- Sam Khan, Texas A&M/SEC reporter
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Many SEC programs conducted spring games over the last two weekends to conclude spring practice. Not so for Texas A&M, which didn't have a spring game for the second consecutive year because of ongoing construction at Kyle Field. Coach Kevin Sumlin and company instead held a closed scrimmage on April 11 to wrap up spring ball ahead of his fourth season at the helm. Here's a look at some of the noteworthy developments from the Aggies' spring:
Kyle Allen: The difference between Allen this time a year ago and Allen right now is immense. Last spring he was a true freshman simply trying to learn the offense; this spring he has the benefit of game experience, including five starts, plus a second spring worth of practices. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said the team went through four installations of the offense this spring, which meant Allen had a chance to run every play in the playbook four times. Allen is maturing, he's beginning to grow into a leader and coupled with his more than sufficient physical talent, the outlook is bright for the sophomore quarterback.
Justin Evans: Safety is one position where the Aggies have lacked consistency the last two years, but there was significant buzz surrounding Evans' play this spring. He's an aggressive, instinctive player who embraces contact and is showing why he was the No.1-ranked junior-college safety in the 2015 recruiting class. He has the look of an instant-impact player in the Aggies' defense.
Daeshon Hall: Hall was finally healthy this spring. He has battled injuries off and on early in his career and had to miss spring football in 2014 because of offseason shoulder surgery. Not so this offseason. He was healthy and effective and gives defensive coordinator John Chavis and defensive ends coach Terry Price reason to be excited. His athleticism, paired with and lined up opposite star-in-the-making Myles Garrett, gives the Aggies a quality defensive end tandem and a chance to generate consistent pass rush.
Christian Kirk: Everything coming out of Aggieland regarding Kirk is positive. From his on-field performance to his off-field demeanor, it looks like Texas A&M hit a home run with the Scottsdale, Arizona, product. The ESPN 300 recruit looks poised to see the field plenty as a true freshman this fall, and if he has a strong summer and training camp he could battle for a starting spot.
Julien Obioha: The senior defensive lineman seemed rejuvenated this spring as the Aggies decided to utilize him somewhat differently than in seasons past. He spent his first three years on campus at defensive end, but this spring Obioha got work at defensive tackle as well. On the interior, he's more athletic than your typical defensive tackle and that will allow him to be a playmaker. "When you go in the room with all the fat, slow guys and you're a little slimmer and faster than the others ... feeling like a better athlete, that's always nice," Obioha said jokingly of the transition. A defensive line that includes Garrett, Hall and Obioha seems to have strong pass-rush possibilities, and it'll be interesting to see how his role develops in the fall.
Things we learned:
Defensively, the Aggies will attack: Under the watch of Chavis, the Aggies' new defensive coordinator, the defense transitioned to more of a one-gap, vertical, attacking mentality in contrast a two-gap, horizontal, read-and-react unit that it was. Players seem to be embracing the change. Said Obioha: "A one-gap allows you to attack a lot more. ... Everybody is up field and attacking their gap and when that happens, there are TFLs [tackles for loss] and sacks."
New look for the offensive line: A new offensive line coach (Dave Christensen) means there will be some changes up front, notably in stance. The Aggies used to be mostly in two-point stances, except for short-yardage run situations, this year, Christensen says the interior linemen will be in a three-point stance most of the time while the tackles will have the option at certain times in games to be in three-point, but will remain mostly in two-point. What kind of impact that has on the run production remains to be seen, but it's an area the Aggies want to improve after finishing 82nd nationally in the category (149.9 yards per game)
Will the Aggies be adequate at linebacker? It was difficult to gauge what the fall will be like at linebacker, a position at which the Aggies still need depth, because of how many players were out. The four players who will likely serve as the top four linebackers – Otaro Alaka, A.J. Hilliard, Josh Walker and Shaan Washington – all missed much of or at least portions of spring football. That afforded the opportunity to true freshman Richard Moore to get a ton of reps and he had a quality spring, but most of the pieces of the puzzle will need to be healthy before a proper evaluation of what to expect can be made. That position group also goes through some transition, as Chavis will oversee linebackers.
How much improvement will the defense show? The Aggies were last in the SEC the last two seasons in total defense and rushing, thus, they shelled out big money for a big-name defensive coordinator with impressive credentials. But how much improvement should be realistically expected? Being a top-30 defense right away might be asking too much (the Aggies still need to improve overall quality depth), but if they can jump into the top half nationally that would be a significant step forward.
Expectations are on the rise for sophomore QB Kyle Allen, but the Aggies' 2015 will be defined by how new coordinator John Chavis revamps the defense.