August Grades

After two weeks of hot, grinding August practices that have included two scrimmages on Kyle Field, some pieces of the 2009 puzzle are starting to come together. With one week of practices remaining until game week, Aggie Websider's David Sandhop grades each position based on the expectations going into August preseason workouts...Read it in the Tailgate!

After two weeks of hot, grinding August practices that have included two scrimmages on Kyle Field, some pieces of the 2009 puzzle are starting to come together. With one week of practices remaining until game week, Aggie Websider's David Sandhop grades each position based on the expectations going into August preseason workouts. Grades are not determined based strictly on performance, but based on how each position has performed given last year's results and expectations given returning veterans and incoming talent. Thus, a position that receives a grade of A means the unit has significantly outperformed expectations. A grade of C indicates that the position has met offseason expectations and is on-par with the unit's performance from last year.

Quarterback C+

Jerrod Johnson had a very solid first season under center for the Aggies in 2008, although his inconsistency and long release limited his performances. In the offseason, he worked hard to improve his delivery and many hoped that a year of experience would result in more consistency. There have been minor improvements in both areas, but overall I was hoping to see a bigger leap forward by this time. I think Ryan Tannehill has performed well and is challenging Johnson, but he also has had a few moments of inconsistency and while he's done a good job, he has not significantly raised the bar on the quarterback position. A&M will have good QB play in 2009, but they haven't raised it to "excellent" just yet which is why they get a C+.

Running Back A-

The running backs have shown significant improvement, especially in the effort and the intensity of the ball carriers. Cyrus Gray ran tentatively as a freshman, but he's running with a lot more confidence as a sophomore and he's hitting the hole much harder. Despite the buzz surrounding the heroics of freshman Christine Michael, Gray's improvement and experience will likely give him the starting nod. Michael has definitely had an impact on this unit with his high intensity, wild boar style. He also cuts as well as any back you'll see. He will need to learn when to cut his losses as he sometimes tries to do too much when cornered, but he does have special skills. Another big positive has been the lack of fumbles by Michael, which had been his one blemish from his high school days. Bradley Stephens has been solid so far, and Kalvin Guyton has been a pleasant surprise, but it will be Gray and Michael generating the headlines this fall.

Wide Receiver A-

At this time last year, Mike Sherman was so low on receiver talent that he moved QB Tannehill to the position that paid off big dividends for the Aggies. But with depth at the QB position extremely thin, the staff had to move Tannehill back under center. Thus, the Aggies had only three returning pass catchers with significant game experience. Now, two weeks into practice and the position now has a solid six playmakers that can be counted on in the rotation thanks to the emergence of all three incoming freshmen. In fact, fish Uzoma Nwachukwu, Brandal Jackson, and Kenric McNeal are all in the two-deep and battling for starting jobs with the first unit. You couldn't ask for much more.

Tight End C

The tight end position has been quiet so far, but that's no reason to be concerned. Jamie McCoy is a proven commodity with his pass catching ability, but I'm slightly disappointed he hasn't taken more of a leadership role and presence on the field as a leader. Don't get me wrong, he's doing fine and has even improved his blocking a little, but I was expecting him to really step up his presence in the offense. Kenny Brown is a capable receiver, but he's not big enough to be a blocking tight end. Hutson Prioleau has the frame to do everything at the position, but early drops really set him back. He's making a move in recent days, but he's still running third team.

Offensive Line C+

I'm sure this grade will generate the most discussion among Aggie fans and rightfully so. The unit's horrendous performance in 2008 hindered the offensive production, especially against the teams with above average defenses. So it doesn't take much to get a passing grade in 2009 for this analysis. The interior positions with veterans Michael Shumard, Kevin Matthews, and Matt Allen has performed well this month, but the tackle spots present the biggest question marks on offense. The experiment with moving Lucas Patterson from DL to OL has not gone well so far, and he's been moved from the first unit to the second unit. Projected center Danny Baker was inserted at left tackle early last week, but he struggled as well and that was clearly seen in Saturday's scrimmage where Von Miller and Matt Featherston had a field day collecting 6-7 sacks between the two of them. The two freshman tackles have shown potential, but are they ready for prime time? We'll see. Bottom line, while this unit has the most questions, it's still a better unit than they were in 2008 which is why they earn a C+.

Defensive Line B

The first team defensive line has come together nicely. Von Miller has finally found his natural position at the Jack and he has come into his own this offseason. He has all-BIg 12 possibilities. On the other side, Matt Moss has exceeded expectations and he's been a pleasant surprise while Tony Jerod-Eddie and Eddie Brown are on schedule for what was expected from them as sophomores. If this group stays healthy, the DL will be salty. Rod Davis has lost weight and gained quickness and is a quality second unit tackle. The one area of concern is depth behind Moss. Otherwise, they will be improved.

Linebacker B-

Kyle Mangan has settled-in at middle linebacker and he has shown an ability to close in run support and pick up ball catchers in coverage. I was expecting the middle to be a weakness, but I think Mangan will be solid. I also think Garrick Williams has bulked up a little, but more importantly he's reacting quicker to the action and seems more comfortable out there which means he's playing faster. That's always a good thing. Ricky Cavanaugh has his moments, and the young backers are all pushing the two-deep. As a unit, they play much faster than any LB unit in at least six years.

Defensive Back A

You could see the improvement in the spring when the Ags had only a true freshman (Frederick) and a walk-on (McQueen) working first team cornerback. Both are still looking good. You just don't see many broken assignments or open receivers. They force the receivers to earn everything they get. For a unit that was an Achilles Heel for the No. 113 defense last season, this year's DB group has done a 180. Switching veteran Jordan Pugh from cornerback to safety paid off immediately in the spring and continues to be a great move in August. Trent Hunter is once again Trent Hunter, enough said. But the surprise has been the development of all the freshmen. The staff is excited about the three corners, with Dustin Harris taking a lot of snaps with the first team this week with Justin McQueen dinged up. Also, Jordan Peterson is starting to make some noise at corner. Steven Campbell is getting the most attention among the fish at safety and he WILL play. Overall, this could be arguably the greatest improvement on the team from last year.

Punting D+
There's a lot of inconsistency with this group and nobody has stepped up to win the job. If Saturday's scrimmage is any indication, Aggie fans will be happy with anything over 37 yards and hang time.

Kicking B

Randy Bullock appears to have strengthened his leg and is getting excellent lift and distance both on field goals and kickoffs. His accuracy has been pretty good as well, routinely knocking down 45 yarders in game situations.

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