Hop's Scrimmage Report

The Texas Aggie football team scrimmaged on Saturday and the results were mixed. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop was there and has all the details on who looked good and analyzes the performance of QB Jerrod Johnson returning from offseason shoulder surgery

The Texas Aggie football team scrimmaged at Kyle Field for the second time during fall camp Saturday morning in an up-and-down performance that saw some spectacular plays from the defense and some dropped passes by the offense. The two units fought to a dead heat most of the day trading punches. However, it was the dropped balls on offense that drew the attention of head coach Mike Sherman after the scrimmage.

"We made some good catches out there but the offense also dropped about six balls and you can't function on third down if you're dropping passes," Sherman said. "We'll come back on Monday and work on that."

Asked if the defense has progressed to a point where he expects it to be, defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said he feels the defense is coming around but still has room for improvement.

"I need to look at the tape from today, but I think we're close," DeRuyter said. "We're still not clean in some of our run pursuits. I know we have some good runners that can make you miss, but we let some balls pop. We're looking for perfection, so we have some things to work on."

The defense continues to create turnovers, which has been a point of focus for the new defensive staff. Junior cornerback Lionel Smith had two interceptions and the unit stripped a couple of fumbles during the two hour scrimmage.

"That's probably the most encouraging thing is that the guys are going after the ball," DeRuyter said. "They are going out on the field with a purpose, not just to tackle but tackle the football. We're also disguising our coverage package where if the ball is thrown in the wrong area we're there to take advantage of it and Lionel did that today."

Quarterback Play

There's just no way around it. Jerrod Johnson is not throwing the ball well. It doesn't mean he's not reading the defenses and making the decisions on the field. In fact, he is. The issue is his arm and his mechanics of throwing the ball. He's simply not throwing a good ball. He doesn't throw a good, efficient spiral. He's also not throwing a strong ball, having troubles with getting zip and proper tempo on his throws. He's still completing passes, which is a testament to the offensive scheme and Johnson's knowledge and reads within that system. But his passes are arriving late because they are floating and not zipped. That causes two issues. One, the receivers are not catching the ball in space and that leaves little opportunity to create yards after the reception. Second, with the ball arriving late, it is setting up the receivers to take big hits and that's why I think there were so many drops…the ball is arriving late even if it's an accurate throw.

This is an issue, plain and simple. For example, with the first team driving and nearing the red zone, an A&M receiver gained separation on Lionel Smith going up the seam. Johnson saw it and threw a wobbly ball over the top that floated toward the receiver…but it floated too long and Smith stepped in front of the pass and had himself a pick six. Frankly, this looked like an easy touchdown throw and it turned into six points the other way.

Again, I don't know what the issue is here. Anything said is speculation at this point, but I can say that what I'm seeing is more than just a little rust that needs to be shaken off. The issue isn't accuracy. It's the ability to mechanically and physically throw a ball with adequate pace and tempo, and that's not happening now. He has two weeks to get it back.

A pleasant surprise of the day was the performance of Matt Joeckel with the second team offense. Ryan Tannehill was sidelined with a minor foot injury (should return Monday), so Joeckel and fellow freshman Jameil Showers was given the opportunity to see more reps in the scrimmage. Joeckel moved the unit down the field with several nice, crisp passes over the middle and scored on a QB keeper. Joeckel doesn't have a particularly strong arm, but his decision-making and tempo for a freshman is very good and he's improved in that aspect of the game over the past week.

Showers started out slow on his first two series having troubles with accuracy and finding his targets downfield. The Killeen native has the best arm on the team and he can throw some bullets in drills, but he's still learning to read defenses and quickly finding open targets downfield. With that said, he had a very impressive final drive hitting several intermediate passes over the middle. If and when he matures and becomes comfortable with the speed of the game, he can be special with his strong arm and ability to throw one of the nicest balls I've seen at Texas A&M.

News and Notes

- I don't know what happened to him in the spring, but Lucas Patterson is a different player right now and has been since midway through spring practice. Last year, Patterson was a contributor and made some plays, but for the most part he was adequate at best. He's been hard to block, whether at nose guard or defensive end. He played both positions today and he did a great job at both spots. He roughed up a very talented Luke Joeckel on a few plays and he will not be denied in getting penetration up-front. I think he has potential to play on Sundays.

- Bradley Stephens has had a very good fall camp. Now, he won't unseat Christine Michael or Cyrus Gray, but he has a nice cut move and decent burst. He had a 35-40 yard run and a big pass reception in setting up a touchdown score by the second unit. Sticking with running back depth, Ben Malena had a productive day. He's excellent catching passes out of the backfield, and he has very good footwork entering the line of scrimmage and can make some things happen. He's not fast, so his effectiveness is 5-15 yards down the field. Don't expect many 60 yard touchdown runs from Malena as he just doesn't have the breakaway speed.

- Yes, the receivers dropped some passes that they should have caught, but the lack of tempo is contributing to these drops. For the most part, this unit is good with Fuller, Swope, McCoy, and Nwachukwu looking to get the bulk of the catches. As Coach McMillian said yesterday after practice, no other team in the Big 12 has the type of size, speed, and playmaking ability at receiver that Texas A&M has at the position. The unit will be fine.

- The tight end situation is looking much better with the emergence of Hutson Prioleau and Michael Lamothe. Prioleau is that big-bodied tight end that Texas A&M hasn't had in several years. He also showed on a route to the sideline that he has good hands, and he's shown in practice that he'll use his power to get significant yards after catch. Even a bigger surprise is the emergence of LaMothe as a legitimate pass catching option. He had several 8-10 yard catches over the middle. He doesn't wow you with his size or ability, but he quietly gets the job done and will be a reliable safety valve option this season.

- Toney Hurd started at strong safety with Trent Hunter still sidelined with a minor injury. Coach DeRuyter was very complimentary of the true freshman and said that his switch to safety is permanent this season. I agree that Hurd has good instincts and he is the physical presence you need at the position, but his 5-foot-9 frame will cause some mismatches as it did in the scrimmage. On one play, Hurd was trailing Kenric McNeal but still right on his back on a post route to the end zone. The ball from Johnson was a bit late and a longer safety would have had a play on the ball and break it up. However, with Hurd's short frame, McNeal was able to slow down and use his body to wall off Hurd and make the touchdown grab. It was a good play by McNeal and not a bad play by Hurd…it's just a reality of the physical limitations of utilizing a 5-foot-9 safety as opposed to a 6-foot-1 safety.

Injury Update

I mentioned that Ryan Tannehill was in a protective boot, but according to the staff he'll be back practicing without limitations on Monday. The boot was a precaution. Tony Jerod-Eddie missed his third straight day, and Coach Sherman said that his return is unknown at this time which may be concerning although he was walking the sidelines without any noticeable limp or limitation. We've talked several times about the injuries at safety and nothing is new to report with Trent Hunter or Steven Campbell. Hunter was standing behind the defensive secondary helping call out the coverage play and we've been told his foot injury is minor, but he has missed 3-4 practices in the past week. Campbell's ankle injury isn't healing like they thought and he continues to experience swelling and soreness after testing it. Linebacker Sean Porter is expected to return on Monday, but no word on the extent of Charlie Thomas' injury. Coryell Judie left the scrimmage with what we were told was a sprained ankle and it was too early to know his status.

Off Day

The Aggies will have its one and only off day of fall camp on Sunday. Coach Sherman said he expects the players to take it easy and regain their legs for the final week of fall camp. The Aggies will resume two-a-day workouts on Monday with an 8:25 AM session and a 4:00 PM workout in the indoor practice facility.

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