Hop's Tidbits and Musings of Truth (part 2)

Once again Aggie Websider's David Sandhop provides his wisdom, musings, and inside scoop into all hings Aggie Sports. In part two of his musings, he focuses on the upcoming junior day and a discussion of football ticket prices.

1) I know this isn't a huge issue, but I'm wondering why the university released a public statement announcing a $25 "price increase" in season tickets and then mentioned supply/demand and increased fixed costs for the increase. So all week I've seen headlines in all of the state's papers that A&M is raising prices as if it is a negative of success. First of all, if supply and demand dictates a rise in price, there's nothing to justify or apologize for. It is what it is…market value.

I know some of you are saying "Hop, I thought you were always against price increases. Why are you changing your tune?" Well, I haven't changed my tune. I believe in market-based pricing and ticket pricing that entices a full arena for our sports teams. If the market will buy tickets at $125 I'm all for it, and if the market dictates a $5 ticket, I'm for that. It is the AD's job to see that the market value of his/her tickets is strong enough to cover expenses.

Anyway, going back to the football season tickets, if you read the fine print, the so-called $25 season ticket increase is in out-of-pocket cost, not per game cost. Yes, the season tickets are going up, but the home schedule has eight games versus six in 2012. So actually, on a per game basis ticket prices have gone down by 20%. My first question is why did the university spin this as a price increase instead of a price decrease, and at the very least why didn't they simply keep the same per game price and justify the extra cost by saying there are extra games. Sounds reasonable to me. Third, after all the success from last year and the Johnny Football Heisman mania, why isn't the cost per game going up instead of down. It doesn't make sense to me, especially when you can leverage the Alabama game to entice season ticket sales…i.e. you better lock into season tickets now if you want to see Johnny versus Bama because you there won't be any single game tickets available.

It just seems in this time when extra money is needed to offset the loss of TV revenue this year, they could've "raised" the season ticket price by $100 and generate another $6,000,000…and still not call it a price increase.

FYI, baseball ticket/parking prices were down slightly this season. Based on what Hyman is doing in football, I bet we'll see a petty significant reduction in basketball prices next fall. He seems to realize that Byrne was out of his mind on pricing.

2) Spring practice starts on Saturday. The same media access policy is in place this spring as it was last spring. We are allowed to film the first 20 minutes of practice during warm-ups and light drills and then asked to leave. So we should get a pretty good idea of the conditioning and shape of most of the players, especially the seven newcomers. So I'm going to focus the time trying to get good still photos of each player both close-up and profile for your evaluation. FYI, practice this week will be on Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday. So keep an eye out for my pics and brief practice reports. If you have a specific request for a practice photo, please let me know.

3) The Aggie basketball team is behind the 8-ball in terms of reaching 9-9 in the SEC and eventually hit 20-wins. The team is one game behind my projections at this point. The Tennessee heartbreaker was just that….a heartbreaker. However, when Tennessee got back Trae Golden from injury, the Vols became a bubble tourney team and what was thought to be a gimme game at home a month ago turned into a dogfight. But to be honest, the killer loss at home was Georgia. There was no business losing to the Bulldogs at Reed.

On paper, this Saturday's game against 4-12 should be the easiest. But nothing is easy with this team. Still, a victory is expected and is likely. Then LSU comes to town on Wednesday, and while the Vegas line will be close to a pick'em game, it's a game the Aggies should win at home. It's a game they better win at home if they want a first round bye in the SEC tournament (first 10 teams get a bye). So for now, let's take the leap that they win both games and sit at 8-9 in SEC with the last game against Arkansas in Fayetteville. Does A&M have a chance? Well, not a good one. But they do have one big factor on their side….THE CURSE OF MELVIN. The curse is almost a decade old, and A&M has played a Melvin team in just about every year throughout that decade. The Hogs are tough in Fayetteville, so that curse better be rocking n rolling big time if the Aggies hope to win.

4) I'll have various spring features throughout the week discussing the team and what needs to be accomplished. But here are my top ten questions that need to be addressed and answered this spring:

i. Will Johnny Football and Coach Spavital get comfortable with each and other and click? I don't think it will be an issue. This was a great hire. In fact, the potential is there for Spavital to be even better than Kingsbury given his background and pedigree.

ii. Will Tyrone Taylor or Tyrell Taylor emerge not only as Moore's replacement, but as a playmaker in the front seven?

iii. Will any interior DL veterans like Alonzo Williams, Ivan Robinson, and Polo Manukainiu emerge as productive contributors in the spring that can take the pressure off of the incoming talented freshmen who will be forced into immediate action. Can Jordan Points show enough to be considered in the mix? Oops…Robinson just tore his Achilles so take him out of the equation.

iv. Can Donnie Baggs be physical enough to take over at the middle LB spot on a full-time basis?

v. Is Reggie Chevis physically and mentally prepared to push Baggs at middle LB? Has Shaun Ward finally gotten serious about his football career?

vi. With Cedric Ogbuehi moving to right tackle, can either Ben Compton or Germain Ifedi step up and solidify the right guard spot?

vii. Can Coach Banks finally solve our chronic punting woes?

viii. Is Tommy Sanders ready to take over at the outside linebacker spot?

ix. Will anybody emerge opposite Howard Matthews at the safety spot that will allow Deshazor Everett to stay at the cornerback position? Number one candidate is Floyd Raven.

x. Can Brandon Alexander become the type of DE playmaker he was projected to be when he was signed as a high four-star prospect a couple of years ago.

5) Since I wrote the top ten spring practice questions this morning in #4, I attended the pre-spring practice press conference today. Here were the highlights and major news from the presser:

a. Those players that will miss all or most of spring practices include Justin Bass, Kirby Ennis (both injury and suspension), Julien Obioha, Trey Williams (will return last week of spring), Steven Jenkins (torn labrum), and Ivan Robinson (torn Achilles). Robinson's injury happened just yesterday and his injury is the only one that will affect his availability in the fall.

b. Coach Sumlin said Ennis still must hit milestones to get back in good standing with the team and he's moving forward with what he needs to do. No word on Jordan Richmond, but he's not listed on the two-deep depth chart.

c. Coach Sumlin seemed very positive on Alonzo Williams and that he's up to 280 pounds. Same thing with Mike Matthews. He weighed 20 pounds last year and he's up to 280 pounds now.

d. Coach Sumlin said that Nate Askew is one of the best overall athletes on the team, but it just hasn't worked out at receiver so they are trying him out at outside linebacker and see if they can get him on the field. He wants his best athletes on the field, but they have to make plays.

e. Coach Snyder said he's excited about the Taylor brothers at rush end spot. At this point, Tyrell is ahead of Tyrone because of his natural pass rush skills. He also said Alexander at the other end spot looks "big and pretty" but he needs to prove it on the field.

f. Overall, Sumlin isn't concerned about coming up with a two-deep depth chart at the end of spring. He simply wants to see some of these redshirts and minor contributors last season develop and transition into playmakers and major contributors. He still thinks A&M is behind the curve in terms of talent and depth.

6) Tomorrow's junior day won't have the big names and fireworks that we thought it would have a couple of weeks ago. Big names like CB Jermaine Roberts, 5-star RB Leonard Fournette, four-star safety Jamal Adams, Louisina WR Malachi Dupre, Texas City WR/ath Armanti Foreman, and Shreveport QB Brandon Harris will not be there. But don't get too worked up over that fact, because many will be coming instead to the Friday Night Lights Scrimmage In early April. That's the bigger, flashier event anyway where the recruits get to see the bells and whistles of Kyle Field at night with a few thousand fans in the stands. But here's a list of players we think will show up tomorrow:

Cy-Falls LB Otaro Alaka
Klein Oak LB Josh Mabin
*Nederland DT DeShawn Washington
Brenham DB Darrion Johnson
Brenham OL Austin Schlottman
*Katy SL DE Jarrett Johnson
*Newton RB Kevin Shorter
*Ennis RB Terence Williams (if ride comes through)
*N. Forney Ath Armani Watts
Spring QB Darius Lee-Campbell
SA Central QB Jeremy Jones
*St. Aug (LA) OL Joe Paul
Millwood (OK) WR Cameron Batson
Hou Lamar OL Braylon Hyder
Norhshore OL Najee Toran
New Orleans (LA) CB Terrence Alexander
(LA) OL Garrett Thomas (2015)

The names to really watch after Saturday's junior day are linebackers Josh Mabin and Otaro Alaka. As I mentioned earlier in the week, A&M jumped back on a few of these linebacker prospects with the uncertainty with Hoza Scott's academics and that Zac Whitley appears to be taking his time with every major national program offering him in recent weeks. Alaka is the most likely of the two to be offered, but don't rule out Mabin getting an offer if he passes the eyeball test. My guess is they will offer and push for only one of the two. I spoke to Alaka last night, and an A&M offer will put A&M squarely in the mix with Texas and OU. Can they get a commit? Possibly…but last night it sounded like he wanted to visit OU before making a final decision. However, if he has a good visit and A&M puts pressure on him, I think there's a chance he takes the offer. I do think Mabin will take an offer if extended, despite getting serious interest from LSU at this point.

DeShawn Washington will be interesting to watch because there is some thought that A&M's recent offer was a defensive move to slow down his process as there was some momentum that he might commit to Texas last weekend. He didn't, so it will be interesting to see if the staff pushes for a commit or plays it cool tomorrow and hope to buy more time.

Darrion Johnson is considered one of the top DB's in the state, and he's been considered a heavy Texas lean as he has family with Longhorn connections. Surprisingly though, he did not commit to Texas and he decided to check out the Aggies. Grades could be a factor and that may keep the staff from offering tomorrow. If they feel good about his transcript, he may get that offer.

The staff is also bringing in several in-state interior linemen like Schlottman, Hyder, and Toran. None have offers yet and I'm not sure if the staff will be ready to send out an offer just yet…unless one of the prospects really wows them with the eyeball test. So that's something to watch.

The other position to watch is running back where a pair of backs who claim to have A&M offers will be in College Station. Well, Terence Williams of Ennis (and Baylor commit) is keeping his fingers crossed on his ride, but otherwise plans to be here. Williams really likes Baylor, but said he's very intrigued by the A&M offer and playing in the SEC saying "to be the best you have to compete with the best…and the SEC is the best." But he is also a bit concerned about the crowded depth chart. Also, just how hard will A&M push for the 4.6 forty power back. Kevin Shorter is a smaller, faster back than Williams who is a sold back, but not a national caliber recruit at this point. To be honest, I will be very surprised if A&M pushes hard and accepts the commit of a running back, but I've been surprised before. I was surprised they took Shaun Nixon so early.

7) As I mentioned on the boards yesterday (and I'm the only service even reporting this), JUCO guard Chad Frazier is currently on-campus for his official visit through Sunday morning. He's down to A&M and South Carolina and he told me it will come down to relationships with coaches and players, and the comfort level and fit with the campus and students. Frazier is a point guard but he likes to shoot a lot and has confidence filling up the basket. He has offers from schools like USC, Illinois, Cal, UCLA, Marquette, and Washington to name a few. I'll keep you updated on Sunday, but I would be surprised if he committed with a trip scheduled to S. Carolina in a couple of weeks. He says he'll make a decision shortly after returning from SC.

8) We'll see how the baseball team can handle a No. 1 team when they battle North Carolina at Minute Maid Park on Sunday. The Ags face UH Friday night at 7:00 PM and the No. 18 Rice Owls on Saturday. Taking two out of three would be huge. Winning one of three won't be good, but not a killer. The team really just needs to avoid the sweep.

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