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Monday, August 19, 2013
Notes from Aggies' open scrimmage

By Sam Khan Jr.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M had its first open scrimmage of training camp on Saturday. About 10,000 fans showed up to watch the workout at Kyle Field, and there was plenty to take away from the practice. Here are five things of note:

1. Clarity in the quarterback situation?

Matt Joeckel
Junior Matt Joeckel took more reps with the first team Saturday, but the backup quarterback battle remains undecided.
Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin's commentary after the scrimmage didn't provide much real insight when it comes to who is leading the battle for the backup quarterback job. The competition continues between junior Matt Joeckel, redshirt freshman Matt Davis and true freshman Kenny Hill.

If we're to make a judgment based on how repetitions played out in Saturday's scrimmage, Hill looks to have a real shot at the job. He was the only one of the three to play a series with the first-team offense, something he did twice on Saturday, which is notable. Earlier in the week, quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said that Hill was getting extra reps because he wasn't as experienced in the offense as Joeckel and Davis, thus he needs them. So keep that in mind.

Joeckel led two lengthy scoring drives, while Davis' two series were brief three-and-outs. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel got plenty of time with the first team, but his playing status is still unclear amid an NCAA investigation. When asked if the school was any closer to a decision on whether Manziel will play Aug. 31, Sumlin said it's "probably no different than it was the first time we talked about it."

2. Key injury

Starting cornerback Deshazor Everett was on the sideline in street clothes with a wrap around his right hand. The injury? A broken thumb, according to Sumlin. The head coach wouldn't comment on whether Everett is expected to miss any game time because of the injury. A decision on his status (as well as that of safety Floyd Raven's) is still pending after both had offseason arrests. Sumlin said on Thursday that he still needs to visit with athletic director Eric Hyman regarding a decision on what, if any, further disciplinary action will be taken with Everett and Raven.

3. Defense progressing

With a lot of newcomers or players playing in new, more prominent roles, there are a lot of questions on defense. If Saturday's scrimmage is any indication, there's progress being made on that side of the football. The defense was able to generate pressure on the quarterback and even come up with two turnovers when Manziel was running the show. Steven Jenkins made an interception, newcomer at linebacker Tommy Sanders recovered a fumble and returned it for what would have been a score if not blown dead and defensive end Tyrone Taylor came up with a pair of sacks.

4. Receivers emerging

Malcome Kennedy
Receiver Malcome Kennedy ''has come light years since last summer," coach Sumlin said.
One player who has gotten positive reviews in both the spring and fall is junior Malcome Kennedy. Best known for the touchdown catch that gave the Aggies their final points in the upset win over No. 1 Alabama last year, Kennedy figures to be the starter at the 'Y' (Ryan Swope's old position), and Sumlin on Saturday called him the "most improved player on the team."

Sumlin said, "He has come light years since last summer. ... He continued to build confidence down the stretch and became a real leader for us this summer. I think you can see the confidence that he has playing and the confidence that the quarterbacks have in him."

Also, true freshman LaQuvionte Gonzalez wowed the fans on hand by making some nice moves and showing off some speed on a 40-yard reception.

5. Mixed bag on special teams

Placekicker Taylor Bertolet is still recovering from offseason surgery (special teams coach Jeff Banks said earlier in the week that he has no concerns whether Bertolet will be ready for the season opener on Aug. 31), so Josh Lambo and Kyle Serres have been competing at that spot. Lambo got the lion's share of the work on Saturday, and Sumlin called the kicking game "spotty." Point-after-touchdown kicks were fine, but Lambo was 2-for-5 on field goals.

On the flip side, the punting by Drew Kaser drew rave reviews, as he boomed about four punts. "We're working on coverage, because of how far he's punting the ball," Sumlin said. "I'm not complaining."

In the punt return game, cornerback De'Vante Harris showed off some nice moves. He's one of several competing for that job.