Hop's Texas A&M Practice Report - Day 9

The Texas Aggie football team continues to grind through the brutal Texas heat as the squad nears the halfway point of fall camp. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop discusses the emerging competition at left tackle and other highlights from Tuesday's morning practice

The Texas Aggie football team neared the halfway mark of fall camp in grueling Texas heat as the squad worked out for 2.5 hours Tuesday morning in the one practice session of the day. The daily grind and the heat are starting to take its toll with quite a few players still out of action and practice looking sluggish at times.

"We were getting a little sluggish out there. The heat and the lack of numbers took its toll," head coach Mike Sherman said. "Some guys had to go double duty and we didn't cut back the workload. As long as we don't stack this performance tomorrow, we'll be okay."

The highlights of the day came with the ever-popular OL/DL one-on-one drills, which was the most competitive performances of the fall camp. In particular, the top three tackle prospects (Matthews, Joeckel, Thomas) combined to win 8 of 9 sets and received rare praise from OL coach Jim Turner. The offensive tackle competition is shaping up to be one of the best in fall camp. Mid-term freshman Luke Joeckel immediately won the left tackle spot in the spring, and often-overlooked sophomore right tackle Brian Thomas manned the right tackle. Many observers expected heralded freshman Jake Matthews to eventually win the right tackle starting spot.

Well, nobody expected Brian Thomas to hold on to his spot among stiff competition, and with a successful shift of Matthews to left tackle, the competition is up in the air and Texas Aggie football appears to be the beneficiary of such riches of talent at the position. Frankly, it's simply too close to call right now. In drills today, Jake Matthews had three more great sets and he's yet to lose one since shifting to the left side. Plain and simple, he's the best pass blocker on the team. His foot speed, balance, and his high football IQ combine to make him a sure future NFL prospect. On one set, Matthews started getting in trouble, but readjusted and recovered. Turner seemed very pleased, "I like what you did right there with your back foot. That means you are thinking. That's what makes a good lineman right there."

Luke Joeckel also had a perfect day and he seems to have risen to occasion with the new competition on the left side. Turner also provided him with positive feedback. Turner has been working with Thomas on squaring up with the defender on the snap and it seems like he's picking it up. He won two of his three reps, getting beat slightly on an inside move after overstepping to the outside, but he was also going up against Tony Jerod-Eddie who is a tough draw in this drill.

The other big news in the drill was the positive performance of Matt Allen who rumbled on several reps with Lucas Patterson. The two seniors had the best sets of the drill, going hard with bull rushes and hand-to-hand combat with most resulting in a stalemate. After one set, Coach Turner praised both players "Now that's good football right there by both of you guys. That was a lot of violence and that's a good thing in football. Good job."

Turner has been working with Patrick Lewis on keeping his arms and hands inside his body. Early on, Lewis had a tendency to get his arms out and locked up with the defender which can be interpreted as holding by the referee. He did a very good job of doing that today, using more of a punch inside versus grabbing on the outside.

With Shep Klinke's extra long frame, he's had some issues with losing leverage and allowing the defender to get under his shoulder pads. Turner has worked on him to get lower by bending more at the knees and widening his stance that lowers him further and gives him more stability. Klinke put that to good use today and he had a good day, getting kudos from Coach Turner.

Evan Eike is quietly having one of the best fall camps of all the offensive linemen. He isn't flashy and he doesn't get much feedback from Turner mainly because he's doing what he's supposed to do in a workmanlike manner winning most sets.

On defense, Eddie Brown and Brandon Jackson had a couple of good sets against the second team OL. Brown's hands are extremely strong and he can grab and shed blockers with success. Jackson used a very strong swim move to get past his blocker a couple of times. Overall, it was a great session for both units...best of the camp so far.


News and Notes

- Jerrod Johnson is showing signs of throwing a tighter ball and seems to be slowly knocking the rust off from sitting out the spring season. He's still not where he needs to be, but he threw two impressive deep balls with a tight spiral and adequate strength. He still releases some floaters and wobblers, but his mechanics have improved over last week.

- Ryan Tannehill has nailed down the #2 QB spot and he continues to look impressive as the signal caller, but he started taking a few more reps at wide receiver this morning and his performance caught the eye of Coach Sherman. In fact, Sherman said Tannehill is technically a better receiver now than he was a year ago even though he's taking very few snaps. Sherman said Tannehill is the kind of athlete and football player that will be successful at a number of positions if he wanted. He also hinted that Tannehill definitely is an NFL prospect...somewhere.

- Sherman also said that the staff planned to evaluate several players and discuss position changes. In particular, they will decide whether to leave Rhontae Scales at nose guard or move him back to the offense. He said Scales has done some good things, but it appears that he'll be behind Patterson and Brown so they are going to discuss where he brings the team the most value at this point.

- Going into the fall camp, I mentioned some unanswered questions regarding Kyle Mangan's run support skills and whether he's physical enough to make his presence known in the middle of the Aggie defense. Well, he is starting to answer that question with several hard hits and stops near the line of scrimmage. He made several nice tackles this morning.

- Terrence McCoy keeps impressing me with his combination of route running and his consistent hands. He's got good size to go with his skill set and he's doing his best to hold on to his starting WR spot even though Uzoma Nwachukwu is making a strong run at it. In the end, I think McCoy's hands are just a little better and he has the slight lead in retaining his job...but it's close and it's still early.

- Randy Bullock continues to have a strong fall camp, hitting 5 of 6 field goal attempts in live drills from 30-42 yards. His kicks are also very high with good power which will minimize the chances for a blocked kick.


Injuries

Ryan Swope returned to practice in the morning, but was limited to individual non-contact drills and did not participate in live drills. Steven Campbell continued to work for a second straight day but he's still limited to some degree getting his ankle re-taped early in the morning session. Trent Hunter has returned to action without limitations. Brandal Jackson and Malcolme Kennedy have returned to the practice field as well.

Jonathan Stewart, Cyrus Gray, Hutson Prioleau, Kenric McNeal, Garrick Williams, and Dustin Harris are still nursing nagging injuries, but all are expected back in a matter of days.

The Aggies will resume two-a-days on Wednesday with a morning session at 8:25 AM and an afternoon session indoors at 4:00 PM.


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