Time to summarize a very busy couple of days for Aggie football as the team prepares for the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
1. The biggest news so far is the very crisp, energetic workout yesterday at the Texans' practice field. Frankly, the practices in College Station were not very intense and there was a quiet concern whether this team would be ready to play with nothing to play for given the coaching change and the current coaching staff already taking jobs elsewhere. In addition, the team suffered a horrible emotional blow when teammate Joe Villiaviscensio was tragically killed in a car accident while traveling home for the holidays. But, in the first practice since the accident, the team actually had its best workout since bowl game preparations began. In particular, the passing game looked surprisingly sharp as a result of an energized wide receiver corps led by senior Jeff Fuller. As you know, Fuller was an enigma all year. He fought through turf toe all season, and then he suffered a concussion in the Arkansas game. He never looked like the dominant Jeff Fuller of old and appeared at times to have checked out. In retrospect, could this have been the lingering effects of the concussion? Nobody will ever know, but he did look like the Jeff Fuller of old yesterday. Could it be that he's finally healthy after a month off? Could it be that he snapped back mentally knowing that his draft stock has fallen dramatically? Whatever the case, if Fuller plays like the 2nd round Jeff Fuller and not the 6th round Jeff Fuller, Northwestern better watch out. Some of the other receivers looked good as well, most notably Malcolme Kennedy and Uzoma Nwachukwu.
2. Cyrus Gray continues to participate in bowl preparations and while he still hasn't been given the green light 100%, at this point it does look like he'll be available on Saturday.
3. Coryell Judie must be feeling a lot better because he actually took some special teams reps on Tuesday. Whether he actually gets some kicks is yet to be decided. Same with Kenric McNeal who took some reps and suited out for the first time in a couple of months.
4. Don't be surprised to see Jameil Showers take some snaps. He'll be used in the 3rd down Wildcat formations, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they may throw out of that formation a time or two depending on the defensive alignment.
5. I noticed in practice before the holiday break that Jarvis Harrison was working at left guard in Brian Thomas' place. It was just announced yesterday that Thomas is suspended for the game for violating team rules. Despite the announcement on Tuesday, the suspension has been in place much longer and the team has known about this for a few weeks. Harrison should be fine and the OL shouldn't suffer too much.
6. Kevin Sumlin was observing practice and briefly spoke to the media. Two interesting points that came up. First, he was asked about defense (4-3, 3-4). He said it really didn't matter what base formation is run because there are so many variations. He did acknowledge that after watching practices he didn't see any ideal, true two gap nose guards on the team. Sounds to me like he realizes he's missing some beef up-front on defense, and secondly it sounded like he preferred a 4-3 base...but I may be misreading between the lines. He also spelled ot the time frame for announcing his staff...it will be between January 3-January 6. He wants to wait until after UH's bowl game on January 2, but he wants to have most of his staff in place before the coaching convention.
7. Sumlin didn't comment on the defensive coordinator hire, but if I were to speculate, and I'm paid to do just that, I'd put my money on either Pendergrast at California or Narduzzi at Michigan State with Mark Stoops a distant third. If you had to pin me down with one choice, I'd go with Pendergrast but that's just a hunch and a rumor.
8. The SEC schedule was just released and it is different from what we were told back in November. I do think the Arkansas game will be at Kyle Field. I think the hold-up in putting it on the schedule is making sure everything is fine with Jerry and there is no potential breach. Ticket sales for the game plummeted last year and the fee was just too high. In addition, A&M wants to be assured of four SEC home games every season. Like I've been saying all along, these neutral site games manufactured for revenue purposes only just don't make sense anymore. People were hesitant to spend $125-300 a ticket for the game in Dallas. The same people will gladly spend that much and more when the game is part of the season ticket package at home. That's why I always disagreed with the AD's assertion that the neutral site game would generate an additional $3-4 million. The Arkansas game is more valuable as a home game than as a neutral game.
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