Observations of First Fall Practice

On Friday, the 2012 football season officially kicked off with the first team fall practice. The team was in shorts and helmet. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop and the media were allowed to observe the first 20 minutes of drill work. He files this report that includes observations of the incoming freshmen.

This evening, the 2012 football season officially kicked off with the first team practice. The team was in shorts and helmet, and with the media allowed to watch the first 15-20 minutes, today was a day to evaluate the physical conditioning of the veteran players and get a first look at the incoming freshmen after summer workouts. So basically I was eyeballing today. Here's a few observations that really stuck out. FYI, while I saw quite a few players at all positions, I focused more on defense...especially defensive line.

1. Overall, I must admit that the team looks bigger and more cut than in previous seasons. Some of the veterans that looked especially bigger and muscular include Ivan Robinson, Kirby Ennis, Donnie Baggs, Jonathan Stewart, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jarvis Harrison, Johnny Manziel, and Brandon Alexander.

2. The incoming freshmen that stood out to me physically (and I didn't get a good look at the freshmen receivers. I will focus on them tomorrow) were Julien Obioha, Tyrone Taylor, Germain Ifedi, and DaVante Harris. Harris is smooth and while he's light, he has much better length than I remembered in high school.

3. There were seven players working with the defensive tackle group...Jonathan Mathis, Kirby Ennis, Shayvion Hatten, Ivan Robinson, Rhontae Scales, and walk-on freshman Tyler Godwin. Ennis is a sleeper. For a big butterball, he's quite athletic and moves well. He's got a big enough base to hold his own against those big SEC offensive linemen. I though Mathis moved well and has adequate bulk. I think the first rotation will be fine. The question is health and depth. I heard that Ivan Robinson had a great offseason, and it showed. His upper-body is thicker and developed. His base is thicker as well, although he's still a little bit undersized in his base for the tackle position. Hatten looked solid, but didn't stick out. Scales has always passed the eyeball test, but we'll see if he finally learns to play lower.

4. I'm not sure if we need to make too much of this, but in the first drills with the players going through some speed and bag drills, Matt Davis took some reps there while the other quarterbacks were throwing with Kingsbury. He still had his black QB jersey on and he eventually went back with the quarterbacks, but that signals that they may experiment with him at other positions to take advantage of his speed if he doesn't win the job...which is unlikely as a true freshman.

5. I mentioned him earlier, but it's worth noting that Johnny Manziel has really filled out and is almost as thick as Showers. They were stretching next to each other, and Showers may be an inch taller, but otherwise their bodies are very close. That wasn't the case in the spring. I didn't watch the QB's throw today. I'll do that tomorrow.

6. The most underrated position at A&M...defensive end. The Aggies now has several great looking athletes at defensive end with good length and quickness. Damontre Moore looks his usual self and he's definitely matured. He's relaxed and pleasant out there. Brandon Alexander looks like a future NFL player. If his improvement on the field can match the improvement in his body, he'll be a special player before he leaves A&M. Then there's the three freshmen. The guy that looks most ready to help out this season is Julien Obioha. He's incredibly quick off the edge and he has a nice medium build. I REALLY like Tyrone Taylor. He's thicker than his brother especially in the lower body and especially in the rear end which tells me he'll put on more weight than his brother. I love his length and athleticism. Given the depth at the position, I think he'll redshirt to add weight to his frame, but unlike his brother it's not a matter IF he gains appropriate weight, but rather when he gains that weight. Give him a year. Polo Manukainiu has potential and he did some nice things off the edge, but he's not as quick off the edge as Obioha or Taylor, and I think his future is at defensive tackle. There's a chance he'll redshirt, but I will acknowledge that this is a very preliminary analysis based on 20 minutes of observations of players in shorts on their first collegiate practice. It's a long journey.

7. At linebacker, Jonathan Stewart is very big. He's thick and he has good length, so I think he'll hold up well in the SEC. Sean Porter also looks much thicker and physically mature, but the guy that had me doing a double take was Donnie Baggs. He has really transformed his body from last season. He is so muscular and wide through the shoulders. Last year, he was a good but under-sized athlete at LB. He's no longer under-sized. He's a big boy. Tyrell Taylor worked out with the linebackers. He's added some weight, but he's still pretty thin below the waist which is why he worked with the backers. It will be a challenge to crack the rotation this season because I think A&M actually has a good front line group of linebackers. Jordan Richmond and Michael Richardson both pass the eyeball test and I'm interested to see how they develop, but it's too early to know if the freshmen can push the vets.

8. I watched a little of the offensive line, but mainly saw the true freshmen Kimo Tipoti and Germain Ifedi in warm-ups although I did see both take a couple of one-on-one reps. Ifedi looked longer than his listed 6-foot-5 frame. He's definitely a tackle prospect and he is just massive....just a great frame. I think he needs to firm up just a little as he's a bit loose, but I was surprised at how well he moved his feet on day one. Yeah, I think he's a keeper. Tipoti is definitely a guard and shorter. I've seen him listed at 6-foot-4, but he's not that long....probably closer to 6-foot-3. His base is so wide and I was encouraged with his footwork. I need to see more, but he didn't look bad at all for day one. I didn't get a good look at Mike Matthews.

9. No surprises from the veterans Joeckel and Matthews, but I'm very excited with how Cedric Ogbuehi and especially Jarvis Harrison looked. I agree with what Sherman said last year...Harrison has the physical tools to be a quality NFL offensive lineman. He looks like he could play in the league now. He's just so massive in his lower body but he also has quality length. Both started today with the first unit. I'm telling you, this could be a physical, talented, experienced, and skilled offensive line groups meaning they could be one of best units in the country.

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