The Texas A&M Aggies and head coach Kevin Sumlin will have their strengths on both sides of the ball in 2016 and then there will be areas which will continue to be under construction, so to speak. The Aggies are a little over a week from taking the field for the first time to officially begin their final preparations for the upcoming football season.
As we continue our camp previews, we will touch on some of the stronger positions groups for the Aggies and some that need to take big strides forward in camp and on the field this fall to better the Aggies chances of success in 2016. Today we take a look at the latter, the linebackers, who have some solid young talent on hand but need to continue to make strides in development and hope for a little more favor from the injury gods.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis has the linebackers and he will continue his efforts to develop the talent they have on hand while trying to lure top linebacker recruits to College Station to continue to boost the position.
The two main names he will count on entering camp will be sophomore Otaro Alaka, who missed most of last season due to injury but was granted a medical redshirt which could be very beneficial on the back end of his career, and senior Shaan Washington who has been a consistent presence for the Aggies over the last few seasons and has seen a lot of snaps.
Both Alaka and Washington had a solid spring and both come into camp heavier than they were last season. These two are likely to see a lot of snaps this fall and potentially by themselves as the Aggies continue to use a lot of nickel coverage to utilize standout Donovan Wilson.
Arguably, one of the most important thing to watch during camp will not only be who emerges after offseason workouts to fill out the Aggies two-deep but also at which position they will play. The Aggies need to find out who is ready to go first and then decide where they best fit into a linebacker rotation that best suits what Chavis is trying to accomplish.
Senior Claude George could be name to watch to emerge in camp in the middle of the defense as he gets a full year under his belt of adjusting ti the new level and speed of the game. He showed some signs of what could be last season, his first after transferring in from the junior college ranks, but was inconsistent at times as he adjusted to the new level.
A few of the young players who began to show flashes last season were Richard Moore, Dwaine Thomas and Riley Garner. Moore of course saw the most action down the stretch but was still fighting a nagging injury from high school (which he got corrected early in the spring). He doesn’t have the most ideal size but has tremendous natural instincts for the position and will see the field early and often on the outside.
Dwaine Thomas and Riley Garner both showed some nice glimpses of what could be the future but Garner was hampered by a knee injury suffered in the Aggies’ bowl game late in the year and how soon he will be available is still to be determined.
A few other names worth noting heading into camp, who could help fill out the depth chart, are junior Josh Walker, sophomore Landis Durham, incoming freshman Tyrel Dodson (who could be an instant impact type player) and to a lesser extent even walk-ons Cullen Gillaspia and Mac Labhart could round out the back end of the depth chart and could be counted on again if the injury bug pops up.