September 7, 2010

Ags grade out well against SFA

The Aggies opened up 2010 with a far stronger performance than they have in recent openers, thrashing Stephen F. Austin 48-7. That doesn't mean, of course, that there isn't room for improvement. Here are the grades, as assigned by your humble scribe, for the game:

Quarterback: Jerrod Johnson struggled with his mechanics. Then there was the wind. And maybe his shoulder isn't fully healed. However it is - problems abound. His mechanics were certainly poor, especially in the first half; lots of throwing off his back foot. His deep passes were short and wobbly and one deep out to Jeff Fuller was especially poor. Disaster!
What do you mean, he was 23-35 for more than 300 yards, threw two TDs and no interceptions? Maybe he wasn't so bad after all…
Grade: B

Running backs: Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray both had strong games, with Michael putting on an especially dazzling performance. If his play continues to improve as the season goes on, as it did last year, look out.
Grade: A

Tight ends/Wide receivers: Nehemiah Hicks showed in his first career game what he'd already shown all summer - he was an outstanding pickup that will develop into a high-quality player. He had three catches, showed off some nifty moves and blocked pretty well. Ryan Swope was A&M's outside running game, catching most of his 13 receptions at or near the line of scrimmage before turning them upfield; look for the Aggies to continue to use him in this fashion all season long. Jeff Fuller didn't get enough touches - he was hardly looked at in the first half - but still ended up with two touchdown receptions. Uzoma Nwachukwu made a couple of nice catches in traffic to extend drives. Terrence McCoy had Johnson's one good deep pass bounce off his facemask.

Offensive line: The center and left side of the line had especially strong games, as Matt Allen, Evan Eike and freshman Luke Joeckel handled their business, especially in the running game. Patrick Lewis and Brian Thomas struggled at some points, missing assignments and not creating much of a push. Jake Matthews made his debut, and didn't do anything overly good or bad. There was more pressure on Johnson than you would like to see from an undersized SFA defense in the first half. Still, the Aggies generated nearly 600 yards of offense and only gave up one sack, so complaining too highly would be foolish.
Grade: B

Defensive line: This was a bright spot Saturday. Lucas Patterson, Eddie Brown and Tony Jerod Eddie all physically dominated their offensive counterparts, pushing their way into the backfield to cause fits for both the rushing and passing games. Jonathan Mathis showed more of a burst against the Lumberjacks than he had in any practice. The other defensive linemen were largely non-descript in their appearances.
Grade: A

Linebackers: Even without Von Miller for most of the game, the linebackers performed well. In contrast to recent years, the members of the new 3-4 were aggressive, smart and didn't miss tackles. Garrick Williams showed he has what it takes to be a good middle linebacker, leading the team in tackles. Sean Porter had an excellent game, making several stops behind in the line of scrimmage. Damontre Moore showed the Kyle Field crowd what we've already seen in practice: the burst and physicality that will make him a threat to opposing offenses for the next four years. Michael Hodges was caught in an unfair matchup with a wideout and beaten for SFA's only score.
Grade: B+

Secondary: An overall sterling performance. Dustin Harris shrugged off a poor camp and a loss of his starting job with an interception returned for a touchdown; both Coryell Judie and Terrence Frederick essentially shut down their opposing numbers. Steven Terrell had a solid opening start, including a couple of plays up near the line of scrimmage. Trent Hunter was also solid, getting a rise out of the crowd with a knockdown of an SFA receiver on a first half catch.
Grade: A

Special Teams: Something must be done here, or A&M will lose more than one game as a result of this group. Thanks in part to a poor snap, Randy Bullock missed a 23-yard field goal; he also shanked the opening kickoff of the season out of bounds. Jared Jaroszewski was ok in his punting debut, averaging 37.3 yards per kick, but also put a coffin corner opportunity into the end zone. Return coverage was average at best, even with a fumble recovery, and the two chances A&M had to return kickoffs resulted in nothing special. In a nice change from past years, Kenric McNeal fielded all of SFA's punts without fumbling.
Grade: D

Coaching: Nothing special here, no frills. Just line it up and knock the snot out of your opponent, and the Aggies were ready to do that. Mike Sherman admittedly had a poor first half calling plays in the red zone, but A&M came back strong in the second half. Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter had his charges ready to go and they were more than enough to shut down SFA's high-octane offense. Overall, a good solid start.

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