Fall Practice--Day 1: Many less holes in 2007

Heading into his first four years at Texas A&M, head coach Dennis Franchione had an endless list of personnel decisions to make during fall camp. But this year, there are many more answers than questions. However, there are some holes that still need to be filled heading into 2007, and Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp chatted with Franchione about those positions.

Heading into Monday's first day of practice, Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione had more answers than questions for the first time since arriving in Aggieland in December of 2003, but there were still a few lingering questions here and there.

He knows who his first and second string quarterbacks are. He's got a stable of running backs that could start for just about any team in the Big 12. He's got an offensive line that's 80 percent complete to block for both of those positions.

On defense, he's got four solid linebackers to play in the 4-2-5 defense, and he's got half of his defensive line set, as well as much of secondary. But that doesn't mean things are perfect just yet.

One of the battles that has yet to be decided in August is for the final guard spot on the offensive line and determining where all of the receivers will land when the dust settles.

"I'd say Chris Yoder has a little bit of an advantage because of playing time, but Michael Shumard isn't going to give that to him easily," Franchione said. "The right mix of who's going to be where at receiver is probably a little undefined right now as well. We're not uncomfortable with our (receivers) right now, but we're just trying to put the right six or eight on the field at the right time."

As Aggie Websider reported on Monday, there's still a couple of debates at place kicker and punt returner. Sophomore Matt Szymanski struggled in his freshman year, going one-of-four on the season on field goal attempts, before connecting on a season-long 35-yard field goal in the Holiday Bowl against California.

"(Junior) Richie (Bean) will compete hard with Matt for place kicker and kickoffs," Franchione said on Monday. "Punt returner is probably up in the air as well, though if we played today I'd put in Jordan Peterson. But Kerry Franks, Danny Gorrer and Cody Beyer all caught my eye today. They all did some good things."

There still questions on the defensive side of the ball as well, but not near as many as this time last year, thanks to a much more experienced linebacker unit.

Seniors Mark Dodge and Misi Tupe, along with sophomores Matt Featherston and Anthony Lewis have pretty much sewn up the majority of playing time at the position, but Franchione and Darnell would like to find one more for the rotation.

There is also going to be competition at the safety positions.

"Free safety Devin Gregg returns there and I think Alton Dixon has a leg up on everybody (at strong safety)," Franchione said. "But (redshirt sophomore junior college transfer) Will Harris made some nice plays today playing there and made some nice plays on the ball, so there will be competition at all of the safety positions."

Much like the receiving corps, Franchione believes that he's got four or five players who will compete at cornerback, but is confident in all of their abilities.

The defensive line is halfway complete, with seniors Chris Harrington and Red Bryant locking down one side of the line barring injuries. However, there's still one end and one tackle position up for grabs this month.

"Our D Line rotation has yet to be determined," Franchione said. "I think it's safe to say that Chris and Red will probably emerge but the other end and tackle is up in the air. We like to rotate a lot of guys on the d line so exactly how that rotation will work out in a number of ways is probably questionable right now."

While not every position has a two-deep etched in stone just yet, Franchione isn't spending near as much time this August putting people in the right positions, and when the season rolls around, that should pay dividends.

The less time he spends creating a lineup, the more time he can spend on getting those players ready to play.

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