1 - The Battle for Backup QB
Jameill Showers and Matt Joeckel enter Monday’s scrimmage still locked in a duel to be the backup to Ryan Tannehill. Mike Sherman has said all along that he would like to have this position settled in order to start getting whoever wins out more reps in practice. At this point it’s hard to say if either quarterback has an advantage.
2 - Inside Linebacker Rotation
Through the first six days of practice, the Aggies have stuck with a first unit of Donnie Baggs and Jonathon Stewart and a second unit of Garrick Williams and Kyle Mangan. While we fully expect Williams to earn his starting spot back before the opener, that’s certainly not guaranteed. At the other linebacker position, Monday will be an important day for freshman Donnie Baggs to prove to the coaches that he can play at a high level in live action against the first offensive unit.
3 - The Run Game
The Aggies have had mixed results running the ball between the tackles so far in practice as the defensive line unit has really done a good job holding up the offensive line and moving people around. Tomorrow, the team goes live for one of the first times all fall tomorrow. The defense will be even more intense tomorrow and should provide a good test for the running game.
4 - Outside Linebacker Rotation
One position where younger players have really made an impact is at outside linebacker. Shaun Ward, Brandon Alexander, and Tyrell Taylor have all shown flashes this fall. The question for Nick Toth is what exactly the rotation is going to be. Sean Porter and Cayleb Russell have been solid in the first unit, and Damontre Moore has really started to come on in the last few days again as well. Tomorrow should give us a good clue on where the Aggies are with their rotation.
5 - Controlling the Passing Game
The Big 12 is still home to some of the nation’s prolific offenses, and one of the big keys for A&M’s success this season is going to be limiting the big time receivers of the conference. Luckily for Tim DeRuyter the Aggies have one of the best to practice against in Jeff Fuller. If the defense is going to reach some of the goals they’ve set for this season, they’re going to have to be able to limit the downfield threat of some of these big time receivers. We’ll be watching closely to see how well they do tomorrow.
6 - Non-Starting Wide Receivers
Perhaps no position rotates in and out of the game as much as wide receiver, which means that there’s plenty of opportunity for people to come in and make an impact outside of the starting lineup. Kenric McNeal has stacked a good first week of practices, and Brandal Jackson and Nate Askew have been impressive as well. Look for these guys to have big days tomorrow working in the receiver rotation.
7 - Team Health
The Aggies have only gone fully live for one portion of practice all camp. After practice today Sherman said that tomorrow the scrimmage will be a live scrimmage so we’ll be watching how players take hits and the overall health of the team. Injuries are always a concern the first time things go live.
8 - Tempo and Play Selection
Sherman also noted after practice today that you don’t see the tempo of a live game in practice. Last year only Oklahoma, Nevada and Texas Tech ran more plays than the Aggies, and OU and Nevada did it with an extra game on the schedule. It will be interesting to watch tomorrow what tempo Mike Sherman has the Aggies running at in the scrimmage. At the same time, the passing game has been limited in practice, as Sherman has mostly worked on the run game and play action passes in team drills.
9 - Turnovers
It’s tough to really judge turnovers in a scrimmage, because obviously the defense is trying to force them. What we’re really looking at are unforced turnovers. We’d like to see a more consistent center-to-quarterback exchange with the second and third units, and we’ll be watching how Showers and Joeckel make decisions throwing into coverage. Also, both Will Randolph and Ben Malena have had their issues with fumbles, so we’ll be watching that as well. Finally, if the offense does make a mistake you want to see the defense take advantage of those errors.
10 - The Debut of Drew Kaser
One of the freshman expected to make an instant impact this season is punter Drew Kaser, but he hasn’t been able to practice during the first week. Sherman said that they expect Kaser to be back working out tomorrow so we’ll be watching him to see how he comes in. The other punters haven’t been overly impressive in the first week, so we’re interested to see if Kaser can make the instant impact that we predicted.