Texas A&M Football: Previewing 5 Biggest Position Battles Heading into Fall Camp
The Texas A&M football team will start fall practice and its preparation for the 2014 season in two weeks. With a number of starting positions up for grabs, the 2014 fall practices should be spirited affairs.
The Aggies return five starters on offense and seven on defense. A few of those starting spots were decided in spring, but some of them still remain open.
The Texas A&M coaches need a few players to step up and have breakout years, especially on defense. How well these key positions are filled will determine the kind of 2014 season that the Aggies have.
This is a look at the top position battles of the 2014 Texas A&M football team as it heads into fall camp.
When sophomore linebacker Darian Claiborne was dismissed from the football team, it left an opening at the weak-side linebacker spot. Claiborne was one of the Aggies' best defensive players in 2013 and was a natural, instinctive linebacker.
His loss leaves a tremendous hole in the linebacker corps. There are three linebackers who will compete for the starting spot on the weak side in Donnie Baggs, A.J. Hilliard and Tommy Sanders.
Baggs is a senior who started at middle linebacker to begin the 2013 season but was overwhelmed at the position. He started one game at weak-side linebacker in 2012 and is the favorite to start at the position in 2014.
Hilliard is a transfer from TCU who will be eligible this season. Sanders started on the weak side in 2013 but was not physically big enough to stand up to SEC blockers. Both he and Baggs were benched for poor performances.
Expect Baggs to win the battle to start on the weak side. If he can play like he did in 2012, the Aggies should have a solid corps of linebackers.
There is a group of three players competing for the starting job at right guard on the offensive line. Sophomore Germain Ifedi started at right guard in 2013 but moved outside to right tackle in the spring.
Junior college transfers Avery Gennesy, Jermaine Eluemunor and senior Garrett Gramling will all try to earn the starting nod during fall practice. Gramling started two games at left guard in 2013 and performed very admirably.
Gennesy impressed the coaches with his athleticism during spring practice and is getting a serious look as the backup right tackle. If you look at the history of this position under offensive line coach B.J. Anderson, he liked to play his linemen at guard before moving them outside to tackle.
Senior Cedric Ogbuehi spent his sophomore year at right guard before moving to right tackle as a junior and then left tackle as a senior. Ifedi spent his sophomore year at right guard and will play right tackle as a junior.
Do not be surprised to see Gennesy start at right guard in 2014 so he can move outside to right tackle in 2015 when Ifedi is expected to move over to the left side.
The Aggies have a lot of talent at the running back position returning for the 2014 season. They have three junior running backs returning in Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams.
Carson and Trey Williams are going to compete for the starting spot during the fall. They have two distinctly different running styles.
Carson is a 6'0", 230-pound power back who excels at running between the tackles. He has more wiggle than you would expect for someone his size and averaged 5.3 yards per carry while scoring seven touchdowns in 2013.
Trey Williams is a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. He is electric with the ball in his hands but has struggled to remain healthy during his first two years on campus.
Expect Carson to win the starting spot at running back and to lead the Aggies in carries in 2014.
Weak-Side Defensive End
The question of who is going to start at the weak-side defensive end position for the Aggies in 2014 may be even more important than the question of who is going to start at quarterback. The Aggies need to generate a pass rush from their front four on defense, and the responsibility for that will rest at the feet of the weak-side defensive end.
Daeshon Hall is a 6'6", 260-pound sophomore who saw a lot of action on the weak side in 2013. He will compete with incoming freshman Myles Garrett for the starting spot.
Hall had 29 tackles with three tackles for loss and an interception in 2013. Despite undergoing surgeries on both shoulders during the offseason, he has added close to 20 pounds of muscle and should be more capable of holding the edge against the SEC offensive linemen than he was in 2013.
Garrett was ranked by some as the top recruit in the country. He is a 6'4", 250-pound athlete who should contribute immediately in 2014.
Expect Garrett to earn the starting spot and line up on the first defensive play against South Carolina on August 28. He is simply too talented to sit on the bench. The Aggies should have a much improved pass rush with a rotation of Garrett and Hall at the position.
Everyone wants to know who will replace Johnny Manziel at quarterback. Sophomore Kenny Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen are the two candidates to replace him.
Both participated in spring practice, although Hill missed the last week after being arrested for public intoxication. The two were even in spring practice and will continue to battle for the starting position during fall camp.
Hill offers the Aggies a running component that Allen does not possess, but Allen was running neck and neck with Hill during spring practice despite Hill's extra season of experience in the system.
Expect Allen to take the first snap against South Carolina. He displayed maturity beyond his years during the spring and will continue to improve with more time in the system.