SEC: Texas A&M

SEC lunchtime links

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
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Starters are being named, injuries are being assessed and coaches are seeking consistency. Yup, the season is drawing closer. Take a look around the SEC and see.
In the SEC, it's all about recruiting and player development. It's the big reason why the league has won seven straight BCS championships and produced more NFL players than any other conference. The two go hand-in-hand.

The Senior Bowl, which released its 2014 Watch List on Tuesday, further illustrated that fact, selecting nearly 20 percent (72) of its 400 candidates from the SEC. The ACC twas nearly lapped with 48 selections, followed by the Big 10 (46) and the Pac-12 (38).

And the team with the most players should come as no surprise as defending-champion Alabama had 10 make the list, including quarterback AJ McCarron and All-American linebacker C.J. Mosley. Florida, Mississippi State and Missouri tied for the second-most players taken from the SEC with six apiece.

Alabama: WR Kenny Bell, CB Deion Belue, CB John Fulton, P Cody Mandell, QB AJ McCarron, LB C.J. Mosley, WR Kevin Norwood, RG Anthony Steen, S Nick Perry.

Arkansas: WR Jevontee Herndon, DT Brian Jones, DE Chris Smith, C Travis Swanson, DT Robert Thomas.

Auburn: P Steven Clark, DC Chris Davis, DE Nosa Eguae, DE Dee Ford, FB Jay Prosch, DT Jeffrey Whitaker

Florida: WR Andre Debose, DE Dominique Easley, OG Jon Halapio, C Jonatthan Harrison, WR Soloman Patton, DC Jaylen Watkins.

Georgia: OG Chris Burnett, OG Kernarious Gates, TE Arthur Lynch, QB Aaron Murray, OB Garrison Smith.

Kentucky: IB Avery Williamson

LSU: IB Lamin Barrow, RB Alfred Blue, FB JC Copeland, FS Craig Loston, QB Zach Mettenberger

Mississippi State: DE Denico Autry, OG Gabe Jackson, RB LeDarious Perkins, QB Tyler Russell, OB Deontae Skinner, FS Nickoe Whitley

Missouri: OT Justin Britt, QB James Franklin, DC EJ Gaines, WR Marcus Lucas, WR L'Damian Washington, IB Andrew Wilson

Ole Miss: PT Tyler Campbell, IB Mike Marry, DC Charles Sawyer, RB Jeff Scott, IB DT Shackleford

South Carolina: DC Jimmy Legree, QB Connor Shaw, DE Chaz Sutton

Tennessee: OT Ju'Wuan James, DT Daniel McCuller, RB Rajon Neal, DE Jacques Smith, C James Stone

Texas A&M: LB Steven Jenkins, RB Ben Malena, OT Jake Matthews

Vanderbilt: IB Chase Garnham, DC Andre Hal, OT Wesley Johnson, FS Kenny Ladler, WR Jordan Matthews

Keep an eye on Eifert, because 'Bama will

January, 5, 2013
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When the No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in the Discover BCS National Championship Game on Monday, one of the biggest difference-makers on the field could be Tyler Eifert.

Eifert, this season’s John Mackey Award winner, given annually to the nation’s top tight end, is the latest and possibly the best in a long line of great players Notre Dame has produced at that position.

Notre Dame’s last three starting tight ends –- Anthony Fasano (2003-05), John Carlson (2004-07) and Kyle Rudolph (2008-10) –- are all playing in the NFL, yet no tight end has caught more passes for more yards in Irish history than Eifert.

A major reason Eifert could be the player who gives the Crimson Tide defense more fits than anyone else is that Alabama has had issues when its linebackers are forced into pass coverage.

When opposing offenses have lined up in four-or-five-receiver sets against the Tide, they’ve been more effective than in sets with three or fewer receivers.

The numbers are even more telling when you take a look at the five games in which Alabama faced ranked opponents (Michigan, Mississippi State, LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia).

No team was more successful than the Aggies, a natural spread-offense team with a mobile, redshirt freshman quarterback; eventual Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel completed 19 of 23 passes for 184 yards and 2 TD when A&M operated out of a four-or-five-receiver set in a 29-24 upset in Tuscaloosa, the Tide’s only loss of the season.

In comes Notre Dame, also a natural spread-offense team with a mobile, redshirt freshman quarterback. As a unit, the Irish passing attack is better when operating out of a four-or-five-receiver set.

However, when it comes to Eifert, the senior has been more effective when working out of a set with three or fewer receivers (including him), a formation that usually dictates opposing defenses cover him with a linebacker.

When the Irish had three or fewer receivers on the field and Eifert was the targeted receiver, they completed 25 of 42 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns.

He was most lethal when Notre Dame operated out of what’s known as “11” personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers) and he was the targeted receiver.

In those situations, the Irish were 15-of-23 for 208 yards and a touchdown. But when operating out of a four-or-five-receiver set and Eifert was targeted, Notre Dame was 19-of-33 for 261 yards and no touchdowns.

In other words, Eifert’s presence opened things up for the other receivers.

Therein lies the conundrum for Alabama. What should the Tide do with Eifert?

No one’s had success covering him with a linebacker when the Irish are operating out of “21” (two backs, one tight end) or “11” personnel and rolling the coverage over toward him when they’ve operated from four-or-empty (five-receiver) sets only opened things up for Notre Dame’s other capable pass catchers like TJ Jones, Robby Toma and Theo Riddick when they move him from running back spot and into the slot-receiver position.

It’s a sure bet that Nick Saban is glad to have had the extra time to prepare for this problem.
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
11/15/11
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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.
Now that Texas A&M has officially moved to the Southeastern Conference, maybe the Aggies' self-esteem will improve.

They're no longer Texas' little brother. They've moved on to what they anticipate will be bigger and better, while seizing control of their future.

It was a bold move.

A&M should contend for conference titles in just about every sport except football during their first year in the SEC, but the Aggies did that in the Big 12 and it still left the majority of Aggies unfulfilled.

It's too bad every school doesn't have the pride and loyalty that exists at A&M, but we all know the Aggies are among the whiniest fans, collectively, you'll ever find. If that aspect of the Aggies' fan base doesn't change, then they'll be just as frustrated in the SEC in a few years.

Instead of playing second fiddle to Texas and OU in football, they'll be playing second fiddle to Alabama and LSU. Perhaps, that won't bother the Aggies faithful as much simply because those schools aren't the hated "tu."

We can argue -- as my mama used to say -- until we're blue in the face about whether this was a good move or a bad move. Heck, the Aggies can't even seem to reach a consensus themselves, though most seem pleased with the switch in conferences.

Ultimately, the move's success depends on whether A&M can consistently compete for the conference football title in the SEC. Do that, and everything else falls into place.

It seems a silly notion based on their performance in the Big 12 over the years, but they'll have a chance to prove it on the field.

The reality is football success is only way A&M's self-esteem will improve.

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