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Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Position battles: Defense, special teams

By Sam Khan Jr.

Fall practice is nearing for the Texas A&M Aggies as they prepare for the 2012 season. The Aggies begin workouts on Friday, so let's take a glance at some of the key position battles on defense and special teams to keep an eye on in the coming weeks:

Cornerback: Deshazor Everett, Floyd Raven, Dustin Harris, Tremaine Jacobs

Everett and Raven are listed as the two starting corners going into camp. Both have good size (Raven is 6-foot-2, 190; Everett is six feet, 176) but both are light on experience. Each played a dozen games last season as true freshmen but neither has recorded a start in their career yet. For Harris, experience is a strength -- the senior has appeared in 38 games, including 17 starts and has been a significant contributor on special teams in the return game. Jacobs, a junior college transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College was able to enroll in January and go through spring football with the team. Also keep an eye on junior Toney Hurd. Though he's listed on the depth chart as a safety, he could fit in as a corner in nickel packages, a spot where Hurd saw some time in the spring. There's also the possibility that Everett could slide to safety if needed.

Safety: Howard Matthews, Steven Terrell, Johntel Franklin, Toney Hurd, Steven Campbell

Matthews, a 6-foot-2, 206-pound sophomore, played in all 13 games as a freshman and started twice. He's listed as the starter at strong safety going into camp, though he'll have to miss a game because of a suspension instituted by coach Kevin Sumlin for a violation of team policy. Terrell, a 5-foot-10, 193-pound senior, is listed as the starter at free safety going into camp. Terrell has 39 games under his belt including 11 starts, three of which came at the end of the 2011 season. As mentioned above, Hurd could factor in at either corner or safety -- he started twice at safety last season. Campbell is the wild card: he has the most experience of the group (28 games, 13 starts) and the physical tools but has battled injuries the last two seasons. His health will be worth keeping an eye on in camp and if he is healthy, than he could slide into one of the starting safety spots.

Kicker: Taylor Bertolet, Davis Plowman, Seth Hiddink
Bertolet, a redshirt freshman, is the favorite here: he redshirted last year but came into the 2011 recruiting class as one of the nation's top high school kickers and is the only placekicker on scholarship. Special teams coordinator Brian Polian said that all three candidates will be given a chance however, including two true freshman walk-ons: Plowman hails from Georgia and Hiddink is from Wylie, Texas.

Punter: Ryan Epperson, Drew Kaser
Epperson, a senior, is the incumbent having logged 26 games and 118 career punts. Kaser, a sophomore, saw action in just one game as a true freshman last year but will have a chance to compete in camp.

Kick returner: Dustin Harris, Brandon Williams, Trey Williams
Dustin Harris is a veteran punt returner and brings plenty of experience to special teams. On kickoffs however, Polian said he's not afraid of a freshman kickoff returner and that you could see a young player back there. Brandon Williams showed ability in the return game during the spring, though it's unknown whether he'll be eligible as he awaits word on a waiver he applied for to avoid sitting out a season per transfer rules. Trey Williams, the star recruit from Spring, Texas/Dekaney, has tremendous speed and could be a fit in this spot.