Day 6 Fall Practice Observations

The Texas Aggie football team conducted its first two-a-day workouts of the fall preseason that closed out the first week of practice. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a look at the depleted defensive line and the potential move of senior Spencer Nealy.

Well, I've been saying that A&M's fortunes could very well rest on the performance of the defensive line. And the performance of the defensive is heavily dependent on the health of Jonathan Mathis and Kirby Ennis. Well, both were out of action on Thursday. It doesn't appear to be serious for either player, but it does highlight just how fragile the position will be this season. Even if the A&M DL unit can avoid serious injury, it is inevitable that the unit will get dinged up and miss a game here or there over the next 3-4 months.

To compensate, the staff has slowly cross-trained Spencer Nealy at tackle the first five days, but with today's injury bug Nealy saw most of his action inside. and from all indications, he'll likely stay in the interior. Numbers dictate it.

And thus as an observer and analyst here to deliver the cold, hard truth, I've come across my first "what were they thinking" moment with this new staff. As many of you know, I thought Mike Sherman did a lot of positive things for this program and was generally a good coach. But he had several of these "what were they thinking" moments, like continuing to run an up-tempo no huddle offense in the second half with a double digit lead and a proven track record of tiring in the fourth quarter. Or how about inviting Dominique Wheeler for a second junior day in three weeks and promising individual attention and then having him and his mom wait in the lounge for over an hour because the staff invited to many prospects and were over-extended. Or how about taking early commits from JUCO DL's that were academic risks and never made it to campus leaving this 2012 DL unit in tough shape.

Even though this staff inherited a bad situation at DL, they could have plugged the holes. It may not have been with elite prospects, but certainly a couple of 290-300 pounders that can hold their ground and take up space. Blinn had a freshman 300-pound DL with good grades that played hard and earned the starting job at DT midway through the season. He wasn't the most athletic DL, but he decided this summer he wanted to transfer to a D-1 program and looked at KSU and Rice. There were options like this in the summer, but this staff stayed pat. Not only did they stay pat, but they switched Ben Compton back to offense and they did not move Nealy until now after he spent the summer keeping weight off for his expected role at defensive end.

I'm not sure what this staff was thinking about at defensive tackle when they made these moves. The defensive line will be the Achilles Heel of the 2012 team, barring a lucky season injury-wise or a break-out season from one of the undersized freshmen linemen. At this point, it is what it is and Coach Snyder will need to reduce this risk with creative scheming that camouflages this weak spot. This team will have to somehow find a way to get it done with true freshmen and under-sized tackles.

However, the linebackers continue to impress me and should help the defensive front. The Aggies now have thick, athletic backers. It sounds simple at this level of football, but A&M has not had a unit full of adequate LB athletes in over a decade. When you see Jenkins, Stewart, Porter, Baggs, Richardson, Richmond, and Ward now...there's a lot of beef right there.

Most of the 20 minutes available to the media on Thursday were filled with tackling drills and punch drills (punch the ball out i.e. Jordan Peterson against Missouri) at a full run (special teams). This staff does seem to spend more time and focus more attention on special teams than the previous staff.

So far, the injury situation has been kind to the Aggies, even though a couple of DL's are hobbled. Kenneth Marshall is one of the few players to sit-out all six days of workouts. The OL is healthy and looking quite good. The OL unit appears to be the most dominant until on the team. A close second is running back, so you can see why Sumlin is adamant saying he'll run the ball if he has the capability. What I've seen so far, this offense has plenty of horsepower in the run game and I expect Coach Sumlin to take advantage of that resource and I do think A&M will run the ball close to 50% of their offensive plays.

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