Big 12: Brian Thomas

Lunch links: New Big 12 epidemic

August, 14, 2012
8/14/12
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Congratulations, you've just joined the 76 percent of Americans who forget to stretch before doing any physical activity.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- As the final minutes drained out of Texas A&M's leisurely 46-14 win over aspiring Big 12 member SMU, Christine Michael sat between his running mate and trailblazers.

He and Cyrus Gray chatted with an assistant coach before offensive lineman Brian Thomas jokingly jabbed him and the two shared a laugh.

Later, he carefully undid the tape on his wrists and waited for time to expire.

It was all very normal, and a welcome change for Michael.

It capped a night when he returned and ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns, finally joining his teammate, Gray, who led the way with his eighth consecutive 100-yard game and two scores of his own.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireChristine Michael had 14 carries for 85 yards and scored two touchdowns in his first game back from an injury that ended his 2010 season.
But the bulked-up, 221-pound Michael ran hard. He ran angry. He ran like a man that knows what it's like to have the ability to run taken away.

"I haven't been out there since October 31st," Michael said, not needing any reminder of the night he broke his leg and ended his season.

Technically, it was the 30th, but against Texas Tech, in the middle of what would become a six-game winning streak to close the regular season, Michael suffered the injury and with one carry, his sophomore season was over.

For home games, he'd watch from the press box high above Kyle Field, far from the sideline. On away games, he didn't travel with the team.

"The leg felt so bad, I didn't want to do any moving, so I just stayed home," he said.

He had to settle for a postgame cell phone call to Gray and other teammates.

"I forgot what it was like to win with my teammates," he said.

Sunday night was a reminder.

Teammates told him to keep it simple. Complement Gray, run hard like he always does and "be a beast."

"Give the team that we're playing hell, just like you give us in practice," they told him.

They did exactly that.

"Cyrus and C-Mike did their thing," said receiver Ryan Swope.

Their "thing" is being one of the nation's top 1-2 punches at running back, with Gray providing the flash and straight-line speed, and Michael bruising defensive front sevens with his shoulder-lowered blows.

"[Gray] shows tremendous patience in his running style, and demonstrates a phenomenal burst through the hole," coach Mike Sherman said. "Christian is probably more explosive from snap to start at the line of scrimmage."

It's been nearly 10 months since Michael was able to log a carry, but the first time he did, he scored, and did it with Gray flanking the opposite side of his quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.

"I was very nervous and anxious at the same time," Michael said. "That first hit I got opened me up and brought me back to reality. It's a big difference in playing in front of 86,000 and just playing in front of your team."

Gray took advantage of Michael's absence to become the league's top back entering 2011, but the Aggies' first touchdown in Week 1 went to the teammate he'd missed for the second half of last season.

Gray was the workhorse in landmark victories over Oklahoma and Nebraska, each time telling reporters he felt like he was playing for both himself and Michael, who could only watch.

"It was exciting to see my brother out there," he said.

Michael's return excited the crowd of 86,951, too -- the largest for a season opener in program history. It won't be the last time.

Cyrus and C-Mike are back.

Opening camp: Texas A&M

August, 9, 2010
8/09/10
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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

Fresh Faces: Texas A&M

July, 1, 2010
7/01/10
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Luke Joeckel, OT

Joeckel's gotten plenty of play after making a big impact this spring as an early-enrolling freshman. The Arlington, Texas, native and blue-chip recruit will likely take control of the left tackle spot for the Aggies, and should hold it down for at least three seasons.

"He's unflappable. ... He's 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds and a great athlete. ... I hate to talk like this about a dang freshman -- I'm entitled to change my opinion, right? But if we were playing tomorrow, he'd be my starting left tackle," said Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman.

Ryan Swope and Kenric McNeal, WRs

Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson completed 296 passes last season; there's a lot to go around. Uzoma Nwachukwu, Jeff Fuller and Ryan Tannehill will catch plenty of them, but so will Swope and McNeal, Texas A&M's two slot receivers. The two combined to catch 25 passes last season for 269 yards and two scores, but they should be more productive this year and Johnson feels comfortable with and is impressed by both. Texas A&M will move the ball in a lot of different ways this season. Swope and McNeal will help do it.

Brian Thomas, OT

The Aggies are replacing three starters on the offensive line, and both tackles could be first-year starters. Thomas, a sophomore, played sparingly in 11 games on special teams last year, but finished the spring as the starter at right tackle. The offensive line is the one thing that could derail the Aggies' offense, but if it meets or exceeds last year's numbers, Thomas and Joeckel will be big reasons why.

More Fresh Faces:

Aggies show flashes of promise during practice

April, 8, 2009
4/08/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Sorry about the delay in getting my practice report up after this afternoon's work. My wireless stick didn't work so I hurried back home as soon as I could to file this missive.

During my time at Texas A&M, I was impressed with the enthusiasm the Aggies brought to their workouts. The practices were open to current A&M students and faculty members, invited guests and former A&M students with an Aggie ring. It resulted in a crowd of about a hundred people on a sun-splashed afternoon with ideal conditions for the practice.

Here are some of my observations after watching A&M work:

  • The Aggies' offense likely has had better days of work than its outing Tuesday afternoon.

Quarterback Jerrod Johnson had what would have been sacks on three straight plays, followed later in the practice by an interception and a fumble. The offense never maintained any sense of real continuity throughout the two-hour workout.

"We did a good job, but once we got going, we gave up a sack or a pressure and started falling apart a little bit," A&M coach Mike Sherman said.

Despite the struggles, Sherman said the Aggies are making good progress with two weeks left in practice before their April 18 spring game at Kyle Field.

"We're working hard and we're making progress," Sherman said. "It's never as much as I would like and probably anyone would like at this point. But as long as they work hard, we'll get better and make the progress we need to make. I'd like to be further ahead, but we're not very far from where I'd like us to be."

(Read full post)

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