Some housecleaning information before I hit on the events of practice.
The story of Ricky Cavanaugh has been cleared up. He is listed on the full roster because he is still on the team. However, he wasn't included on the 105 active list that can practice in August. Cavanaugh will rejoin team workouts for game week. It was insinuated that the issue was academics and that Cavanaugh had a heavy class load this session and he needed to improve his grades to stay eligible so the decision was made to have him focus on his schoolwork.
Steven Campbell was doing some light jogging, but still walked gingerly on that bad ankle. He's getting closer, but I would be surprised to see him Thursday.
Jonathan Mathis was at practice and working some drills. However, he couldn't go live because he has to go through the first two days in shorts and helmet per the NCAA rules. So don't expect to hear much from him until after the Sunday scrimmage when he'll finally get in full pads.
Tommy Dorman worked out with the linebackers today.
Late in practice, Ryan Swope took an awkward hit from Terrence Frederick and he went down for a couple of minutes with what appeared to be a knee injury. He could put some light weight on the leg and it seemed to get a little better by the end of practice. Based strictly on my observations, it looks like he may be out a few days, but Coach Sherman said it was more of a contusion on the quad than it was a structural strain on the knee.
Defense, defense, defense.
Did I say defense?
The shoulder pads came on this evening, and the defense took it to a new level...especially the #1 unit. They flat out dominated the #1 offense, especially in the passing game where the defensive front was relentless in bringing pressure from the outside (Von Miller) but also from up the middle with Tony-Jerod Eddie, Ben Bass, and Eddie Brown among the group.
The offense completed very few passes downfield in the 11-on-11 live sets and a big reason for that is the front seven...the group Aggie fans were concerned about in the offseason. During the last extended live 11-on-11 set that typically ends the practice, I was on the sideline just a few feet behind Tim DeRuyter and a couple of his assistants. He's like a mad scientist signaling in different calls and frantically turning to his assistants "have we taught them ***** scheme yet?". If he got a nod he'd wave off the initial call and would signal in the new one. Toward the end of the 7 minute session of dominance, DeRuyter turned to his coaches and said, "We haven't even blitzed in this set have we" and he had a huge smile on his face.
Well, for every positive, there is a negative when it comes to fall practice....and there were negatives on offense. The most glaring issue was the poor performance of Jerrod Johnson. For those that say that my practice reports are too positive and a bit of sunshine pumping, well take note because I must say that I haven't seen Johnson struggle this much in a workout since his freshman year. Granted, a lot had to do with the defense completely throwing the offense off its game and Johnson was scrambling for his life, but his passes simply lacked zip, often fluttered, and floated high on many occasions. Even in 7-on-7 drills when the pass rush was not a factor, his passes on out patterns didn't get to the mark quick enough, and a couple of corners jumped it and intercepted the ball in front of the receiver.
It's early and all players (even the good ones) have bad practice sessions at some point during the August grind, so it's not time to panic, but I'm watching his progress very closely and wondering if the new release is part of the issue.
On a positive note for the offense, there were 2-3 big plays but they came from the running backs. Christine Michael looks much better to me this season because he's more decisive in his cuts and finds the hole and accelerates through it like everybody else is slow motion. He busted one for a 35-yard touchdown romp. Toward the end of the session, Cyrus Gray juked a defender out of his shoes and flew down the sidelines for a 40+ yard touchdown run that drew cat calls and celebrations from the offense. I'm also warming up to Kalvin Guyton as well and Coac Sherman made mention of his play.
The receivers as a whole are doing just fine. If the ball is catchable, they catch it. It's a very nice group. Nate Askew showed off his great hands with the second team taking some nice passes from Ryan Tannehill. I thought Tannehill had his best outing since early in the spring. His timing is comfortable and adequate, his passes are smooth spirals that hit their mark, and he hit several long balls tonight - one going to Uzoma Nwachukwu in the corner of the end zone that had to be a perfect strike. Granted, he had less pressure with the #2's versus Johnson, but Tannehill clearly had the better day.
Since we're talking quarterbacks, I thought the freshmen signal callers really struggled in live drills. Jameil Showers throws a nice ball, but he reminds me of Stephen McGee and he seems to have troubles finding targets down the field and holds on to the ball too long. Now, he's a freshman so there's no need to over-analyze this...but for those that have been saying that Showers is a slam dunk to beat out Tannehill next year...well, he has a lot of catching up to do. Matt Joeckel is also a long way off, as he should be as a freshman.
But overall, it was a coming out party of sorts for the defense. They played hard and played physical. In fact, Sherman thought they were too physical and shortly after the Swope injury he called the team together and told them to be smart and not take the big hit when players are only in shoulder pads and there's no protection below the shoulders.
Players that caught my attention:
1) Tony Jerod-Eddie - TJE seemed to have the motor running tonight and got a lot of push up the middle and made several nice stops on run plays. We all know he has the physical tools to be a very good player, so if he can keep the motor running for multiple practices and plays at a consistent level, he could have a good season.
2) Christine Michael - He accelerates though the hole much like Mike Goodson but he's a tougher runner and his decision-making is much better this season...as you would expect for a sophomore with a season under his belt.
3) Von Miller - I hesitate to use valuable report space on Von because he catches everybody's attention all the time. Barring injury, I have no doubt that Miller will have an all-American season and he could be A&M's first 1st round draft pick since......Sammy Davis in 2003?
4) Ben Bass - He joined in on the front seven party. His improbable story from rags-to-riches after leaving football to get his grades in order after a devastating freshman academic year is simply amazing. Now, he's seriously competing for a starting spot and appears destined to get into the two-deep rotation.
5) Jared Jaroszewski - I mentioned him a little bit last night after hitting a couple of nice, high punts, but I wasn't going to jump on the bandwagon so quickly. Well, I'm a step closer to the wagon after seeing his performance tonight. He clearly has the strongest leg of the punters. But, on his last attempt in live drills, he boomed a high ball that hit the top of the bubble and fell straight down. I'm pretty close to calling this race, but I'll wait a few more days.
Freshmen that lit it up:
1) Demontrae Moore - I was one of those cynics that wasn't sure he could play the joker at 6-foot-6, but he uses that length and wingspan to get to the edge ahead of his blocker and he makes it difficult for the quarterback to throw a shirt swing pass to his side of the field.
2) Nate Askew - Not only does he catch everything within reach, but I love his acceleration for such a big target. He is also making a strong pitch to be the team's punt return.
3) The Louisiana DL's - I really like these guys. They are a new breed of DL athlete on the A&M roster. I'm not saying that they will be difference makers just yet. It's too early. I'm just saying that they have the physical build and athleticism along with a little attitude in their play. That's typically a winning combination.
4) Clay Honeycutt - The kid is strarting to get it and he made a couple of nice plays closing on the ball and breaking up some passes. He's getting a lot of attention from the staff, which means they think he has potential to be a player and it means he's still inexperienced and making mistakes.
Hop's Camp Report - Day Three
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