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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Sumlin balances national expectations, youth

 
 

For many students at Texas A&M, the arrival of spring signals midterms and spring break. But for A&M football and head coach Kevin Sumlin, another topic occupies their minds: spring training.
Were excited to get spring football underway and kick off 2013, Sumlin said in a Friday press conference. Weve got a number of guys who have been role players ready to be serious contributors in this program. Were looking to build leadership. Were looking for chemistry.
Heading into spring practice, the team that began the Aggies stint in the Southeastern Conference with an 11-2 record and a victory in the Cotton Bowl has even lured a national audience: ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
Herbstreit dropped in for an early appearance at the indoor football facility during the Aggies initial practice on March 2. Additionally, ESPN College Gameday announced via Twitter that it plans to make a pit stop in College Station for the annual A&M Maroon and White game on Apr. 13.
This is a team thats going to be a Top 5, Top 7 team next year, Herbstreit said. I think [its preseason ranking] is deserving. The big thing for me is not just their ability on the field, its the psychological aspect of it. How are they now going to be responsive to a team thats expected to live up to a certain standard? Thats a much different challenge than last year.
Even with Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel returning to the field, the 2013 squad has undergone changes from last year. With many key players graduating or moving on for the NFL, there are holes to fill in the depth chart.
Sumlin and his coaching staff which features three new faces itself will occupy their time with position battles and player evaluations in the coming weeks.
Running back
In 2012, the Aggie backfield featured a three-running back rotation with senior Christine Michael, junior Ben Malena and freshman Trey Williams. Following Michaels graduation, A&M has added two transfers in Tra Carson and Brandon Williams to the depth chart.
With Trey out for a majority of the spring due to injury, the two sophomores will join Malena, now a senior, on the field with playing time aspirations.
Weve got to ease those guys back in, Sumlin said. This is really the first time theyre running our offense. Without a doubt, theyre both really talented guys, very proud guys and they compete very well. We want them to progress over the course of the spring.
Carson, an Oregon transfer who weighs in at 230 pounds, will add a unique aspect to the running game: power. Brandon Williams, an Oklahoma transfer, is nicknamed slim by his teammates and has a quick burst that will rival SEC speed.
[Brandon], Im very excited to see him. Same thing with [Carson], Malena said. Im leading one of the best groups of running backs in the country. I take pride in being that leader this year.
Offensive line
Despite junior left tackle Luke Joeckel leaving College Station early for his shot in the NFL, the A&M offensive line remains one of the teams anchor units. Senior Jake Matthews, who will take over at left tackle, and juniors Cedric Ogbuehi and Jarvis Harrison will return this season, and spring practice will serve as a forum for deciding the final open spots.
We only have one guy returning whos in the same position he was in last year, co-offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney said. Everyday is a competition at every position. We want those guys to compete. Competition brings out the best in you.
At center, sophomore Mike Matthews Jakes younger brother will look to replace graduating senior Patrick Lewis, a player Sumlin called as valuable a player as we had last year. At right guard, freshman Germain Ifedi and junior Ben Compton will battle for the starting position. Compton also looks to challenge Mike at center.
Im very excited about this years new offensive line, Malena said Moving [Jake] to the left tackle and [Ogbuehi] to the right tackle, I think its going to be a good mix for our offensive line.
Defensive line
On the defensive side of the ball, due to reasons ranging from injury to graduation to the NFL, entire units will be forced to start youthful and inexperienced players over the coming weeks.
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said the amount of new fresh faces will provide a challenge, but overall its what makes spring ball exciting.
On the defensive line, the only player with any experience starting out on the depth chart is junior Gavin Stansbury. With both senior Spencer Nealy and junior Damontre Moore absent to graduation and the NFL draft, respectively, and sophomore Julien Obioha out to injury, the entire unit will be starting out from scratch.
From Herbstreits perspective, though, the lines lack of experience is made up for in talent.
Theyve got a lot of young players, especially up front, that I think will help them be even better defensively, Herbstreit said. They have to replace of couple of key losses with [Sean] Porter and Moore, but I think this team could be fun to watch.
Position Changes
Senior Nate Askew was recruited by A&M as a wide receiver. But heading into his final season with the Aggies, Sumlin and his staff decided Askews talents would be more useful elsewhere on the field: linebacker.
With seniors Porter and Jonathan Stewart graduated and senior Steven Jenkins out for the spring due to injury, all three linebacker slots need to be filled. Midterm enrollees junior Tommy Sanders and freshmen Reggie Chevis and Brett Wade will compete for playing time, but the coaching staff hopes Askew finds his niche in the new position.
Hes one of the better athletes on our team, Sumlin said. For whatever reason, (his athletic skills) didnt transfer to wide receiver. For us, its kind of an experiment. A guy with that kind of ability, its worth a try.
Senior Floyd Raven will switch from cornerback to safety within the defensive backs unit. Raven will look to teammates such as junior Tony Hurd, Jr. for assistance in the transfer.
Within the different schemes of the defense, well be able to work together and become really good partners in the defensive backfield, Hurd, Jr. said.
Johnny Football
Regarding Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Johnny Manziel, Sumlin simply said Johnny needs to continue to get better.
The redshirt sophomore returns to A&M for spring training a national celebrity, under the eye of the media across the country. Following a 2012 campaign in which he accumulated 5,116 total yards, an SEC record and 47 touchdowns, Manziel looks to defend his Heisman.
Four days into spring training, though, Manziel noted his teams necessity to improve for the coming season.
We need to get a lot better, Manziel said. These first few weeks well sit here and well try to make sure we evaluate and make sure we get everybody plugged into the right places. From there, we just have to continue to get better every week.
From Sumlins perspective, though, Manziel and A&M are still trying to match odds with the rest of their talented conference, one that holds claim to the last seven national titles.
From every standpoint, every aspect this program, were still playing catch-up with everybody in the SEC, Sumlin said.

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