COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M hit the field on a cool, foggy afternoon for its first open-to-the-public scrimmage of the 2013 spring football season on Saturday at Kyle Field.
There is plenty to take away from the first extended on-field look at the 2013 Aggies, but here are a few things that stood out:
Brandon Williams looks like a potential playmaker: The Brookshire (Texas) Royal graduate, who is nicknamed "Slim," showed some nice moves and ability when he was on the field Saturday. In a handful of touches, Williams showed good vision and speed and was able to beat a few defenders to the pylon for a touchdown run midway through the scrimmage. His initial action was with the second-team offense, but he received plenty of time with the first team as well. Naturally, Ben Malena was the traditional first-team back and Tra Carson got some repetitions as well [freshman Trey Williams, who has been injured all spring, did not participate]. But Williams looked a lot like someone who will get touches and be productive this fall.
Floyd Raven experiment at safety is showing progress: As defensive coordinator Mark Snyder and head coach Kevin Sumlin noted earlier this spring, there are two things Raven does really well that fit the free safety position: He has good speed and he can hit. On Saturday he showed a nose for the football, intercepting quarterback Johnny Manziel once and nearly doing it a second time later in the scrimmage. The junior certainly looks the part so far.
Youth is served, especially on defense: Injuries are keeping several key players on the sideline, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. (Projected starters Julien Obioha, Kirby Ennis and Steven Jenkins are all sitting out this spring.) So it's giving the Aggies a chance to work out some younger players at key positions. Redshirt freshman Tyrone Taylor, younger brother of junior Tyrell Taylor, lined up at defensive end with the first-team offense, as did sophomore Alonzo Williams, who played the last half of the 2012 season and started in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. True freshman linebackers Reggie Chevis and Brett Wade also had plenty of playing time Saturday -- Wade as a second-team weakside linebacker and Chevis at middle linebacker, getting snaps with both the first- and second-team defense. (Junior Donnie Baggs started the scrimmage as the first-team middle linebacker.) Sophomore A.J. Hilliard, who transferred from TCU in January, also saw time with the first-team defensive unit at outside linebacker.
Offensive line set? Whenever the first-team offense was out on the field, the same group of five was out there: Jake Matthews at left tackle, Jarvis Harrison at left guard, Mike Matthews at center, Germain Ifedi at right guard and Cedric Ogbuehi at right tackle. The primary battles going into the spring were to be at center and right guard and so far, it appears Mike Matthews and Ifedi have a solid grasp on those spots.
Positive signs from the kicking game: Sure, the scrimmage doesn't count, but fans certainly had to be happy to see Taylor Bertolet connect on his kicks. The only miscue in the kicking game was a mistake by the holder, punter Drew Kaser, that forced Bertolet to stutter step before a kick that was blockes. But every other field goal and point-after-touchdown attempt that Bertolet tried went through the uprights. The sophomore is looking to bounce back from an inconsistent 2012 season in which he was 13-of-22 on field goal attempts and 67-of-74 on extra point tries.
The stars are still the stars: Manziel made some nice throws and though he did throw three interceptions -- some of which might have been forced since he wasn't really running the football himself -- he overall had a solid day. He certainly remembers how to get the ball to the Aggies' best receiver, Mike Evans, who probably had the most impressive day of anybody, catching two touchdowns and picking up where he left off from 2012.