The Texas Aggie football team worked out in shorts and helmets as the team practiced for two hours Tuesday evening. Sophomore Ryan Swope once again had a productive session, capped off by an over-the-shoulder 40-yard touchdown pass from Jerrod Johnson in the back of the end zone that drew cheers from the fans in attendance. Swope is proving to be one of Johnson's favorite targets so far with his ability to create yardage on short safety valve plays as well as his ability to stretch the field with his sub-4.4 forty speed. For the second straight day, Swope did not drop a pass. With his versatility, expect the Austin Westlake product to have a big year in 2010.
Overall, the defense had a good session utilizing numerous blitz packages and speed from the linebacker position to flush the quarterbacks out of the pocket, forcing a good number of throw-a-ways and incomplete passes. Junior Garrick Williams knifed through the line of scrimmage on several plays to quickly force the quarterback to dump the ball. After practice, head coach Mike Sherman praised his junior inside linebacker from DeSoto.
"In August, I look for players to stack good performances. It's one thing to have a good day," Sherman said. "But you look for the guys that can give you consistency and take care of their business every day. Garrick has done that so far. He's really stepped up for us and has gotten off to a good start."
Special teams breakdowns was a huge problem for the Aggies in 2009 which likely resulted in a couple of losses and the difference between an 8-5 and 6-7 season. As a result, Coach Sherman is emphasizing the basics of the return game and kick coverage, and he likes what he's seen so far.
"It's early and we haven't put it all together yet," Sherman said. "But I like the tempo, the techniques and mechanics of what we're doing out there. I was a little disappointed in the deep snapping, but we had some good punts and overall the punt coverage and kick coverage has been excellent."
News and Notes
- After an inspired performance on Monday, junior Lionel Smith moved up to the first unit at cornerback. Dustin Harris moved down to the second unit along with impressive freshman Toney Hurd.
- Redshirt freshman running back Kalvin Guyton flashed some moves and looked like he's ready to compete with Bradley Stephens for the No. 3 running back spot. True freshman Ben Malena is also showing well, and he's particularly effective catching the ball out of the backfield
- Kenric McNeal has started strong so far, due in part to adding muscle mass and filling out. McNeal started strong as a freshman in a couple of early season non-conference games, but faded when competing against more physical Big 12 defenses
- Despite being named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list this week, sophomore Uzoma Nwachukwu is currently sitting behind senior Terrence McCoy on the depth chart and it has more to do with McCoy's inspired play than a drop-off by Nwachukwu. McCoy had another big day on Tuesday, getting behind the defensive coverage several times and using his body and gentle nudge on one play to separate from the defender and catch a 35-yard touchdown pass.
- DL JUCO transfer Jonathan Mathis was not cleared for practice on Tuesday. Sherman indicated that his academic paperwork looks good and it's simply a matter of completing the process and signing off on his eligibility.
- 6-foot-4, 280-pound DL prospect Elliott Porter from Arch Bishop Shaw in Louisiana was at practice on Tuesday and he was on his official visit. Porter committed last summer to Les Miles and LSU and signed with the Tigers in February. However, LSU oversigned and earlier this month was told he didn't have a scholarship. Porter has visited Oregon and Kentucky and will make a decision on a new school after he leaves A&M on Wednesday. He'll be immediately eligible to participate in practices if he chooses the Aggies.
Position Highlights and Analysis
I thought Jerrod Johnson had a solid day, but I wouldn't say he was crisp. His passes were generally on the mark but they had some flutter to them and didn't seem to have the zip we saw last year. He threw a pretty 40-yard TD pass over the shoulder of Ryan Swope who had Steven Terrell draped all over him on what was the play of the day.
Ryan Tannehill had his moments and made some good plays, but he also threw short to a wide open Terrence McCoy that would have been an easy score. Tannehill is a good spread technician and does well getting rid of the ball quickly and hitting men in stride coming out of the backfield. He needs to improve his long ball.
Frankly, I was rather disappointed in both freshmen. Jameill Showers seemed to have a lot of trouble picking up receivers in the 7-on-7 drills I watched. I watched Matt Joeckel on a few snaps going against the third team and he was picked over the middle on an ill-advised pass. The freshmen need to step it up.
It's really hard to tell a lot with backs when they are working out in shorts in thud mode. A back makes his living on second effort yards and you just don't get that in shorts. With that said, I really liked some of the moves and the high stepping coming from Kalvin Guyton. Rumored to be possibly leaving a week ago, Guyton is competing for the third spot behind Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray - and if one of those two goes down for any length of time, the No. 3 will see plenty of action.
I'm really liking what I see out of Kenric McNeal. He's definitely added some weight and strength, and it shows. He's mixing it up a little more and seems to have improved on his quickness and moves in the offseason. We mentioned Swope earlier in the play of the day, but I can't say enough about this kid. He has speed to beat you downfield. He has great hands and rarely drops a pass, and finally he's very adept at taking a safety valve pass along the sideline and turning a 2-3 yard minimum gain into a nice 6-7 yard gain with some nice footwork. Nate Askew had a couple of acrobatic catches and he looked more comfortable on day two. Sherman mentioned nate by name after practice as someone who caught his attention. .
I also think Terrence McCoy is making it difficult for Uzoma Nwachukwu to win his starting job back. McCoy keeps finding ways to get behind the defensive coverage and make big plays. He also knows how to use his body and give a subtle nudge against the DB at the last second to gain enough separation to make the catch.
Hutson Prioleau is really starting to grow on me. He's not a great route runner. He's not a great pass catcher. However, he's a big-bodied prospect that can make plays he's supposed to make with the ball in his hand. Nothing fancy, just very solid. More importantly, he's Sherman's first true tight end going into his third season. I really like Nehemiah Hicks' frame and size. They haven't thrown much to him so far so I'm not sure about his pass catching, but he looks the part.
More of the same from my in-depth analysis of the OL last night. I think Evan Eike is quietly having a good camp so far, but everybody wants to talk about the freshman (uh, me!). I fall in love more and more when I see Jake Matthews in one-on-one drills against the DL. While many of the OL's are really working hard to stay in front of their man waving their arms all over the place and lowering their heads to "reach" their guy who got past them, Matthews is simply so quick and balanced that he makes it look so easy out there. In any other year, I'd be praising Brian Thomas for stepping up at the right tackles spot because he's actually doing a pretty good job, but I find it hard to believe that Matthews doesn't overtake Thomas at some point over the next month or so.
With Thomas still with the first unit, the second team OL consists of one senior at center (Baker) and four true freshmen (Matthews, Klinke, Harrison, Ogbuehi). I'm still feeling the love for the Navasota Nasty. He still needs some seasoning, but I envision that kid to slide right into Eike's slot when he graduates. I like what I've seen from Klinke and Ogbuehi as well. I think Sherman hit the jackpot with this OL class.
There were a lot of questions earlier about Stephen Barrera and Rhontae Scales, so I focused on those two a little bit. Barrera doesn't have the impressive, long frame of these Louisiana freshmen but he is quick off the ball and fairly active. I'd like to see him play with a little more power, but overall I think there some promise that he could eventually be a contributor. I don't know if he has difference maker caliber of talent.
As practice moved along today, Istarted seeing signs of life from Rhontae, and by the last sessions of 11-on-11 Rhontae was doing some disrupting and flushing Tannehill out of the pocket. Of the three Louisiana DL's, I think Ivan Robinson may be the best playmaker of the bunch but I also liked some of the reps from Brandon Jackson. He slung around Harrison pretty good on one rep. Eddie Brown, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Kirby Ennis are solid, if not difference makers, and then you have Ben Bass who is having a nice camp so far. In fact, Bass even took 25-30% of the first team snaps in Brown's spot. I think A&M will be fine at end.
Other than Von Miller, I really liked what I've seen from Garrick Williams. He seems to be doing the right things and keeping his assignments in coverage, but I really liked his acceleration and pursuit when he blitzed and got into the backfield. He has another gear. As I said last night, I like Porter. For some reason, Jonathan Stewart is trying to put all the pieces together. He doesn't seem to be comfortable out there for some reason. Other than having Cyrus Gray juke Charlie Thomas out of his shoes on a swing pass in the flat, I think Thomas has a future at Texas A&M.
Lionel Smith's efforts on Monday earned him the starting corner spot opposite Terrence Frederick. Dustin Harris and Toney Hurd worked with the second team. Coryell Judie just hasn't seemed to step it up and is languishing on the third team. That has surprised me. Steven Terrell is getting comfortable in his starting role and he's developed a little smack talk and confidence. You can do that when you run a 4.38 forty and you are making plays. Depth is the issue at safety. Malcolme Kennedy looked the part and moves fluidly at the strong safety spot, but it's way too early to know if he'll be up to speed and ready to play a critical back-up role at the position.
The team had one session of live field goal kicking. Randy Bullock is by far the best place kicker. The tall kid from Kentucky just isn't ready in terms of kicking field goals. He was all over the place, but Bullock hit everything under 40 yards and he made three of four from 42 yards and his lone miss hit the upright.
The most promising news was at punter. They had Ryan Epperson and Jared Jaroszewski alternate in live punting drills, and Jared hit some nice high and long punts on four of the five he booted. The one below average punt was a low liner about 35-38 yards...acceptable if it's the worst of five punts.
That's about it. The team goes again at 6:30 PM on Wednesday.
Hop's Camp Report - Day Two
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