The solid line play Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher bragged about throughout spring drills was on full display Friday night in the Maroon & White Game.
On defense, Jayden Peevy had two sacks for the Maroon, and fellow junior tackle Mohamed Diallo added one. Junior defensive end Chris Clemons had a sack for the White. Sophomore end Jeremiah Martin had a game-high nine tackles for the Maroon. Freshman tackle Derick Hunter had five tackles for the White while sophomore inside tackles Bobby Brown and junior Justin Madubuike each added a tackle, while sophomore linemen Josh Rogers and Max Wright each had a tackle for the Maroon.
“Defensive line, I really like [our depth],” Fisher said.
Look for A&M to be better on the defensive line in 2019 despite losing Landis Durham, Kingsley Keke and Daylon Mack. The talent and depth is of championship caliber.
The offensive line, despite allowing five sacks, had more good plays than bad as Maroon sophomore running back Jacob Kibodi (20 carries-107 yards) and White redshirt freshman running back Deneric Prince (12 carries-52 yards) averaged 5 yards per carry, getting caught behind the line only once. Those numbers compare favorably to last season when A&M averaged 5.3 yards per carry when it averaged 219 yards rushing per game to rank 21st in the country. Kibodi and Prince won’t make Aggies forget departed Trayveon Williams, who led the Southeastern Conference in rushing, but they also each had five pass receptions Friday night, combining for 91 yards. You can’t play running back for Fisher without being a weapon in the passing game.
Along with replacing Williams, the Aggies lost center Erik McCoy, who is projected to be a first-round NFL draft pick, but with five linemen returning with starting experience and a more experienced quarterback in junior Kellen Mond, the running game is in good shape. A&M also played the spring game without sophomore Jashaun Corbin, arguably the team’s best back. Fisher said the litmus test for the new running backs will be consistency. That’s where A&M could possibly miss the dependable Williams.
Georgia on the mind of many
Last year, the question at quarterback was whether Mond or Nick Starkel would win the job. Now it’s who will be Mond’s backup.
True freshman Zach Calzada was impressive enough Friday night that one reporter asked Fisher if he was ready to name Calzada the backup. That might be the case in chat rooms with many raving about the kid from Georgia, but Fisher will leave the job open.
Calzada completed 8 of 21 for 139 yards and a 31-yard touchdown to freshman tight end Baylor Cupp. What was impressive about Calzada is he started with four ugly incompletions. Redshirt freshman James Foster completed 7 of 12 for 67 yards but also took two sacks. Sophomore Connor Blumrick was 4 of 12 for 19 yards with an interception, a performance that will lend some to wonder if he’ll switch positions. He displayed none of the great athleticism we’ve heard so much about, but Fisher added that it wasn’t fair judging Blumrick, who couldn’t extend plays with his legs since quarterbacks weren’t live.
For those hopping on the Calzada bandwagon — remember, it’s a long summer. A year ago, many liked Starkel as the starter, and he will be suiting up for Arkansas this fall.
Players to watch
Junior defensive back Moses Reynolds, who is more known for being the little brother of former A&M wide receiver Josh Reynolds, who is with the Los Angeles Rams, had a pair of interceptions and three solo tackles for the White.
“Moses is talented,” Fisher said. “When Moses plays and decides to play — I’m not saying that he doesn’t — but when he decides he’s locked in, totally mentally, Moses is as talented as anyone on this football team. He’s a very gifted guy. It was great to see him make those plays.”
That being said, the former wide receiver-turned-defensive back redshirted in 2016 and didn’t see a snap in the last two seasons. He may have turned the corner, but A&M’s pass defense struggled last season, allowing 253.2 yards per game to rank 98th. A&M certainly needs playmakers in the secondary and at linebacker, a thin unit that lost both starters.
Maroon defensive back Clifford Chattman was second in tackles Friday with seven, including two tackles for loss, one a sack. He also had an interception.
The 6-foot-5, 190-pound junior played mostly on special teams as a freshman. He redshirted in ’17, then missed last season after getting hurt in fall camp.
“He’s a big, long, talented guy,” said Fisher, adding that he hopes it’ll be a springboard for better things to come.
Junior linebacker Aaron Hansford had two tackles for the Maroon. The former tight end suffered a season-ending injury in 2016 after two games. He had only three catches for 39 yards in ’17 and missed all of last season with an injury. He showed Friday he can tackle, which is an improvement over some Aggie defenses in the not-too-distant past. Maybe he can supply some depth.
Aggies restocking at tight end
Jace Sternberger and Travis Wood were great one-year tight ends in Fisher’s pro-style offense, but now the Aggies will try to build depth and experience.
Cupp shook off a forced fumble by sophomore defensive back Leon O’Neal Jr. to have five catches for 88 yards. Sophomore Glenn Beal added five catches for 70 yards as both had touchdowns.
“[Cupp and Beal] you see can make plays,” Fisher said. “They got to get consistent.”
Several players miss spring game
Sophomore running back Vernon Jackson injured his neck in practice, leaving his career in limbo.
Fisher said Jackson will be examined by the top doctors in the country “to get it evaluated and see where he’s at.”
Sophomore running back Cordarrian Richardson, who looked good in Wednesday’s scrimmage, had to attend a family funeral.
Banged up receivers watching included sophomores Roshauud Paul and Quartney Davis and juniors Hezekiah Jones and Kendrick Rogers.
Fisher said some of those players could have played had it been a real game, but a luxury for the wide receivers and Corbin is they didn’t need to play.