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Opening camp: Texas A&M

8/6/2010

Schedule: Practice starts today

What’s new: The offensive line. The Aggies lose three starters from last season's line, and might end up starting two true freshmen -- albeit blue-chip recruits as the Nos. 6 and 7 tackle prospects in the 2010 class -- at both edges of the offensive line in Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel.

Key battle: Right tackle. Sophomore Brian Thomas, a 6-foot-6, 303-pounder should enter fall camp as the starter, but Matthews, a 6-foot-5, 270-pounder, should give him some solid competition. Redshirt freshman Rhontae Scales could also be a factor at the position. If one thing can derail the Aggies' high-scoring offense, it'll be an inconsistent offensive line, and the importance of establishing the group can't be underestimated this camp.

New on the scene: Receivers Ryan Swope and Kenric McNeal. Both sophomores, who played as freshmen, will patrol the slot for the Aggies. They combined for 25 catches last season.

Breaking out: Running back Christine Michael. He's gotten some recognition around the Big 12 after rushing for 844 yards as a true freshman, but if the Aggies gain some early momentum and as a result, attention, fans who haven't seen him yet will get a sense of how good he could be. The 5-11, 205-pounder will still split carries with the more experienced Cyrus Gray, but Michael is one of the conference's rising stars and a player the Aggies should lean on after quarterback Jerrod Johnson graduates.

Don’t forget about: Noseguard Lucas Patterson. He'll be the key to new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter's 3-4 scheme, and he couldn't have picked a much better man to do it. An athletic 6-foot-4, 303-pound tackle, Patterson joins linebacker Von Miller as two extremely talented defenders on a defense that struggled in 2009.

All eyes on: Johnson. His status as the Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year assures that. He's got good competition for the conference's best quarterback in Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Baylor's Robert Griffin, but he'll hold the key to the Aggies finish in the Big 12 South after a brutal November schedule that features Oklahoma, Nebraska and road games against Texas and Baylor.

Quoting: "In order for us to be successful on offense, the offensive line has to click. If we can't protect the quarterback, we can't get the ball into our receivers' hands. If we can't create running space, our talented running backs won't be able to run. So everything rests in that offensive line. -- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman