Chat with Sam Khan
Welcome to GigEmNation! On Friday, reporter Sam Khan Jr. stops by to chat about the state of Texas A&M football.
Khan joined ESPN.com in 2012 after nearly seven years with the Houston Chronicle, covering the University of Houston, college sports and high school sports. Khan lives in Houston with his wife.
Send your questions now and join Khan Friday at 4 p.m. ET!
Sam Khan Jr. (4:01 PM)
Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the chat. Let's talk some Texas A&M football and recruiting, shall we?
Shane G (Magnolia, TX)
Sam,Curious about the Special Teams play mainly the kicking game. Bertolet was a highly sought after prospect in the High School ranks and deemed to be the heir apparent to Randy Bullock. To say he was good even servicable last year is a stretch. Clearly the kid has a strong leg but has their been any discussions on ways to improve his consistency over 2012 or bringing in some serious competition this Spring? Having a kicker where you hold your breath on extra points makes me nervous, even with J. Football.
Sam Khan Jr. (4:05 PM)
Hey Shane, a couple of things to watch in this regard. For starters, there's a new special teams coordinator, Jeff Banks (formerly at UTEP), so I would imagine there will be some different things. When spring practice begins next weekend, we'll get our first glance at what kind of work he gets to do with Taylor Bertolet and the special teams. But one thing to note about Banks is that he's a former college punter himself, so he has experience in the kicking game. Some of the recruits that the Aggies are bringing on as preferred walk-ons at kicker and punter have spoken highly of Banks and how he's thought of in kicking circles because of his understanding of the position. So I think that will help. And some of this, you can probably chalk up to Bertolet being a freshman. Before last season, the last time Bertolet kicked in a meaningful game was in high school back in Pennsylvania. Certainly there were some growing pains going from that to kicking in big SEC games. I'll say this, if he doesn't improve, the Aggies won't have a problem making a change IF (and that's a significant if) there is someone on the roster who they feel can be better.
How do you think the Aggies O-Line this year will compare to last year?
Sam Khan Jr. (4:07 PM)
James, I think there will be a slight drop off initially because of Luke Joeckel's departure. Having him and Jake Matthews as the bookend offensive tackles was a huge luxury. And Patrick Lewis was an experienced center. Overall, I think the unit will still be pretty good though. There are three starters back (Matthews, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jarvis Harrison) and there's depth at the other positions that need filling. I think Mike Matthews, who is the favorite to be the guy at center, will be a star. Maybe not right away, but eventually.
Does Manziel get another Heisman despite losing Wrs and joeckel
Sam Khan Jr. (4:09 PM)
It won't be easy. Manziel is talented enough to do it, but it won't be good enough to go 11-2 again this year to win it. Because of the huge season the Aggies had last year, they probably have to be ranked in the top two at the end of the regular season for him to have a serious chance at winning it again. After seeing what I saw last year though, I'll never count against him.
Sam Myers '89 (Sag Harbor, NY)
If you had to pick one area A&M recruiting most crucial for '14 class what would it be? O-Line?
Sam Khan Jr. (4:12 PM)
I think it's fair to say that offensive line should be a point of emphasis. Kevin Sumlin said on signing day that if there was one thing he would have liked to have in this 2013 class, was maybe one more offensive lineman. They already have an offer out to a junior college offensive tackle (Jermaine Eluemunor out of Lackawanna College in New Jersey) so it's clear that's a priority. I think the secondary is another area that should (and is) receiving plenty of attention. Considering the talent the state of Texas has in the 2014 class in the secondary, it's a good year to look for those.
William Brogan (College Station, Tx)
How does the linebacker core replace the seniors this upcoming season? and who steps up and adds that same pass rush?
Sam Khan Jr. (4:17 PM)
It won't be easy, but that's why there was such an emphasis on linebackers in the 2013 recruiting class. I think there's a solid chance one of the newcomers in the class could earn a starting spot. Tommy Sanders, the junior college linebacker from Butler C.C, would be one of the prime candidates, in my opinion. And some of the current guys on the roster will get looks too. Donnie Baggs, who backed up Steven Jenkins last year, probably gets a long look at one of the two spots. But the Aggies won't be short on bodies, that's for sure. They already have four linebackers on campus that arrived in January, three of which will be eligible to play (A.J. Hilliard, the transfer from TCU, is the fourth and will sit out).
WHO ARE THE FIVE GREATEST RAPPERS OF ALL TIME?
Sam Khan Jr. (4:17 PM)
Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan and Dylan. Because he spits hot fire.
Will Zach Whitley make his decision before his senior season starts?
Sam Khan Jr. (4:18 PM)
Evan, when I visited with Whitley a couple of weeks ago, he told me he doesn't intend to decide until after his senior season. Now a lot of recruits say that and things can change. Whitley said he's committed to his high school team and focused on that. If he wavers from that plan, we'll know by late spring/early summer. If in the summer time, he still talks about waiting until the end of his senior season, then I'll for sure believe that.
Who do you see starting at mlb chevis or baggs
Sam Khan Jr. (4:20 PM)
I would give Baggs the edge because he has been on campus and knows the system. But Chevis is a big guy (250 pounds). And I hear he's working pretty hard and that Larry Jackson is pleased with him so far. We'll get to see both in the spring, so we'll have a better idea in March/April, but I'll lean toward Baggs for now.
Who do you think takes over for Harris at Punt Returns? The logical choice would be Trey W, but I think an impact freshman, like RSJ, may be the better pick. Your thoughts?
Sam Khan Jr. (4:22 PM)
LT, I could see Trey Williams back there. I would also consider someone like LeKendrick Williams (nicknamed Beep-Beep). I think he would be a good fit there. I could also see that being a spot where one of the newcomers factors in. Ricky Seals-Jones, like you mentioned, could be one. I might even say that of the incoming recruits, Sebastian LaRue might have a better chance than RSJ in that role. LaRue is small and quick and seems to be an ideal fit for that type of role.
Where do we stand with Dylan Summers-Gardner, Myles Garret, and Solomon Thomas
Sam Khan Jr. (4:23 PM)
Will, Aggies are the leaders for DSG and Garrett right now. Thomas seems more like a Texas lean at the moment.
Pick 2 (1 offense, 1 defense) recruits in this class you think will have the greatest impact in the coming season.
Sam Khan Jr. (4:24 PM)
Offense: WR Ja'Quay Williams. Defense: LB Tommy Sanders.
Have you heard any news on Kenny Young, Malachi Dupree, or Gerald Willis
Sam Khan Jr. (4:25 PM)
Dupree and Young both were offered recently and both have been invited to the next junior day on March 2. A&M is in Willis' top three right now.
Tom (Orlando, FL)
Why does A&M even make Johnny Football take online classes? How does he have time to fit this in his schedule with all the other commitments he has: (Mardi Gras, Super Bowl parties, NBA games, Etc.)?
Sam Khan Jr. (4:27 PM)
Probably because you still have to be a student to play. I know it seems pretty crazy, but honestly, I'd probably try to do the same if I were in his position. He's the only freshman ever to win the Heisman. Might as well enjoy it. As long as he's passing his classes and is academically eligible, doing what is required of him by the coaches and not breaking any rules (and it appears all those things are true at this point), I don't think it's hurting anybody.
Chase (Tilden, TX)
Does Obioha start this fall or is his injury more serious
Sam Khan Jr. (4:28 PM)
We will know pretty soon. Kevin Sumlin said he would give a health update prior to spring practice, so probably next week or next weekend, we'll get a word on Julien Obioha's status.
All the news coming I'm hearing is that Brandon Alexander is commited and ready to play and is looking good. What have you heard
Sam Khan Jr. (4:30 PM)
Greg, I've heard similar good things as well. That's a step forward and he'll have to carry it into the spring, because even if he has built up some good will, he has to perform on the practice field in March/April if he wants a spot. And if does show that he's ready, that would be huge for the Aggies, who need someone to step up now that Damontre Moore is gone. In terms of a physical specimen, Alexander's probably the most ideal when it comes to replacing that position. Tyrell Taylor may be a little thin, but he was clearly steps ahead of Alexander last year because he got playing time and Alexander did not.
What is the best way to utilize all of the playmakers on the RB depth chart next year? There are a couple of studs, but when you run 4 and 5 WR sets, you can't have a lot of RB's on the field also.
Sam Khan Jr. (4:32 PM)
Chad, that's going to be on Clarence McKinney and Kevin Sumlin. I think you could see some wrinkles like Houston used when they had three quality starting running backs in 2011 (Sumlin's last year at Houston). They had some diamond formation packages with all three running backs back there, and if any of them are good enough to split out at receiver, you can put those guys in motion in the passing game. More than anything, it's huge for their depth. Naturally, because of his size, I think you see Tra Carson (230-240 pounds) being more of a short-yardage, in-between-the-tackles type, Ben Malena probably remains the starter and Trey Williams will probably continue to be a change of pace type. The wild card is Brandon Williams, who is extremely talented. He has the potential to be a game-breaker.
Terrell Cuney seems to be a beast what do you think and which way is he leaning do you think
Sam Khan Jr. (4:33 PM)
Definitely feels like a Texas lean. They have showed him a lot of attention. He could get an offer there this weekend (he's going to their junior day). He also told me he's planning to go to the Aggies' junior day on March 2.
Plano Aggie (Plano )
I am wondering about a kid since I live in this area and have seen him play was wondering does A&M has any interest in 2015 Zach Rogers
Sam Khan Jr. (4:36 PM)
Yup. He's on their radar. He already has a few offers (Arkansas, Texas Tech, UCLA). He'll be a big name in the class of 2015.
Do you think any longhorns go in the first ronund
Sam Khan Jr. (4:38 PM)
Safety Kenny Vaccaro is projected as a first-round pick. So yes.
Plano Aggie (Plano )
Thanks IMO I think he would be a good fit for Aggies. Did not know about UCLA that is 3 big offers
Sam Khan Jr. (4:39 PM)
No problem. And yeah people are already well aware of him. Hebron's got some talent and he started as a freshman on varsity. That'll get you noticed at a Texas 5A program in a heartbeat.
How much planning goes into choosing when the junior day will be held. Do you take into consideration what other schools are doing?
Sam Khan Jr. (4:41 PM)
Definitely. You noticed that Texas and Texas A&M have not had them on the same weekends thus far. I'm sure that's by design because they're going to be after some of the same players. It's impossible to not have it on the same day as ANYBODY because there are 120+ FBS schools out there, but I think you try to avoid doing it the same day as a major school in your region that might target similar players. Also certain folks will get invited at certain times. In the Aggies' instance, the first one was a handful of high-priority targets. This next one will be fairly larger.
Plano Aggie (Plano )
One more Zach and Jamal Adams go to same school how does it look for Jamal and A&M
Sam Khan Jr. (4:43 PM)
The Aggies still like him and he's still interested in them. Of course, so are a bunch of other schools. I think you'll start to see things pick up in the coming weeks and months on his front.
Do you think we will win some big time recruiting battles like last year or this will be a harder year
Sam Khan Jr. (4:46 PM)
I do think the Aggies will win some and really, they already have. Hoza Scott was a big battle they've already one. Same can be said for Nick Harvey. Those are two of the best prospects in Texas, without question. But I don't see them losing any momentum from the season. Right now they're riding a high and I think they'll secure some big names before the season starts. Some of the national-type recruits that they're recruiting from out of state schools, those we'll probably have to see play out over time because some of those guys have so many offers and will want to take multiple visits before they make a final decision.
Shane G (Magnolia)
Was anyone else kind of irked reading about Derrek Griffin? They write it like Miami pulle off some recruiting coup and flipped him from A&M. Did the aggies not offer him a letter of intent because he couldn't qualify??
Sam Khan Jr. (4:48 PM)
Shane, if you read my stories on him, I certainly made it clear that he didn't get a letter of intent from the Aggies because of concerns over his ability to qualify. I've made sure to state that he was a risk from the time I began covering him, because he was open about the situation. Now, that being said, it's still a significant signing for Miami on the chance that he does qualify. I've said it's a long shot, and I still believe that to be the case. And that's why the Aggies didn't feel it worth the risk of signing him. But it's not totally impossible and the Hurricanes were willing to take that risk. It was going to be a big story regardless because of how highly-rated a recruit he was.
If we can get past Bama, what do you think our chances our to make it to the Big One next year
Sam Khan Jr. (4:50 PM)
If the Aggies can get past Alabama and be 3-0 at that point, they'll be in the driver's seat for one of the top two spots. They'll control their own destiny, in my opinion, when it comes to making the BCS title game. That being said, you still have to go through the rest of the SEC schedule and the SEC title game. That's 10 more games and a looong time. But I really like their chances if they get by Bama.
Are there going to be some big battle with Texas this year recruiting more so than the last cuple of years. Texas had a down yea recruiting and everyone is big on us
Sam Khan Jr. (4:52 PM)
Absolutely. Texas may have had a down year but overall, they're still highly thought of by recruits. For the elite players in the state who aren't leaning one way or another but are interested in both, it should make things pretty interesting. But I think you see dynamics changing a little. Texas is interested in some guys that the Aggies aren't and vice versa. So there may not be as many of those dramatic head-to-head battles, but you'll almost certainly have one or two
Harder game Ole Miss or LSU
Sam Khan Jr. (4:53 PM)
LSU. Ole Miss ain't an easy place to play, but Death Valley is one of the best home-field atmospheres in the country.
Shane G (Magnolia)
Sam how did you like how the aggies came on to the field this year? Do you know what song it was? And ideas on what 2013 might be??
Sam Khan Jr. (4:57 PM)
Shane, I thought the entrance was pretty good. A mix of tradition with the March of Honor and a new element with the upbeat music. The song was "Power" by Kanye West. And no idea on if it will be the same or change this year. Sumlin normally keeps that stuff under wraps so it's a surprise when it happens.
I saw an article on Kyle Field renovations, looks pretty cool. any idea on potential seating capacity their expecting
Sam Khan Jr. (4:59 PM)
Based on the renderings I think it's easy to surmise that the capacity will be more than 100,000. I think you'll see anywhere between 103-107,000. I know a lot of numbers have been thrown around but nothing's finalized at this point. But I think it's safe to say it'll be over 100k.
Chances we have the top 2 pics in the NFL draft?
Sam Khan Jr. (5:00 PM)
I think it's slim that both go 1-2. Not impossible, but Star Lotulelei is getting a lot of attention to the point where I think he could be No. 1 or 2. But I think there's a good chance that Joeckel-Moore both go in the top 10.
Sam Khan Jr. (5:01 PM)
Alright folks, that'll do it for this week. Thanks so much for joining in on the chat. Next time we do this, spring practice we'll be underway. Until then, take care.