<
>

Opening spring camp: Texas A&M Aggies

3/2/2015

Schedule: The Aggies begin spring practice at 5:30 p.m. ET today, the first of four practices this week. Friday will be their annual "Friday Night Lights" practice, which is a popular draw for recruits and the Aggies will wrap up spring practice on April 11. For the second consecutive year, the Aggies will not have a spring football game because of ongoing construction at Kyle Field. The Aggies will also not practice between March 15-22, which is Texas A&M's spring break week.

What's new: Three new coaches debut on the Texas A&M staff this year: John Chavis, Dave Christensen and Aaron Moorehead. The headliner is defensive coordinator Chavis, formerly of LSU, who replaces Mark Snyder (who is now at Michigan State). Chavis is tasked with making vast improvements on the SEC's worst defense two years running. Chavis will also coach the linebackers and Mark Hagen, the Aggies' linebackers coach the last two years, moves closer to the line of scrimmage to coach defensive tackles. Terry Price, the defensive line coach since Kevin Sumlin's arrival, will now focus on defensive ends as a result. On offense there are two new faces: Christensen is the new offensive line coach and running game coordinator, replacing B.J. Anderson. Christensen was most recently at Utah, spent time with Gary Pinkel at Mizzou and was once Wyoming's head coach. Moorehead, the former Indianapolis Colts receiver and most recently, Virginia Tech's receivers coach, is Texas A&M's new receivers coach. He replaces David Beaty (now Kansas' head coach).

New faces: The Aggies have seven early enrollees who will hit the field this spring. Safety Justin Evans, linebacker Claude George and receiver Damion Ratley are the three junior college midyear signees and the four early enrollee true freshmen are tight end Jordan Davis, receiver Christian Kirk, linebacker Richard Moore and offensive lineman Keaton Sutherland. Look for Evans and George to compete early on since both of their respective positions need depth; Kirk is one of the gems of the 2015 recruiting class and could find his way into the lineup if he has a good spring, summer and fall.

Question marks: Will the Aggies be deeper and/or better at linebacker? That's what they're hoping with Chavis' arrival, but they need the bodies. Getting A.J. Hilliard back healthy will be key to that mission. (He missed almost all of last season with a foot injury) plus the midyear additions of George and Moore will help depth. Who will man the left tackle position? It's open for competition after the graduation of Cedric Ogbuehi. The early name to keep an eye on there would be Avery Gennesy, a junior college transfer who redshirted last year. What changes will we see in the offensive line, both systematically and in style of play? Christensen is sure to put his stamp on this group; how remains to be seen. With Hagen joining Price coaching the defensive line, what effect will that have on that position group? Is Kyle Allen ready to take the next step at quarterback? The Aggies also need to find new starters at safety and cornerback after losing a starter each at those positions via graduation.

Key battle: Left tackle will be the spot to watch this spring. Will it be Gennesy, who is talented but has yet to play a down of Division I football? He was a talented junior college prospect at East Mississippi Community College and redshirted last year, along with Jermaine Eluemunor, to allow an extra year to play rather than wasting a year as a backup getting spot duty. Will Germain Ifedi, the current right tackle, get a chance to compete at left tackle? Who else is a potential option here? That remains to be seen.

Breaking out: If the workload he received in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl is any indication, keep an eye on Tra Carson. The senior running back seems to be the most well-rounded of the Aggies' backfield bunch and if there is an added emphasis on the running game, Carson stands to benefit. He is built to be an every-down back (6-foot, 235 pounds). Speedy Noil showed flashes of his limitless ability last year and should have an even bigger role in the Texas A&M offense this season, plus he is the primary option in the return game. Watch out for the New Orleans product.

Don't forget about: Myles Garrett. A breakout freshman season saw Garrett record 11.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He should be poised for a strong sophomore season. Speaking of breakout freshmen, Armani Watts should be poised for a good season coming off a true freshman campaign where he led the team with three interceptions. The playmaker looks like a star in the Aggies' secondary. The ultimate "don't forget about" is cornerback De'Vante Harris, who is entering his fourth year as a starter. He has had his ups and downs but his game progressed since his 2012 arrival and he will have to be consistently good if the Aggies are to be a quality secondary in 2015.

All eyes on: Chavis and Sumlin. The head coach pulled off what might have been the coup of the offseason in stealing one of college football's best defensive coordinators from an SEC West rival. Defense has been this team's weakness, so everyone wants to see what kind of effect "The Chief" can have. Sumlin is entering his fourth year on campus and expectations are going to be high, so there will be plenty of eyes on him as well.