Texas A&M Football: Spring Practice Position Battles Tracker
Texas A&M is one of the favorites to win the SEC and a legit frontrunner to compete for a national title.
Before we begin to look that far ahead, let's go in-depth to the work that will done during spring practice, which will ultimately go a long way in determining whether the high expectations for the Aggies come to fruition.
These next couple of months leading up to the spring game that will be played on April 13, 2:00 p.m. CT, will help determine just what the 2013 Aggies are really working with.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his troops have already began spring practice and have a lot of questions to answer before expectations can be met. With a defense that lost more than half its starters and losing two of the top three receivers, everything isn't lollipops and rainbows in College Station just yet.
Let's take a look at the 2013 Texas A&M spring preview.
Note: This slideshow will be updated with the latest news, position battles, injuries and more.
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Update: April 15
If you needed to know who stood out during the spring game, look no further than quarterback Johnny Manziel. He was completing each and every pass he threw, making plays with his feet and showing the college football world there may in fact not be a sophomore slump, according to Aubrey Bloom of 247Sports.
“I’m not paying attention to the sophomore slump or whatever it is,” he said. “People said there was a freshman or Heisman hangover or whatever and that was whatever. I’m not worried about that, I’m worried about making sure my teammates are in this together and we’re all ready for the summer and we’re ready to conquer the task ahead of us.”
Other than Manziel, Oklahoma transfer in running back Brandon Williams also had a terrific day. Making plays in the passing game and showing off the wheels, he provides yet another weapon for this Texas A&M offense.
As for the defensive side of the ball, Nate Askew did a solid job of getting to the quarterback, while Reggie Chevis was great in run support.
Update: March 8
It is no secret that the defensive side of the ball needs work. Losing majority of the playmakers and a lot of the production from last year, the Aggies are basically starting all over. After a recent practice, according to David Harris of Aggies Sports, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder reminded everybody that there is still a long way to go with this unit.
"We're starting all over again," Snyder said. "I just told the group we're very, very similar to our first practice last year. The fortunate thing is we don't have to play tomorrow. Thank goodness. We have a ways to go."
One of the issues that Snyder brought up was the fact there isn't a lot of experience, which also means that there a few guys that must step up and become leaders to for the defense.
"There's not a whole lot of [leaders yet]," Snyder said. "Donnie [Baggs] did a pretty good job getting us lined up. Toney Hurd is very vocal, playing with a lot of energy. We're getting a little leadership but not a ton of it."
The Aggies will take next week off for spring break.
In other news, if you can't make it to the spring game, don't worry about it. Texas A&M will have the event televised live on ESPN on April 13 from 2 to 4 p.m. CT.
Update: March 6
As if the depth on the defensive line couldn't become more of an issue, this unit has further thinned out, as Ivan Robinson has torn his Achilles and is expected to miss anywhere from five to six months.
As for defensive lineman Kirby Ennis, there is much work to do before he becomes a key part of this defense, according to Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN. Ennis was suspended from the team after being arrested last month. He is also recovering from offseason surgery.
Also, running back Trey Williams is expected to participate some point during spring practice after offseason surgery, according to Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News.
Nate Askew wasn't able to hack it as a wide receiver, so the coaching staff thought it was best to move him to the linebacker position. With questions on the defensive side of the ball, this may be a better fit for one of the more athletic players on the team. To hear head coach Sumlin speak on why he ended up making the change, click here.
Johnny Manziel may have been treated like a rockstar during the offseason, but Sumlin doesn't want to hear any of that. He told James Sullivan of The Battalion that the Heisman Trophy winner still has work to do, as does the rest of the team.
“From every standpoint, every aspect this program, we’re still playing catch-up with everybody in the SEC,” Sumlin said.
With that mindset, it is safe to say that Manziel will continue to be pushed just the rest of the guys.
Key Offensive Battles to Watch
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Regardless of how great Johnny Manziel is at quarterback, he can't pass the ball and catch it at the same time. He needs receivers to help him out and, with Ryan Swope, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Thomas Johnson all leaving one way or another, the Aggies need receivers to step up.
Guys such as Malcome Kennedy and Derel Walker saw playing time last year and are expected to build on last season’s production. Senior Nehemiah Hicks will also be given a look after really putting up pedestrian numbers his first three years on campus.
This spring, the Aggies will get a boost from 2013 recruits JaQuay Williams and Cameron Clear, two players who are talented enough to earn a starting job if everything goes well in practice. Also, a massive target in redshirt freshman Edward Pope, who is 6’4”, should not be ruled out just yet.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Mike Evans, Malcome Kennedy and JaQuay Williams
Actual Winners: TBD
Again, Manziel is a terrific talent and there is no fear of him losing his starting job anytime in foreseeable future.
However, the Aggies must find a reliable backup this spring. With the running style that characterized the Heisman winner's style of play, there is a higher risk of him getting nicked up due to taking unnecessary hits. With Jameill Showers transferring to UTEP, it leaves the spring competition between Matt Joeckel and Matt Davis.
Joeckel is entering his junior year and is the most experienced signal-caller next to Manziel, with 11 pass attempts last year. Davis is a redshirt freshman who will bring a strong arm and a dual-threat style of play to the equation.
Due to overall experience, I'll give the slight edge to Joeckel to win the job this spring.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Matt Joeckel
Actual Winners: TBD
Key Defensive Battles to Watch
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There may be no facet of this team that hit harder than the linebacker position. Even the wide receiver corps features a unit of playmakers to plug in expected to thrive. With the bunch on the second layer of the defense, though, there are plenty of question marks and uncharted territory is always a scary place for a coaching staff.
The Aggies lost both Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart, leaving Steven Jenkins as the only returning starter on the weakside.
Donnie Baggs is somebody who saw more and more playing time down the stretch and could fill in the middle linebacker spot quite nicely. As for the strongside, Nate Askew will move from wide receiver to the defensive side of the ball, but will have to compete with 2013 recruit Tommy Sanders for a starting spot.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Steven Jenkins, Donnie Baggs and Tommy Sanders
Actual Winners: TBD
The pass rush will be focused on quite a bit this spring. Along with the losses at the linebacker position, the defensive line took a hit when the Aggies saw Spencer Nealy and Damontre Moore both pack their bags, more than likely for the NFL. As Bleacher Report's own Barrett Sallee indicated, proving this defensive front can get after the quarterback will be the key to this team’s success moving forward.
The problem that we have is that the most experienced defensive linemen such as Julien Obioha and Kirby Ennis are both still trying to recover from injuries this spring. This allows a young player such as Alonzo Williams to make a move at his new defensive tackle position. Gavin Stansbury could prove to be a viable option at defensive end and redshirt freshman Polo Manukainiu will have a chance to prove he was worth the hype coming out of the 2012 class.
This unit will have to prove itself quite a bit this spring before the coaching staff can feel comfortable.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Julien Obioha, Alonzo Williams, Tyrell Taylor and Gavin Stansbury
Actual Winners: TBD
Early Enrolees Report Card
JaQuay Williams, 4-Star WR - A tall wide receiver at 6'4", who has the ability to be a red-zone threat immediately. With the lack of experience at the receiver position and several vacancies, I expect him to be thrown into the starting rotation by the time spring is come and gone.
Post Spring Practice Grade: B (Williams showed some of his potential during the spring game. There is little doubt he will play right away.)
Tommy Sanders, 3-Star OLB - It is really only a matter of time before Sanders is a full-time starter on defense. He brings incredible speed and physicality to the game, with an ability to play sideline-to-sideline. His JUCO experience will pay off and he will serve in one of the new starting linebacker roles for the Aggies.
Post Spring Practice Grade: B (Sanders has received a lot of hype and a lot of that is well deserved. He has performed well this spring.)
Brett Wade, 3-Star ILB - Wade should see some playing time as a first-year player due to his aggressiveness in run defense. He reacts well and usually always ends up in on the action. A solid tackler, this is somebody who should continue to rise up the depth chart.
Post Spring Practice Grade: C (Wade had a solid spring practice and then topped it off with a productive performance in the spring game.)
Cameron Clear, 3-Star TE - Clear is somebody who could play receiver or tight end, but due to his great hands, he will be a pass catcher for this team. Really just an athletic big man, Clear looks more like a 6'6" tight end that is trapped in a wide receiver's body. Like many freshmen in this class, he will see the field early.
Post Spring Practice Grade: C (Clear wasn't as productive in the spring game as I thought he would be, but he is still a lock to see immediate playing time as a freshman.)
Reggie Chevis, 3-Star ILB - Chevis will push Shaun Ward for playing time at middle linebacker. A well-built player at 6'1", Chevis has great instincts and really packs a punch when out there on the field. Plays the game with a high motor, which may endear him to the coaching staff
Post Spring Practice Grade: B (Chevis looked great during the spring game and likely earned himself some reps during the regular season.)
Alex Sezer, 3-Star ATH - First we must find a position for Sezer, as he has the ability to play running back, but may never see the field with a log jam at the position. He could also play receiver or cornerback, but will have to bulk up his 180-pound frame. You have to love the potential, but he may not play as early as he would like.
Post Spring Practice Grade: C (I'm not sure Sezer has found his place yet within this Texas A&M roster.)
Jordan Points, 3-Star SDE - Points provides versatility on the defensive line as he can play either defensive end or defensive tackle. Not the greatest athlete in the world, but he gets off the ball well and plays the game with a high motor. Probably the most underrated early enrollee for the Aggies.
Post Spring Practice Grade: C (Points still has a lot of work to do before cracking the two-deep. Although he was great during the spring game and could see playing time at some point his freshman season.)
Jeremiah Stuckey, 3-Star OT - Stuckey has the ability to develop into something special, but you would like to see him continue to grow into his 6'6" frame. A bit on the leaner side, it wouldn't be surprising if he is given a year to continue to bulk up.
Post Spring Practice Grade: C (Stuckey struggled in the spring game and is still on track towards receiving a redshirt)
Sleepers to Watch
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Offensive Sleeper: Tra Carson, RB - You wouldn't know it by all of the attention the quarterback position receives, but Texas A&M goes under radar in terms of deth at running back, so much so that Trey Williams will have to earn his way back into the rotation after he recovers from injury.
This is why Tra Carson deserves a look this spring. A transfer from Oregon, Carson brings terrific size and a workhorse attitude to the table. Capable of pounding the ball between the tackles and wearing a defense down, this is the type of back that every SEC offense needs leading the way.
Defensive Sleeper: Brandon Alexander, DE - Alexander has really fallen off the map after being a highly recruited player in the 2011 class. He wasn't that effective as a true freshman and struggled to make the transition to the 4-3 defense, which resulted in him receiving a redshirt last year.
However, in terms of pure athleticism and ability to be that true pass-rusher for a team that lost a lot up front, Alexander is your man. He is quick off the ball and is lengthy enough to make a ton of plays in the backfield.
If he is finally able to live up to those expectations, he could find himself starting at the defensive end spot.