Editor's note: This week we're taking a brief look at Texas A&M players who surprised us with their performances during spring practice, which wrapped up for the Aggies earlier this month.
Texas A&M guard Germain Ifedi turned in a solid debut season as a starter in 2013, laying the foundation for a bright future in Aggieland. As one of four returning starters on the offensive line, there has never been much question about his ability -- he has plenty of it, to go with a lot of size (6-foot-5, 327 pounds).
But in this era of spread offenses, bigger isn't always better when it comes to offensive tackles and size. Texas A&M's last three left tackles – Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews and the incumbent, Cedric Ogbuehi – showed that athleticism is as valued as size when it comes to the premier offensive line position.
This spring, Ifedi set out to show that even with his size, he has the athleticism and talent to make the shift from guard to tackle. He spent the majority of the spring working as the starting right tackle. With the position open for battle after last year's right tackle, Ogbuehi, shifted to the left side, Ifedi showed that he wants it.
"He surprised all of us," Ogbuehi said of Ifedi's spring performance at right tackle. "His footwork is better at tackle than at guard. He's done a great job. You can tell he's watched Luke, Jake, myself and it got him a lot better. It's showing."
When spring practice began, the Aggies worked junior college transfers Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemunor at the position. Offensive line coach B.J. Anderson eventually moved both to the second unit so that they could get more practice time to focus on fundamentals and grasp playing both right guard and right tackle.
Anderson stressed that there weren't "any jobs being won" in spring and that the time was meant to get guys focused on improvement. But Ifedi certainly emerged as a real candidate for the right tackle job come fall.
"He has done a really nice job transitioning," Anderson said. "He's just got to get used to the techniques and fundamentals of it ... the hand work, the answers to the counter move, the bull move, all the things he's going to see."
Having shown he can play guard, it will be an asset to the Aggies if Ifedi, who will be a redshirt sophomore this fall, can become proficient at tackle. Anderson wants to see the depth improve on the offensive line and having versatile players is helpful.
While the Aggies want to put the best five players out on the offensive line, they also want to make sure it's a cohesive unit, which doesn't necessarily mean it's the five best linemen.
"The thing about the offensive line is you want to create what we call a nickel, and not five pennies," coach Kevin Sumlin said in March. "The five best guys aren't always the best O-line. [It's] the guys who can communicate and the guys who can play. We'll figure that out.
"I think the experience that Germain is getting at tackle gives us some real different combinations without having to put an inexperienced player on the field right away at South Carolina."