Tuesday, January 21, 2014
TAMU to-do list: Solidify the OTs
By Sam Khan Jr.
Editor's note: This is Part I in a weeklong series looking at the five most pressing concerns Texas A&M faces this offseason.
While quarterback Johnny Manziel's NFL draft announcement was perhaps the most anticipated and newsworthy, the biggest draft-related decision for Texas A&M might have come from one of Manziel's protectors, offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi.
When Ogbuehi, a junior, announced that he is returning to Aggieland for his senior season, it was met with relief from many Aggies because of what it means for the immediate future. Manziel might have owned the highlight reels but the protection he received from his offensive line contributed significantly to the Aggies' overall offensive success in recent seasons.
With Cedric Ogbuehi returning for his senior season, Texas A&M will return four of five starters on the O-line.
Texas A&M has been blessed with elite offensive tackles in recent years. Luke Joeckel left school a year early after winning the Outland Trophy as a junior and was chosen second overall in the 2013 NFL draft. Jake Matthews, who spent the first portion of his career at right tackle before moving to left tackle for his senior season, graduated and is projected by many to be the first offensive tackle chosen in the upcoming 2014 NFL draft, and perhaps a top-five pick overall.
Ogbuehi, who said he received a first-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board, decided to come back and perhaps make himself the next Aggies tackle to be chosen high in the first round of the draft in 2015.
That brings us to one of the Aggies' key tasks this offseason -- solidify those two offensive tackle spots for the new quarterback.
With Joeckel and Matthews, then Matthews and Ogbuehi serving as bookends, the Aggies have been fortunate to be able to possess great players at the two offensive tackle positions, critical to protecting your quarterback.
Now that Matthews is moving on, the Aggies will re-tool the tackles in hopes of finding the right mix. Where Ogbuehi lines up will be a big part of that.
It seems likely that Ogbuehi follows the plan Matthews employed, which is switching from right tackle to left tackle for his senior year. Earlier this season, Ogbuehi mentioned a desire to make that switch, telling 12th Man Magazine, "I plan to come back next season and make the move to left tackle for my senior year [and] go as high as possible [in the draft]."
Should that be the case, someone will have to fill Ogbuehi's previous spot at right tackle. Could it be one of the Aggies' other returning starters on the line, such as left guard Jarvis Harrison (who started twice at left tackle when Ogbuehi missed two games with a groin injury and Matthews flipped back to the right side briefly)? Is Joseph Cheek, who has been a reserve tackle, ready to move into the starting lineup? Or could it be one of the highly regarded recruits joining the Aggies from the 2014 recruiting class, such as junior college prospects Jermaine Eluemunor or Avery Gennesy?
Those are the questions on the minds of head coach Kevin Sumlin, offensive line coach B.J. Anderson and the rest of the A&M offensive staff.
Here's the good news for the Aggies: They return four starters along the offensive line as well as a reserve (Garrett Gramling) who logged a pair of starts. They don't appear to be hurting for depth; now the question becomes maintaining the high standard that has been set.