Thursday, February 13, 2014

NSD, 2014 Expectations, NFL Draft Dreams and Other Thoughts...

National Signing Day is in the books. Spring practice is a ways away. The NFL Draft is a ways away (although the Combine is right around the corner). This is a slow time for a college football fan. Ben and I decided to recap NSD and look ahead to next year via email. Enjoy!

Scott:  National Signing Day is in the books! The day itself was a little anti-climactic as the Aggies missed out on two realistic targets in LB Kenny Young and OL Braden Smith. I really wanted Braden Smith, a team can't ever have too many athletic, physically-imposing offensive linemen in the system. No use crying over missed opportunities when we capitalized on so many others though. This class is a doozy, it really is. I don't even know where to start.


Who are your three favorite recruits in our class? Wait, dumb question. That is obviously Garrett, Speedy and Allen. Gosh those three make quiver (too much?) with excitement. Count me as double excited that Speedy and Allen enrolled early. Will Speedy start from day one? Does Allen have a legitimate shot at beating out Kenny Hill? 

After you address all those inquiries, tell me your three favorite recruits OUTSIDE of our super studly, nationally acclaimed top three.

Ben: Allen absolutely has a shot at beating out Kenny Hill. In fact, I expect it to happen. When you hear an analyst like Trent Dilfer (who happened to spend a few years in the NFL AND win a Super Bowl) say Allen wouldn't look out of place at an NFL practice, you tend to raise your expectations accordingly. Kenny Hill is a nice player, but Kyle Allen is the #1 QB recruit in the nation and is on campus a semester early to get ready for the fall. You also have to look down the road - Kyler Murray, Aggie legacy, and quite the stud recruit himself, will be a senior next year and any delay in starting Kyle Allen diminishes the chances of the Aggies securing Kyler Murray's Johnny-like services. It's a domino effect, so you want to get Allen on the field and out of the program in 3 years so that Murray can only expects to sit on the bench for one year. (I realize this is insane, and picking nits, but this is where Texas A&M is right now. This is a good thing.)

I don't see Speedy starting from day one because of the steep learning curve for receivers. You see it in the NFL; rookie running backs can come in and perform (see Eddie Lacy) but receivers usually take a couple years to get comfortable with a new quarterback and a new system (see Dez Bryant). Even Mike Evans had a season to redshirt and find his place. But the main reason I think Speedy sits (at least at first) is because of the quality Aggie receiving corps: Ricky Seals-Jones, Jaquay Williams, Quiv Gonzalez, Malcome Kennedy, Kyrion Parker, Jeremy Tabuyo, Edward Pope, Sabian Holmes and Sebastian LaRue. You see my point though... We have quantity and quality. No reason to rush him on the field unless he clearly beats out the experienced players.

My favorite three recruits outside the big 3 are without a doubt Nick Harvey, Frank Iheanacho, and Otaro Alaka. I've been hearing that Harvey is built similar to Earl Thomas when he arrived at UT, which means Harvey could switch to safety, although I don't envision that happening. You don't see a lot of stud safeties shorter than 5-10, but then again we've seen what a short QB can do, so who knows? I wish DSG hadn't gone off the reservation (Idaho is WAY off the reservation) because we need safeties. Bad. I like Iheanacho because a) nicknames are fun and b) beating Oregon straight up (or so seemed the national perception) for a stud athlete is ridiculously fun. On that same note, Alaka will always have a soft spot in my heart for flipping from UT to A&M in the week leading up to NSD. Stronghorn indeed, am I right?

Did you hear the news about Mike Mitchell transferring from Ohio State to a school in Texas? I was always surprised that the Prestonwood linebacker wanted to go up north like that, but it sounds like he genuinely loved being in Columbus. I guess people up north follow football too, who knew? Something tells me the tradition and passion of A&M (who he flirted with before signing with OSU) and the SEC (Mike, have you heard of Harvey Updike?) may speak to Mitchell. A stud linebacker would fill a spot of need, not to mention the fact that he already has a year of college under his belt and may be able to play right away. Get on it, Coach Cool.

Who are your three favorite recruits? Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen? Which RB should get the most snaps? Is this a make-or-break year for DC Mark Snyder?

Scott: So the quarterback battle... I am kind of leaning towards Kyle Allen at the moment. But then again, I will be the first person to admit that I am always infatuated with 'potential'. I thought Matt Davis was going to be a stud. Kyle Allen is a different breed though, a true pro-style quarterback with an NFL type arm is new thing for A&M. This isn't Ryan Tannehill, this isn't Johnny Manziel, this isn't Matt Davis. Kyle Allen could be a stud from day one (or he could be Garrett Gilbert). And I love your forward thinking in regards to Kyler Murray. He holds my heart. He is Johnny-like at Allen High School, except with more national publicity. I couldn't bear to see him go anywhere other than Aggieland. I want to believe in Kenny Hill, I think he is a winner, but I think the natural ARM of Kyle Allen holds the keys to success. It is going to be a gut-wrenching spring.

My three favorite recruits are Nacho, Zaycoven Henderson, and Koda Martin. It is scary how similar Nacho is to Mike Evans. And I don't think it is out of line in the least bit to expect him to become AT WORST Mike Evans Lite. You can't teach height and basketball-like ball skills. Zaycoven for the exact reason you alluded to with Otaro. Stealing seemingly hard UT commits is a blast and totally unlike anything I have ever experienced as an Aggie fan. I am enjoying every second of our current dominance and I love hearing about every potential "spin" on this year's UT class. Did you see some guy tried to tweet that UT had more commitments from the state of Texas than A&M? As if rankings were imaginary? I love that! It's as if that guy hadn't ever heard of foreigners like Speedy or Allen. He must have spent a long time researching all those three stars that A&M didn't even recruit. And last but not least, Koda Martin. We have a pretty good history of picking up athletic, studly offensive tackles don't we? Maybe Koda Martin is a Bruce Matthew's love child or something. We can only dream.

That RB situation will be interesting this year. Thank you Ben Malena for all your contributions, but in a weird way I am glad he is out of the mix. Trey Williams should be the focal point. I think he has earned that. And I think Tra Carson should be the second (and very intimidating) banana. If that isn't your prototypical thunder and lightning, I don't know what is. Let Brandon Williams pick up the scraps. I sure hope Spav doesn't abandon the run like last year, because even with an average offensive line, these RBs can make plays. 

I do think this is a make-or-break year for Coach Snyder. He gets a free pass for last year (and rightfully so) due to the lack of talent and extreme youth. But if our defense doesn't show some serious gusto this year, then I think he will be squarely on the hot seat. Last year's youth better turn into this year's energy. Speaking of defense, I literally just read about that Mike Mitchell stuff. What an insane pickup that would be. I know he redshirted last year? Is he still awesome? I am uber-excited to follow this developing story. We could have TWO contributing white linebackers (along with Mastrogiovanni) in or midst!

How excited are you already for the 2015 class? We might have three defensive five stars with Daylon Mack, Kendell Sheffield, and Malik Jefferson. That's like having THREE Myles Garrett's!!! 

Also, I read some fluff piece hyping 2015 as OUR year. It is a pretty easy stance to take given the young defensive studs we have coming in and a first year quarterback in 2014, but do you agree? What are the realistic expectations for 2014? I am bit conflicted. We can go ahead and put Auburn back in the LSU/Bama gauntlet. It will take me a long time to fear Mizzou or Ole Miss like I do LSU/Bama. And we have to deal with South Carolina to open the season. Ugh, my stomach is twisting now...

Ben: I think the goal for next year is 9-3. I hate to say it, but I think that's even setting the bar a bit high. All 4 non-SEC games are gimmes, along with Arkansas and #FailState. Then you've got to win 3 of the following: home games against Ole Miss, Mizzou, and LSU, and road games at South Carolina, Bama, and Auburn. 

Yikes. 

When the 2014 schedule was released, I was extremely confident. Then Mizzou and Auburn hit their stride in 2013 and now have me legitimately spooked. Looking at these bridge schedules makes me want to cry - 2013 really was the year for the Aggies to do some damage. The ONLY scary away game was LSU. That's it. It's a damn shame the defense disappeared and Clarence McKinney was the playcaller. Two months after the regular season ended I'm still wondering how many wins Kliff Kingsbury was worth to the Aggies. If McKinney is considered replacement-level (which is generous) Kingsbury was worth at least 2 WAR. You gotta think he could have made the difference in 2 of the 4 losses. What do you think?

Scott: I agree with a 9-3 being our goal for next year. Then we would have the opportunity at a 10 win season with a bowl victory. Who knows, maybe we go back to the Chick-fil-a Bowl in that situation. I love Chick-fil-a spicy sandwiches.

But yea, 9-3 won't be easy. I still think we should have beat Auburn and Mizzou this past year. To let both of those slip away was atrocious. If we can somehow open up the season with a victory at South Carolina I will be feeling pretty solid. Heck, if that happens I am sure I will start day dreaming about BCS games. Also, can we PLEASE beat LSU this year at Kyle Field. We better not let them manhandle us like they did in Death Valley last year. I was numb from despair (and the freezing rain) after that game. We were all set up to run the table, get Johnny back on the Heisman podium and cruise into the Sugar Bowl. And then LSU crapped on our dreams. I want revenge next year.

Would it be ridiculous to offer Kliff $3 million to come back and coach our offense? I mean it's just money. You can't put a price on winning. I sure do hope Clarence was majority of the problem in regards to how our offense would randomly sputter at the worst of times last year. Will Spav be the answer? I am hesitant. I mean he has to take some of the blame for last year as well, right? WE HAD JOHNNY MANZIEL AND MIKE EVANS AND TREY WILLIAMS AND JAKE MATTHEWS AND WE COULDN'T SCORE MORE THAN 21 POINTS AGAINST MIZZOU??????? That game still frustrates me. Back to Spav though. I mean he was at the game sharing the play-calling duties. Should he get a free pass? As Thomas Fritts pointed out in his fantastic breakdown of our offense... we lacked creativity and innovation. We got sucked into the pass and abandoned the run. Those things can't happen this year. I sure hope giving Spav full control will be solution, but call me a skeptic at the moment.

So the NFL Draft Combine is around the corner. You think our Aggies will help their cause? 

Ben: I think they will, if only because they saw how terrible Damontre performed last year and how much money he cost himself. What's interesting is I figured Moore's talent would shine through even when he fell in the draft. That simply didn't happen in 2013 - he had zero sacks on the season. I guess the NFL does know a thing or two when it comes to the Combine. The Aggies heading to the Combine are also surefire stars; Manziel, Matthews, and Evans would have to pull a 'Damontre' (yes, I've coined that phrase for describing an inexplicably bad Combine performance) to fall out of the first round, and I just don't see that happening. 

I know you've been keeping up with the mock drafts. We still have a LONG way to go. But look who's in McShay's top-10... That's right, EVERY AGGIE. McShay even has Evans going to Detroit. Can you imagine him being paired with Calvin Johnson? My brain just exploded.

Scott: Oh, Damontre... who would have thought getting fat and slow before the most important job interview of your life would be a bad thing? Don't get me wrong, Damontre was a pretty great player for Texas A&M, but I always felt like his stats were a little more impressive than his actual performance. Sacks can be a fickle stat, a guy could easily "fall" into 4 or 5 extra sacks over the course of a season and elevate his public perception. A 14 sack season looks WAY better than a 9 sack season. 

No worries though, it's water under the bridge and rather irrelevant to the Aggies going into the draft this year. As you already mentioned, this year's crop of Aggies is elite in every sense of the word. Every time I hear or read something about Evans, it is absolutely glowing. The guy has the height, body control and hands that just can't be taught. I mean he could have a 10 year NFL career by just running fade and stop routes in the redzone.

Three Aggies in the top 10 would be incredible. Plus that means all three will likely get invited to the draft. Can I go ahead and predict that ESPN invites Mr. Personality to the draft as well to provide insight, commentary and suave looks? Publicity galore!

My how the times have changed. Stellar recruiting classes, plentiful NFL prospects, SEC expectations... who would have ever thought it would finally happen to those spunky kids in College Station. 

But at the end of the day, I am most excited to follow Johnny Football as he takes his talents to Sundays. He changed the Aggie world and he will forever be revered for such things. I can only hope he finds the same success on the biggest stage.

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