Hop's New Year's Musings and Scattershooting

Aggie Websider's David Sandhop provides best wishes and recruiting nuggets for the new year. High school all-star games and practices are in full swing and AW gives you a performance summary of the 21 commits and targets participating in the four events.

1) The first of the holiday high school all-star games took place Sunday night at Reliant Stadium with the playing of the Offense-Defense Bowl. Six Aggie commits participated in the event including Kyrion Parker, Tavares Garner, Ishmael Wilson, Hardreck Walker, Darian Claiborne, and Cameron Echols-Luper.

The biggest standout easily was Port Allen (LA) linebacker Darian Claiborne. The issue in evaluating him previously had nothing to do with his speed and athleticism. The kid can motor. He played dual threat quarterback and other skill positions on offense, and he did it well. What you worry about is whether he has the intensity and instincts for the ball. While these games aren't great vehicles for evaluation, in the case of Claiborne it was adequate to see that he was a playmaker… not only showing explosion and acceleration but also that he has a nose for the ball. He was involved in numerous plays and he appeared to be the leading tackler. He also showed he can deliver a pop too, knocking out the mouthpiece of one ball carrier. His size was more than adequate at about 6-foot-plus, 235 pounds. He even did a very good job dropping in coverage. He did everything you can ask of a linebacker, and that's a good thing. If you don't trust my evaluation, take the word of his coach at the O-D event who said he was the top defender on the squad. Aggies should be excited about Darian.

It's always a good sign when one of your OL commits earns the starting left tackle spot in one of these all-star games with a lot of talent. Ishmael Wilson did just that. There's still a question whether Wilson has the length to play tackle at the collegiate level, but he showed good footwork and strong hands that suggests he can do fine at the next level. I'm thinking right tackle at this point. He is a hybrid…about 6–foot-4. He's a tad thinner in the lower base than I expected, but he won't have a problem getting bigger under Larry Jackson. He looks like he can add weight easily. The second teamer behind him, Maurice Porter (whom A&M briefly recruited early), struggled to hold the opposing defensive ends, while Wilson did a good job.

Guard Caleb Benencoch whom A&M recruited for several months before the 2012 season, played alongside Wilson and he struggled at times with his footwork. The kid is huge…a mean huge. However, if you don't have the quickness and footwork to stay with your man, it doesn't matter how big and strong you are.

There's no question that Tavares Garner can cover. He was a draped over his man and had several break-ups. There's no question about his coverage abilities. I was a little concerned with his run support on a few plays including the65-yard TD run on the game's first play from scrimmage that went to his side. Granted, it was a small sample.

Kyrion Parker started at outside receiver and played most of the game. He made several nice catches and looked pretty good going in and out of cuts. Most of his grabs were underneath. They did throw a long fade to the corner of the end zone that required Parker to use his length to go get the ball. The corner got in front and cut him off. That happens, but given that his big advantage is size I was hoping to see him fight a little more for the ball. Overall, he had a solid performance.

I was surprised that Cameron Echols-Luper didn't play a lot at receiver. He did return some kicks, and actually one kick return showed very nice speed and cutting ability on a 30 yard return which was very promising. Luper received very promising reviews in practices leading up to the game, so I was surprised he didn't see more playing time at receiver. But that return showed me he does have that much needed speed, so I'm bullish on CEL after hearing good things about his hands and route-running in practice. Finally, I saw very little of Hardreck Walker. He was not running with the first unit, and I rarely saw him with the second rotation. I don't know if he tweaked something in practice, but he saw limited action and didn't stand out so I'll give him an incomplete.


2) Practices have begun for the Under Armour Game and the Army Bowl. There are six commits/targets participating in the UA game with a whopping nine commits/targets playing in the Army game. On day one of the UA practices, the Scout.com analysts in attendance gushed over LB Reuben Foster and the consensus was that he was the most impressive defender on his unit. Isaac Savaiinaea was mentioned as having a good first day. Both A&M commit Noel Ellis and target Shaq Wiggins received a lot of praise from the analysts for their quickness and cover skills, although both are undersized. Brandon Huffman loved Sebastian LaRue's versatility to play both inside and outside, and that he caught everything thrown his way on day one.


3) At the Army game, Greg Powers snapped an early photo of Isaiah Golden walking on the field and he was built like a brick house. But it was Justin Manning and his explosion off the line of scrimmage that had people buzzing. Overall, both defensive tackles showed well on Monday which is good news for A&M fans given the depth issues going into 2013.

Ricky Seals-Jones and Derrick Griffin didn't have the ball skills or ability to separate like some of the smaller, quicker pass catchers that received most of the attention from the reporters but they did what they do best….use their length and size to make some big plays and woo the crowd. There were a few drops by both, but Scout analysts acknowledged the huge upside and sheer athleticism of both prospects.

There were several reports about Kameron Miles and his ability to quickly pick up the defensive calls and take a leadership role early in the practice. I didn't see any evaluations about his play and physical appearance so I'll ask the Scout folks to address his skill set.

Mike Mitchell received some praise for the ability to use his speed and cover ground. Mackenzie Alexander came in a little smaller than some thought, but it did nothing to take away from what many thought was the best pure cover man on the field. There were mixed reviews on Tony Stevens, the WR from Florida that is leaning toward the Aggies. A couple of observers felt the 6-foot-4 pass catcher was the most talented receiver in San Antonio. His ability to shift into another gear with the ball in the air for a big guy is a special quality. Another analyst focused more on the fact that he dropped a couple of balls.


4) Watch out for the dancing dentist. You might want to make sure the music is turned down next time you have a major dental procedure planned. A woman filed a lawsuit against a dentist for severe facial damages and long-term constant pain. The woman went in to have a hurting molar extracted. The dentist apparently made a mistake while drilling slipping and drilling through the woman's sinus cavity and into her eye socket. Ouch! According to the documents filed in the case, the dentist had been dancing during prep, and when he was drilling he was singing and tapping his foot to "Car Wash". Hell, give her the $800,000 she's asking for. If it were me, I'd put another zero on that figure. You go to the dentist for a simple tooth extraction and you end up with a drill bit in your eye socket as the guy is having a party…ridiculous.


5) Yeah, I'm getting to that age where I celebrate New Year's watching Dick Clark. Ryan Seacrest has taken over for the legendary Clark and he does a decent job. But they also have Jenny McCarthy in the crowd acting "crazy". You know her schtick….half comedienne, half slut. It was funny when she was in her early 20's on MTV, and she was hot. But now in her forties and the mother of an autistic child, she's become a caricature of herself grabbing a young Navy guy to kiss at midnight and wagging her forty year-old butt at a group of policemen and asking if they are getting hot. It was clearly staged, and even if it wasn't, the last thing I want to see on New Year's is an aging slut who isn't funny. Can't we get a hot 20-something bimbo working the crowd shots? Also, in the never ending appearance of over-the-hill talent, for some reason MC Hammer was on the Times Square stage with Seacrest and I have no idea why.

If that wasn't worse, I turned it over to CNN where Kathy Griffin was holding court. The only thing worse than a 40-something pretend slut is a 50-something pretend slut. Plus, in that cold, windy weather it's hard to mask a lot of that ugly on the D-list girl. That was hard on the eyes.


6) OK, I talked about performance evaluations on day one of these all-star practices. Let's discuss recruiting buzz coming from the events. The big news is that there's strong buzz that Tony Stevens will announcement his college choice at the game and that Texas A&M is believed to be his choice. He has quietly informed a few sources there that he won't stick with his current soft commitment to FSU and will leave the state. That certainly sounds like A&M, but we'll know for sure on Saturday. I can say that internal sources have felt good about landing him for a few weeks now.

Mike Mitchell will also pick from three hats….Oregon, Ohio State, Texas A&M. I don't even think he visited Oregon and only took an unofficial visit to the Aggies. Hey, he could surprise us and put on the maroon cap, but odds are he'll be a Buckeye.

It appears that Mackenzie Alexander has thrown out a trial balloon at the Army Bowl to see if he can get a scholarship offer for his twin brother Mackenro. Bro is actually a very good safety prospect, but it's believed his grades will keep him from qualifying. That's a problem for A&M with spots at such a premium. A&M is still pushing hard, and it will depend on how the numbers shake out to see how the staff approaches this situation.

Finally, Isaac Savaiinaea has said he will not announce at the UA Game this week and will wait until Signing Day. To be honest, if he indeed waits until then, I'm not so sure A&M will wait. The Aggies felt they were in the driver's seat, but The Savage is getting pressure from family to stay on the west coast and closer to the islands. This one is still up in the air. If geography wasn't a factor, he'd already be an Aggie.


7) You gotta love old athletes who root against current players to beat their records. Eric Dickerson has said in recent weeks that he did not want Adrian Peterson to break his single season rushing record. Well, when Peterson fell just short by nine yards, of course Dickerson took to Twitter and rattled this gem:

"Daddy keeps the record!!!!!"

Wait, I thought the A&M sports Internet community had a monopoly on having a person refer to themselves in third person as "Daddy". OK, but does Dickerson also call himself "Daddy Bear"? I think not. We've got that going for us.


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