I focused my attention on the receivers and running backs on Wednesday. In addition, I watched an extended session with the potential kick returners.
The team started practice with a quick live 11-on-11 session. On the first play, the first team OL opened up a hole up the middle and Christine Michael shot through it like a cannon and probably gained about 20 yards before he was down by thud/touch. On the next play he romped for another 10+ yards. As far as I can tell, he's as explosive as ever and cuts like he always did. He looks 100% to me. In the cone drills he's cutting on a dime and accelerating out of his cuts. Again, I see no residual problems from his injury.
I also think Trey Williams is as good as advertised. I haven't seen him block, but all other aspects of the position he looks ready to play immediately. He's so compact, thick, but fluid and cat quick. I've talked about Brandon Williams from the spring. He's a different runner from C-Mike and Trey who are more the elusive type of back while Brandon is a hard-running slasher always moving north-south. His biggest attribute is his explosiveness and simply blowing past defenders.
I mentioned it before, but Ben Malena is definitely quicker and a little faster now that he's trimmed off a little of the bay fat and looks slim and trim. He's considered a smart player that is consistent and does all the dirty work well. That will be enough to earn playing time on a situational basis.
That's four pretty good running backs on the roster. We're still waiting to hear the final word on Brandon Williams' waiver. I still believe he'll get that waiver, but even without him, A&M has two dynamic options and one solid option to take into the SEC wars.
I can't wait to observe Saturday's scrimmage to find out how veterans like Uzoma Nwachukwu, Malcolme Kennedy along with freshmen Thomas Johnson and Sabian Holmes react and perform in a live setting at receiver. Why? Because for three months all I heard from "experts" was that freshmen Holmes and Johnson would beat out veterans like Nwachukwu and Kennedy because of their speed and receiving skill set.
But based on 20 minutes of drill work each of the last five days, I still think the veterans are looking better right now. That may not be the case at the scrimmage, and it may not be that way two weeks from now. But if you watched them today, guys like Nwachukwu, Askew, and Kennedy looked sharper than the freshmen. I was surprised at the number of balls Holmes dropped on Wednesday. Freshmen tend to go through a roller coaster ride in their first fall practice, so I'm certainly not going to blow his performance out of proportion, but he still has a way to go before he unseats the veterans. Thomas Johnson is looking better, but I wouldn't call his performances to date extraordinary.
Again, I'm not down on these guys at all. We're five days into camp. Let's have a meaningful discussion about their expectations for the season a couple of weeks from now. On the flip side, I think Uzoma Nwachukwu looks fresh and better than ever. When his ankle is healthy, he can separate from any defender. The key for him is to stay away from the sprained ankle and to trust his abilities and remain confident like he is now. If things fall into place for him, I can see a nice senior season for Nwachukwu. Same for Kennedy and even Nate Askew. They simply look better...for now.
I'm also liking what I see from Nehemiah Hicks. He has good hands and catches everything thrown his way, and his size is impressive. Mike Lamothe is steady and will be functional.
Getting back to the receivers, Mike Evans still looks strong and it appears his spring performance wasn't a fluke. He makes every catch, elevates well, and gets off the line effectively. Ryan Swope is Ryan Swope. He made an incredible one-handed catch in the slot drills.
Derel Walker is still trying to get acclimated and doesn't look comfortable on he field yet.
In the portion of practice we're allowed to watch, the QB's are working on short slants and swing passes to the running backs. There's not any intermediate or deep passes thrown in that first 20 minutes, so I can't comment on arm strength and accuracy. But I can comment on the quickness of each player's release. Based on some of their drills that you can see in the photo gallery, Jameill Showers has the quickest release of the four followed by Johnny Manziel and Matt Joeckel is not far behind. Surprisingly, Matt Davis had the slowest release and it wasn't close. He has a lot of work to do, and I always tell the community that freshmen QB simply aren't ready to play well and earn a spot in the rotation.
One final note....I documented this in the photo gallery, but in watching the kick return candidates (Harris, Brandon Williams, Trey Williams, Sabian Holmes), I thought Trey Williams BY FAR did the best in fielding kicks. He is always clean on his catches on the kick, mainly because he catches the ball with his arms and quickly tucks it as opposed to some guys that use their chest and shoulder pads and that is not a good sign.
Brandon Williams dropped a kick outright and Dustin Harris bobbled a couple of kicks but quickly recovered. Second on my list is Sabian Holmes who was solid in catching the ball and securing it.
Day Five Fall Practice Observations
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