Hop's 8/18 Scrimmage Report

The Texas Aggie football team scrimmaged for the second and last time during fall camp. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop was on-hand and submits this full report on the action at Kyle Field Saturday afternoon. Did Johnny Manziel show why he was recently named the starting QB? Did Trey Williams continue to impress? How did the defensive line perform? Those questions and more are answered here.

These were the approximate stats for the quarterbacks in today's scrimmage:

Manziel 7-of-15 for 60 yds. and 1 INT Rushed for 15 yds.

Showers 4-of-10 for 30 yds. Rushed for 10 yds.

Joeckel 5-of-10 for 125 yds. 40+ yd TD to Derel Walker/45 yd bomb to Lamascus.

Overall, the QB's went 16-of-35 for 215 yds., 1 TD pass and an INT.

Both on paper and through direct observation, those are very mediocre statistics for this offense, especially with 60% of the passes coming against the second and third team defenses. Overall, I thought the QB's looked flat and accuracy was marginal. But what concerns me the most is that out of 25 pass attempts from Manziel and Showers combined, there was one explosive play, a 20 yard completion from Manziel to Nwachukwu on a broken coverage that left the veteran senior alone on the sideline.

With Manziel, he doesn't look downfield in the pocket. Everything is short and quick. If those first couple of short options aren't available, he springs out of the pocket and either runs or tries to hit a receiver breaking off a route. That happened several times and on one occasion rolling to his left at about the opposing 25-30 yard line he saw Ryan Swope flash open at the goal line a couple of steps ahead of Steven Terrell. Manziel properly read it and threw downfield. The ball floated a little and gave Terrell time to close the gap and slap the ball away at the last second. Now, Swope almost caught the deflection, but it fell to the ground.

On another occasion he left the pocket, he saw Sabian Holmes standing open inside the 5-yard line and fired it. Again, the ball floated slightly and that gave the safety (forgot who it was...Everett?) a chance to measure up Holmes and lay a vicious hit as the ball hit the freshman. The ball pops up and Jonathan Stewart intercepted the ball.

We know that stuff like this can happen when a QB buys time outside the pocket and improvises, but the offset is also the big plays that can occur in the same situation. That didn't happen today other than the one sideline pass to Nwachukwu. The other six completions were relatively short completions as is designed by the offense.

The wild card in all of this is Manziel's scrambling ability, and frankly we won't really know how much of a weapon this will be until live hitting in games. When it is down by touch for the QB's in these scrimmages, the QB running game simply isn't a factor in the scrimmages and we know that will be a big component of Manziel's game.

As far as Jameill Showers, he simply had a bad day. In the fall, his issue has been mental in terms of tempo and quickly finding his targets. But today and in the practices since Wednesday, he's also had an accuracy problem. He's over-throwing long routes and throwing short passes in the ground. He just seems off-kilter right now and his confidence level has taken a hit. He had no explosive plays today. I thought it was his worst scrimmage since his true freshman year.

Matt Joeckel certainly isn't perfect and he made some misfires today, but what I liked about his performance is that he was looking to make plays down the field. Yeah, his 5-for-10 isn't spectacular, but most of his incompletions were downfield and most of his completions were downfield. Manziel and Showers both had similar completion percentages, but most of their passes with high percentage short routes.

After seeing all the slants and quick hitches, it was refreshing to see Joeckel actually set-up in the pocket and find targets 15-20 yards downfield. Now, I know many of you will say, "Hop, but the offense is supposed to be a lot of quick, short timing passes" and I"ll say that's true to some degree, but any passing game must have a downfield passing threat that stretches the defense. That was one of A&M's problems last season. It's also why this staff has quickly switched out Mike Evans at X for senior speedster Kenric McNeal the past three days.

Another interesting point from today and the past couple of days at practice is that the staff has started to implement some run-oriented packages like the zone-read and they actually spent one series with Manziel under center and the OL in some run blocking schemes. It tells me that the staff may now realize that the strength of this team is in the running game and that maybe they need to be prepared to play to their strengths more. I don't know, we shall see.

Personally, I don't have a preference on which QB plays. I think it depends on what the staff wants to do in terms of offensive philosophy. If they want to stick with the pure UH air-raid stuff, I think Joeckel is probably the best fit at this point and time. If the staff wants to utilize more the three 5-star running backs and the two potential OL first round draft choices, then Manziel is the best fit. Obviously, we know which way the staff is leaning and I think that means you are going to see A&M run the ball a lot more than we originally thought.

Speaking of running backs, Christine Michael sat for precautionary reasons. Trey Williams continues to show why A&M must play him and play him a lot. He had another 100 yard performance with one long 40-50 yard run and a few scintillating 10-15 yard runs that left defenders grasping at air. This kid is special and he hasn't missed one day of practice so he's durable. He is also perfect for this offense and I think the offense fits his abilities. Brandon Williams needs a little more of a running start as he doesn't shift gears as much as Trey, but once he gets going he's a playmaker. He did fumble on the goal line which was one of the few negatives with the running backs. And I think Ben Malena looks much better than last season, and I love his hands and catching the ball out of the backfield.

This could be the best group of RB's at A&M since Greg Hill, Rodney Thomas, and Leeland McElroy in 1993/1994. The staff should try to leverage this group more, and I think you are seeing signs that's happening.

At receiver, we've seen some changes in rotation, most notably Kenric McNeal playing the outside spot replacing Mike Evans who I feel has been solid, but is just not explosive enough for what the staff needs out there on the outside. Evans will be used a lot in the red zone for sure.

The other "starters" today were Ryan Swope, Thomas Johnson, and Uzoma Nwachukwu who I think had his best scrimmage in two years. He made a nice catch on a skinny screen, made a defender miss and picked up about 15 yards. He also had the other 20+ yard catch from Manziel on that sideline route.

Others consistently in the rotations were Evans, Malcolme Kennedy, Sabian Holmes, Derel Walker, and Gaston Lamascus. Walker had a nice 40+ yard TD catch and run, and Lamascus got behind the coverage and caught a bomb from Joeckel for 45 yards. Surprisingly, Kennedy had a quiet day.

If you ask me the receivers that have made the biggest move in the past 3-4 days, I'd go with Walker and McNeal. I'm really liking how Walker has been coming on this week.

The staff also unveiled some diamond formations and had Mike Lamothe and Nehemiah Hicks in the backfield. If they can keep Hicks healthy in practice, I think they will start to design some plays for him because they love his receiving skills and size.

The OL was solid as usual, although they did allow the first team DL to get some pressure upfront from Spencer Nealy who I think is having a great fall camp. The second unit OL really struggled with some false starts as the defense was trying to confuse them at the line of scrimmage and it worked.

On defense, the first unit DL was Moore, Mathis, Nealy, and Obioha. Ennis had some early reps but I don;t recall seeing him later in the scrimmage, but that may be just an oversight. The second unit was Brandon Alexander (Tyrone Taylor has been out injured for 3-4 days now), Hatten, Robinson, and Stansbury. When Alexander wants to, he can be a factor but more times than not he just doesn't play with energy and urgency. Robinson had a very nice day, picking up a sack and playing with energy. Robinson's issue is his length and size. The kid has a great motor and attitude. Hatten showed some flashes today, but is still inconsistent at times.

I think the linebacker group looked a lot more physical today and I was for the most part pleased. There were no surprises in the first unit. They have Donnie Baggs in for Jenkins, and that's expected since Jenkins will be serving that one game suspension. The only difference was preferred walk-on Justin Bass running second team with Shaun Ward and Steven Jenkins. Bass is also on several special teams as well. I told y'all to keep an eye on this kid in the spring. He's close to earning a scholarship if you ask me.

In the secondary, I loved watching Devante Harris matched up with Mike Evans in the red zone. They threw the fade twice in a row. The first time, Harris got in front of Evans and knocked the ball away. On the second one, Evans really pushed off on Harris and the little guy fought like hell to stand his ground and found a way to disrupt the play. They called pass interference on Harris which I thought was a bad call. Either you don;t call anything because both guys are fighting for the same position, or it was Evans for initially pushing off with his hands as opposed to nudging him with his torso.

Tramain Jacobs has quietly done his job and is now running with the first unit at the other corner spot. When A&M went nickel, Toney Hurd was the man and looked good. Dustin Harris and preferred walk-on C.J. Jones were primarily the No. 2 corners, although Snyder was bringing in Floyd Raven in certain formations and moving him around to different spots.

The staff is still keeping Steven Campbell out of live hitting for precautionary reasons despite him participating in all of the practice drills, so for the second scrimmage in a row, Deshazor Everett took most of his snaps at safety and he delivered a couple of monster blows. Steven Terrell flanked the other spot and he had some nice break-ups. He's not as strong as Campbell or Everett in run support, but that makes for an interesting situation as to where to play Everett. Sumlin has said he will start somewhere. Hell, he's the team's best overall DB. Is it at safety or corner? If you ask me, I say safety. The second unit safeties were Johntel Franklin and walk-on Sam Moeller who has been getting second team reps for the past three days. He was also the one who separated Brandon Williams from the ball at the one-yard line that led to a critical turnover. The walk-ons have certainly flourished under this new regime.

In the last scrimmage, the offense definitely had the upper-hand. Today, if we are strictly talking the starting units, I'd give the nod to the defense. In fact, I'm actually starting to like this starting unit, especially with the way Nealy is playing in the interior. All of a sudden, this defense is very salty at DB, SEC quality at linebacker, and now I have the feeling this defensive front can at least hold its own and allow Coach Snyder to do some creative things schematically to make the defense work.

In fact, I know some of you may think I'm crazy, but I've flip-flopped since the start of fall. I'm probably more concerned with how many points the offense can score, versus in July I when I was more concerned with how many points the defense will allow.

Oh, punting....slightly better than last week. Drew Kaser hit a couple of 50+ yard boomers, but the rest of the punts were the usual 35-42 yard variety.

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