We've spent the better part of a week know poking around with our sources to see who's been standing out in the weight room and in offseason workouts. With so much information to bring your way, we're forced to break this into two parts. So let’s start out with the freshman standouts, where two names have constantly surfaced when talking with sources. We’re going to talk about a lot of players here, but if you’re going to take one name out of this, it’s the Aggie legacy De’Vante Harris.
DeVante Harris has been standing out in 7 on 7's where his speed is a huge asset.
Harris has earned the respect from many of his teammates because of his excellent cover skills during 7-on-7s. Honestly, every single one of the sources we spoke to mentioned Harris as one of the freshman turning heads this summer. That should not be surprising since former A&M defensive backs coach Charles McMillian told GigEm247 in the spring that Harris was a guy he would have, ironically, given his job up to offer.
The 4-star defender is getting special guidance from Toney Hurd, who’s personally taken Harris under his wing. Harris has sub 4.4 speed and played receiver in high school so those attributes will always allow him to shine during a 7-on-7 setting. However, at 5-11, 170-pounds, the former Mesquite Horn standout will have to continue packing on weight to be physical enough with SEC receivers and in order to help in run support going into the SEC. We’re not surprised that he’s standing out in 7 on 7’s, but it’s going to be a challenge for him to carry that momentum into fall camp.
If you’re looking for a surprise player that we’re hearing good things about, that title goes to Sabian Holmes. Multiple sources talked about how good he’s been so far in workouts, including one source told us that Holmes is “extremely quick, with natural hands and very coachable.” Another intangible the 5-11, 172-pounder brings to the table is that sense of “Southlake Swagger.” Anyone that knows Sabian personally, or really anyone else who’s ever come out of that program, will tell you he’s never short on confidence. The combination of physical traits that fit well into Kliff Kingbury’s offense and that confidence have allowed the freshman to be mentioned by many of his peers as an early standout during 7-on-7s.
We’re told that another potential two-way player, Edward Pope, is currently working at receiver, trying to learn plays and working on route running (6-2, ½, 168). If you’ve been with us at GigEm247 that’s not surprising, as we expected Pope to start out on offense, but Pope isn't exactly a well polished receiver at this stage so we don't expect him to have the immediate impact of his teammates.
Moving away from the 7-on-7 setting and into workouts, one newcomer on the defensive line has impressed many sources with his overall strength, and that’s Brother Martin’s Julian Obioha. At 6-3 and 255 now, the New Orleans native has already gained five pounds of muscle this summer. We’re hearing that he’s been impressive in the weight room, and that Obioha is among the leaders under Larry Jackson’s rigorous offseason program. Word is he power cleaned over 320-pounds twice in a recent workout. Right now, Obioha is working at defensive end so he’s getting used to rushing the passer. His quickness off the ball has caught the eye of his teammates but there’s still some fundamental work, specifically with his hands, that need continued improvement.
Another freshman up in weight since arriving to Aggieland is Michael Richardson. The Desoto product has gained eight pounds, putting him right at 230 lbs. Working at SAM linebacker, Richardson is basically shadowing Sean Porter, trying to absorb everything he can from the first-team All-Big 12 defender. One source told us that Richardson is “real aggressive” which should come as no surprise because of the program he came from. Richardson happened to walk by when we were in College Station for the A&M Camp and when fall camp begins, he’s going to be one of the most impressive players “on the hoof.”
Perhaps the title of “most physically impressive freshman” goes to Euless Trinity’s Polo Manukainiu, who’s gained 13 pounds since the beginning of the summer. He’s currently standing 6-5, 263-pounds, the 4-star defensive end has worked tirelessly in the weight room since arriving to A&M. He was one of the flag raisers at the SEC ceremony, and we were surprised at his physical presence.
The offensive and defensive line groups compete against each other twice a week. The 1-on-1’s are extremely helpful to Polo because he’s going up against future NFL Draft picks Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews off the edge. His focus right now is on his fundamentals like increasing his speed and getting in a proper stance to beat the tackles off to the quarterback. Those are the areas of his game he’s trying to improve the most before the start of fall camp. If he can get some of the basics down, Manukainiu may be able to contribute much earlier than we originally expected.
Julien Obioha has impressed teammates and coaches with his work in the weight room.
Our sources have also shared that Luke Joeckel is really stepping up in a leadership role, and is actively helping the young O-Lineman as well as the D-Lineman like Manukainiu. Another upperclassman stepping up to help out is Spencer Nealy. Before each 1-on-1 and team session, Nealy takes Polo into the weight room to work on hand-eye coordination. There’s a set of drills that Nealy puts them through to work on that area of their game. Like most of the freshman, Manukainiu is really taking in as much knowledge as he can.
It’s not surprising for us to hear that Joeckel and Nealy are among the team leaders, both showed during the spring that they didn’t mind sharing their thoughts with their teammates. (More on that tomorrow.)
If you follow 5-star running back Trey Williams on twitter you’ll have an idea how the state champion ball carrier is adjusting to a real college workout program. Tweeting last week, “So... my first workout was today nd it was hell lol haven't threw up since I was 7”. Williams just arrived to College Station last week so he’s just now getting into a normal regiment. That said, we fully expect him to be the talk of the town by the time fall practice arrives. He’s a warrior in the weight room and he’s not the type who will be happy with sitting and learning behind older players. In fact, we expect we’ll see some good competition between Williams and Christine Michael this fall.
The same goes for Alonzo Williams, who just arrived to campus last week as well. He reportedly checked in at 6-3, 265, which is up 8 pounds from this spring. He’ll be mainly working on his speed and technique before the start of fall camp.
Another defensive end that has gained eight pounds since arriving this summer is Tyrone Taylor, who recently weighed in at 6-5, 223. The former Galena Park defender is the more physically impressive of the Taylor brothers and he’ll start out his career in Aggieland three pounds bigger than his twin brother, Tyrell.
To put things in perspective, the two freshman offensive guards, Germain Ifedi and Kimo Tipoti, are already more physically developed than most of the upperclassmen at their respective position. Ifedi, at 6-6, 330 commands a room when he walks through the Bright Complex, and Tipoti, at 6-4, 314-pounds, can hold his weight, so to speak, with any of the upperclassmen. Sources told us recently that Ifedi has quick feet for his size and Tipoti has a powerful first punch.
Jordan Richmond is not trying to put on too much weight right now, sitting comfortably at 225-pounds. The Denton Ryan product’s main focus is learning his keys and learning from the seniors.
Mike Matthews, who's standing around 6-3, 270-pounds, is rooming with his older brother and trying to soak up all the knowledge he can from Jake.
Just a quick note on Edmund Ray’s future. We're hearing his fate is now in the hands of the NCAA Clearing House. There should be notice from the department before the start of fall camp.
One obviously notable name missing from this report is Skyline’s Thomas Johnson, who figures to be a major factor at receiver this fall. The reason is because he’s still recovering from the minor MCL surgery he underwent before enrolling at A&M. However, he’s close to being fully recovered and is on schedule to be ready to go when fall camp begins.