Aggie Websider Friday Tidbits

Your favorite long-time feature is back! Aggie Websider's Friday Tidbits are back, bigger, stronger and more informative as ever. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop took subscriber questions and expanded his thoughts on a wide range of subjects from football recruiting to team news to basketball recruiting.

I tried to incorporate as many of your questions into today's edition as I could, but for time and space limitations I had to skip over a few that warranted a novel to fully answer.

Projected 2014 Starting Lineup

I had a question asking for my projected starting lineup, so I thought it would be a fun exercise that will spawn some discussion. I emphasize "fun" and entertainment because this is not a serious list because there's just too many variables, too many spring practices, too many offseason workouts, and too many fall camp practices to have an informed opinion. But, I can provide an informed guess, and it's a good starting point heading into the offseason. For example, at linebacker, we can throw darts at a board and be more accurate because that position is completely wide open. So with all of my caviats fully in place, here's my 2014 starting lineup:

Offense

RT - Avery Genessy
RG - Germain Ifedi
C - Mike Matthews
LG - Jarvis Harrison
LT - Cedric Ogbuehi
WR – Jaquay Williams
WR - Malcolme Kennedy
WR - Speedy Noil
WR - Kyrion Parker
QB - Kenny Hill
RB - Trey Williams

Defense

DE - Julien Obioha
DT - Isaiah Golden
DT - Zaycoven Henderson
DE - Myles Garrett
LB - Tommy Sanders
LB - Darian Claiborne
LB - A.J. Hilliard
CB - Devante Harris
CB - Tavares Garner
S - Deshazor Everett
S - Kam Miles

Attrition

I really dislike discussing possible attrition and speculating on players that are technically still on the team. I can tell you that Jordan Points and Kenneth Marshall are not expected to be with the program next week when classes start. Sebastian LaRue decided not to return after his recruiting coach Marcel Yates left and realizing that he wanted to stay closer to home. In addition, I expect at least 2-3 others to leave the program by the end of spring. The bottom line here is that the staff will have plenty of spots to fill out the remainder of this 2014 class. They can go up to the 26 maximum easily with mid-termers if there is no more attrition. Add in two more for attrition, and the staff could take 8 more prospects in this class if the opportunity presents itself. I tend to believe they will hold those two back for wiggle room on possible future transfers (which there have been rumblings about a D-1 CB wanting to come here). That means six more spots at a minimum. One person asked about the status of Sabian Holmes, and from everything I've heard he's still in good standing with the team and plans to be back next week. In fact, I think he came into town today per his Twitter.

Wide Receiver Position

Anytime you lose a young, talented receiver like LaRue, it hurts. He was one of the last freshmen to get to campus last summer because of California's late school year, and then he dealt with some nagging injuries that slowed him down. Thus, the staff made a decision to redshirt him, and that may have led to having more time on his hands and increasing the homesick feelings he was going through. We were hearing glowing reviews about his practice performances later in the season and he was positioned to play in the rotation next season.

It hurts, but it doesn't hurt as much as the loss of DSG last week. The receiver position should be fine, especially with the addition of Speedy Noil who will stretch the field and will be a playmaker from day one. Also, we expect Malcolme Kennedy and Sabian Holmes back in the slot position so A&M is in good hands. The question marks may come on the outside. It's critical that Jaquay Williams step up to be the player he was projected to be coming out of high school as a high four-star prospect. If Kyrion Parker has a productive offseason and can add some muscle mass and strength, he has shown enough potential in practice that he has a good chance to nail down the other outside spot. Same is true for Ed Pope. He must get bigger if he wants in the rotation. Then you have Ricky Seals-Jones who is doing well in his recovery by all accounts. Do they try to flex him inside, or do they think there's enough juice off the ball to line up his 6-foot-5+ frame on the outside? That's my biggest question mark I want answered this offseason. There are a lot of question marks, but a lot of potential answers as well. Seeing this position develop in the spring will be one to watch closely…but Jaquay's development is critical any way you slice it.

The QB Situation

This has been a hot button topic which has gotten hotter since Johnny Manziel finally made it official and will be heading off for fame and fortune in the NFL. I'm still of the opinion that it's extremely hard for a true freshman to digest the increased speed of the game and the added complexity in schemes and coverage reads. While I think Kyle Allen is physically the better prospect in the long run, the relevant question is who can best run the offense in 2014, and I still think that will be Kenny Hill by a nose. Allen coming in at mid-term does make this an interesting horse race. A lot of people bring up Matt Joeckel as a candidate to win the job, but I think his lack of touch on short passes and deliberate throwing style will prove to be an uphill battle for him to hold off the two younger signal callers. It wouldn't surprise me too much if Allen were to eventually win the starting job in 2014, but for now I'm giving the nod to experience over talented youth. And I don't expect any transfers prior to the 2014 season. Even if Allen gets the nod, Hill is one big hit away from the being the starter. If Allen were to establish himself as the clear-cut No. 1 after next season, you might see Hill explore a transfer…but not sooner in my opinion.

Whatever happens next season should not impact Allen phenom QB Kyler Murray and his decision. I do believe that Murray will eventually pick Texas A&M, but it won't be as easy as many A&M fans seem to think. Regardless of who earns the starting spot, that QB will either be a freshman or sophomore. Opposing coaches are negatively recruiting against the fact that Murray will have to sit at A&M for 2-3 years before seeing the field. Also, the opposing coaches are using the "blaze your own trail at another school as opposed to following in your father's footsteps at A&M." That argument has gotten some traction with the younger Murray, but I would still be surprised if he didn't commit to the Aggies by the spring of 2014.

Coaching Staff

When the university finally officially hires DB coach Terry Joseph, I think that should finalize the staff for 2014. Barring a late shuffle with a coach being hired away by a new staff as the coaching carousel comes to a close across the nation (I don't expect that to happen), what you see is what you get. I don't think there was ever serious consideration to replace Mark Snyder who has a very good track record. Most of the staff feels the defensive issues were very much personnel-related, and that should change next season with improvement expected along the defensive front.


Football Recruiting

So let's cut to the chase here. The Ags picked up two commitments they weren't expecting (Noil, Henderson) and then they lost two they thought they were getting (DSG, Hall) over the past week. I need to put an asterisk by Hall because he was never a commit, although the staff felt they were going to flip him as late as yesterday. Hall still hasn't left home, so technically he could still pop up in College Station by surprise, but that possibility is fading as we get closer to the first day of class on Monday. Anyway, did A&M strengthen or weaken its class with these latest additions and subtractions? I say it's a net positive for the Aggies. Losing Sumner-Gardner at a critical need position was a hard pull to swallow, but there are some solid options left with John Curtis safety Mattrell McGraw and Jenks (OK) safety Steven Parker who is down to OU and Texas A&M. However, you can't put enough value on picking up Speedy Noil, and I'm not simply talking about the political ramifications for stealing an elite recruit out of Louisiana. This kid is a special talent and has the type of speed that forces defensive coordinators from crowding the line of scrimmage because Noil is a true deep threat. He's an all-SEC caliber of talent. He will make everyone on offense better because defenses must account for him on every play, and that usually means opportunities for somebody else on the field.

Zaycoven Henderson's surprise decommit from Texas and immediate commit to the Aggies is big for the very reason mentioned by me in an article this summer and also mentioned by Nick Saban on ESPN Gameday prior to the national championship game. The SEC separates itself from every other major football conference in the country because of superior DL and OL play. Henderson had a tremendous senior season and that elevated him to the No. 2 DT in the state behind fellow A&M commit DeShawn Washington in late 2013. Then at the Semper fi all-star game last week, he received rave reviews from many of the pundits and recruiting gurus in attendance for practices. At 6-foot-3, 300 lbs. with the wide, thick lower base of a nose guard but the explosion and length of a tackle, Henderson provides Terry Price with not only more beef up-front, but also an athlete that can play in multiple packages and positions whether it's a defensive end in a 3-4 package, or an interior lineman in a base 4-3 package. The cherry on top is that A&M flipped him from Texas shortly after Charlie Strong was hired as the new Longhorn head coach. The fact that Strong is a defensive-minded coach and he has lost three DT commits already is a red flag for Texas fans. So we have 6-8 spots available and here are the remaining targets and my estimated percentages to land each one.

WR (0-1)
Davion Hall - 20%
K.D. Cannon - 10%
Chris Worton - 25%
TBA - 25%

OL (0-1)
Braden Smith – 40%
Nick Gates – 35%

LB (2)
Kenny Young - 70%
Otaro Alaka - 60%
Ismael Murphy-Richardson – 40%
Edwin Freeman - 25%

DB (2)
Mattrell McGraw - 70%
Steven Parker - 40%
TBA - 90%

Let's quickly go over the board here and discuss the close to this class. With LaRue transferring and Hall leaning to sticking with Baylor, that may give David Beaty another spot in this class. One receiver he's had his eye on since early December is Miami (South Dade) slot receiver Chris Worton. He's currently committed to Florida State but has scheduled visits to Central Florida and Ole Miss in January. Strange deal, but FSU has already lost three receiver commits in this class. His older brother plays at UCF and they may have the inside track to flip Worton. It's expected that A&M will jump into the mix and get a visit if they offer him. With LaRue off the team, that just may happen now…but is it too late? Probably. FYI, I really like this kid. He's a cross between Ryan Swope and Wes Welker. He's right at 6-foot and he runs great routes and has tremendous body control and hands. He also has a little "Leone" attitude to him...a street vibe thing going on. He'll be tough in traffic. I envision him as a great 3rd down target who will get the tough first downs for you, but he also has pretty decent speed as well like Swope. With his highlights and offers, I'm surprised he's a 3-star. I think he'd compliment the current group of receivers nicely.

I talked to some Scout network recruiting guys and publishers the past couple of days, and there's no definitive feel where Braden Smith and Nick Gates will go at this point. Some publishers feel gates may be leaning to Oregon, but that's only speculation and reading tea leaves at this point. Most feel Smith is down to TCU and A&M, but his recent interest in Auburn and their needs along the offensive line make the Tigers a surging dark horse. Smith still has all of his visits to take including A&M on January 24, so we won't know much more until he gets back from a couple of these trips. Luckily for A&M, the OL class is already very good in both quality and quantity so losing out here won't be a big deal in the long run…especially when they are sitting in very good shape with two of the top 2015 OL's next year (Trevor Elbert and Connor Dyer).

At linebacker, I continue to hear good news on the Kenny Young front especially when he's visiting with fellow teammate (safety) Mattrell McGraw. I'm being told that LSU is back out of the picture and privately Young has been telling classmates and teammates alike that he's going to A&M. Well, let's see how the January 17 visit goes first. But if all goes well, I think the Aggies get the pair from John Curtis HS.

The Otaro Alaka situation is getting interesting. As I've mentioned earlier, Alaka reached out to the A&M staff asking if there was a spot available for him back before Mack Brown was fired (resigned). So when he scheduled a prime recruiting visit date of January 17, that looked cautiously optimistic for the Aggies. But Alaka mentioned to me last night that he has not communicated or spoken to the new Texas coaching staff, and from the way he sounds, that has hurt Texas' chances. Of course, you have to wonder if that was a huge tactical mistake by Strong, or if he wanted to go in a different direction at the linebacker position. Either way, the A&M staff will gladly take advantage. Now, Alaka also scheduled a trip to LSU for the 24th so if A&M can't close the deal next weekend, this one could get interesting. But for now, the smart money is that A&M impresses Alaka on his official visit on the 17th and he will be the newest member of the 2014 class. It sounds to me that the LSU visit is an insurance policy in case the A&M visit doesn't go as planned.

If A&M misses on one of those two , then they could get aggressive with Arizona's Ismael Murphy-Richardson who originally scheduled a mid-week official visit to A&M between after the 17th weekend. However, I think the odds are pretty good that A&M could be finished recruiting the linebacker position before his scheduled visit. As I've been saying for a few weeks, while Edwin Freeman claims to be down to A&M and Texas, I think he's looking for a reason to play in Austin. Even the A&M staff has started to move on to other options.

As I mentioned above, I think the Aggies are in good shape to land Mattrell McGraw. The situation once looked very favorable for the Aggies with Jenks safety Steven Parker. He was on the verge of committing to Texas A&M but his parents and family pulled him back due to a personal family matter…and that has opened the door for the Sooners. He's torn because he wants to go to A&M, but his family situation is pulling him to stay in Oklahoma. At this point, I'll give the slight lean to OU but we'll see what happens when the contact period heats up again. I also think new DB coach Terry Joseph will shake the trees and bring in a couple of new targets that he recruited while at Nebraska. I bet A&M lands one of these targets. I'll start cooking on some names.

Any Possible Decommits in the 2014 Class?

Other than DSG? The A&M staff will have to fight off overtures from the new Texas staff. I'm sure they will make the rounds with A&M commits. It sounds like they've already started working on Shaun Nixon and he's flirting with a visit to Texas and TCU, but in a show of force, Sumlin must have gotten the word to Nixon to shut it down or else….and he's now saying he won't take visits. Remember when Mack used to do that to Franchione and Sherman? It's nice to be in a position of strength for a change. Texas sources keep saying that Nick Harvey is privately telling them that he's still open to visiting Texas. This has been a persistent storyline going back to last spring when Harvey popped up at a Texas spring practice during the state track meet in Austin. It's been so persistent that it's worth keeping an eye on for another week or two, but at this point I think Harvey sticks. Qualen Cunningham has always discussed taking additional visits in January, but from what I'm hearing he'll likely shut his recruitment down after his official visit to College Station on the 17th.

What Does Strong Do For the Recruiting landscape?

That was a very good question posed to me. Had you asked me that a week ago, I'd say his hiring would give Texas a moderate bump in recruiting momentum that may flip a commit or two in the state, and you'll see some impact on defensive recruits for 2015. But to be honest, Red McCombs and the overzealous Texas fan base did Texas A&M, and the rest of the Big 12 schools south of Kansas a huge favor by giving Strong a lukewarm welcome to Austin and already questioning not only his hire but the potential assistant coaching hires that Strong is proposing. When I heard McCombs say publicly "I can see Strong as a good position coach or possibly a coordinator…", I knew that was a dagger in the coaching tenure of Strong. If I'm Kevin Sumlin, I cut-out that quote and make copies for the entire A&M staff to use in the living rooms of recruits in this state. The top money guy at Texas just called his own coach no better than a position coach. Thanks Red!

A&M fans have to be pinching themselves. As I've published in several articles about the move to the SEC, the success of the transition not only relied on Texas A&M making the right moves and pushing the right buttons (which they have), but A&M also needed Texas to make a series of strategic mistakes in concert…and they have! This coaching hire and the resulting negative response by the donors may have been the last straw. A&M is reaching the end of the race with only another hurdle or two to go…and Texas is ironically helping "little brother" every step of the way in this journey. It won't be too long when it won't matter what decisions Texas makes, because little brother will be the top dog in the state.

I'm not suggesting that Sumlin will dominate Strong on the recruiting trail, but I see no signs to suggest that Strong will flip Sumlin in the recruiting pecking order in the state. From the look of it, Strong is already leaning on his established recruiting roots in Florida and picking off old Louisville commits while he's already lost three DL commits and his top LB commit has one foo out the door. Strong will certainly start to work Texas in 2015, but I'm telling you I think the Strong hire puts a reset on prior Longhorn leans Demarkus Lodge and Kemah Siverand. If I'm Sumlin, I get aggressive and strike while the iron is hot. Push to get both Lodge and Siverand to the come to A&M's first junior day on Sunday, January 26. I'd also push hard to have Daylon Mack round up the Fab Five of East Texas and get them to this first junior day. Then try to secure Malik Jefferson and Larry Pryor on the 26th before Texas and Strong have a chance to get their bearings in place.

Bottom line…I think Strong is a solid hire, but not a splash hire that changes the recruiting landscape. Because Strong hasn't recruited Texas until now, A&M has a short-term opportunity to really get a great start on the 2015 class before Strong has a chance to counter.


Basketball

I'm still trying to get some definitive information on Tony Trocha. I can't get anybody to expand on the situation in the past 2-3 weeks other than to say they are confident he'll get in. He can take the foreign student language exam every 10 days, and he took it the last time about three weeks ago so he should be taking it again this weekend. I've also heard that Loftin would grant him an exception and allow him to enroll, but Bowtie's official last day is Monday…the first day of class.

I will say that Trocha is still attending all of the games and he's acting as if he's part of the team, and the players are treating him like one of their own after the games. He's all smiles and talking to various people after the game, so I'm not sure what the disconnect is on this test. Anyway, I'm expecting a call from my source later tonight and hopefully I can get some answers to these questions. FYI, Jalen Jones was in the stands Wednesday night and he'll enroll and go to class on Monday. One other nugget I'm trying to track down and it's very much a rumor at this point that I have not confirmed…but there is some buzz that a highly-rated prospect from Texas that signed with an out-of-state power program is homesick and considering a transfer back home. A&M's name was mentioned. Again, the confidence level on this news is still very low, so until I can get some additional details and confirmation, I'm putting it in the unsubstantiated rumors category.

I also talked to a source close to Eric Hyman, and as of now there's no talk or rumblings of a future change. From what I'm told, Hyman is firmly supporting Kennedy and the staff, and feels the talent level on the team is improving and going in the right direction. Of course, this is what a smart AD says in early January. I would be disappointed if Hyman said anything differently one game into SEC conference play.

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