Thursday's Football News and Notes

The Texas Aggie football held its third practice in Houston in preparation for the Meineke Car Care Bowl at Reliant Stadium on SAturday. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop gives you the latest news and notes from the practice field, filling the football staff, and a few recruiting nuggets as well..

1) It certainly feels like the players and the coaching staff are feeling pretty good about practices down in Houston after day three. DeRuyter keeps referring to the practices as clean and crisp. Frankly, the workouts in College Station weren't that good but there does seem to be a newfound sense of purpose and confidence this week. I think you can attribute that to a couple of things:

a) Joey V. - It does feel like the players want to win it for Joey V. and that has provided some energy and focus this week coming back from his memorial service. There is also energy to win for Coach Sherman.

b) The team is relatively healthy for the first time in several months. Really, the only players out for this game are Christine Michael, Steven Campbell, and Brian Thomas (suspended). In particular, the seniors that were supposed to lead this team appear close to 100%. Coryell Judie was never healthy in 2011, and by all accounts he's very close to 100% and could actually take a few kickoffs on Saturday. Cyrus Gray isn't quite 100%, but the staff took the black jersey off of him yesterday and he's working at full speed. Jeff Fuller was not the player many expected in 2011 due to a series of hamstring and toe injuries with a concussion sustained in the Arkansas game. He never appeared to be fully engaged on the field after that concussion, although we'll never truly know what were the exact reasons behind his average, uninspired play. Regardless, he is looking much better. Even Kenric McNeal is back healthy. As a result, this offense should look much different from the offense we saw Thanksgiving night.

2) Veteran Danny Baker will be wearing No. 67 in tribute to Joe Villaviscencio who was tragically killed in a traffic accident last week while traveling home for the Christmas break. According to Coach DeRuyter, it sounds like they want to get Baker in the ball game for a few snaps to honor Joey V.

3) Still no definitive word on who will be the defensive coordinator and who will fill out the defensive staff. It does appear that a majority of the offensive staff from University of Houston will follow Coach Sumlin to College Station. We've already reported that Kliff Kingsbury has tentatively agreed to terms to be the co-OC in charge of the passing game. There's a good chance Clarence McKinney will come over as the RB coach and be in charge of the rushing game. Look for him to also coordinate a lot of the recruiting efforts, especially in the Houston area where he coached at Yates and North Shore previously. It's clear Sumlin wants to lock down Houston. I still believe Narduzzi and Pendergrast are two of the leading candidates for the DC job, but there will be a couple of other names pop up between now and January 6 which I believe is the date A&M should have its coordinator hired.

4) There are scattered reports about A&M commits taking other official visits....like Bralon Addison and Trey Williams to Arkansas, and Corey Thompson to LSU. Personally, I think they are doing this to have a little fun and keep their names mentioned in the recruiting services. Of course, there are certainly examples of recruits through the years that were going on a trip "just to hang out with some buddies" and they liked it so much they committed. Having experienced the Eric Winston and Bob Morton sagas, I'll never say never to anything in recruiting, but I would be highly, highly surprised if any of these three did not sign with Texas A&M in February. This group, especially the guys from Houston, are very close and want to play together. In addition, the depth chart will allow all three to earn early playing time, especially Williams and Thompson.

5) I keep getting e-mails from subscribers asking me who is someone most likely to switch commitments to the Aggies in January. My answer is WR Dominique Wheeler. Word is he's very close to qualifying and many feel he won't have a problem getting qualified between now and June. If A&M decides to push hard for him, I think the can get him. There are several things working in A&M's favor here that leads me to believe that he's open to switching if Sumlin decides to target him. So far, we know there is interest and he's doing some background research on the Crockett product, but they haven't called him yet.

6) There's no question that Sumlin saw the same thing we all saw with Texas A&M's receiving corps this year. They need more speed and quickness to improve the ability to separate from the defender. As a result, expect at least two more receivers to be taken.

7) As I mentioned earlier, Sumlin's first pass assessment of the team and what he needs to add in January is no surprise to those of us that follow the program closely. He wants a couple of big, beefy interior linemen that can clog up the running lanes. That's easier said than done as Sumlin and DL coach Terrell Williams missed out on a couple of mid-term JUCO DL's last week. Williams is going back and scouring the JUCO landscape looking for available DL's that graduate in May. Expect to see several new names pop up in January, in addition to the existing prospect out there that has already visited...Mike Pennel.

8) There's been some chatter about Ryan Swope turning pro after this season. He downplayed that option after practice, but clearly he's thought about it. Given how banged up he's been this season and with the uncertainty of a new offensive staff, he'll look at his opportunities. He's a very good collegiate receiver, but even at this level his durability is in question. He has good top-line speed, but there is a question about his quickness and ability to separate. Inside word seems to be that if he projects in the first four rounds, he'll strongly consider leaving. If his projection is later than the fourth round, he'll likely come back for his senior season. I would be mildly surprised if his grade came back as a fourth round or better.

9) Tony Jerod-Eddie appears to be in the best shape of his career. He's looking fairly lean during these bowl practices and a little bit quicker. It already appears he's getting ready for the pro combines. Hopefully, this will pay dividends in the bowl game on Saturday.

10) Less than 5,000 tickets remain for Saturday's game on New Year's Eve. Despite the disappointing season and the coaching change, it does appear that the Aggie faithful will give a strong showing at Reliant Stadium. That can only help the team in collecting the university's first bowl win since the Gallery Furniture Bowl a decade ago. Texas A&M is currently favored by 10 points.

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