COLLEGE STATION - The Texas A&M football team had a pair of practices on Thursday as the Aggies continued preparations for the Sept. 4 season-opening matchup with SMU at Kyle Field.
The afternoon workout inside the McFerrin Indoor Center featured the Aggies working on situational football -- red zone, end of the game scenarios and third-downs, which led to head coach Mike Sherman heaping praise on quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The fifth-year senior from Big Spring, Texas was named to the Manning Award watch list earlier this week, and was already mentioned on preseason lists for the Davey O’Brien Award and the Maxwell Award.
“I thought Ryan Tannehill was right on the money,” Sherman said. “He’s been on the money for most of camp, but I think the last three days have been the best three days he’s had as a quarterback since I’ve been here. He practices so hard and so fast, and he’s a great example to everybody else. I’m very excited about the progress he’s made.”
Tannehill was one of 12 Aggies that received mention on watch lists for various prestigious national awards, but Sherman says the 2011 Aggies aren’t likely to get distracted by the preseason hype.
“We had a conversation about that,” Sherman said. “They know how I am. We talked about staying in the moment. All that stuff can be a distraction if you let it, if you breathe it in. I don’t think we breathe that stuff in. We’re a very matter-of-fact, work-hard-every day-type of team.”
In the course of the post-practice press conference, Sherman related some of the dual-training that the Aggies are experimenting with: backup quarterback Jameill Showers got a look at slot wide receiver (termed the “Tannehill plan” by the head coach), cornerback Dustin Harris at wide receiver, linebacker Steven Jenkins at fullback, and safety Howard Matthews at running back.
“I think you create great chemistry on your team if you’re able to have guys cross over lines a little bit,” Sherman said. “We worked Dustin a little bit at receiver and he did a nice job. We worked Jenkins at fullback, and we worked Howard Matthews at running back. I think it makes us have more depth.”
Outside linebackers coach Nick Toth gave the assembled media an overview of his trio of freshman outside ‘backers – Brandon Alexander from Brenham, Texas, Tyrell Taylor Houston, Texas and Shaun Ward from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“All those guys have been doing a great job,” Toth said. “Alexander has come along in the last four days, his learning curve has come along in a hurry. Tyrell Taylor in the last four days has been unbelievable. He comes off that edge real, real hard against the one’s, the two’s, whoever. Both those guys, and Shaun Ward, have been impressive.”
Toth was asked specifically about pass-rushing ability of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Taylor.
“His short-area quickness, his burst, is unbelievable,” Toth said. “I hate to compare him, and you guys are going to kill me, but his burst is comparable to Von (Miller). He gets up the field like Von did on his first three steps. He’s not Von Miller, let’s not put that on him, but his burst up the field is like that.”
Senior defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie was held out of practice, and he watched from the sidelines with his right foot in a boot.
“Any time one of your starters, one of your leaders, is out, it’s a concern,” Sherman said. “His foot is sore and he’s a 300-pound man running around sideways to sideways. It puts a stress on it, so it’s always a concern to me.”
· PRACTICES TIMES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.
· Practices inside the McFerrin Indoor facility are closed to the public due to fire codes.
· Practices are open to players’ families, lettermen, current students, former students, faculty and staff with TAMU ID and 12th Man Foundation members.
· No cameras, cell phones or note pads allowed.
FRIDAY, Aug. 19
7:30 – 9:45 am - Practice #14
SATURDAY, Aug. 20
6:35 – 8:30 pm - Practice #15 (Kyle Field)
SUNDAY, Aug. 21
Possible day off from practices.
MONDAY, Aug. 22
7:30 – 9:45 am - Practice #16
TUESDAY, Aug. 23
7:30 – 9:45 am - Practice #17
4 – 5:15 pm - Practice #18 (McFerrin Indoor Facility)
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 24
4:05 pm - Practice #19—NO MEDIA ALLOWED
“Countdown to Kickoff Dinner”