The football team put on full pads for the first time in what was a physical and but controlled 2.5 hour workout. In fact, Friday's session was a stalemate between the offense and defense that had to be decided by a tiebreaker. The staff pulled out the punt machine and selected Rhontae Scales for the defense and Jarvis Harrison for the offense to decide which unit had to run after practice. The goal...simply catch the ball coming out of the punt machine. Sounds easy enough for a returner, but for the big fellas it's a challenge. Scales went first and after a few juggles, he secured the ball with his chest. Freshman Harrison first looked like he was going to basket catch the ball with his arms and chest, but at the last second turned his hands around and tried to catch it with his hands like a receiver. The change caused him to lose concentration and the ball dropped to the ground causing an eruption from the defensive group.
In the post-practice interview, somebody asked Coach Sherman to compare this year's team after one week to his previous two squads after week one. He said there is more intensity and hitting for sure...much more physical. He said that happens when there's competition and players are scared about earning playing time. He said Uzoma Nwachukwu has turned it up a notch because he's upset that McCoy is in front of him. Jonathan Stewart has stepped up in the last 2-3 practices when he realized that Demontrae Moore was about to go past him. Then he mentioned all the young guys at DL pushing the veterans. Sherman has to stay reserved in his comments with it being so early, but I get the sense that he really likes what he sees at most positions...especially DL, DB, RB, WR, and OL.
Let's go position by position:
I think Jerrod Johnson had a second consecutive "solid" performance after his sluggish effort Wednesday night. Johnson is still having consistency issues with his throws, mainly because he has a tendency to release the ball early causing the nose of the ball to be released higher than the tail and that's causing the fluttering and the floating. He can overcome this with his reads, especially on short and intermediate passes in the middle of the field. But his issues are more noticeable on out-routes to the sideline and also deep ball down the sideline. On several occasions on the deep balls, Jeff Fuller still makes the catch but the underthrown pass becomes a jump ball situation and not a pass caught in stride. Coach Sherman was asked about Johnson's performance and he feels that Johnson is still a little rusty from missing the spring and that he expects him to get back to where he needs to be by September.
Ryan Tannehill looked solid again today. Sherman got on him a couple of times for going to the deep receiver when he had a good check-down option open, but overall Ryan is having a pretty good fall so far. He moves well in the pocket and can create extra time to throw. He's probably the most mobile of the four scholarship QB's. Jameil Showers has the best arm and throws the best ball of all the QB's and he's a world-beater in passing drills, but his issue is reading the defense and finding a target quickly downfield. Matt Joeckel has put together two good efforts since that Wednesday night practice where he fell apart a little bit. He's good with the short passes, but he has some troubles with the long ball.
The running backs and linebackers went through a blocking drill to help the backs with pass protection. Christine Michael is the best blocker by far, probably followed by Guyton, Malena, Gray, and Jones. Coach Jordan was VERY vocal during the drill and with the exception of a few mistakes and missteps, he seemed generally pleased with this group's blocking.
In live drills, Cyrus Gray really threaded the needle through a small lane on a pitch right and seemed to shot gun out into the secondary and no one could catch him on a 60+ yard TD run. Christine Michael also had a nice long TD run. In fact, Sherman said he was very pleased with the overall defensive effort EXCEPT for these two runs. Guyton and Malena aren't quite as explosive and dynamic as Michael and Gray at this point, but I do think they've shown enough so far to be considered very credible depth for 2010 along with Bradley Stephens who keeps doing his thing between the tackles....not flashy but gets the job done.
Really, there's nothing new with the wide receivers mainly because as a unit they look pretty good. They don't drop many passes and they run good routes generally. I will give Terrence McCoy some kudos here. He's been one of the most pleasant surprises of the offseason and now fall camp. Thought to be a guy off the bench that is another wram body, he's turned into a playmaker who has a knack for getting behind the defense and he showed today he has very good hands making several really tough grabs on throws behind him. Uzoma Nwachukwu is having a great fall as well, but I'm not sure McCoy wants to let go of that starting spot going into his last collegiate season. Again, competition is a good thing.
I'm going to give it up for Hutson Prioleau. I think he has quietly had a nice fall, and a candidate for most improved offensive player. He's got a great tight end frame and he made a couple of very difficult catches today that impressed me. One was a low throw behind him that he caught with his arm against his hip and had the hand-eye coordination to stay with it and bring it into his breadbasket. Mike LaMothe is getting plenty of reps with the second unit and he has become a favored target of Tannehill and Showers as a short safety valve. He's not as big or as athletic as freshman Nehemiah Hicks, but he is making some plays. Hicks has all the tools to be a real playmaker in a couple of years. He has big hands and can make some spectacular grabs, but he can also drop the easy ones as well. He just needs a little more experience and consistency.
Really, not much to report since the last update. Coach Turner still has the same lineups for both top units. A lot of people overlook the first team veterans Evan Eike and especially Matt Allen, but I think both first teamers are having their best camps by far. And let's not leave out Brian Thomas who keeps doing well in one-on-one drills and in live drills. There's been a lot of buzz about Jake Matthews (which is justified!), but THomas isn't rolling over and giving up his job without a fight. But Matthews is just so talented and so technically sound for a true freshman that he'll push Thomas to the brink. For me, this is the most interesting battle for a starting job of the fall camp because it's so close right now...but man, Matthews is good. I don't see how you have him on the sidelines for that first series in September. Again, competition is a beautiful thing. Of the other freshmen, I think probably Shep Klinke is the closest to being ready. Cedric Ogbuehi is highly talented, but he's a little overwhelmed at times on the edge and he could use a little more strength and muscle mass. Jarvis Harrison ;looks like a beast, but he needs to improve coming off the ball using his feet more and his hands less. Gramling has the tools, but I must admit that Turner was all over him today about his technique.
For me, the biggest storyline of camp (next to Johnson's rusty start) has been the emergence of the defensive line and especially what now appears to be a lot of depth. With Jonathan Mathis having a second straight great practice, the skyrocketing fortunes of Ben Bass, and the potential of the Louisiana prospects, all of a sudden a perceived weakness two weeks ago is now molding into a strength. The DL is still certainly a work in progress, but the pieces are there. Even in shorts, the staff threw Mathis out with the second unit all day and he was making plays in live 11-on-11 drills. Sherman said that Mathis and Bass are certainly guys that he thinks have a shot to win the starting right DE spot. He also didn't rule out Ivan Robinson or Gavin Stansbury, although I think Robinson is further along right now. Stansbury looks like he still needs to gain a little weight.
Anyway, it was Bass working all day with the first unit along with Lucas Patterson and Tony Jerod-Eddie. Eddie BRown was shifted over to nose guard today and he rotated with Rhontae Scales at the #2 nose guard. I like what I'm seeing from Scales as well. He has some life at his new position. Overall, there's just a lot of different options right now, options this team didn't have last season.
The linebacker unit was dinged up a little and so the rotations were inconsistent. Sherman said that Hodges, Williams, and Mangan were clearly the top three linebackers and they are still searching for the fourth in that inside group. I thought Malcolm Johnson had his best day as an Aggie making several really nice run stops. In fact, after two consecutive big plays he was coming off with the second unit when the coach told him to stay out with the first unit because he earned the reps. Jonathan Stewart has taken advanaage of Sean Porter's absence and I think he's out of the doghouse with Coach Sherman.
With the interceptions yesterday, the staff rewarded Dustin Harris with a practice day with the first unit. He didn't disappoint either making several good plays. He seems to have finally shaken off the bad first day and his body language is much better. If THomas/Matthews competition is #1, then probably Harris/Smith at cornerback is the second most competitive spot on the field. Trent Hunter was not on the field. No word if it was injury related. Steven Terrel had a great day and received kudos from both Coach Sherman and Coach DeRuyter throughout the practice.
Two-a-days start tomorrow. Morning practice starts at 8:30 AM and the afternoon workout begins at 4:00 PM.
Hop's Camp Report - Day 5
Aggie Digest Top Stories
Know Your Foe: Five Questions On AlabamaThe Texas A&M Aggies are heading into their biggest game in recent history, with a chance to become the last unbeaten in the SEC. We "Get To Know" the Crimson Tide with BamaMag.com…
Aggie DigestThursday at 12:59 PM
Chavis Sees Progress, Looking For MoreThe Texas A&M Aggies are set to face off with the top ranked Alabama team in Tuscaloosa Saturday and defensive coordinator John Chavis met with the media Tuesday to discuss the big…
Aggie DigestTuesday at 4:57 PM
Aggies Have Good Health Heading Into ShowdownTexas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin knows the importance of being at full strength heading into Alabama. Coming off a bye week last week, the Aggies appear to be back to full…
Aggie DigestTuesday at 12:14 PM
Inside the Matchup: Texas A&M vs AlabamaIt's a battle of the top two teams in the SEC West.
Scout CFBTuesday at 11:15 AM
Video: A&M Players Talk Alabama PreparationsThe Texas A&M Aggies have a huge game in front of them this week, traveling to face the top ranked team in the country in Alabama. Several players met with the media Tuesday and…
Aggie DigestTuesday at 10:56 AM