Analysis of FNL Scrimmage - Offense

Aggie Websider's David Sandhop breaks down the play of the special teams and the offensive units during Friday Night Lights. He discusses the biggest movers and shakers from the Friday scrimmage.

Special Teams

Punting - Drew Kaser continues to impress this spring and his consistency has greatly improved over last season. His five attempts in the air were 45, 40(15 yd roll for 55 yd), 50, 37, and 47. That's a 43.8 avg in the air, and an overall avg of 46.8 yds/att. They all had good hang time.

Punt Returns - Sabian Holmes returned four of the five attempts, and fumbled (but recovered) his last attempt. Devante Harris returned one punt. Decent gains on a couple....not much of note.

Kick Returns - The team had only one short session of kickoffs and Bertolet kicked one out of the end zone and I think he was asked to keep a couple in-play. Ben Malena had a nice return and the whistle blew near mid-field. I must say, Malena continues to improve his speed. Two years ago he was slow as molasses. He trimmed down last year and seemed much quicker but I wouldn't call hm a speed burner. last night, he was accelerating from some return guys and looks even faster than 2013. Tremain Jacobs did a good job of getting past containment and took it to the outside to the 40+ yard line.

Field Goals - Taylor Bertolet just pulled his first attempt of 42 yards. His next attempt of 39 yards was blocked by Floyd Raven coming off the edge. He came back to hit his final two FG's of 38 yards and 46 yards. All extra points were good.


Thoughts on the Offense

I'll be honest, A&M's offense never looks as good in scrimmages as it does in games. I think a lot of that has to do with the A&M defense being familiar with the offensive scheme and the strengths/weaknesses of the players on the other side. If I were to summarize the overall offensive output, I'd say it was very conservative and focused on very short passing plays near the line of scrimmage with about six explosive plays (20+ yds) mixed into 24 series (12 first unit vs. first unit, 12 second unit vs. 2nd unit).


QB

I posted the stats on another thread and I won't clutter the discussion with numbers here. Johnny Manziel's performance was very similar to his work in the first scrimmage where he made quite a few nice plays, but he also forced some throws into double and triple coverage that were frankly just bad decisions. While his arm has greatly improved over last year, he still has some problems throwing off his back foot on longer throws, especially to the outside where DB's have time to close and pick the pass like Floyd Raven did in the 17th series of the night. Earlier in the 11th series on the first play, he simply didn't see Donnie Baggs in underneath coverage and tried to hit the slot with a quick hitter and he found Baggs right in the chest. On the first series of the scrimmage, Manziel stared down Derel Walker deep down the sideline and let loose of a 25-30 yard pass into the awaiting arms of Deshazor Everett who dropped the easiest interception he would have this spring...the first of three bad reads on the night by Johnny Football in 35 attempts.

The other thing I noticed was a lack of chemistry with some of the younger receivers like Ed Pope where the pass went one way and the receiver went the other way. They have 5+ months to work on that, so I'm not too concerned just yet, but it is worth noting.

After being sacked during his first series by Brandon Alexander and Tyrone Taylor, Matt Joeckel had the best pass play of the night in his second series when he hit Nehemiah Hicks on a long post pattern for a nice 40-yard catch and run. Joeckel is at his best setting up in the pocket and looking for down field targets. He still struggles with the quick, short passing game missing on a couple of easy swing passes. With that said, he led the offense to TD's on three consecutive series with short scoring tosses in the end zone to Jaquay Williams who simply physically overpowered Alex Sezer for a jump ball, and a scoring strike to Cameron Clear.

Matt Davis started slow just like he did in the previous scrimmage. After a TD score on his first possession that was a result of six straight runs by walk-on Brice Dolezal, he had consecutive 3-and-outs before scoring in a red zone set from the 8-yard line on a fade to walk-on Boone Niederhofer (#82). Then Davis had his best offensive series as an Aggie, driving the second unit on an eight play, 65-yard score. He scrambled for 10 yards followed by a 10 yard strike in the slot followed by a sideline reception by Jaquay Williams who broke a tackle and rambled for 25 yards. After a six yard scramble, Davis found Cameron Clear on a crossing pattern for a 10 yard TD pass, but it was called back by an illegal procedure penalty. He responded to hat set-back with a 9-yard completion to Lamascus and a 6-yard end zone grab by Williams.

Is the light bulb starting to come on for Matt....quite possibly. But there's still a way to go.


RB

Early in the scrimmage, the second unit pounded the ball with walk-on Brice Dolezal who scored after six straight runs. He finished as the leading rusher with 53 yards on 14 carries. The first unit did not utilize the running game that much with Ben Malena and Brandon Williams combining for 61 yards on 13 carries and one TD (Williams).

The storyline for me was that while Brandon Williams runs with a playmaking explosion, he also runs very hugh and it can expose him to some big hits and fumbles. In a red zone set from the 8-yard line, he accelerated through the line of scrimmage and had a head of steam nearing the goal line. Howard Matthews lays a tremendous hit to the exposed mid-section of Williams and he dropped him immediately outside the goal line. Williams simply needs to run lower, especially when a hit is coming. There was another run where the tackler got lower than Williams and stopped him in his tracks. He's an explosive playmaker, but he's not as efficient as Ben Malena between the tackles.

Trey Williams did not participate Friday night as he's still getting over his injury. I was also surprised we didn't see more swing passes to the backs out of the backfield since we saw a lot of that in the last scrimmage and in practice live sessions.


WR

Derel Walker, Mike Evans, and Sabian Holmes took every snap with the first unit. In a big surprise at the fourth receiver spot, redshirt freshman walk-on Boone Niederhofer got the start and actually caught a 6-yard reception from Manziel on the second play of the scrimmage and later caught a TD pass from Matt Davis with the second unit. He alternated with Ed Pope at the fourth WR spot with the first unit, before Pope took over later in the scrimmage.

Evans had a surprisingly quiet night playing the slot with five catches for only 31 yards and a short TD. It will be interesting to see if and when they move him back outside. Derel Walker had a solid night grabbing three passes for 48 yards and a nice 25-yard TD catch on a post route. He also added a 24-yard catch that was called back for a holding call. I still think he'll end up being the outside receiver opposite Evans, and he has a chance to be very good. Consistency has been his Achilles Heel and he's improving in that area.

Sabian Holmes made a few short yardage grabs. He'll see the field early in the season as a part-time contributor when Malcolme Kennedy comes back, but Sebastian LaRue will likely push for time in the rotation so Holmes will need to continue progressing. I think the other sites that proclaimed Ed Pope in the driver's seat to start on the outside were a bit premature. He finished with two catches for 6 yards and struggled with yards after the catch and getting on the same page with Manziel.

Jaquay Williams showed some life with the second unit. With his size, the offense got the ball to him on some short, quick sideline passes hoping to get some tough yards after catch but he struggled in that role. He's most comfortable in the red zone being physical and fighting off the smaller corner for the fade pass. Expect to see him in certain sets inside the 20 yard line. He's not there just yet, but he's getting closer as we enter the final week of spring practice. Overall, I think A&M will be fine at WR when Kennedy comes back in the fall and newcomers like LaRue and Ricky Seals Jones hit campus to join veterans Evans, Walker, etc.


TE

Cameron Clear generated plenty of buzz with some nice catches that showed off his soft hands, something that was a question mark heading into spring workouts. He's also a load to bring down when he catches the ball on the run. Nehemiah Hicks proved again Friday NIght that he has big play capability, but that his play comes in spurts. He had one lone catch for a 40-yard touchdown. But it was the big-bodied Clear that had people talking in the stands.


OL

Coach Snyder's defense blitzed quite a bit in the game, yet the first unit fared well and gave up just one sack (Tyrell Taylor). I thought both starting tackles had a great game under the circumstances. The second unit offensive line was solid, but they did give up several sacks to Tyrone Taylor, Brandon Alexander, and Brett Wade. The #2 OL established a consistent rushing attack in that fourth series under Matt Davis, but in two short yardage situations they lost the battle with the DL led by Jordan Points, Kimo Tipoti, Taylor, and Alexander. Most college teams need nine functional OL's to start the season and the Aggies hope that Jeremiah Stuckey, Joseph Cheek, Ben Compton, and Shep Klinke will satisfy the depth numbers. While this group (excluding Compton) was functional at the scrimmage, there are still some depth questions at the two tackle spots.

A&M should be fine along the OL in 2013 based on their efforts at the scrimmage Friday night. In fact, the OL will be a big strength.

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