Texas A&M Aggies: Shep Klinke

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M came away with a win on Saturday over Mississippi, but there was plenty to clean up for the Aggies as they watched film on Monday.

The number that stood out the most and made coach Kevin Sumlin unhappy was, obviously, the one in the turnover column.

“You can’t live with six turnovers," Sumlin said. "That’s not us. We haven’t been like that and hopefully we never see that again. You talk about how that happens and why that happens and the ability to do that."

Another area of concern for Sumlin was the Aggies' third down defense. The Aggies came in allowing third down conversions just 26 percent of the time but yielded 47 percent to Ole Miss (9-of-19). The Rebels converted six of their first 11 before the Aggies shored up late, allowing just three of the Rebels' last 8 attempts.

"I thought we were pretty good on first and second down but on third down, we weren't where we've been all year," Sumlin said. "We got kind of spoiled by that because we've been off the chart on third down defense this year."

Of course, Sumlin was happy with the win but made sure the players knew it could have come without the type of fight they had to put up to come back from a 10-point deficit and eek out the 30-27 victory.

"Our message yesterday was 'Here's what we're capable of, we still won the football game because of great effort and because you played until the end, but you made it harder on yourselves,'" Sumlin said. "On the road, as things go on, a ball can bounce either way and we lose that game. We clean that up, and who knows, we probably can win going away....Our guys understand that. It’s a learning process."

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- In the SEC, there's no shortage of quality defensive linemen. And most of them are big, fast and physical.

Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said one of the first things he notices about SEC defenses is "the violence" those units play with.
[+] EnlargeLewis
Cal Sport Media Patrick Lewis has been a stalwart on the Aggies line but had to learn the new offense pretty quickly.

So as the Aggies embark on their first season in the league, it seems fitting that the strength of their offense lies with the offensive line.

The unit returns 95 total starts among the group, 92 of which come from the quintet listed first on the depth chart at each position. The junior tandem of tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews is one of the nation's best and the Aggies also have tons of experience at center with Patrick Lewis, who has started 35 consecutive games.

The two guard spots will likely be filled by two from the trio of sophomore Jarvis Harrison, junior Shep Klinke and sophomore Cedric Ogbuehi, each of which also have starting experience.

But just because the group has plenty of playing time under its belt doesn't mean there hasn't been an adjustment period for the unit. Like the rest of the Aggies' offense, the linemen have had to become accustomed to playing at the high tempo that is the signature of coach Kevin Sumlin's and Kingsbury's offense.

"Spring was tough," offensive line coach B.J. Anderson said. "(Director of sports performance) Larry Jackson as y'all know, he's as good as there is. Coming out of the summer program as a staff, we're really pleased now with how they're executing the tempo. We've got to keep getting better, but for three days of insertion, we're pleased."

The biggest adjustment has arguably been for Lewis, a three-year starter from Reserve (La.) East St. John. The 6-foot-2, 312 Lewis has not just had to adjust to the tempo of the offense, but also additional responsibilities when it comes to calling protections.

Lewis said it has taken time, but he has gotten better with time and repetition.

"It's pretty difficult," Lewis said. "I have to make sure the points go out, make sure the running back knows who they're blocking, make sure the offensive line knows who we're working to and it's a big communication deal as far as making sure everybody knows who they're blocking. The fast tempo it all kind of gets to you. It's real mind-boggling at first but then you settle down, you get the hang of it and then it's a walk in the park."

The competition at guard will be worth keeping an eye on. It appears that Ogbuehi will figure in as the starting right guard, a spot where he started as a redshirt freshman in 2011. At left guard, Harrison and Klinke are battling, but Klinke had the benefit of 15 spring practices, while Harrison sat out with an injury. Sumlin said Klinke had "a solid spring" but that he's also happy to see the 6-4 Harrison back on the field during camp.

"Jarvis coming back adds some real mass and girth in there at 330 or whatever he is, but he's behind," Sumlin said. "You can tell the 15 practices that he missed in the spring, the other guys have moved on. And with a knee injury, and a guy that big, conditioning is always a factor. He's got to get to where he needs to be from a conditioning standpoint and from a mental standpoint so that he can play. We're working hard at that but I'm definitely glad to get him back."

Icon SMI
Texas A&M gets a solid pair of tackles including LT Luke Joeckel.

Matthews said he and Joeckel pushed each other this summer.

"I love going against him," Matthews said of Joeckel, a first-team All-Big 12 selection last year. "I always want to work out with him, run with him, we're always pushing each other. So going against him is one of the biggest things that helped me these past few summers, especially this last one with coach Jackson and the emphasis on high tempo and always moving. He's just a guy, just a good buddy, a good guy to workout with and we both learn a lot from each other and he's beneficial to have."

There is also young talent waiting in the wings. Sophomore center Ben Compton will get to work at guard during fall camp and the three true freshmen: Germain Ifedi, Mike Matthews and Kimo Tipoti, are receiving praise from coaches and players alike.

"Germain, first of all, that guy's bigger than ever," Jake Matthews said. "He's huge. He's going to be a great player, he just needs to understand the game a little more, get to know the offense better. Kimo, him too, big guy, great feet, the main thing with all of them is just getting comfortable. They all just have to get used to this offense and realize what it takes to go at this tempo."

Mike Matthews, the younger brother of Jake Matthews, looks like he'll get the chance to be the team's backup center this season, according to Sumlin. With Lewis being a senior, Sumlin wants someone ready to step into that role next season.

"My feeling is, a year from now with Pat being gone ... that if (Mike Matthews) can handle it, I'd rather him travel and be the backup center and play in games and have three years to start as a center than have a brand new center next year who has never been in a game and do that," Sumlin said. "There's some people who would say that's crazy but I think if you start in the SEC for three years at his position, that's pretty d--- good."

Current and future: Offensive line 

July, 31, 2012
As fall practice and the 2012 season approaches, GigEmNation will take a look at where the Aggies stand currently and in the future at each position group. Today, we glance at the offensive line:

Current starters: Jarvis Harrison, Luke Joeckel, Patrick Lewis, Jake Matthews, Cedric Ogbuehi
[+] EnlargeTexas A&M's Jacke Joeckel
Mark J. Rebilas/US PRESSWIRETackle Luke Joeckel will anchor A&M's offensive line, which could be one of the best in the country.

This crop should be among the strongest starting offensive lines nationally, particularly at tackle with the combination of Joeckel and Matthews, a pair of future NFL draft picks. All five have starting experience and only one (Lewis) is a senior. The quintet has started a combined 92 games, with Lewis leading the way (35 consecutive starts). Ogbuehi had a good redshirt freshman season at right guard but missed some time because of injuries. Harrison started five games as a redshirt freshman last year, four of which came in place of an injured Ogbuehi.

Offensive position battles to watch 

July, 30, 2012
Fall practice is nearing for the Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies begin workouts on Friday, so let's take a glance at some of the key position battles to keep an eye on in the coming weeks:

Quarterback: Jameill Showers, Johnny Manziel, Matt Joeckel
Head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury did not name a starter coming out of spring drills, which means the competition for the starting quarterback position continues in fall camp. Showers, a 6-foot-2, 219-pound redshirt sophomore appears to be the favorite coming into camp and has the best arm of the trio. Each has their own strengths: Manziel is a playmaker and Joeckel is patient in the pocket and has picked up the offense well.

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