Dallas Colleges: Jameill Showers

Aggies must inch closer to complete effort

November, 3, 2013

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has a saying that is echoed by his players, especially at this time of the season.

"It's about us."

The message is clear and self-explanatory. And if the Aggies are going to do what they hope to -- win out the remainder of the season -- Sumlin wants them to take heed of those three words.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesTexas A&M signal-caller Johnny Manziel threw four more touchdown passes on Saturday night. He now has 26 TD passes on the season, matching his total from 2012.
On Saturday night, in a 57-7 win over UTEP at Kyle Field, it was all about the Aggies, who took care of business by dominating a beaten-up team. What's interesting is that No. 12 A&M (7-2) has the same record as it did at this time a season ago. The feelings are different, but that's partially because last season the Aggies exceeded expectations. Few outside of this town expected them to do much better than 6-6 or 7-5 in their first season in the SEC. This season, the bar was set so high that the same record at the same point seems almost pedestrian.

And while their own preseason goals -- an SEC championship and a run at a BCS national championship -- are out the window, there are still things left for Texas A&M to play for. If the Aggies win the remainder of their games, who knows? They might just sneak their way into their first BCS bowl since 1998.

The final three-game stretch is a challenging one. The Aggies host Mississippi State next weekend, then are off the following week before the difficulty level ramps up with trips to LSU and Missouri to close out the season. Both of those teams are still playing for a chance to go to Atlanta to play in the SEC title game, and in order to knock them off in their respective stadiums, the Aggies will have to put together a complete game, for four quarters -- something they really haven't done yet this season.

But in the past two weeks, in a 56-24 victory over Vanderbilt and on Saturday in the blowout win over UTEP, the Aggies have begun inching closer to playing that type of game. Throughout the first seven games, the defense was mostly poor while the offense carried the load. Special teams had issues, too, as the Aggies battled an inconsistent situation at place-kicker before moving Josh Lambo into the role, one that he has taken and run with.

The past two weeks, the Aggies defense has performed admirably. It had probably its best all-around performance against the Commodores, and on Saturday, against a much weaker opponent, the Aggies really only had one bad drive on defense, the nine-play, 73-yard touchdown drive that gave the Miners an early 7-2 lead.

UTEP, which came into the game without starting quarterback Jameill Showers (shoulder injury), couldn't move the ball with consistency against A&M when the Aggies began to rack up points. On top of that, A&M's defense was ball-hawking in the second stanza, coming up with three turnovers. The offense turned those into 21 points and blew the game open. UTEP finished with just 198 total yards, and life was understandably difficult with backup Blaire Sullivan running the offense. Still, this is an Aggies defense that had trouble stopping virtually everybody earlier this season.

"We've been having great practices the last few weeks," junior defensive end Gavin Stansbury said. "Also, I think it has to do with confidence. You have to have confidence in yourself and in your team to have a great game."

While the defense has stepped up its efforts the last two weeks, the offense has had its hiccups. Last week it was bitten by the turnover bug, giving the ball away four times. On Saturday against the Miners, the Aggies seemed out of sync in the first quarter. Quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans couldn't get on the same page, though opportunities were there. The Aggies punted twice in the first quarter -- a rarity for them in any single frame.

What began as a snoozer with Texas A&M's offense sputtering turned into a rout with an explosive second quarter by the Aggies, who outscored UTEP 27-0 in the second quarter to take a commanding 36-7 halftime lead. From there, no doubt remained of the outcome as Manziel led two more scoring drives in the third quarter before calling it a night, after throwing for four touchdowns and running for two, including an impressive 49-yarder that looked like the 2012 version of Manziel.

The A&M special teams started well, meanwhile, blocking a punt that led to a safety and giving the Aggies an early 2-0 lead. But the unit had its issues, too. Punter Drew Kaser, who serves as the holder on point-after-touchdown kicks and field goals, bobbled a snap, which left a point off the board. Freshman LaQuvionte Gonzalez also muffed a punt in the second half, though the game was well in hand.

Those are issues that have to be rectified if the Aggies hope to close out the final three-game stretch with three wins. They still haven't put a good performance from all three phases together on one night, though they might be inching closer to doing so.

"It's hard to say, when you win 57-7, to say that you didn't play a complete game," Sumlin said. "As a coach, there's some positives there. Our guys understand that we can be better than we were tonight."

Opening camp: Texas Tech Red Raiders

August, 2, 2013
Texas Tech opens up preseason camp on Saturday after players report today. Let's take a closer look at Kliff Kingsbury's squad going into camp.

Schedule: The Red Raiders begin practice on Saturday, and will also host a local media day that day. The Red Raiders open their season in Dallas on the road at SMU on Friday, Aug. 30.

Setting the scene: Tommy Tuberville's exit came out of nowhere this season, but AD Kirby Hocutt gave Tech fans exactly what they wanted: Kliff Kingsbury. He took a measured approach in spring practice, waiting to learn more about his personnel before he locked in what he wanted to do on offense or defense.

Eyeing clarity: Michael Brewer was the assumed starter in Lubbock, but true freshman Davis Webb enrolled early and made a big impression on the coaching staff. For now, there's no starter, but Kingsbury wants to name one in about two weeks, or halfway through fall camp. "We did that last year at Texas A&M and it worked out a little bit for us. Hopefully, we have that same success," Kingsbury noted. Jameill Showers was the assumed starter for the Aggies until midway through fall camp when Johnny Manziel pulled a big surprise and won the job. He did OK once the season arrived.

Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to talk about the quarterback battle in Lubbock, his expectations as a first-year head coach and what he makes of Johnny Manziel's offseason.

Listen Listen
Fixing a big hole: Delvon Simmons was a solid defensive lineman for the Red Raiders after signing as a blue-chip recruit, but he left for USC back in June in a surprising decision, his second school change since signing a letter of intent with North Carolina in 2011. Tech has to figure out what to do with the tackle spot the 290-pounder left behind. Another top-level recruit, Michael Starts, also transferred. Kerry Hyder is a star, but the Red Raiders need Jackson Richards to step up in their absence. Hyder might slide over and replace Simmons in the middle, with Branden Jackson moving to defensive end. Redshirt freshman Anthony Smith has an opportunity in camp, too.

All eyes on: Kingsbury. He's attracted a ton of attention since taking the job, which is no surprise after he helped Manziel win the Heisman and returned home to his alma mater at 33, making him college football's youngest major conference coach. He brought back a ton of young assistants to Lubbock with Texas Tech ties, and the youth across the staff can be argued as a major positive or negative. Wins will decide which it is. There has been so much talk between visits with media and alumni. Kingsbury said this week he's tired of it. The heavy-duty work will start on Saturday. I'm sure you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more excited than him.

On the mend: Linebacker Terrance Bullitt is a big-time talent that's a little underrated across the league. He suffered a shoulder injury down the stretch in 2012, and that shoulder has been a constant issue since he first hurt it back in 2011. He sounded psyched this spring, saying the game was "fun again" and he's back to full health. Tech's defense will benefit.

Emphasis: Kingsbury knew two big things had to be fixed right away: Penalties and turnovers. The Red Raiders committed almost a full penalty more than any team in the Big 12 and ranked 121st nationally in the stat. They also forced just 11 turnovers in 12 games, less than all but two teams in college football. That has been the focus all offseason, and if he fixes that, Tech will improve in a hurry.

Outlook: The Red Raiders didn't get a vote in the coaches poll, and the Big 12 media picked the Red Raiders seventh in the league. That's a fitting spot, but Tech is an experienced team with a lot of upside, even if it is short on truly elite talents. Eric Ward and Jace Amaro are fantastic 1-2 targets in the passing game, and Jakeem Grant adds some major explosiveness to the offense. Tech will be able to beat anybody in the Big 12, but in a deep league, they can lose to most teams, too. This looks like a 7-8 win team to me.

Quotable: Kingsbury, on the SEC's dominance as he moves into the Big 12. "I think anytime you win seven national championships in a row, you're on top. That's hard to dispute that. Great defenses, great coaches in that league, and I feel the same about the Big 12. I think it's cyclical in a way that in a couple years the Big 12 may be making the same sort of run."

Instant analysis: A&M 47, Sam Houston St. 28

November, 17, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- It took a little bit for the Texas A&M offense to get kick-started, but once it did, it was smooth sailing.

The No. 8 Aggies recorded their fourth straight win, a 47-28 victory over the FCS's third-ranked team, Sam Houston State, before 87,101 on Saturday at Kyle Field.

Let's glance at the notables from the game:

It was over when: The Aggies' offense stepped on the field for the third quarter. Already holding a 34-point lead, A&M quickly turned it to 47-0 by scoring on its first two plays of the second half -- an 89-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Manziel to Uzoma Nwachukwu and and 80-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Jameill Showers to LeKendrick Williams.

Game ball goes to: Stop me if this is beginning to sound like a broken record ... Manziel. The redshirt freshman quarterback didn't really do anything to hurt his Heisman Trophy candidacy as he was 14-of-20 passing for 267 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. He became the first freshman in NCAA history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards and also broke the FBS freshman rushing and total offense yardage marks.

Key stat: 20.6, the average yards per completion for the Aggies. Big plays were the theme for the Texas A&M offense, particularly in the passing game. In addition to two third-quarter touchdown passes, Mike Evans had receptions of 33 and 20 yards.

What it means: The Aggies are now one win away from 10. If they are able to get a win next week versus Missouri, it would be the first time since 1998 that the Aggies have won 10 games in a season. A win would also ensure the Aggies finish no lower than second in the SEC West, which is well above the preseason expectations many pundits had.

One good reason: Texas A&M

August, 8, 2012
Our "One good reason" series continues with the newbies at Texas A&M.

Good reasons:
Let's see what the Aggies might do in their first season in the SEC:

Texas A&M will break through and win at least eight games: Key playmakers are still around on offense and defense.

There are holes on both sides of the ball that must be filled by the Aggies, but there is still some quality talent that will take the field this fall. Offensively, Texas A&M returns what could be one of the top lines in the SEC. It's headlined by left tackle Luke Joeckel and right tackle Jake Matthews, who could be early NFL draft picks next year, and should help provide good time for whichever young quarterback takes snaps this fall. There are also solid players in the middle, starting with veteran center Patrick Lewis. Behind that line you have potential 1,000-yard rusher Christine Michael, who appears to be 100 percent after tearing his ACL last season, and there's still the possibility that Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams could be cleared to play this fall. Wide receiver isn't too bad, either, as seniors Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu return. The two combined for 139 catches, 1,846 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. There are also a few potential breakout candidates at receiver.

On defense, the front seven has some strong components with outside linebacker Sean Porter and converted defensive end Damontre Moore returning. Both combined for 18 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss last year. Add senior Steven Jackson to outside linebacker, and the Aggies could yet again have another ferocious pass rush like the one that generated a nation-best 51 sacks last season. Having leading tackler Jonathan Stewart back at middle linebacker is a plus as well.

The Aggies are facing new challenges in the SEC, but with the key talent returning, they won't be pushovers for their new competition. If these players stay healthy, Texas A&M could pull a couple of surprises.

Why it won't: Too many changes.

While the Aggies do have some talented playmakers coming back, a lot will be different in College Station this fall. For starters, a brand new coaching staff is in place and so is a new offense and defense. The Aggies are moving to a 4-3 defensive scheme and Kevin Sumlin is hoping to incorporate as much of his up-tempo spread offense as possible. He'll do so with a gang of young quarterbacks, who have combined for five career pass attempts -- all from sophomore Jameill Showers, who has the edge at starter. Defensively, the Aggies return studs in the front seven but have a completely new secondary, which could feature three sophomore starters. There were bright spots from Texas A&M's young secondary, especially from Deshazor Everett and Floyd Raven, this spring, but they are still young and they'll have to grow up in the SEC.

Besides the personnel changes, Texas A&M is also entering college football's toughest conference. Division games will now include Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. Linemen are a little faster and a little bigger around these parts. Running backs pound a little harder and skill players have a little more kick in their steps. It's going to take some time for the Aggies to adjust and this year could be full of growing pains.
Schedule: The Aggies’ first practice is Friday. The first day in pads is scheduled for next Wednesday. Texas A&M opens the season on Aug. 30 against Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, La. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised by ESPNU.

Returning starters: Nine on offense, six on defense and the punter and top return man on special teams.

Star power: Junior Luke Joeckel returns at left tackle and anchors an offensive line that should be the strength of Texas A&M’s team in 2012. Joeckel was a first-team, All-Big 12 selection last season.

New faces: Sophomore running back Brandon Williams, a transfer from Oklahoma, was lights out this spring and will definitely be a factor this fall if he wins his appeal with the NCAA to be eligible right away. Staying in the offensive backfield, true freshman Trey Williams was one of the most heralded running backs in the country last season, and the Aggies are eager to get him on the practice field. Texas A&M can use all the help it can get in the secondary, and true freshman defensive back De’Vante Harris will be thrown into the fire early. Also, true freshman Thomas Johnson could provide some help at receiver.

Don’t forget about: Christine Michael was motoring toward a 1,200-yard rushing season a year ago until he tore up his knee. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound senior still finished with 899 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games. He’s healthy again and ready to prove that he’s one of the best running backs in a league full of great running backs.

Big shoes to fill: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill rolled up more than 4,000 yards of total offense last season and accounted for 33 touchdowns. Those kinds of numbers are always hard to replace, but it gets even trickier when the next guys in line have little or no experience. Sophomore Jameill Showers came out of the spring as the favorite to win the job. He’s thrown five career passes. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, who got into some off-the-field trouble this summer, and true freshman Matt Davis, who went through spring practice, are also in the mix, along with sophomore Matt Joeckel. Whoever emerges, Kevin Sumlin has shown in the past that he can whip a quarterback into shape pretty quickly with his up-tempo spread offense.

Key battle: Solidifying the secondary will be critical this preseason. The Aggies ranked 109th nationally against the pass last season, and that wasn’t all on shoddy play in the secondary, but there’s no question that they have to improve on the back end. Sophomore cornerbacks Deshazor Everett and Floyd Raven made big strides this spring. Everett even got a look at safety. There’s not much depth at safety. Junior college transfer Otis Jacobs, who closed the spring on a high note, could help pave the way for somebody like Everett to remain at safety.

Rising star: Junior Damontre Moore led the team with 17.5 tackles for loss last season from his hybrid “Joker” position in the Aggies’ old 3-4 scheme. He’s moving to defensive end this season as they shift to a 4-3. There are a lot of quality ends in this league, but the 6-4, 250-pound Moore is a playmaking machine and will rate up there with the best of them by season’s end.

Bottom line: Texas A&M takes its plunge into the SEC with a new head coach, a new spread offense, a new 4-3 defensive scheme and a new starter at quarterback. Obviously, there’s a lot that's new in College Station, but the Aggies do have talent. It just might take a while to work out the kinks and get accustomed to life in the SEC. Fixing their second-half woes will be at the top of Sumlin’s to-do list. Texas A&M gagged away four double-digit leads in the second half last season, and not being able to close the deal in a league that prides itself on depth is even more of a problem. The good news for Showers is that he’s surrounded by some proven playmakers in Ryan Swope at receiver, Michael at running, back and an offensive line that should be one of the best units in the league. There are still some question marks in the secondary on defense, and it remains to be seen how the Aggies hold up against some of the power running games they’re going to face in the SEC. If they get to eight wins this first season, that would be a huge success.

GigEmNation links: Breaking in new QBs

July, 25, 2012
GigEmNation has more coverage of the Texas A&M Aggies:

Sam Khan Jr. writes: Texas A&M is learning a new offense and Kevin Sumlin is once again breaking in new quarterbacks.

Aggies add WR: Insider Texas A&M was looking to expand its recruiting footprint. The Aggies went as far west as they could and landed wide receiver Jeremy Tabuyo from Honolulu's Saint Louis School.

SEC move helping recruiting: Insider With a big and deep 2013 recruiting class, the Texas A&M staff is seeing a common theme in its commits: interest in the SEC.

Which moving team will do best in Year 1?

July, 4, 2012
Sunday was officially moving day in college sports. We officially said goodbye to A&M and Mizzou back in February, but the page officially turned on July 1.

The Big 12 was in the middle of it all, introducing TCU and West Virginia on the same day two of the league's founding members left.

That was a year after two more founding members -- Colorado and Nebraska -- left the league.


Which incoming/outgoing Big 12 football team will do best in the first year in its new conference?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,691)

Last season, Colorado struggled under a new coach in the Pac-12, winning just two conference games and finishing 3-10.

Nebraska was picked by many to win its division in the first year of the new Big Ten, but it went just 9-4 and finished third in the Legends Division, including two lopsided losses to Big Ten powers Michigan and Wisconsin.

How will all the teams changing leagues in 2012 do in their first year in their new digs?

Texas A&M is breaking in a new quarterback (Jameill Showers, probably), new coach (Kevin Sumlin) and new athletic director (Eric Hyman), but has loads more talent than Colorado has had in a long, long time.

Missouri brings back most of its eight-win team from 2011, but will its spread offense succeed in the more physical SEC?

TCU and West Virginia will boast some of the Big 12's best offenses, but the big question without an answer is whether they can handle the week-to-week grind in the Big 12 that the Big East and Mountain West Conference lacked.

So, take your pick.

In Year 1, which team will have the best record? Vote in our poll.

Texas A&M spring wrap

May, 15, 2012
2011 overall record: 7-6
2011 conference record: 4-5

Returning starters

Offense: 8; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

RB Christine Michael, WR Ryan Swope, OT Luke Joeckel, OT Jake Matthews, DE Damontre Moore, LB Sean Porter, LB Jonathan Stewart, S Steven Campbell

Key losses

QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray, WR Jeff Fuller, PK Randy Bullock, DT Tony Jerod-Eddie, CB Terrence Frederick, S Trent Hunter

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Cyrus Gray (1,045 yards)
Passing: Ryan Tannehill (3,744 yards)
Receiving: Ryan Swope* (1,207 yards)
Tackles: Jonathan Stewart* (98)
Sacks: Sean Porter* (9.5)
Interceptions: Trent Hunter, Steven Terrell* (2)

Spring answers

1. Manning that line: There’s no mistaking the strength of this team. Even though there’s not a lot of depth in the offensive line, five players with starting experience return. Tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews are future pros, while senior center Patrick Lewis enters his fourth season as a starter. Sophomore Cedric Ogbuehi has made a nice transition from tackle to guard. The Aggies will lean on this bunch all season long.

2. Swope to the rescue: After hauling in 11 touchdown passes a year ago, Swope picked up right where he left off in Kevin Sumlin’s new offense and ended the spring with a pair of touchdown catches in the Maroon & White spring game. He’s going to need some help this fall, but there’s no substitute for a senior receiver who knows how to get open, and more importantly, knows how to find the end zone.

3. Steven Jenkins steps up: One of the defensive stars of the spring for the Aggies was Jenkins, who looked like a natural at weakside linebacker in the new 4-3 scheme. Jenkins was fifth on the team last season in total tackles (61) despite starting in only six games. His spring performance was just what Texas A&M needed on defense, especially at the linebacker position. He and Sean Porter should be quite a tandem in the fall, as both can go get the quarterback.

Fall questions

1. Stopping the run: The Aggies feel pretty good about their ability to get to the quarterback. But when it comes to the middle of that defensive line and stopping the running games they’re going to see in the SEC, that’s where the problem lies. Chances are that some younger players are going to have to come through on the interior of that defensive line, and that’s never the way you draw it up going into the fall.

2. Williams’ eligibility: One of the most dynamic players on the field this spring for Texas A&M was running back Brandon Williams, who transferred from Oklahoma. He has the kind of speed that turns missed tackles into touchdowns. The only problem is that the Aggies probably won’t know until sometime in August if he’ll be eligible this season. The NCAA would have to grant him a waiver, which would allow him to play without sitting out a season.

3. Experience at quarterback: Most in and around the Texas A&M program felt like sophomore Jameill Showers exited the spring as the guy to beat at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel is still in the race, though. However it shakes out in the fall, the Aggies are going to line up with one of the least experienced quarterbacks in the SEC. Showers only played in four games and threw five passes last season in mop-up duty for Tannehill.
A new era begins this fall for Texas A&M, and the battle everyone will be watching in College Station is at quarterback.

OUT: QB Ryan Tannehill. The Aggies were both explosive and balanced offensively last season, and Tannehill was the guy who made them go. We’ll all be reminded of just how good he was by the midway point of the first round in the NFL draft two weeks from now. Tannehill is expected to be the third quarterback selected and with good reason. He passed for 3,744 yards and 29 touchdowns last season and completed 61.6 percent of his passes. He also ran for 306 yards and four touchdowns and was one of those quarterbacks who could beat you in a number of different ways. Those guys don’t come around very often, and when they’re gone, they’re never easy to replace.

IN: Jameill Showers, Johnny Manziel, Matt Joeckel or Matt Davis. The race for Tannehill’s replacement is wide open, and further mystery is added by the fact that the Aggies will be running a new offense with Kevin Sumlin taking over as head coach. Whoever can handle the fast-paced tempo the best while taking care of the ball and also making enough plays to keep the defense honest is going to win the job. The Aggies just opened spring practice last Saturday, so there hasn’t been enough time for any real separation. But offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury likes the way all four have picked up things. Showers, a sophomore, was Tannehill’s backup last season, but only threw four passes. Manziel, a redshirt freshman, is a terrific athlete and one of those guys capable of extending the play. Joeckel, a sophomore, is more of a pocket passer, while Davis, a true freshman who enrolled early, is also versatile enough to be effective as a passer and a runner. Kingsbury said they recruited all four quarterbacks when he was at Houston with Sumlin, so the Aggies already have a good feel for all four.

Opening spring camp: Texas A&M

March, 30, 2012
Schedule: Texas A&M opens spring practice on Saturday and will play its Maroon & White spring game on April 28 at 2 p.m. ET. The Aggies will give fans a couple of chance to see open scrimmages prior to the spring game. Fans are invited to the April 14 scrimmage at 11 a.m. and the April 20 scrimmage at 8 p.m.

What’s new: Really, just about everything. The Aggies will begin play in the SEC in 2012, and Kevin Sumlin takes over as head coach after spending the last four seasons as Houston’s head coach. Sumlin worked under R.C. Slocum at Texas A&M in 2001 and 2002 and called the Aggies’ plays for most of the 2002 season. Sumlin’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach will be Kliff Kingsbury, a record-setting quarterback during his time at Texas Tech. Clarence McKinney will coach the running backs and serve as recruiting coordinator, and B.J. Anderson will coach the offensive line. Kingsbury, McKinney and Anderson were all with Sumlin last season at Houston. David Beaty will coach receivers after serving as Kansas’ co-offensive coordinator last season. Brian Polian, who was previously at Stanford, will coach tight ends and oversee special teams. Former Marshall head coach Mark Snyder will be the Aggies’ defensive coordinator. Snyder was the defensive coordinator at South Florida the past two seasons and also served under Jim Tressel at Ohio State. Marcel Yates will be the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach after spending the last nine seasons coaching defensive backs at Boise State. Former Texas A&M player Terry Price will coach the defensive line. He was previously on the Ole Miss staff. Matt Wallerstedt will coach the Texas A&M linebackers after serving as associate head coach, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Air Force the past two seasons.

On the mend: Senior running back Christine Michael, who tore his left ACL toward the end of last season, is ahead of schedule in his recovery, but the Aggies won’t chance it with any contact this spring.

On the move: Junior Damontre Moore, who had 17.5 tackles for loss as the “joker” linebacker in the Aggies’ 3-4 scheme last season, is moving to defensive end in their new 4-3 defense. Also, the Aggies won’t have running back Brandon Williams, who transferred from Oklahoma. Williams is a former five-star recruit, but his appeal to the NCAA to be eligible in 2012 was denied, and he’ll have to sit out the season.

Key battle: With Ryan Tannehill taking his talents to the NFL, the Aggies hope to settle on a new quarterback this spring. It could take longer, as nobody has any real experience. Third-year sophomore Jameill Showers played in four games last season and threw all of five passes in mop-up duty. He’s the “veteran” of the group. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel might be the most dynamic athlete of the bunch, and Kingsbury also likes the way midterm enrollee Matt Davis can move around and make plays. Sophomore Matt Joeckel is more of a pocket passer. Kingsbury said all four have their strengths and do different things well, which should make for a close race.

New faces: Being on campus early and going through spring practice will give Davis a legitimate chance to win the starting quarterback job as a freshman. Defensive back Kenneth Marshall of South Houston, Texas, also graduated high school early and will go through the spring. Derel Walker of Trinity Valley Community College was rated among the top junior-college receivers nationally. Cornerback Tremaine Jacobs is another junior-college newcomer who’s enrolled and will go through the spring. Jacobs is from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

Breaking out: Even with Moore moving to defensive end, the Aggies have a chance to make a big splash at linebacker. There’s already a buzz surrounding senior Jonathan Stewart and his move to middle linebacker. He led the Aggies with 98 total tackles last season, including 55 solo stops. He’s had a terrific offseason, and by all accounts, is poised for a big senior season. It only helps that he’ll have fellow senior Sean Porter playing alongside him at outside linebacker. Porter led the Aggies with 9.5 sacks last season and racked up 17 tackles for loss.

Don’t forget about: One of Sumlin’s biggest coups this offseason was convincing star receiver Ryan Swope to return for his senior season. Sumlin got a big assist from Kingsbury, who painted an enticing picture of what Swope’s role would be in this new offense. Swope was third in the Big 12 last season in both receptions (89) and receiving yards (1,207). He also caught 11 touchdown passes and will be key player in keeping opposing defenses from loading up against the Aggies’ running game.

All eyes on: What will the offense look like? Chances are that it won’t be quite as much of an “Air Raid” attack it was in Houston. Sumlin is always going to utilize the passing game, but the strength of this team will be the offensive line. Tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews are future pros, and senior Patrick Lewis also proved to be a devastating blocker at center after moving over from right guard. The Aggies will lean heavily on their offensive line, which has a chance to be one of the top units in the SEC.

Offseason to-do list: Texas A&M

January, 19, 2012
Hard as it is to believe, the start of spring practice for some teams isn’t too far away.

In other words, the offseason is upon us, and we all know how important these next five or six months are to the development of any team.

Today, we’ll unveil our offseason to-do lists for the newest SEC member.

  • First-year head coach Kevin Sumlin will obviously want to put his stamp on the program, and just as pressing will be implementing his offense and making sure everybody understands it and is on the same page.
  • The Aggies need to find a replacement at quarterback for Ryan Tannehill, which likely means getting Jameill Showers ready. If it’s not Showers, then maybe Johnny Manziel makes his move.
  • Something says Sumlin and the new staff will see to it that the Aggies’ second-half issues from last season are also addressed.

Season recap: Texas A&M

December, 7, 2011

Record: 6-6 (4-5)

Through all the rough moments for the Aggies in 2011, the lasting image will be the ecstatic Longhorns sideline emptying onto Kyle Field to chase down Justin Tucker, who kicked a game-winning field goal to beat A&M in the final iteration of the Lone Star Showdown. Texas might come to College Station again at some point before the end of the world, but with an ending like that, it could be awhile. The Aggies are headed to the SEC, but did it with one of the most disappointing seasons in school history, which resulted in coach Mike Sherman's postseason firing.

By now, the numbers are well known. The Aggies were good enough to lead 11 games by double digits and bad enough to lose six of those games. It was truly maddening. Texas A&M was so, so much better than 6-6, and stocked with as much talent as any team in the Big 12, and maybe the country. Why were there so many second-half meltdowns? Sherman and everyone else involved never figured it out, and the Aggies will try and bring in a coach to fix it.

Offensive MVP: Ryan Swope, wide receiver. This is a bit of an upset, but the only other option is going with Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael as a shared option. Both could be replaced by the other and missed key games, but Swope was consistent most of the year, and played his best in conference games. He finished with a team-high 81 catches for 1,102 yards with 11 touchdowns. He was one of only four Big 12 receivers to top 1,000 yards receiving. Even with his year, the former high school running back might be the most underrated player in the Big 12. Without him, Texas A&M's passing game wouldn't have been functional, and without that, what happens to the running game?

Defensive MVP: Sean Porter, linebacker. Porter's production slowed a bit late in the season, though he did notch 2.5 tackles for loss against Texas. Even still, he had one of the best years of any defender in the Big 12. He led the team with 16 tackles for loss and had 8.5 sacks. He finished with 73 tackles.

Turning point: The loss to Oklahoma State. That's the game that started it all and was the first of many blown leads. The 20-3 halftime lead was gone before the end of the third quarter, and the 30-29 loss cost them control of the Big 12. That didn't matter long, of course. A&M blew another lead to Arkansas a week later, but the three-game losing streak to Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas State officially made the 2011 season a wash.

What’s next: They'll be walking into the SEC West with a yet-t0-be-determined coach and lots of new faces. The first year in the SEC could be rough. Tannehill is gone, Gray is gone, Jeff Fuller is gone after an underwhelming senior season and four of the top eight tacklers are gone. That's a whole lot of production. A new quarterback, likely Jameill Showers, will have to adjust to much tougher defenses in a new league. The Aggies will rely on a very experienced offensive line and power back, Michael.

Notes from an up-close look at A&M

August, 15, 2011
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- There's only so much you can take from a 90-minute workout without pads, but here are a couple quick thoughts and observations from Sunday afternoon's workout inside the indoor facility at Texas A&M.

I'll be there this morning for a live scrimmage with pads, too.
  • Last year, when I visited College Station in the preseason, it was pretty obvious during team work that Jerrod Johnson had a ways to go before he was back to the same player he was in 2009. He obviously never quite got there. This year? Not the case. All the usual suspects looked great. Ryan Tannehill was as good as you'd expect, Jeff Fuller looked great, and Christine Michael showed some nice explosiveness and lateral movement. Cyrus Gray is limited after suffering a minor hamstring injury on the first day of camp, but he's expected to be 100 percent for the season opener against SMU on Sept. 4.
  • Every time I've come to a practice at College Station, I've been impressed with what Jameill Showers had to offer as a backup quarterback, and Sunday was no different. It's a limited sample size, sure, but he throws an outstanding ball, and he made good decisions throughout Sunday's workout in team drills.
  • An offseason arrest didn't put Damontre Moore in the good graces of the coaching staff, and as a result, the possible star had spent the first week of camp working primarily with the third and fourth groups, according to other A&M reporters who had attended earlier practices. On Sunday, however, he was back working with the first team at the Joker position. A good sign for his future, no doubt. The sophomore may have struggled off the field during the offseason, but remember: Von Miller infamously wasn't the personification of a leader early in his career, and left as one of the program's all-time greats -- on and off the field. There's plenty of time for Moore to shore up his act.
    Ian Fitzsimmons joins Ben and Skin to update us on Texas A&M's tryst with the SEC.

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  • Inside linebacker is a primary concern for the Aggies this fall camp, especially after they got a preview of a grim future without Michael Hodges this year when Hodges missed the majority of the Cotton Bowl with a knee injury. Garrick Williams is one of the defense's leaders and a returning starter at one of the two spots in the 3-4 scheme, but Donnie Baggs and Jonathan Stewart have been earning lots of time together with the first team -- and without Williams. Coach Mike Sherman's explanation for the approach: "I always like to see guys with the first group, because that's when you get to evaluate them. When you're with the second group, you're going up against the second group of offense. So let's see how they do against the first group guys, so it's really a more accurate evaluation of where they stand. They could be killers in the second group but go to the first group and it's a little bit more challenging, so I want to see them against the better competition."
  • Sherman says he's still trying to sort out who his starter will be, but I like the approach to throw them in with the first-team and see who outperforms the other. Stewart is the more experienced player, but Baggs, a true freshman, has obviously impressed enough to even be in this position. Sherman expects the position to be more solidified early next week.
  • Sherman played it coy when asked about a "rumor" that Texas A&M's coaches met with university president R. Bowen Loftin about the possibility of a move to the SEC. "Rumors? Really? Are you saying it's a rumor? I don't comment on rumors," he said. "You led with a rumor, so..." A poor choice of words, sure, but a fruitless line of questioning, no doubt, regardless of word choice.
  • Safety Trent Hunter did discuss the prospect of the SEC, but only that the team has been told not to discuss it. "Our coaches made a point on the first day. Don't talk about it, don't tweet about it, don't Facebook about it," Hunter said, adding that it hasn't been difficult to focus on the field while rumors swirled. "It's not anything that's going to affect us playing SMU on that first week."
  • Today's scrimmage will be live with plenty of hitting, Sherman says. Should be exciting. I'll have some notes and stats up on the blog later.

Big 12 position rankings: Quarterback

June, 20, 2011
We'll kick off our look today at the position rankings for each team in the Big 12 before looping back around to rank the top 10 at every position in the Big 12.

We'll start at the most obvious position: Quarterback, a position that I'd argue is more important in the Big 12 than in any other conference.

Depth will be a huge factor in these rankings, though at quarterback, it's the toughest to gauge, considering how little we see of backup quarterbacks.

Here's how each Big 12 team ranks at the quarterback position:

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireLandry Jones leads the Big 12's deepest and best group of quarterbacks.
1. Oklahoma

Oklahoma learned the hard way in 2009 about the importance of the backup quarterback, but even in his limited experience, Drew Allen has impressed Bob Stoops after narrowly losing out on the backup job behind Sam Bradford in 2009. Landry Jones is a great one, and with his opportunities, has become a Heisman Trophy favorite. Could Allen have done the same if he had beaten out Jones in 2009? Blake Bell, the nation's No. 3 quarterback in the 2010 class, will likely be Oklahoma's No. 3 in 2011.

2. Oklahoma State

Brandon Weeden's profile spiked when he led the Cowboys to a comeback win over Colorado on a Thursday night game in 2009. He took over as the starter shortly after, but going into that game Weeden was a third-stringer. Alex Cate transferred after it became evident that Weeden would be the starter in 2010, and behind Weeden is Clint Chelf and two solid recruits: Johnny Deaton and J.W. Walsh, who was the nation's No. 10 QB (just outside the ESPNU 150) in 2011 and enrolled early.

3. Texas A&M

Ryan Tannehill is entrenched at the starting spot, with a lot of youth behind him. Matt Joeckel and Jameill Showers will try to hold off incoming freshman Johnny Manziel for the No. 2 spot this fall. Manziel was impressive during the spring, and will contend for the starting job in 2012, but he'll likely redshirt unless he wins the backup job.

4. Texas Tech

Seth Doege looks ready to grab the reins for two seasons, barring injury. Jacob Karam is probably ready to start in the Big 12 right now, he's just not as good as Doege. Behind them are two promising prospects with upside and development to do: Scotty Young and Michael Brewer. The Red Raiders are the last of the Big 12 teams who have truly solid depth at quarterback.

5. Baylor

Robert Griffin III will probably hold every school record for quarterbacks by the time he leaves Waco, but the Bears need to find a true replacement behind him. Nick Florence filled in well in 2009 when Griffin missed the final nine games with a knee injury, but he's a junior like Griffin and their eligibility will expire simultaneously. Redshirt freshman Bryce Petty and 2012 commit Jared Johnson could battle for the spot in 2013.

6. Missouri

The Tigers depth took a hit after Tyler Gabbert's transfer following spring practice, but expectations are high for sophomore James Franklin, who got a bit of experience in 2010 behind Blaine Gabbert. Senior Jimmy Costello quit the team after last season to focus on an impending fall enlistment in the Army, but rejoined after the Gabbert brothers' departures from Columbia. He's likely to be the backup, with Ashton Glaser and walk-on Ryan Howerton filling out the rest of the quarterback spots. Corbin Berkstresser, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound quarterback from Kansas City that ESPN ranked No. 43 at his position, will arrive in the fall, too.

7. Texas

How long until we see a quarterback make the kind of plays Garrett Gilbert made against Alabama in the national championship? Those kinds of long scores were rare last year, but the Longhorns will have a competition this fall that sounds like it's pretty open heading into camp. If Gilbert wins, he'll likely have a much shorter leash in 2011 than he did in 2010, before Case McCoy or Connor Wood gets a crack, and dark horse true freshman David Ash could make things interesting, too.

8. Kansas State

Collin Klein made a nice move toward winning the job with a strong spring game performance. But coach Bill Snyder says he still didn't see a ton of separation between Klein and his backups, Sammuel Lamur and Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle, who spent last year replacing Cam Newton at Blinn College in Texas.

9. Iowa State

James Capello transferred after the spring, but Iowa State's race has likely boiled down to two men: Jerome Tiller and Steele Jantz. Jantz, a juco transfer, is the wild card and Tiller will need to show that his struggles in spot duty last season were temporary. He didn't show the progress you'd expect from a maturing player when he played for an injured Austen Arnaud in a few games early and late in 2010. Jared Barnett is still battling in Ames, but him winning the job would be a huge upset.

10. Kansas

The Jayhawks could use a couple more years of Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks saw a huge drop off at the quarterback position in 2010, as Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Kale Pick all got time under center. Kansas will likely run its offense through a strong group of running backs, but unless newcomer Brock Berglund shows potential and proves he's the best of the group, expect Kansas to remain near the bottom of the Big 12 by the end of 2011.