Defense Steps Up in Morning Practice

It was an active Saturday morning practice session as the team worked out in full pads on the grass practice fields. The defense once again held the upper hand. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop was on-hand and provides a practice report

For the second straight practice, I felt the defense was in control during the live tackling 11-on-11 sessions. The quarterbacks seemed to have a hard time finding open receivers downfield and held the ball too long at times ot took off running. At first, I thought OL was giving the QB's time to throw but they were looking to multiple receivers on reads and not pulling the trigger. That is certainly a testament to the secondary, the most improved unit from last year IMO going back to the spring as well.

Terrence Frederick is evolving into a VERY good cornerback. Coming into this fall, Frederick was considered "solid" and "serviceable". But I'm about ready to start using more positive adjectives. He's always in good position and breaking up passes. If he stays healthy, he will be a very good Big 12 cornerback.

Jordan Peterson and Justin McQueen aren't on his level, but they are providing a challenge to the receivers and quarterbacks. Freshman Steven Terrell is showing well, and he's someone that will counted on in this program...maybe this year, maybe not but he is a corner with potential. He's also a good special teams asset, blocking a field goal coming off the edge. And even Desmond Gardiner broke up some passes with the third team today.

Word is that Coryell Judie is very much expected to qualify and expected to suit out next week. Given that information and the fact that the staff seems happy with the progress of the freshmen, adding another cornerback to the 2010 class isn't a given or a high priority which goes against what we were hearing before August practices. If the coaches are that confident, that's a very good sign.

Trent Hunter is being his usual self, and with a rejuvenated Jordan Pugh the starting secondary is suddenly starting to come together. Depth is certainly an issue at safety, but the play of Steven Campbell (he was sitting out today after the big collision with Dustin Harris - who also was on the sideline in shorts) has raised a lot of eyebrows. As long as this starting unit can stay on the field, I finally think A&M can have a decent secondary. I'm not saying they will suddenly shut down Tech, OU, or the Texas passing game, but I do think these guys can make it more difficult for teams like KSU, CU, and Baylor with so-so passing games to rack up 300-400 yard games like they've done for the past everal seasons.

The linebacking unit also participated in the defense's nice effort today. Kyle Mangan, Ricky Cavanaugh, and Garrick Williams ran with the first unit. Mangan continues to make good plays in the middle, but Williams was the one that plesantly surprised me the most. He made a couple of nice one-on-one tackles on RB's catching a pass out of the backfield that saved big plays, something that A&M linebackers rarely did in recent years. He has added some good weight, but more than anything seems to be playing with more confidence and purpose. Jonathan Stewart is still pushing strong on the second team today. Nothing spectacular from an individual standpoint, but the overall play of the unit as a whole is improved (granted, the bar was set pretty loe last year). I really like Michael LaMothe's frame. He may not contribute much this year, but I think he'll be a nice addition to this unit in the next few years. Porter is also showing future potential.

On the DL, I'm really starting to like the first unit with Moss, Jerod-Eddie, Brown, and Miller. Moss is active and had a couple of hurries and a sack. You know about the other three. Miller once again turned it up at the end of 11-on-11 sessions getting past Lucas Patterson on three straight plays to sack the QB, and then was held badly by Patterson on a fourth play.

Sure I'm concerned about Patterson. However, you have to give props to Miller. I was watching DL drills where they were doing the circle drill while Wyatt slapped and grabbed at the players going by. Basically, the drill is to teach staying low and keeping the opponent from locking up while turning the corner and going to the QB. Miller has such incredible balance and quickness. He gets so low with his lead shoulder at full speed. I've never seen somebody be so talented and effective off the edge like that. Those 6-foot-5/6-foot-6 linemen simply can't get that low and thus can't lock up on him on the outside and chase him into the QB. THen, to compensate for this, they start jumping outside ot of their break to get in front of him, and when that happens he takes a quick step inside and he's at the QB.

But back to Patterson and the OL, people keep asking me if Patterson's struggles mean the staff needs to go with Rhontae Scales or somebody else especially when Scales is looking better in his reps. Well, there's one big issue with that. Scales isn't blocking Von Miller. He's blocking Matt Featherston and Andrew Weaver, not Von Miller and that's a world of difference. IN fact, I don't think Patterson will face a quicker DE all season. Even with the bad results against Miller, Patterson doesn't look like a stiff. You see that he does have decent feet and athleticism. I think he'll show better against typical, bigger defensve ends...but it's obviously a concern at this point.

On offense, again I thought it was a quiet practice for the most part. Jeff Fuller sat out practice for the second day for precautionary reasons. He was dressed and on the sidelines. In his place, the starting WR's were Nwachukwu on the outside with Morrow in the slot and Nick Trice at Fuller's spot. Uzoma is slowly establishing himself as a contributor and in fact is making a serious run at a starting spot having moved ahead of Terrence McCoy. Uzoma made several nice catches and has that "it" factor about him. Honestly, once you take away the experience factor, I think he's the second best receiver on the team behind only Fuller.

McNeal and Brandal Jackson have moved into the two-deep and took the snaps with the second team with McNeal occasionally spelling Morrow on the first team.

At running back, Cyrus Gray was back in action and had a couple of nice 9-10 yard runs, but none of the backs had a big gainer in live 11-on-11 sessions. CHristine Michael traded off with Gray and Bradley Stephens on the first team. Michael is a load and moves the pile. BUt overall, the defense controlled the running game.

At QB, more of the same from previous practices. Both QB's have their moments and the Aggies will have a good signal caller leading the offense, but there's still some inconsistency and indecision (some of that is the secondary doing their job as well). If I had to pick between the two, I'd probably say Tannehill had the better day. SEriously, this QB competition could go either way and may come down to tomorrow's scrimmage performance. Sherman has said he wanted to name a starter with a couple of weeks left in the camp.


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