Texas A&M Aggies: Kyle Serres

'Ongoing competition' at kicker for A&M

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The applause at Kyle Field were loud and boisterous.

After three consecutive point-after-touchdown kick attempts failed in Texas A&M's 42-13 win over SMU on Saturday, the volume level of the exuberant Aggies when Josh Lambo put one through the uprights with 11:34 remaining in the third quarter were nearly as high as it was when running back Ben Malena put six points on the board right before it.

Such is the life of the Texas A&M kicking game right now, where every point is appreciated.

Lambo, a sophomore walk-on, is now in what coach Kevin Sumlin called Tuesday an "ongoing competition," for placekicking duties with former starter Taylor Bertolet.

The transition took place on Saturday when the Aggies struggled on extra points. Bertolet missed consecutive attempts in the first half, reminiscent of his struggles in 2012 when he was 67-of-74 on PATs and 13-of-22 on field goal attempts. He is 23-of-26 this season on PATs and 2-of-3 on field goal attempts, with his lone miss being a 31-yarder against Sam Houston State.

After an inconsistent season in 2012 and some early struggles in the Aggies' first four games, the coaching staff decided to try someone new in Lambo, who competed with Kyle Serres during training camp.

"What we're doing is based on competition," Sumlin said Tuesday. "The ability to play in games and based on how you compete during practice and your success rate during practice, so that's where we are.

"That will continue to be the case. It won't change this week or next week. That's a work in progress. I think there's some things that both guys do that are positive, but in this business, life pays off on results, so that's where it is."

Lambo's first PAT attempt Saturday failed because of a fumbled snap by holder/punter Drew Kaser, but he connected on his next attempt as well as a 40-yard field goal late in the third quarter against SMU. Struggles with the hold is also something seen earlier this season.

"Drew's had a couple of those. ... The whole operation has to work," Sumlin said of the kicking game. "Those are things people take for granted. It's like any other position, where you have dropped balls -- concentration is part of that. We'll get that fixed and get that addressed. Like I said, competition is good for everybody."

Bertolet continued to handle kickoffs, as he has since last season. But at least for now, it looks like he has company in the kicking game in Lambo, a Middleton, Wis., product who transferred to A&M from Collin College.

"We're going to keep the competition up just like we do at every position," Sumlin said after Saturday's game. "The guys who compete earn the spot. Lambo came in and did a good job [Saturday]."

Notes from Aggies' open scrimmage

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
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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?

[+] EnlargeMatt Joeckel
Icon SMIJunior 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

[+] EnlargeMalcome Kennedy
Sam Khan Jr./ESPNReceiver 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.

Notes from week 1 of TAMU camp

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The last week was filled with discussion about off-the-field matters for Texas A&M, from the allegations against quarterback Johnny Manziel to the funeral for teammate Polo Manukainiu, who died in a car accident on July 29.

Last week was also the first week of practice in preseason training camp for Texas A&M. Now we turn our focus to the field and look at some of the things we've learned from the first week of practice:

Johnny Manziel
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesJohnny Manziel looked sharp during the first week of practice despite all of the off-field hoopla surrounding him.
1. No drama for Johnny on the field

If the stories about the NCAA's investigation into allegations that he profited for autographs bothered Manziel, you couldn't tell by watching him practice. He looked like an even better version of the Manziel that observers came to know en route to him becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. He was accurate during 11-on-11 sessions, showed good command of the offense and even showcased his trademark scrambling ability to buy time to throw when plays broke down. Head coach Kevin Sumlin said Manziel has gotten better in several areas, including his understanding of the offense.

2. Receivers taking shape

When the first team worked out in 11-on-11 during the open-to-the-media portions of practice last week, the first-team group of receivers regularly featured four players: returning starter Mike Evans, sophomore Sabian Holmes, junior Malcome Kennedy and senior Derel Walker. While it might be too early to say with certainty that those will be the starting four the Aggies trot out on Aug. 31, but it might be safe to assume they'll be heavily in the rotation come the start of the season.

3. Obioha making smooth transition

One of the primary questions to be answered on defense centers around who will replace the production of defensive end Damontre Moore, who entered the 2013 NFL draft and is now with the New York Giants. Obioha has slid over to the rush end position occupied by Moore last season, and the reviews so far are positive for the sophomore. He started last season as a true freshman. Sumlin called him tough guy and hard worker and hopes he can continue to improve every game, like he did a season ago. Others will be counted on to help put pressure on the quarterback but Obioha will be a key piece.

4. Key players recovering from injuries

Sophomore running back Brandon Williams and kicker Taylor Bertolet were among the players to miss practice time last week because of injuries. Williams wore a walking boot and is recovering from offseason surgery on his foot, according to Sumlin, but should be ready for the Rice game on Aug. 31. Sumlin didn't expand on why Bertolet wasn't participating or when he'll be ready and most of the placekicking repetitions were taken by sophomore Josh Lambo and senior Kyle Serres, so that's worth monitoring.

5. Battle for backup quarterback job continues

If the first week is any indication, the battle for the backup quarterback job is wide open. During open portions of practice, there were instances where both redshirt freshman Matt Davis and junior Matt Joeckel got to work with the second group. Toward the end of the week, it appeared Davis got the first opportunity with the second group more often, but the battle will continue to go on. Also keep an eye on true freshman Kenny Hill. The Southlake (Texas) Carroll product doesn't have as much experience as the aforementioned two, but he is a true dual-threat with a good arm and good mobility and time in a similar scheme at Carroll.

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