Texas A&M Aggies: SMU Mustangs

Texas A&M travels to SMU for a nonconference clash on Saturday, which will be the Mustangs’ first game under interim head coach Tom Mason after June Jones resigned from the post on Sept. 8.

Last week, Chris Low took a look at possible candidates that SMU might consider as it searches for its next head coach. Two potential candidates are on the Aggies’ staff: offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital and receivers coach/recruiting coordinator David Beaty.

While it’s unclear if either Beaty or Spavital would have interest in the job (or how much interest SMU has in either of them) and there's a long way to go in the coaching search, let’s look at each of their coaching backgrounds and what kind of fit they could potentially be.

David Beaty

Experience: Beaty is in his third year as the Aggies’ receivers coach and second as their recruiting coordinator. He also spent time at Rice as an offensive coordinator (under Todd Graham) and receivers coach and at Kansas as a co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach. His roots are in Dallas high schools, though -- he got his coaching start in Garland, Texas, at Naaman Forest High School and coached at four different high schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Pros/cons: Beaty has a reputation as a stellar recruiter. Ask the high school coaches in the Dallas area and they’ll tell you he’s one of the most respected around and he’s a big reason the Aggies have had significant success getting top-flight players out of that fertile area. Having experience at Rice, a private school that plays in a Group of 5 conference, would help at a place like SMU, which falls in that category. The one thing Beaty doesn’t have is extensive experience as a coordinator, though he does have some.

Analysis: SMU hasn’t recruited its own area well and Beaty would fix that in a hurry. He would be a good fit and would be able to utilize his strong relationships with the local coaches.

Jake Spavital

Experience: Spavital is in his second year as the quarterbacks coach at Texas A&M and his first as the sole offensive coordinator for the Aggies. He’s young (29) but has stops at Tulsa (2008), Houston (2009), Oklahoma State (2010) and West Virginia (2011-12), though the first three were as a graduate assistant or quality control coach. He was the quarterbacks coach at West Virginia.

Pros/cons: He has worked with great college quarterbacks (Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel) and has worked under highly-regarded offensive minds (Gus Malzahn, Dana Holgorsen, Kevin Sumlin) and has worked with and maintains a strong relationship with Kliff Kingsbury. He’s highly thought of and the early returns on the job he’s doing as A&M’s offensive coordinator are good. The primary drawback is his youth and inexperience -- he has only been A&M’s offensive coordinator for four games.

Analysis: Sumlin himself said Spavital “no doubt” has qualities of a future head coach but it might serve him best to gain more experience. Texas A&M is on the rise and if the offense continues to roll like it has, other opportunities will come. If Spavital were to end up at SMU, he would likely be able to get the offense on track quickly. He doesn’t have the recruiting reputation that Beaty does but Spavital is considered a good recruiter.

SEC recruiting class rankings 

October, 16, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings and its conference rankings.

The top class in the SEC is also the top class in the nation. Alabama leads a conference where 13 of the 14 members have classes ranked in the top 40 nationally. Tennessee, which recently added a verbal from in-state ESPN 300 DE Derek Barnett, joins Georgia in the top five of the national rankings. Those two are second and third in the SEC. As a conference, the SEC has more than 80 ESPN 300 prospects committed to its member programs.

1. Alabama, 21 commits: The Crimson Tide sit atop the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that features 15 ESPN 300 prospects, including most recent commitment Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera), the No. 96 overall prospect. Alabama remains in the hunt for several five-star prospects, including No. 1 overall Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine) and No. 9 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover).

Aggies' defense shows progress in win

September, 22, 2013
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Coming off a thriller that few will soon forget, No. 10 Texas A&M had a few questions to answer going into Saturday's battle with SMU.

Though it's way too early to surmise that they've permanently answered some of those questions, the Aggies certainly took steps toward a few solutions in their dominant 42-13 win over the Mustangs at Kyle Field.

The biggest question about the Aggies after three games surrounded their defense, or lack thereof. If Texas A&M (3-1) couldn't prove that it could get stops against an opponent like SMU (the Aggies already allowed significant yardage to Rice and Sam Houston State, though the unit was shorthanded for both games), when would it ever show that? The rest of A&M's SEC schedule is coming, starting with a road game at Arkansas on Sept. 28.

Fortunately for the Aggies, the unit showed some progress.

[+] EnlargeDeshazor Everett
AP Photo/Bob LeveyDeshazor Everett's move to safety this week was one of several moves that help jumpstart the Texas A&M defense.
Though SMU compiled 292 yards in the first three quarters as A&M built a 42-6 lead, the Aggies were stellar on third downs, holding the Mustangs to just four conversions on its first 14 attempts in that span and 5-of-16 for the game.

"We looked pretty fast out there tonight," Aggies defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. "There were times where we looked extremely fast, which is what I was hoping was the case. We still have some areas that we've got to work on, but it was a much better game from our sideline tonight."

Snyder made two key personnel changes this week. He moved starting cornerback Deshazor Everett to safety to help address the issues the Aggies have had in coverage and he inserted true freshman Darian Claiborne into the starting lineup at middle linebacker.

"I think we have the right guys on the field right now," Snyder said. "[Claiborne] needs to play and needs to be on the field. He was able to make the adjustment from [weakside linebacker] to [middle linebacker] in a week. … I was really proud of him. He handled getting the front [seven] set, he brought a lot of energy, he's a lot like Steven Jenkins and I was very, very happy with that."

Everett spent time at both cornerback and safety last season, so it's not an unfamiliar move for the junior. By moving him back there, the Aggies moved third cornerback Tramain Jacobs to the starting lineup next to De'Vante Harris, and he didn't appear to miss a beat. Everett said because SMU runs an offense similar to A&M's, the transition was smooth.

"It was pretty simple," Everett said. "I see those formations a lot and I know what the safety's checks are to me at corner. … It kind of helped me because I know where the corner is going to be and where I should be if I were a corner, to want safety help."

Was Saturday a sign that a cure-all is coming to a defense that ranked in the bottom 20 in the nation in total yards allowed and rushing yards allowed coming into the game? Far from it. But it was a much-needed positive performance from a group that has struggled through youth, inexperience and missing personnel because of suspensions or injuries in the first three games. On-field communication and the ability to make adjustments in the first three games was a chore simply because of the lack of consistency in starting personnel from week to week.

"In the first couple, three weeks … there were a lot of moving parts and guys out there just worrying about doing their job, not being able to communicate," head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "There's definitely a comfort factor with having all your pieces back and being able to not only play that play but also make adjustments as the game moves on."

With the Aggies resuming SEC play next week in Fayetteville, Ark., having some success on defense is key.

Offensively, the Aggies ran smoothly, as they have most of the year. Quarterback Johnny Manziel threw strikes when he stayed in the pocket and chewed up rushing yards when he darted out of it. His night, which included 244 passing yards, 102 rushing yards and three total touchdowns, was done by the 10:06 mark of the third quarter with the Aggies leading 39-6. Malcome Kennedy (six catches, 83 yards) continued to show that will be a legitimate receiving threat to complement star sophomore receiver Mike Evans and the running game was productive and efficient, led by Manziel and Ben Malena (13 carries, 71 yards, two touchdowns).

The win wasn't without its warts though. Like SMU, the Aggies were heavily penalized (there were 29 accepted penalties in the game, 13 of which went against the Aggies for 114 yards) and the kicking game continues to be a struggle. Sophomore place-kicker Taylor Bertolet missed back-to-back point-after-touchdown kick attempts in the first half and was replaced thereafter by junior walk-on Josh Lambo. And what happened when Lambo entered the game? Holder Drew Kaser bobbled a snap -- the second time that's happened this season -- and as a result, Lambo's first PAT attempt failed.

When Lambo connected on a PAT after a Malena touchdown run with 11:34 remaining in the third quarter, it almost seemed as if the cheers for Lambo were as loud as those for Malena's touchdown. Finding a solution at place-kicker is critical if the Aggies expect to remain contenders in the SEC West. Against SMU, those points left on the field didn't matter. Against Ole Miss or LSU on the road later this season, they might.

Sumlin, when asked who will be kicking field goals and PATs moving forward, called the situation "a competition."

"We're going to keep the competition up just like we do at every position," Sumlin said. "Lambo came in and did a good job. … It's just like any other position. … We evaluate guys every week, no matter what the position, so there will be competition there."

But the Aggies made some plays on defense. They forced a turnover that led directly to points when defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. jolted the ball loose from receiver Jeremiah Gaines, a fumble that Everett returned for a 12-yard touchdown. Linebacker Tommy Sanders intercepted a pass late, and though he fumbled, freshman defensive end Daeshon Hall was able to scoop it up for a 39-yard return. The secondary was tested a few times in the first half by SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert (37-of-62 passing, 310 yards) but passed with flying colors when it came to third downs or plays near the end zone or red zone.

"I feel like going back into SEC play [next week] it was great for us to come and play well," Hurd said. "It was great for our defense to put a good showing out tonight."

Five things: Texas A&M-SMU

September, 21, 2013
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Texas A&M suffered its first loss of the season last week to No. 1 Alabama, but the No. 10 Aggies are moving forward, shifting their focus to what's ahead. Next up is a battle with non-conference foe SMU at 6 p.m. Saturday at Kyle Field. Here are five things to keep an eye on:

[+] EnlargeBen Malena
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesDon't expect a post-Alabama hangover from Ben Malena and the Texas A&M offense on Saturday.
Bama hangover?: The Aggies maintained that they will have the same approach and same emotion this Saturday as they did last Saturday, when there was tremendous buildup for their rematch with Alabama. Running back Ben Malena said it might be difficult to replicate the "enthusiasm," but that championship teams keep a consistent approach and that's what the Aggies are striving to be. Don't expect to see a slow start from the Aggies, at least not offensively.

Righting the ship on D: This is a real opportunity for the Aggies to have a strong defensive performance. Though they've struggled, the Aggies are deeper and have a more talented roster than SMU. Though the same could be said in the Aggies' first two games, they were hamstrung by not having all of their available personnel because of suspensions. They're in the bottom 20 nationally in rushing yards allowed per game and total yards allowed per game. If the Aggies don't start finding their footing this week at home against a non-conference foe that's not the caliber of most SEC teams, it's a huge concern to take into the rest of their SEC schedule, which begins next week at Arkansas.

Meeting of innovative minds: Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff are familiar with the faces on the opposite sideline, particularly SMU head coach June Jones and offensive coordinator Hal Mumme. Jones and Sumlin squared off annually when the two were coaching in Conference USA and Mumme is considered the godfather of the "Air Raid" scheme from which many of the offensive principles that A&M uses originate from. Jones is an old Run-and-Shoot coach, so bringing Jones and Mumme together is an intriguing mix.

Home sweet home: The Aggies have yet to leave Kyle Field this season. The SMU game will serve as their fourth consecutive home game. The Aggies have eight this year, but hit the road for two games after this weekend. Since Sumlin took over, the Aggies haven't lost on the road; all three losses have come at home. Still, you won't hear the coaches or players complaining; they prefer playing in front of the 12th Man. Plus, they're doing so in front of a team they beat 48-3 in Dallas last year, so there's no upset alert here, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Key injuries: Texas A&M will be without freshman receiver Ricky Seals-Jones, who had knee surgery on Saturday, and safety Floyd Raven (collarbone), who was injured in Week 2 against Sam Houston State. Seals-Jones showed promise in the season opener, catching a 71-yard touchdown pass, but the Aggies have a lot of receiving options, so one of their other young freshmen such as LaQuvionte Gonzalez or Jeremy Tabuyo could see increased action in Seals-Jones' absence. Raven missed last week's game against Alabama and the Aggies are thin at free safety. Clay Honeycutt is the starter and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said this week that they are experimenting with shifting cornerback Deshazor Everett to safety. Everett spent time at both corner and safety last season when the Aggies were looking to solve depth issues in the secondary, so it's something he's familiar with.

Lessons Learned: Camp of Conquerors 

June, 15, 2013
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HornDamon Sayles/ESPNMesquite Horn won the Camp of Conquerors 7-on-7 Tournament.

CEDAR HILL, Texas -- The second annual Mike Adams Camp of Conquerors 7-on-7 tournament featured 13 of the top 7-on-7 teams in the Dallas area on Saturday. The tournament, put on by the NFL defensive back, gives the opportunity to win $5,000 for the winning 7-on-7 program.

Early Saturday evening, Mesquite (Texas) Horn defeated Cedar Hill to walk away with the championship.

Here is what we learned after the event:

Horn WR the talk of the tournament

Horn all spring has shown that it’s more than quarterback Destri White, Rice cornerback commit Jorian Clark and a talented group of linemen that features Baylor commit Andrew Morris and 2015 standout offensive tackle Conner Dyer. On Saturday, Del’Michael High reminded everyone of just how good he is.

High, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound wide receiver, was borderline unstoppable throughout the tournament, and he was a big reason why Horn went undefeated. In the championship game against Cedar Hill, High was able to score wins in several one-on-one battles, some featuring talented Oklahoma cornerback commit Marcus Green.

High hasn’t been on the recruiting radar, but he showed tools of being one of the top receivers in the state on Saturday. He admittedly said that part of his lack of recruiting exposure might be because of academics, but he added that he’s been focused more than ever to make sure his work off the field is as solid as his work on it.

Bishop Dunne DB targets going both ways


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HOUSTON — Beaumont (Texas) Central 2015 safety James Locke, his head coach and a couple teammates made a roughly 90-minute trek to Tully Stadium on Sunday to get a chance to perform in front of Oklahoma coaches at the McMurry University/University of Oklahoma satellite camp.

The weather wasn't cooperative, however, preventing the athletes from competing. But even so, Locke is already getting plenty of interest from colleges.


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Each week this spring, GigEmNation reporter Sam Khan Jr. will bring you notes/nuggets from watching and visiting with high school football prospects in the Greater Houston area that week. He will include observations of Texas A&M commitments and targets and other players who catch his attention. Here's this week's installment:

HOUSTON -- Summer camp season is officially underway for colleges as the spring evaluation period has come to a close. In Houston, plenty of players have flocked to camps to show off their talents.


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Lessons learned: ETSN Combine 

May, 19, 2013
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TYLER, Texas -- East Texas often is considered one of the nation’s most underrated areas in finding elite talent when it comes to college football recruiting. Sunday featured the inaugural East Texas Sports Network combine, which showcased more than 100 players from East Texas.

The event took place at the Accelerate Performance Enhancement Center (APEC) training facility, which has trained professionals such as quarterback Graham Harrell, running back Kendall Hunter and pro baseball pitchers Phillip Humber and Josh Tomlin.


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True to his word, Bossier City (La.) Parkway quarterback Brandon Harris named his top schools after spring practice concluded.


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Bayou City Beat: Recruiting nuggets 

April, 29, 2013
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Each week this spring, GigEmNation reporter Sam Khan Jr. will bring you notes and nuggets from watching and visiting with high school football prospects in the Greater Houston area that week, including observations of Texas A&M commitments and targets and other players that catch his attention. Here's this week's installment:


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Gladewater (Texas) High School defensive tackle Daylon Mack felt confident in where his recruitment was headed.

Having picked up offers from the two most well-known programs in his home state, visiting both campuses and dissecting it all, he felt certain that he was ready to make a commitment to one of them.

Then Alabama extended the 2015 prospect a scholarship offer and Mack took a step back. Now, the 6-foot-2, 307-pound prospect intends to take his time when it comes to decision-making in the recruiting process.

"It really came out of nowhere," Mack said about getting his offer from the Crimson Tide. "Getting an offer from them, it showed me that I really need to go ahead and slow things down and take my time with it all."

Mack seemed all but certain to end up committing to Texas A&M sooner rather than later. He recently told GigEmNation that he was likely going to "shut it down" after a trip to SMU to check out the Mustangs, which was originally scheduled for Saturday.

His offer list currently includes Oklahoma, SMU, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech in addition to A&M and Alabama. Before the reigning BCS champions swooped in on Friday, Mack had it narrowed to Texas and Texas A&M with the Aggies pulling ahead after his visit to College Station, Texas for the Maroon-and-White spring game.

Now his timeline has changed.

"To be honest, before that offer I probably would have committed [to Texas A&M] this weekend," Mack said. "After having that [Alabama offer], I think I'm going to slow it down. I probably won't even think about committing. I think I'm going to enjoy this ride."


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Daylon Mack's second trip to Texas A&M reinforced some of the feelings he had the first time he ventured to Aggieland.

And because of that, he's beginning to feel like he knows what his future holds.


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2015 S Dunning talks TAMU spring game 

April, 15, 2013
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Texas A&M's Maroon-and-White spring football game was not Justin Dunning's first trip to Aggieland.

Like many high school football players in Texas, he has participated in the Texas state 7-on-7 championships, which were annually held at Texas A&M's Penberthy Rec Sports Complex until this year, when it will move to a new town. Dunning also attended the Aggies' home game against South Carolina State in 2012 on his own accord.

But his trip on Saturday was his first true recruiting visit to Texas A&M and in his words, it was a good one.


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After making a memorable run all the way to the Texas Class 5A Division I state championship game, the recruitment of several Houston Lamar 2014 prospects has picked up.


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Mesquite (Texas) West Mesquite safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner was one of a dozen prospects who attended Texas A&M's junior day on Sunday, and all indications are the trip was a positive experience for the ESPN Watch List prospect.


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Fournette Runs Over Aggie On 22-Yd TD
LSU RB Leonard Fournette rushes 22 yards for a second-quarter touchdown in the Tigers' 23-17 win over Texas A&M.
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