OPINION: Part of the plan
Sumlin offers little football insight at Saturday’s scrimmage, just as he intended
Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 00:08
The Kyle Field intra-squad scrimmage was built entirely upon design. Every pass and handoff was prearranged beforehand, leaving no room for elaboration or creativity. Two weeks prior to Texas A&M’s home opener against intra-state rival Rice, the team’s public practice felt bland, almost tasteless, with a script for each and every motion.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff might as well have been working within the confines of a controlled laboratory, deliberately tolerating a lethargic attitude amongst their players throughout the scrimmage. At this point in the preseason preparations, there was no need for sudden complications due to an overzealous backup — why take the risk?
As a patient observer, I understood the necessity but continued to jump back to the same simple description: bland and scripted. Where was last season’s seemingly effortless offensive rhythm? Where was the hard-nosed, aggressive defense known for its physicality and combative style of play?
It was as if both sides had been ordered to throw the game, and each player was earning his due reward and then some.
While not apparent during the first few series, a certain play midway through the scrimmage captured the coaching staff’s true intention in a single moment: a simple handoff to a running back who I didn’t immediately recognize.
A short explanation: Texas A&M’s running back situation is about as good as one could hope. With four Division I starters on the roster — senior Ben Malena and sophomores Brandon Williams, Tra Carson and Trey Williams — a handoff to anyone but one of the above demonstrates Sumlin and his staff have an ulterior motive behind the scrimmage’s ultimate purpose.
Simply, prevent possible starters from risking serious injury while allowing young talent to showcase their skills to a sizeable crowd.
According to Sumlin, each player on the 105-man roster took the field during at least one series for the Aggies — a feat in itself considering the scrimmage only lasted around an hour and a half.
“I think every guy out of the 105 played today, so that was the key, to get them on video, Sumlin said. “We got a bunch of plays, 70-something plays without the kicking plays, so we were giving them an opportunity, particularly these young guys in the D-line, the front, and then the secondary and those receivers got a bunch of snaps, and those were the guys that we really wanted to pay attention to today.”
The coaching staff protected the strategic and tactical assets of the team with a flavorless walk-through, keeping prying eyes of opponent’s scouts unentertained.
In fact, the only noteworthy performance came from an unlikely source: punter. Redshirt sophomore Drew Kaser bombed multiple punts approximately 60-70 yards, leading many reporters to compare the strong-legged kicker to A&M legend and current Houston Texan Shane Lechler.
Kaser has forced Sumlin and his special teams staff to work on deeper punt coverage formations to adjust to his power kicking style.
“I thought Kaser punted the ball excellently today,” Sumlin said. “We’re working on coverage because of how long he’s punting the ball. I’m not complaining, because you get what you get, but that’s why we were working on coverage today, because he has shown a strong leg. Hopefully, we don’t have to use him that much, but if we do and when we do, we can get consistency out of him.”
When the punter captures the attention of the media well enough to earn his own question at the post-scrimmage press conference, nothing much really happened.
And that was all by design.