Monday, April 1, 2013
Notes: New Aggies coaches settling in
By Sam Khan Jr.
For newcomers or players who are stepping into new roles, spring football is an important time to develop and get acclimated to their surroundings.
The same can be said for new coaches.
Texas A&M has three new position coaches this spring -- special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Jeff Banks, linebackers coach Mark Hagen and quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
Banks, who filled the void left by new Nevada head coach Brian Polian, brings plenty of experience to the table, especially since Banks was an all-conference punter himself at Washington State.
"We talked about replacing Brian with a guy who's just as capable, and Jeff is that," Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "He's got a wealth of experience, he's a former kicker/punter. He can be a technician and can help our guys. I think he's brought a different kind of scheme in all four phases. He's had the ability to keep their interests. Sometimes, change is good."
Sumlin said through the first nine practices, he is seeing some improvement from kicker Taylor Bertolet, who showed inconsistency during his redshirt freshman season in 2012. Bertolet was 13-of-22 on field goals (59.1 percent) and 67-of-74 on point-after-touchdown kicks last year.
"Just like quarterbacks and receivers, they have the opportunity to continue their craft all summer," Sumlin said. "So that will be an ongoing work. But definitely there's been some improvement, particularly with Taylor."
Junior college transfer Tommy Sanders is getting plenty of work at linebacker for Texas A&M.
Plenty on Hagen's plate: Hagen has a unique challenge. None of the linebackers who has taken snaps with the first team this spring were regular starters last year. The one returning starter of the group -- weakside linebacker Steven Jenkins -- is out this spring with a torn labrum.
"He's got a bunch of young guys," Sumlin said. "He's got Donnie Baggs, who has not played a whole lot of football around here at Texas A&M. He's got two guys who should be going to the prom next month at linebacker in Brett Wade and Reggie [Chevis]. And then he's got a junior college transfer [Tommy Sanders], who just got here. I don't talk to him much because he's busy. His plate's full; he's running around, he's meeting, he's chasing guys all over the place."
"You throw Shaun Ward in there and guys who haven't played a bunch. With Jenkins out, that's given all those guys a lot of turns, [including] Nate Askew, who we moved from wide receiver."
Sumlin said he's seen some positive signs from Hagen and his young linebackers.
"It's really good for a new coach because those guys aren't used to doing a lot of things," Sumlin said. "He has a lot of energy and obviously those guys have made really good strides during the course of spring."
Askew making progress: One of the many new faces at linebacker is one that was on offense last year: Nate Askew.
Before the spring, Askew moved to linebacker from receiver. Sumlin said he's seen Askew make improvement during the spring.
"It's going good," Sumlin said. "Some good, some bad. He's been over there nine practices in pads and the great thing about it has been his attitude and how he's approached the position, how he wants to get better, how he hasn't shied away from contact."
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Askew brings size and athleticism to the position.
"He's one of the top athletes on this whole team," Sumlin said. "He can really, really help us if he continues to get better the way he's gotten better the last couple of weeks."