1) No matter what happens the rest of this season, me and 5500 of my closest friends can say we had Arkansas at home. That's right, a hardwood angel came from above and blessed this group of eight scholarship players and one walk-on on the eve of Texas A&M's first historic game in the SEC against Arkansas and the lads did no wrong on this night. Good rebounding, good passing, few turnovers….it was a dream come true from the hardwood angel.
Wait, did I just say Texas A&M played Arkansas. Scratch that. This was no angel from heaven. It was the CURSE OF MELVIN. Nothing in sport is more powerful than this dreaded curse. The curse of the Bambino? Nah. Certainly not the Curse of the Billie Goat or the Sports Illustrated cover jinx can match the curse of Texas A&M's infamous head basketball coach from 1998 to 2004. Since leaving College Station and joining Missouri's staff and now on to Arkansas, Watkins has not beaten the Aggies in the nine seasons since. The streak is now 9-0, or from Melvin's view that's 0-9. I saw some creative math earlier tonight and when you add in Melvin's 0-17 finish in his final A&M campaign, he's now 0-26 in games he's coached where the Aggies have participated. Now THAT is a streak.
2) All joking aside, this was a huge game for the Aggies. Let's be honest. Most of us left them for dead, and another poor performance at home with Kentucky and Florida up next and a disappointing performance and loss would have been the death knell for any hope of a positive season. Here's the deal. If A&M can compete and win their fair share against the soft middle of the SEC….i.e. Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, MSU, and even Vandy this season, the team could squeeze out a respectable 8-10 record and that could get them in the NIT. If that happens, the coaching staff still has a recruiting narrative for some decent players going forward.
The storyline for the game itself was the improved energy level of the posts Ray Turner and Kourtney Roberson. Coming off a zero rebounding effort against Houston Baptist, Roberson had his first career double-double with 12 boards. They were much quicker and aggressive under the boards and they had several key putbacks early in the second half when A&M stretched a 29-24 halftime lead to 47-31.
Check out this stat. A&M outrebounded Arkansas by a 51-27 margin. Let that sink in a little bit and then let me tell you that A&M was outrebounded by Houston Baptist last week 33-23.
The guards, particularly Fabyon Harris had success on the fast break and the team was a lot more aggressive attacking the rim.
On defense, Coach Kennedy had a good scouting report. They packed the middle and let a poor outside shooting Arkansas team struggle to hit 3-pointers and as a result they could double-team their leading scorer Powell in the post and he really struggled with it. In fact, Powell did not score in the game.
I don't know if this is just the curse or whether this could actually be a turning point with this season and this program. I'm not going to blow this one win out of proportion and look too much into it, but at least we know this team does have some juice to it. No, I'm not talking about beating Kentucky, Florida, or Missouri, but everybody else on the SEC is beatable if Turner and Roberson can put last night's effort on the court every game.
3) The transformation is now complete. Texas A&M and Texas have gone through Seth Brundle's "telepod". If you don't get my movie reference, I'm referring to the 1980's remake of The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis where Brundle transports a fly and a human. In football recruiting, Texas A&M has become Texas, and Texas has become Texas A&M. Texas is scrambling to fill out its class and are at the point of offering an OL Baylor commit and now have offered former Texas A&M commit Cameron Echols-Luper who was scared off by the WR talent at A&M. On the other hand, A&M is going after USC commits, Florida State commits, and high four-star uncommitted players. So what do we call this new genetically mutated Texas program….Aggiehorns….Hornaggies? What's your favorite mutated name (and keep it PG-rated please!).
4) And the transformation hasn't come in just football, but the Longhorn athletic department is at an all-time low. Sure, they won the volleyball national championship, but Rick Barnes has to be in trouble as his teams' performances in recent years have declined. They are currently 0-2 in Big 12 play and remember they also have a loss to Chaminade on their resume'…a resume' that will find Barnes on the outside looking in when it comes to Selection Sunday in March. If you recall, Augie Garrido's baseball team struggled big time last spring. Texas used to own woman's basketball back in the day, and their program is in hibernation. Given the debacle of the LHN and realignment failures (remember, they wanted A&M and the big four to go to the Pac-16 originally), you have to wonder how long AD Deloss Dodds has on the job. This can't be sitting well with the Jamails and McCombs.
5) I'm hearing more and more that Kenny Hill is on the verge of decommitting. Supposedly, the Hill family will met with Coach Sumlin to hear what he has to say before anything is official, but the fact remains that freshman Johnny Manziel is causing all A&M QB's and QB commits to re-evaluate their situation. Quarterbacks today just aren't willing to sit three seasons waiting to compete for a starting job. That was the case 20+ years ago, but with the proliferation of sophisticated offenses at all levels of college football, a QB can get exposure and put themselves into a draftable situation at smaller school….just ask Ben Rothliesberger, Josh McCown, and others that are skipping my mind at the moment. Hill is in contact with several schools, but if he goes I think Texas Tech is a logical choice.
6) Back in the 1970's, prison break movies were popular. You know, prisoners who suddenly get very smart in prison and come up with very creative and innovative ways to escape a high security prison. I loved Clint Eastwood in "Escape From Alcatraz". Well, a Brazilian prisoner came up with his own way to break out of the hole. Unfortunately for him, he's no Andy Dufresne in the intelligence category. Brazilian prison guards saw a white cat trying to get inside the prison fence so they went over to get the cat. They found that the cat had various items taped to the side of its body including a saw, mobile phone, drills, earphones, batteries, a memory card, and a phone charger. Yeah, what a plan. Send an inconspicuous cat taped with electronics to breach the prison wall and find the prisoner who coordinated the effort. It will work every time. I can‘t believe that hasn't been tried before. But what caught my eye with this story was what the Brazilian prison spokesman had to say about trying to track down the culprit who concocted such a scheme, "It's tough to find out who's responsible for the action as the cat doesn't speak," a prison spokesperson told local paper. Hmmm…the brain cells are hard at work inside those prison walls.
7) I still think we aren't done with the shifting and moving in this recruiting class. I already talked about Hill, but I think there will be more. I'm still hearing from very reliable sources that Derrick Griffin simply doesn't have the grades and coursework to get cleared by the NCAA next season, and Victor Davis is thought to be borderline. Given A&M's current status on the recruiting market, I really find it hard to think Sumlin would use a scholarship spot to sign and place Griffin. Remember, the SEC rules different from the Big 12 and other conferences. You can only sign 25 recruits, regardless of how many eventually make it into school. So signing a non-qualifier basically loses a coach a scholarship if they are maxing out a class like A&M is doing. We are also hearing that due to his major knee injury, JJ Gustafson is considering a greyshirt, which means he won't be on scholarship until next year and he'll count against the 2014 class.
8) So what does that mean for the remaining spots? I know several of you asked about the closeout and percentages so here I goes:
Dasheon Hall (DE) – 50%
A&M wants him badly but he's been very hard for the A&M staff to read. He's a different cat. He has tentatively scheduled a visit for 1/25 but A&M will have to babysit this one and work hard to see that it happens.
Sebastian LaRue (WR/CB) – 75%
When I talked to Sebastian, he said that Coach yates confirmed that a real offer is on the table and the Aggies want him. That's basically all I needed to know. I think A&M is the leader. I'm not sure Notre Dame has the room, and UCLA is in flux right now with rumors of Jim Mora being pursued by multiple NFL teams.
Torrodney Prevot (DE/OLB) - 70%
Sources at Alief Taylor indicate that Prevot is definitely looking around and seriously considering a decommitment from USC. We also heard that he's talking up Texas A&M right now and has been very engaged with A&M's staff in recent weeks. The issue is on A&M's side and the numbers available. I do think eventually there will be a spot and if it comes open in a timely manner I think A&M is the favorite at this time.
Isaac Savaiinaea (LB) - 35%
Again, I think the low percentage is more about A&M and having the space to take him. When Savaiinaea balked at making an announcement at the UA game and pushed his decision back to Signing Day, the staff decided to offer Mastrogiovanni. I'm told the staff hasn't closed the door on The Savage, but space in this class for another LB is now in question.
Mackenzie Alexander (CB) – 25%
Alexander may have the only unconditional scholarship offer good until signing day. He's a special caliber cover corner and someone A&M will take at any time. Still, I think getting him out of Florida and Gainesville will be a challenge.
Shaq Wiggins (CB) – 20%
Wiggins is interested in A&M, but I don't think the Aggies will close with him unless the staff gets some early news that several of the prospects above have already shut the door on A&M.
Levonte Whitfield (WR) - 10%
The FSU commit is a fast, slot guy like LaRue and at this point is considered a back-up plan for LaRue. He seems interested, but if LaRue commits on his 1/18 visit (which I think is possible) then I think that ends recruitment of WR's.
The Field – 25%
I still think there's a highly-rated wild card out there that will pop up in late January. It all depends on availability and if there are any further "defections".
9) It looks like Coach Sumlin has already found his special teams coach. Jeff Banks was special teams coordinator at UTEP under Mike Price. He had just taken a similar job at Virginia, but will jump at the chance to join Sumlin (a Price disciple) in College Station. Mike Price always took special teams seriously and excelled at that part of the game throughout his tenure at WSU and UTEP. Banks will bring that expertise and focus to A&M's special teams units that were already well-coached under Brian Polian.
10) The buzz on the street is that Coach Sumlin has targeted West Virginia QB coach Jake Spavital for a similar position at A&M. So it sounds like Sumlin will likely promote Coach McKinney to OC. Spavital is a young coach that has been Dana Holgerson's protégé' since his days as the UH OC…so Sumlin is very familiar with Spavital.
Hop's Musings and Inside Scoop
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