt Joeckel is very capable and close on the heels of Showers.
Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael were brought along slowly in fall camp, but in the last week both veterans looked very sharp and are poised to have a big year. Coach Sherman was not happy with fumbling by the younger backs, but Ben Malena made some changes to his handle and he won the No. 3 spot late in camp.
Nagging injuries limited veteran receivers Jeff Fuller, Ryan Swope, and Kenric McNeal throughout the fall. The lost time probably hurt McNeal the most and in his absence Malcolme Kennedy stepped up nicely and will push for playing time in the rotation. With Fuller graduating after the season, the emergence of sophomore Nate Askew at the outside spot is probably the biggest news coming out of fall camp.
Michael Lamothe established himself as the primary starter with his versatility to come out of the backfield and his blocking ability. Hutson Prioleau is solid at both receiving and blocking, while Nehemiah Hicks finally got back on the practice field showing some flashes of a playmaking pass catcher but struggles at times with consistency.
The biggest storyline for this fall camp for the offensive line was the lack of injuries. The starting unit of Jake Matthews, Shep Klinke, Patrick Lewis, and Luke Joeckel did not miss any practices due to injuries, which is remarkable for the position. This allowed the starting five to work together exclusively for the entire three weeks and build chemistry. After camp, Coach Turner mentioned that he feels that he has eight quality OL's to battle with going into the 2011 season.
With JUCO transfer LaMarc Strahan not qualifying, the defensive line started fall camp extremely thin at nose guard. Thus, the emergence of Kirby Ennis at the position is critical. Ennis actually moved ahead of veteran Eddie Brown on the depth chart midway through camp, but Brown came on strong the last week and both players will split playing time at the position. The other storyline of note in the fall was the number of missed practices by several defensive linemen including Stephen Barrera, Shayvion Hatten, Spencer Nealy, Gavin Stansbury, Jonathan Mathis, and Tony Jerod-Eddie. In fact, only Ivan Robinson and Kirby Ennis participated in every fall practice. The players should be healthy by the season opener, but the players at this position missed significant practice time and that could affect performance early in the season.
Going into the fall, this position had the most questions of any on the team. At inside linebacker, several veterans did step up in the last couple of weeks of fall camp. Jonathan Stewart appeared to be more focused during practice while Charlie Thomas showed excellent speed and looked good dropping in coverage. Both worked extensively with the first unit and both moved ahead of freshman Donnie Baggs who actually earned first team reps in the spring. At the joker position, the staff needed to find one of three incoming freshmen to emerge as a quality back-up to senior Caleb Russell. Tyrell Taylor, the least heralded of the three jokers, was the sensation of fall camp showing excellent athleticism and explosion and the ability to beat A&M's two talent tackles (Matthews, Joeckel) from the outside. Brandon Alexander also showed flashes of ability and will likely see the field as a freshman.
With three veteran defensive backs sidelined in the spring with offseason surgical procedures, there were questions whether Terrence Frederick, Steven Campbell, and Coryell Judie would come back to fall camp rusty or in 2010 form. The secondary didn't miss a beat and the unit emerged as one of the strongest on the team locking down the receivers and making it difficult for the passing game to click the last two weeks of camp. The cornerbacks go two-deep and the safety position has more depth than in the past three years. While Judie did participate through much of camp and was effective, he did wear a black jersey and would ice his surgically-repaired shoulder after every practice. Other than the concern over Judie's shoulder, the secondary emerged as a strong point of the defensive unit.
The punting continues to be a problem. Freshman all-American Drew Kaser pulled his hamstring in the first workout of fall and sat out for the next two weeks. Ken Wood and Ryan Epperson continued to be inconsistent through the first two weeks of fall workouts. Epperson showed some minor improvement in the last week, and Kaser started competing in the last few days of fall camp. According to Coach Sherman, the job will be won during the week of the SMU game. Randy Bullock had his best camp of his career both in accuracy and in leg strength getting excellent lift and distance on his kicks.
Biggest Storylines of Fall Camp
Aggie Digest Top Stories
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