NCF Nation: Texas A&M

Twittercast: OU's offense stalls, Aggies' rolls

January, 4, 2013
Johnny Manziel has thrown another touchdown pass, putting Texas A&M up, 34-13, with 3:55 left in the third quarter.

Texas A&M will be without two senior starters when it attempts to win its first game of the season against SMU on Saturday.

The Aggies announced the suspensions of running back Christine Michael and safety Steven Campbell on Saturday afternoon, just hours before their kickoff in Dallas against the Mustangs.

Campbell notched five total tackles in Texas A&M's 20-17 loss to No. 18 Florida last weekend. Michael pounded out 33 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin announced the suspensions and gave the reasoning as violation of team rules.

A&M, Missouri see the nation in SEC move

November, 15, 2011
Of all the conference realignment possibilities, debates and related goings-on, Missouri’s move to the SEC may have gotten the least attention -- in large part because of the ongoing Penn State scandal.

No doubt that’s fine for Missouri officials now -- and recent SEC addition Texas A&M -- but not being in the national dialogue won’t stand once the teams begin SEC play. Where some fans see both moves as lateral for the teams, university leaders see otherwise: moving to the SEC with play starting in 2012-13 is a chance to grow their brands nationally.

“The top decision factor for A&M going to the SEC was about increasing national visibility and exposure,” said Jason Cook, A&M’s vice president of marketing and communications. It’s no coincidence, he said, that six of the top 10 and nine of the top 25 top-selling brands for IMG College are SEC members.

Cook said looking no further than your TV screen underscores the opportunity: the recent Aggies game against Iowa State was the game selected by Big 12 first-tier rights holder ESPN, which showed the game on ABC regionally. Cook said it wasn’t even shown across the entire Big 12 footprint, much less nationwide. But that week’s game on CBS, the SEC’s first-tier rights holder, appeared in homes from coast to coast.

Referring to the Big 12’s new, second-tier television deal with FOX set to begin next season, Cook said: “While some look at the Big 12’s contract and see it as good from a financial standpoint, from an exposure standpoint, it doesn’t get coast-to-coast coverage.” This would put A&M in the same situation it was in for the Iowa State game, when broadcasts are via regional network and not nationwide.

Increased exposure nationally through athletics can help educate prospective students learn about the university, too, he said. A&M is still thought of by many to be an all-male military institution. One other important advantage: “We can set the marketplace in the state of Texas for the SEC,” Cook said, as the school will be the conference’s lone Texas brand.

From a licensing standpoint, Cook said consultants have projected revenue to increase by up to 60 percent as a result of the move.

Missouri officials have mentioned similar benefits, but Chris Koukola, assistant to the chancellor for university affairs, focused mostly on academic benefits in a recent interview.

Officials from the admissions office will look at extending their out-of-state reach, particularly in Florida, where they have a large number of alumni. Koukola also mentioned the expanded research opportunities available for faculty.

What Koukola said she most looks forward to is the opportunity to participate in a group the SEC has formed of administrators in a similar communications position. She said the Big 8 had such a group, but it was never active once the Big 12 was formed. This cooperative element adds value to their move that often goes without mention, she said.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

  Stephen Mally/Icon SMI
  A new workout routine has helped receiver Jeff Fuller and his teammates bond.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Rising before the sun for practice this spring brought out determination that Jeff Fuller never knew he had.

Whether it was running sprints in the steamy early-morning conditions or merely becomeing accustomed to waking before daybreak, the Texas A&M sophomore wide receiver and his teammates were challenged by coach Mike Sherman's intense regimen that was meant to develop toughness and accountability.

"We grew a lot together as a team, going through those 6 a.m. workouts" Fuller said. "It was a grind -- the hardest thing any of us has ever done. But we built some solid chemistry for the season."

The early wake-ups must have especially agreed with Fuller, whose development this spring was one of the Aggies' major spring storylines. During the course of practice over the last part of the spring, Fuller was transformed into A&M's top offensive weapon.

A&M didn't have a defensive player who could stick with Fuller, who was the standout of the spring game with nine receptions for 147 yards. The fast, powerful receiver looked like the second coming of Jerry Rice as he sliced through the Aggies' secondary in the spring game, continuing a trend he had shown throughout practice.

"Jeff is really good," A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson said. "He has a lot of range, really big hands and catches the ball well. I'm developing a lot of confidence in working with him and you're starting to see the results."

Johnson provided big numbers last season but could be primed for even bigger things with Fuller's improvement and those of the other A&M receivers.

"Last year, we were good at times, but this spring we really developed a continuity and got on the same page a lot," Johnson said about his receiving corps led by Fuller. "I think the quarterbacks and receivers really worked out well throughout the spring."

That worked started even before spring practice when Johnson frequently called Fuller for extra passing work.

"Even before we started, Jerrod would call me at random times and tell me we need to do some work," Fuller said. "It's obvious that it has come out for the better after you've seen we've been able to do this spring."

Fuller, the son of former A&M standout defensive back Jeff Fuller, was the key recruit in Sherman's first incoming class. He then lived up to those expectations by producing 50 receptions for 630 yards and a school-record nine touchdowns last season in his freshman season.

Grouped with Ryan Tannehill, the duo emerged by producing the top two freshman receiving seasons statistically in school history.

But with Tannehill injured for most of the spring and potentially headed to a move to quarterback in the future, the Aggies concentrated on developing the 6-foot-4, 209-pound Fuller as their top receiving threat this spring.

"We've got some guys on this team who are really good," Fuller said. "I want to become a better, more talented player. Everybody has their own personal goals, but I just want to become more complete and continue to improve."

Fuller's big finish in Saturday's spring game was a marked transformation from his struggles earlier in spring practice as he became accustomed to his role as the top receiving target.

"It's all about going through your progressions and being comfortable with them," Fuller said. "I busted a few plays and had a really rough practice on the Thursday practice before the spring game. I came out and felt like I had something to prove. It really came down to just coming out and having a good time."

That strong early showing will be a start as the Aggies try to improve from last season's 4-8 record that dropped them into a share of the Big 12 South Division cellar for the first time in school history.

If the Aggies are to make their first bowl appearance since 2007, Fuller will be a big part of it.

Big 12 cornerbacks should consider themselves suitably warned. His strong spring work has helped him develop confidence that no defensive back in the conference can stick with him in pass coverage.

"You have to have an attitude like that," Fuller said, "I feel like nobody can guard me."

Even if it's in a practice before daylight.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

How good will be the Big 12 be this season?

With an armada of strong quarterbacks and concentrated power at the top of both divisions, the conference could produce something really special this season. The Associated Press' preseason poll is stacked with five Big 12 teams among its top 14 teams. That respect is coming after four Big 12 teams finished in the top 10 last season and a Big 12-record eight consensus All-Americans were selected last season.

Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star speculates today that the Big 12 finally can come close  to matching the SEC this season. Keys, he mentions, will be the performance of the Big 12 in tough nonconference games like Missouri-Illinois, Kansas at South Florida, Kansas State at Louisville and Virginia Tech at Nebraska. The Big 12 should win its only matchup this season against the SEC when Arkansas visits Texas.

The conference's true reputation will be built in bowl games. After struggles early in its history in bowls, the Big 12's 5-3 bowl record last season was its fifth above .500 in history and third in four seasons.

That trend will have to continue to help the conference's burgeoning reputation to keep growing. And it probably wouldn't hurt for Oklahoma to win a bowl game, too.

But those games are more than four months away. The season is approaching in a mere three days.

To whet your appetite for that start, here's a power-packed stack of morning links. Enjoy them.

  • Chip Brown of breaks down the 10 best decisions of Mack Brown's coaching tenure at Texas.
  • Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk can't believe that Mark Mangino is making $2.3 million per season -- considering he's had two winning seasons in his six-year tenure as a head coach at Kansas.
  • Baylor's three quarterbacks discuss battling for their starting job as coach Art Briles' decision appears no clearer.
  • Four newcomers dot Kansas State's depth chart. RB Keithen Valentine, CB Blair Irvin, OLB Olu Hall and ILB Ulla Pomele all will be in the starting lineup Saturday against North Texas.
  • Missouri sports information director Chad Moller has "something big" planned in his pitch for Chase Daniel's Heisman hopes, according to the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond. Moller says cost of his surprise will be about $50,000.
  • The Omaha World-Herald has virtually everything you'd ever want to know about the Cornhuskers in its preview edition. Among the highlights include World-Herald beat writer Jon Nyatawa's story on Bo Pelini's building plan, Tom Shatel's column on football motivation, a Husker inkblot test that shows how the Cornhuskers can finish 8-4 and  Shatel's 14 predictions for the coming season.
  • Not to be outdone, the Lincoln Journal-Star had a preview section with Bo Pelini as a superhero with "Bo Wonder. Villains, Beware!" shouting from the cover. Columnist Steve Sipple explains his rationale for the cover. Beat writer Brian Christopherson details the Cornhuskers' 1-2 offensive punch in QB Joe Ganz and I-back Marlon Lucky, and Curt McKeever's list of Husker villains for the 2008 season.
  • The Big 12 is heavily represented on John Walter's 50 most intriguing people in college football. Included on the list are Baylor QB Robert Griffin, Missouri WR/KR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri K Jeff Wolfert, Nebraska I-back Marlon Lucky, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State WR Artrell Woods and Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree .
  • Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel speculates on the chances that Bob Stoops will remain at Oklahoma for 10 more years.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy still hasn't announced who'll be calling plays for the Cowboys in their season opener Saturday against Washington State.
  • Des Moines Register beat writer Andrew Logue interviews Iowa State quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates.
  • Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz writes that Ron Prince's junior-college laden recruiting class is nothing like Bill Snyder's recruiting strategy.
  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman breaks down Sam Bradford's Heisman hopes.
  • Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler predicts a 12-0 regular season for Oklahoma, capped by a loss to Missouri in the Big 12 championship.
  • Terrance Harris of the Houston Chronicle has an extended sit-down with new Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman.
  • Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman considers how the Texas roster would be broken down after a 44-man NFL-style draft.
  • Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News produces an interesting comparison between Dallas-area natives Chase Daniel of Missouri and Matthew Stafford of Georgia.
  • Kansas QB Todd Reesing tells the Fort Worth Star
    -Telegram's Mike Jones about his interest in dancing and life in the fishbowl in Lawrence, Kan.
  • Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal "there's a good possibility" the Red Raiders will face Oklahoma State in Dallas in 2009.
  • Texas Tech coaches still haven't decided on starters at running back and center heading into Saturday's opener against Eastern Washington. Daniel Charbonnet has won the starting job at free safety, with the right corner and kicker jobs still open.
  • The Tulsa World's Guerin Emig profiles TB DeMarco Murray, a key offensive weapon for Oklahoma's success this season.
  • J. Brady McCullough of the Kansas City Star details the changing expectations around the Jayhawks' program.
  • Heralded Colorado running back Darrell Scott has lost 17 pounds since arriving at college. He's now down to a trim 210 pounds and hopes to play close at close to 205 once the season begins.
  • New Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is emphasizing speed in his rebuilding process, Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman writes.
  • Colorado is preparing for uncertainty in its season opener against Colorado State. The Buffaloes will be facing an opponent featuring a new coach, new offensive coordinator and new starting quarterback.