Texas A&M Football: First Impressions from 2014 Fall Camp
The Texas A&M football team began fall practice Friday in preparation for their road-opener against South Carolina on Aug. 28. It was readily apparent that there have been some changes to this team since the end of the 2013 season.
The 2014 version of the Aggies will be younger than their 2013 counterpart, but more experienced and more talented. Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have done an excellent job turning the roster over and replenishing it with SEC-level talent.
The Aggies look like an SEC football team now. Whether or not that translates to more victories on the field remains to be seen. The absence of Johnny Manziel and his confident demeanor at practice is apparent.
This is a new team with new players waiting to step up and make their mark on the program. This is a look at some of the first impressions from the first couple of day of the Aggies' fall camp.
When Kevin Sumlin took over the Texas A&M program in December of 2011, he set out to "improve the profile" of the team. In layman's terms he wanted the team to get bigger.
In the Big 12, teams can succeed on defense with 240-pound defensive ends and linebackers who weigh in at 215 pounds because they're defending the spread offense every week. In the SEC, those defenders get run over on every Saturday.
Sumlin and his staff have done a nice job of recruiting SEC-caliber athletes. The 2014 squad is noticeably bigger physically than the 2013 team due to natural maturation and some hard work in the weight room.
Some of the more noticeable weight gains include running back Tra Carson who is up five pounds to 235, freshman offensive lineman J.J. Gustafson who is up 18 pounds to 295, sophomore defensive end Daeshon Hall who is up 15 pounds to 260 and freshman defensive end Qualen Cunningham who is up 27 pounds from his listed weight on signing day at 247.
The 2014 Aggies should be better prepared to do battle on both sides on the ball than their 2013 counterparts because of the increased size and strength.
There were multiple players who appear to have gained an extra step since the end of the 2013 season. In what can only be viewed as a great sign for the Aggie defense, sophomore middle linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni looks quicker in drills and scrimmages despite a nine-pound weight gain that has him up at 244 pounds.
True freshman receiver Speedy Noil displayed the kind of explosive quickness that one would expect from a 5-star receiving prospect. He should be an instant impact player at receiver and on special teams.
Junior running back Tra Carson is up to 235 pounds but appears lighter on his feet. He obviously spent the offseason preparing to be a bigger part of the Aggie offense in 2014.
Overall, the 2014 Texas A&M football team appears to be bigger and stronger than the 2013 version. The program is advancing towards the level of talent needed to consistently compete at an elite level in the SEC.
Freshmen of Influence
A few of the freshmen have stood out during the first couple of practices. As one would expect, 6'4", 255-pound defensive end Myles Garrett has drawn rave reviews for his physical stature.
Garrett looks like a junior or senior in an SEC program, not the true freshman that he is. He and Daeshon Hall are going to be counted on to provide the Aggies with a consistent pass rush in 2014.
Frank Iheanacho has stood out because of his size. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones has an extra year in the weight room on him, but Iheanacho is taller and thicker than Seals-Jones. If Iheanacho can make plays on the field, he will find himself in the wide receiver rotation against South Carolina.
As long as he stays healthy for his freshman season, wide receiver Speedy Noil is going to make an impact. The quickness and change of direction he displays on the field are simply special.
The Aggies have increased their depth across the board. There are still areas of concern, like at linebacker and safety, but overall this team is deeper than the first two that Kevin Sumlin has put on the field.
Sumlin was particularly happy with the defensive line depth that was present during the first couple of practices. The defensive lines are what separate the SEC from all the other leagues.
The elite teams in the SEC bring in top-quality defensive linemen off the bench and send them after opposing quarterbacks in waves. The Aggies are trending up in this area.
If freshmen such as Myles Garrett, Zaycoven Henderson, DeShawn Washington and Qualen Cunningham can make an impact, then the Aggies should have a very solid defensive line in 2014.