Every year it happens at some point during the summer, although it is not always the same way.
On my desk in my construction trailer I have a desk calendar that I end up scribbling lots of notes and phone numbers on. I was on the phone the other day and I noticed "M.Gold" scrawled in blue ink. "M.Gold" is short for Morgans Gold, which is a street in the neighborhood that I build in. For that moment in time, I started to think about our walk-on cornerback Marcus Gold - are we really so thin at CB that we could be playing two walk-ons for a second year in a row?
It was at that moment that I realized I had the itch.
This is going to be my 10th season of Aggie football. That really hit me when I realized that. Once you can say, "I've only missed two home games in the last 10 years" it really drives home the point that you're a complete Aggie football fanatic.
The craziest part....I've never sat anywhere but in the student section.
The thing I love is the passion and the tradition and the history of college football, which is what has made it an almost perfect fit for me to be an Aggie.
I didn't really follow football until I got to Aggieland. I think I had been to two Rice games....and I went to a ton of high school games, but it was because that was what you do in Texas on a Friday night....and that was about it.
I don't know much about the X's and O's of the game but I love it as a fan and that's what I try to bring to this website.
With Justin Brantly now graduated, I have to figure out who my new favorite player is going to be. My freshman year it was Toooooombs, then from '01-'04 it was T-Murph, and then Brantly from '05-'08. It's not really something I can just announce: So-and-SO is now going to be my favorite player. It has to be a feeling that kind of creeps up on me during the first few games. We're got so many youngsters that it should be fun to pick out someone to follow for the next 3 or 4 years.
Here's to the 2009 season....may it be better than 2008.
ScheduleThe schedule doesn't work out quite as well for our Ags and Coach Sherman as it did last year. The home schedule is ok with a lot of fluff plus two Top 10s (oSu & t.u.) but we have some really rough road games at tech & OU with others at KSU and CU and then we have Arkansas at a neutral site. The last time we had this conference schedule (same home/away with same Big 12 north opponents) was in 2005 - which most of us don't remember because we have spent 4 long years working on getting it blocked out of our memory.2009 Fightin' Texas Aggie Schedule Date Opponent Time TV ================================== 09/05 New Mexico 6:00pm - 09/19 Utah State 6:00pm - 09/26 UAB 6:00pm - 10/03 v. Arkansas TBA TBA 10/10 Oklahoma St 2:30pm - 10/17 @ Kansas State TBA - 10/24 @ texas tech TBA - 10/31 Iowa State 2:30pm - 11/07 @ Colorado TBA - 11/14 @ Oklahoma TBA - 11/21 Baylor 2:30pm - 11/26 texas 7:00pm ESPN
Hopefully, we're going to have more televised games than that but at this point in time we don't know what networks are going to pick them up. As those networks make their decisions I expect a majority of those game time slots, particularly the Big 12 games, to shift in-order to fit the network's schedule.
I'll run through our non-conference opponents quickly....
New Mexico was our big road win from last season, and they were a lot worse than I thought they'd be.
Utah State is just a fluff home game....but it will pit the Aggies v. the Aggies. They were 3-9 last year, which was their best record since 2005 and they're picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the WAC.
Alabama-Birmingham is the same. They play in C-USA and they have one winning season since 2001 and are projected to finish at the bottom of their conference.
Arkansas is going to be a fun series for us to restart. By the end of this contract there is going to be some bad blood between the two schools, which is fine with me. They play a strange schedule where they spread their OoC games throughout the season, starting with Missouri State but jumping right into SEC play with Georgia (9/19 on ESPN) and Alabama (9/26) before us - so we should have a good idea of what to expect from them before we get'em.
I'd be comfortable if we go 3-1 in our OoC....unless the loss isn't against Arkansas.
In Big 12 play it's hard to say because we were so bad last year and we lost some games that we shouldn't have. At Kyle Field - we should beat Iowa State and Baylor but OkSt and tu are both Top 10 preseason and I think it would be a bit of a stretch to say we "should" beat them. Can we, yeah, but we'll be big underdogs in both of those games.
Our road games are rough at tech and OU with CU and KSU our Big 12 north opponents. Even though tech should drop fairly dramatically from last year we have always struggled in the friendly atmosphere in lubbock - haven't won there since I was 12 years old....and OU has lost only twice at home since Stoops took over. I feel like we should win at KSU and CU but after last year, they're certainly not gimmies - I project we split them and end up 1-3 on the road in Big 12.
That gives us an overall regular season record of 6-6, which is about where we should be.
Coach ShermanSherman came under a good bit of heat last season as we fell to the bottom of the Big 12 and finished 4-8, a record that was worse than Fran's the previous season. Of course I didn't like losing to Arkansas State and the Baylor game was the worst I've ever seen, but in year one I don't think it defines the coach.
That said, there were a few things I disagreed with Sherman on like the use of Jorvorskie Lane, kicking a FG in the texas game, etc. but there isn't a coach out there that I would agree with everything on.
We all know that the lifeblood of a program is recruiting and I think that Sherman has done an excellent job there. He was able to hold together a strong class last spring (c/o '08), and added to it some great players (Cyrus Gray, Jeff Fuller, Trent Hunter, Terrence Fredricks). He filled a tremendous number of need positions with his first full recruiting class (this past February) and was able to do so only losing one player who couldn't qualify....and also without a single decommit after our horrific on-field 2008 season. We loaded up on at OL, LBer, and DB - our three largest holes - and stocked up the freak athlete WR category....and oh yeah, landed 5* RB Christine Michaels.
The 2010 class is already stacking up to be one of our best in recent memory and we still have a couple of scholarships in reserve to make a run at someone else at signing day (or pick up an unexpected transfer). I'm not going to get into it too much because they haven't officially signed their letters of intent yet and that won't happen until February but Sherman & Co. have really gone out and landed some great talent.
Newcomers & Jersey Number ChangesI don't normally include this as a section in my annual previews, but I think it will be beneficial. Coach Sherman said that 60-65% of the freshman will contribute so there are going to be a lot of people trying to figure out who is running around on the field.NUMBER CHANGES ========================== Trent Hunter 22 --> 1 KJ Williams 14 --> 6 Garrick Williams 32 --> 8 Cody Beyer 88 --> 9 Terrence McCoy 83 --> 11 Chris Caflisch 87 --> 17 New Faces OFFENSE DEFENSE ============================= ============================= 7 Nwachukwu, Uzoma WR Fr-H 4 Judie, Coryell DB Jr-T 14 Furtch, Keon TE Fr-H 9 Thomas, Charlie DB Fr-H 23 Jackson, Brandal WR Fr-H 10 Porter, Sean LB Fr-H 25 Swope, Ryan WR Fr-H 11 Stewart, Jonathan LB Fr-H 33 Christine, Michael RB Fr-R 13 Gardiner, Desmond DB Fr-H 34 Tolliver, Jay RB Fr-R 18 Mangan, Kyle LB Fr-R 35 Graybill, Cole FB Jr-T 20 Campbell, Stephen DB Fr-H 44 Guyton, Kalvin RB Fr-H 22 Harris, Dustin DB Fr-H 61 Lewis, Patrick OL Fr-H 23 Terrell, Steven DB Fr-H 62 Hyde, Jeffrey OL Fr-R 24 Johnson, Malcolm LB Fr-H 64 Barrera, Stephen OL Fr-H 26 Valencia, Colton DB Fr-H 68 Naron, Clint OL Fr-H 29 Cheatham, Blane DB Fr-R 70 Allen, Matt OL Jr-T 37 Hodges, Michael LB Jr-T 71 Thomas, Brian OL Fr-R 42 Ennis, Kirby DL Fr-H 72 Ayers, Josh OL Fr-R 43 Arteburn, Aaron LB Fr-H 73 Scales, Rhontae OL Fr-H 44 Wolridge, Andrew DL Fr-R 78 Lathrop, Chris OL Fr-R 45 Michael Lamothe LB Fr-H 80 Prioleau, Hutson TE Fr-H 50 Rod Davis DL Fr-R 85 McNeal, Kenric WR Fr-H 80 Dorsey, Adren DL Fr-R 90 Weaver, Andrew DL Fr-H 26 Wood, Ken P So-T 99 Nealy, Spencer DL Fr-H 36 Ryan Epperson P Fr-R
Cyrus The Great
The offense is going to be better than last year simply because of the experience - at all positions.
Under Coach Fran in 2007 we ran the ball 61% of the time and threw only 39% of the time but Coach Sherman changed things up balancing the offense out at 47% rush & 53% pass. If we stay in that neighborhood of balance, which I imagine we will, and with somewhere right around 65-70 snaps per game that gives us ~32 rushes and ~36 pass attempts per game.
QuarterbacksLast season, when Coach Sherman moved Ryan Tannehill to WR, he promised that he would give him a legitimate shot at playing QB. Then this spring Tannehill had surgery on his shoulder and couldn't take any reps at QB. Sherman continued to hold that stance this summer saying that there would be a competition for the starting QB spot.
I just couldn't buy that. First of all, Jerrod Johnson was very good last year for us as a sophomore QB. Second of all, Tannehill was a BEAST at wideout. Third of all, I didn't think Tannehill - right now - was a better QB than JJ....he would likely be our first back-up. Then he went out in camp and really impressed. I'll be the first to say that I was quite surprised that he made it such a heated competition.
The issue now boils down to the value of Tannehill as a WR compared to his value as the #2 QB. The problem arises - who is our #2 QB? Tommy Dorman or walk-on transfers Winston Gamso (SMU) or Giovanni Vizza (North Texas)? I'm not sure that any of those guys are capable at this time of stepping into the huddle and beating a Big 12 South opponent.
Ok, so we've established that Jerrod Johnson is our starting QB and we have no depth at backup. So long as health is in our favor you have to be pleased with his sophomore campaign. Even with the tail off at the end of 2008, JJ had one of the better passing seasons in school history.A-C-Int TD Yds Pct ============================= ArkS <----- DNP QB -----> NMex 19-10-0 3 124 52.6 Mia 32-19-1 3 275 59.4 * Army 10-6-1 1 53 60.0 *started at QB oSu 43-24-2 2 218 55.8 * KSU 41-29-0 2 419 70.7 * tt 39-26-0 0 283 66.7 * ISU 39-31-0 4 381 79.5 * CU 31-15-0 3 214 48.4 * OU 31-11-2 1 162 35.5 * BU 30-19-4 1 244 63.3 * tu 11-4-0 1 62 36.4 *
I'm willing to say that JJ had ONE OF THE BEST passing seasons in school history. Not one of the best overall QBed seasons ever but from a passing standpoint I don't think there is an argument. He broke the single season school record with 21 TD passes and he threw for 2,435 yards, which was 345 yards shy of the school's single season record....and he only started 9 games at QB (remember he started the beginning of the year at WR). Against Kansas State and Iowa State he put his name in the school record books throwing for the most and fourth most yards in a single game, respectively, with 419 & 381 yards. He also sits currently second on the school's career completion percentage list (58.9%).
Our offense is much more pass-oriented now than it has been in the long term history of the program but comparing the last few seasons with Farris, Long, Reggie, and McGee - who all seem to be atop all of our passing record lists, JJ broke their records with fewer chances.
JJ's record 21 TD passesTop Passing Seasons in A&M History (chronologically) G Att-Cmp-Int TD Pct Yds YPG =================================================== 1968 E.Hargett. 10 348-169-14 16 48.6 2321 232.1 1982 G.Kubiak.. 10 324-181-11 19 55.8 1948 177.0 1986 K.Murray.. 11 349-212-8 17 60.7 2463 223.9 1999 R.McCown.. 11 295-152-10 14 51.5 2374 215.8 2000 M.Farris.. 11 347-208-9 10 59.9 2551 231.9 2002 D.Long.... 12 333-177-16 19 53.2 2509 209.1 2004 R.McNeal.. 12 344-200-4 14 58.1 2791 232.6 2005 R.McNeal.. 10 265-141-9 16 53.2 1963 196.3 2006 S.McGee... 13 313-194-2 12 62.0 2295 176.5 2007 S.McGee... 13 364-211-8 12 58.0 2311 177.8 2008 J.Johnson. 11 326-194-10 21 59.5 2435 221.4*
(*JJ played some QB in 11 of our 12 games but I want to note that the YPG stat kept by the school did not take that into account when dividing his season total of yards by the number of games played. They used all 12 games he appeared in to calculate his YPG at 202.9. He came off the bench at WR in the Arkansas State game and did not play any QB & he started at WR in the Army game but did play some QB)
I think that it is fairly clear from the numbers that he had one of the top seasons throwing the football in A&M history. I think that Reggie's junior season of 2004 was THE best passing season we've seen but I think that as a sophomore JJ was more polished than Reggie was at that point in his career (read: his sophomore year - 2003) so I'm kind of excited to see if he can take the big leap as a junior as well.
One thing that was apparent to all was that JJ seemed to struggle in our final three games - HOWEVER - there were a few huge factors.
- The first was that two of those games were against top 5 nationally ranked teams (OU and texas) and we were expected to get slaughtered (I have no explanation for BU). I know that isn't what everyone wants to hear but it is a factor.
- The second was that he didn't have a healthy WR corps (two starters, Fuller and T.McCoy, both missed the OU game).
- The third was the fact that the offensive line was (a) very bad & inexperienced to start the season (we had seven OLmen who made their first career start - and if that wasn't bad enough those seven accounted for 2/3 of our starts throughout the season); and (b) completely decimated by that point in the season (we had to pull a RS off of Joe Villavisencio simply because we had to have 5 guys on the line to field a team).
I believe I made a comment sometime towards the middle of the season that if JJ had the protection that Cart McCoy and Graham Harrell had he'd be better than they were. Maybe I was a little ahead of myself but we'll find out in 2010 when we can see what he can do with an experienced OL.
Last year, to put it nicely, our O-Line was terrible. We returned two All-Conference tailbacks (Goodson & Lane) and added two 4* freshmen backs (Stephens & Gray) and then went out and ran for a 43 year low, 88.5 yards per game. That was good for 114th in the nation (out of 119 teams).
We also allowed 39 sacks which was had the highest sack total given up since 1998 when we were sacked 41 times. More than those horrific early Fran years.
As I mentioned previously, we had no experience and no depth and we were beat up.
This year the depth should be better, and we have some experience but the talent will improve and as the talent improves it will come with flashes of youth. Shoot, the guru Phil Steele has our OL unit ranked #18 in the nation.
This offseason I took a pretty detailed look at our OL and how it got to the point we're at now where Sherman is digging us out of.
Coach Sherman was quoted after the spring game and again at the end of July on his thoughts on the OL:At end of spring: "We struggled in the offensive line, I thought," Sherman said. "We're going to try to coach them up and try to get them to a point where they play like we want them to play."
At the end of July: "I think they have made a lot of progress," Sherman said. "We need to improve our tempo, but as far as blocking, they are doing pretty well. From where they came from, they have made a lot of progress."
Michael Shumard will move back to his natural position of LG (from LT), Lee Grimes will move to RT (from RG), Kevin Matthews will return at center, Danny Baker took Lucas Patterson's spot at LT (putting him back on the defensive side of the ball), and we'll have Matt Allen at RG, backed up by returning starter Evan Eike. Robbie Frost will not be returning for his senior year, taking a medical scholarship after suffering a career ending injury(ies).
In addition to those guys coming back, I imagine that we will see at least one of either Rhonte Scales or Stephen Barrera not RS this year and play as a true freshman. As I mentioned we're going to add LSU transfer, Matt Allen - who sat out 2008 due to NCAA transfer rules, and a slew of freshmen (redshirt and true) who indicate the start of the new talent coming into the system. That depth is the night & day difference from last year.
Prior 2008 OL Exp 2008 ============================ D.Baker......... 1/0 9/1 (T/C) E.Eike.......... 0/0 12/12 (OG) L.Grimes........ 8/0 12/12 (OT) K.Matthews...... 9/0 12/12 (C) J.Russell....... 0/0 1/0 M.Shumard....... 17/5 12/12 (OG) J.Villavisencio. 0/0 2/1 (OG) V.Williams...... 5/0 9/1 (OT) ---------------------------- RS Freshmen: J.Ayers (T/G), J.Hyde (OT), B.Thomas (OG) True Freshmen: S.Barrera (OT), P.Lewis (C), C.Naron (OG), R.Scales (OT) (G/GS)
Of the redshirt freshmen we have lost LeRoy Chevalier who suffered a career ending back injury. I was really looking forward to big Chevy getting onto the field.
2008 was similar to 2003 in terms of experience (and our final season record) so will 2009 be similar to 2004? I think most Ags would be thrilled with that, although I think the schedule will keep us from a Cotton Bowl trip.
While we will see improvement, I still think we're a year or two away from having a really good OL. The 2010 recruiting class is looking to be the best OL haul we've had in about 15 years.
We calculated earlier that with the more balanced offense under Coach Sherman we'd have ~32 rushing attempts per game. Our QBs ran somewhere right around 9 times per game which cuts us down to 23 attempts to split between the running backs.
Last year was one of the worst rushing seasons we've experienced in the last 50 years but it was much more a result of the blocking than the talent with the ball.
So who will be toting the rock? We lost 3 of our top 4 runners (Goodson - NFL, J-Train - graduation, Keondra Smith - left team to concentrate on his degree). Even so, we have a handful of highly recruited runners.Att Net Avg TD ========================== C.Gray..... 75 363 4.8 1 B.Stephens. 15 68 4.5 0 J.Johnson.. 94 114 1.2 3
Add to those two big runners the crown jewel of Coach Sherman's recruiting efforts thus far - 5* Christine Michael.
Mike Goodson had some problems making it to class and as a result he saw his playing time diminish, which opened up touches for Gray. I really thought that as the season went on, he got much better.
I also really like Bradley Stephens but he had some trouble keeping a handle on the ball. I know it was something that he worked hard on this past spring and I know that Coach Sherman said that he would get carries so long as the other team didn't end up with the ball.
We really don't feature the fullback very much but when he is on the field he still plays a vital role in the offense blocking. As the season progressed last year we morphed more into a spread offense to keep JJ off his back so I don't know exactly what Coach has in mind in terms of formations for this season. When we do use the fullback I think we'll probably see Anthony Vila with a backup combination of Cole Graybill, a LBer transfer from Arizona, along with RS-F Jay Toliver.
Alright so we have 3 tailbacks to split up 23 carries. I imagine the fullback will get at least 1 touch per game so that brings us down to 22 carries. To start the season I think Gray will get 10-11 touches with Stephens and Michaels spitting the other 11-12. As the season progresses the guy who produces will get more touches....as it should be.
Wide ReceiversNo Yds TD ====================== R.Tannehill. 55 844 5 J.Fuller.... 50 630 9 J.McCoy..... 43 500 5 T.McCoy..... 24 237 1 H.Morrow.... 10 147 0 C.Gray...... 10 60 0 B.Stephens.. 3 18 0
Jerrod wasn't just throwing all those TD passes to himself.
I expected Jeff Fuller to step in and contribute as a true freshman but I don't think we expected him to excel as much as he did. He set not just the freshman record, but the school record with 9 TD receptions....even after he had one stolen by a phantom holding call. At the M&W Game this past spring I told my father-in-law that T-Murph is one of my favorite players ever but Jeff Fuller is the best WR we've ever had.
While I expected contribution from Fuller, I had no clue that Ryan Tannehill would put up the numbers he did. He caught everything thrown his way, spun out of a couple of tackles, and came 41 yards shy of setting the school receiving yards record - even though he missed at least a game and a half due to injury.
We also bring back Terrence McCoy, our third starter, and Howard Morrow - a guy who I've been touting since he arrived on campus but has simply not been able to excel, for reasons unknown to me. I talked about Morrow quite a bit in last year's preview and he has received a good bit of ink from the local media in terms of improvement and being in great shape (lost 23 lbs).
We will also bring in one of the most talent-packed freshman WR classes we've seen in Aggieland. Ryan Swope (who ran a 10.70 in the 100-meters at the state UIL as a senior) will play a little bit of the A-Back role - catching passes out of the backfield as well as lining up in the slot as a receiver. Uzoma Nwachukwu (who from here out will be referred to as EZ), Brandal Jackson, and Kenric McNeal are the other three freshman WRs and each one of them has a chance to be big-time players for us over the years. I wouldn't be surprised to see any of them play as true freshmen, but I do think I would be surprised to see all of them play without someone taking a redshirt.
At tight end we return Jamie McCoy and add to it Kenny Brown, who has played about a dozen positions and is one of those guys that seems like should have graduated 3 years ago but is still only a junior. Both are almost pure pass-catching mismatch TEs.
They'll be backed up by RS-F Keon Furtch (who was recruited as a DB) and true freshman Hutson Prioleau, who is the most traditional TE of the bunch. I don't think I read anything on Furtch during the team practices but Prioleau apparently turned some heads.
DefenseYes, the Big 12 features a lot of VERY high powered offenses but wow, we were really, really bad last year. The 2008 Aggie defense was the worst defense I think we've ever put on the field....for many reasons.
The coaching staff has really focused on putting speed, speed, speed on the field and in the next couple of years you're going to see it with our recruiting classes. We're going to be better from a talent standpoint but experience is going to hurt us. The coaches have all said in some form or another the same thing, "We're going to play hard and play fast.... but we might be running the wrong direction on some plays."
It also came out that the staff has been picked the brain of Florida D-Coordinator, Charlie Strong this past spring. I'm sure the X's and O's help but I'm pretty sure he didn't hand over any 5* recruits.
I'm not sure what the official name of the formation is, and I'm sure you'll find 10 different things to call it. You'll hear lots of people calling it a 3-4 and lots calling it a 4-3 but basically we're running a 3-3-1-4. We'll have 3 DL, 3 true LBers, a JACK, and 4 DBs. The JACK is a hybrid defensive end/LB. His job is to cause disruption with either his hand on or off the ground. We're trying to get more speed on the field to combat all the spread offenses.
As a result of last year (and the previous seasons), I have no expectations for the defense. Although we have a handful of talented guys I have major concerns with all three units as a whole (DL, LB, DB) with regards to both depth and experience. I just want to see improvement showing that we're going in the right direction. It is going to take several years to turn this defense into a respectable bunch - but it can be done and I think we're on the right track.
The biggest thing that leaped up at me in our final three games of last year was that our defense didn't force a single turnover. I went back through my old box scores back to 2001 and discovered that we had never had three consecutive games without forcing a turnover and that our record is 0-19 when we don't force a turnover. There's a big key for you. That is how Baylor beat us - we coughed it up 5 times and they didn't. There aren't enough snaps in a football game to overcome having five fewer possessions.
Defensive LineGoing into last season I thought we'd be in OK shape at DL with Mike Bennett and some promise the year before from youngsters Lucas Patterson and Kellen Heard. Solid starting lineup but not much depth.
This year Bennett graduated and Heard left the football team (but will stay in school to graduate). Cyril Obiozor was the other starter at DE going into last season and he graduated as well. Paul Freeney had to retire due to an eye injury and Ben Bass, who moved back to the DL from TE thsi spring, is no longer on the squad.
This year's defensive line is last year's offensive line....our biggest hole.
This is a VERY young group of players. We have a total of 22 career starts returning....7 are from sophomore Tony Jerod-Eddie who looks to be starting ahead of Lucas Patterson (who has 12 of the other starts).
During the off-season I spent some time and documented how we got to this point with our DL.
At defensive tackle we have the sophomore duo of Tony Jerod-Eddie and Eddie Brown (who started the final two games of his freshman season) and Lucas Patterson. Behind them all we have are freshmen - Adren Dorsey (FR-R), Andrew Wolridge (FR-R), Rod Davis (FR-R), Chris Lathrop (FR-R), Kirby Ennis(FR-H), and Spencer Nealy (FR-H).
Clearly the freshmen, particularly the ones that redshirted last year, haven't impressed the coaching staff which played a part in the decision to move Patterson back to the DL after spending most of the summer working out at OL. That concerns me.
At DE we bring back senior Matt Moss....and inexperience (Cody Wallace, Michael Ebbitt, and KJ Williams - who made the move from TE).
Defensive line scares me a bit.
The mysterious JACK position was apparently designed specifically for Von Miller, who tried his hand at LBer for the first part of 2008 before moving back to DE. Von was the talk of spring camp (he was a freak in the M&W game) and I really hope that this move is successful.
Here is Coach Sherman's discription:Basically, Von gets to do what Von does best - attack the QB on every snap."The jack position depends on what front we’re in. He could be an end, he could be an outside linebacker, we could move him around and use him in a blitz mode like what we used to call a “spinner” in the NFL. It’s a linebacker playing defensive end and linebacker. He can rush the quarterback. Von Miller has a lot of potential as a pass rusher and as a linebacker so we want to be able put him in a position to be able to do both. We want him to be able to blitz him off the edge in a 30 front, be able to flip him over to the field and bring him off the field side in an overload, and be able to put him down in a 4-3 and rush as well. It’s usually a stand up position."
My fear is that since the DL is going to be so weak, Von is going to be non-factored by getting a constant double team from our opponent's OL.
Senior Matt Featherston and true freshmen Andrew Weaver and Aaron Artebaum are Miller's backups at the JACK.
LinebackersWe used to be known for our linebackers and now it is a position that we've had trouble putting out enough starters.
Like the OL and the DL, I took a look at how we got to this point at the linebacker position during the offseason.
Here is how we're going to lineup at LBer:WILL - R.Cavanaugh/J.Stewert MIKE - K.Magnum/A.Lewis/Lamothe SAM - G.Williams/S.Porter/Dumas/Thomas
That is almost a totally different group of players from last year. We were forced to move Alton Dixon from safety to LBer mid-season and he's gone. Matt Featherston is the only guy who started more games than Dixon did and he's moved to the JACK position....ditto for Von Miller. Only sophomore Garrick Williams started a game for us last year, but he was the one replaced by Alton Dixon.
The linebacker position is one that the coaching staff has worked very hard to improve through recruiting and we'll start to see those efforts pay off in a year or so....but not quite yet.
We only return one upperclassman in Anthony Lewis and going into the season he only has one more career start than any of the freshman will. Garrick Williams is the most experienced LBer we have with 5 career starts and behind him only Ricky Cavanaugh has stepped foot on the field before (as his RS was, in my opinion, completely wasted last year). Walk-on transfer from Air Force, Michael Hodges, also got a lot of looks this spring with the first team but missed 2-a-days with an injury and isn't currently listed on the 2-deep.
You get the point. We're really inexperienced.
All the returning guys have been told that their spots are wide open and that all the freshmen will have a chance to play. Fr-R Kyle Mangan created some excitement this spring and summer as did true freshman Jonathan Stewart, who was a big get in this past year's recruiting class. You might also see Michael Lamothe (Fr-H), Sean Porter (Fr-H), Charlie Thomas (Fr-H), or Aaron Arterburn (Fr-H). The only freshman you won't see will be Malcolm Johnson who ought to redshirt coming off a knee injury. In fact, I'm willing to guarantee that there will be at least one time this season when we have 3 freshman LBers on the field at once.
One thing that is pleasing to see is that our freshmen are guys who played LBer in high school. It has been a long time since we had a linebacker who wasn't moved to the position from somewhere else.
LBer scares me too. We're a long way from those Wrecking Crew days.
Sophomore Trent Hunter
Our defensive backfield is another area that is a concern. We finished 95th in the nation in pass defense....and that includes Army completing one pass for four yards in our game against them.
Safety, I feel, is hands down the strongest defensive position we have. Senior Jordan Pugh and All-Big 12 sophomore Trent Hunter will start at free safety and strong safety, respectively, and should be backed up by senior Chevar Bryson and two freshmen, Colton Valencia and Steven Campbell.
It is at cornerback that we are really thin. Sophomore Terrence Frederick will start at one of the corner positions and either Justin McQueen (walk-on) or JUCO transfer Coryel Judie should start at the other. Behind them is whomever isn't starting between Judie/McQueen, walk-on Marcus Gold, senior Jordan Peterson (who has the most experience of any of the CBs) and freshmen Steven Terrell, Dustin Harris, Desmond Gardiner. It looks like Harris is the highest regarded thus far of that group as he was listed on the official 2-deep behind Frederick.
It is never good when you have two walk-ons in your two-deep rotation.
The defensive backs will be better than they should be IF our DL puts pressure on the opponent - but I'm not so sure how well that will work out for us. Von Miller becomes that much more important.
Special TeamsThe third, and typically most overlooked, unit of a football squad....special teams.
We have one huge hole to fill, and that is at punter after Justin Brantly, the second best to ever punt at A&M - and one of my favorite all-time players, has graduated. He will be replaced by one of three gentlemen: Ken Wood (SO-T from Montana), and true freshman Ryan Epperson. I have no clue who is the lead guy for the job - but it'll be one of those three.
At kicker we bring back sophomore Randy Bullock, who was pretty solid for us last year as a freshman. His only miss was a 49 yards attempt in the texas game.FIELD GOALS FGM-FGA Pct 01-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 Lg Blk ----------------------------------------------------------------- Bullock, Randy 6-7 85.7 1-1 2-2 2-2 1-2 0-0 46 0 FG SEQUENCE R.Bullock ----------------------------------- Kansas State (26) Texas Tech (46),(28),(18) Iowa State - Colorado (39) Oklahoma - Baylor - Texas (37),49 Numbers in (parentheses) indicate field goal was made.
Those are some pretty solid numbers, particularly for a freshman. He was also 20-of-21 on PATs.
Our backup kicker is
Our return game should continue to improve greatly.PUNT RETURNS No. Yds Avg TD Long -------------------------------------------- Pugh, Jordan 11 61 5.5 0 22 Brown, Kenny 1 24 24.0 0 0 Total.......... 13 95 7.3 0 22
The punt return game has been pretty bad for us for years and years. Jordan Pugh was serviceable last year but I expect to see the electric freshman Dustin Harris back there this season.KICK RETURNS No. Yds Avg TD Long -------------------------------------------- Gray, Cyrus 49 1169 23.9 1 98 Stephens, Bradley 13 210 16.2 0 26 Pugh, Jordan 1 0 0.0 0 0 Total.......... 64 1380 21.6 1 98
Cyrus Gray broke a bunch of records as our KR last year, but most of those records were as result of the number of chances he had (1,169 kickoff return yards was a school record, so was his 49 returns - shoot he is only 40 KR yards and 10 returns shy of the all-time school records - AND HE HASN'T EVEN PLAYED HIS SOPHOMORE SEASON YET). He did run one back against OU, which was, I believe, only the third non-blocked special teams TD we've had to go the house this decade ('06 Kerry Franks - texas tech; '03 Jason Carter - Nebraska was the other).
SHOCKER: Cyrus didn't make the 2-deep at kick-return. True freshmen Dustin Harris and Ryan Swope will start the season bringing back the ball.
Up Next....Load up and head to Kyle Field! WHOOP!
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