Players to use bye for recovery
Sumlin says refocus needed with injuries on both sides of the ball
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 00:10
Following a hard-fought 45-33 road victory over Arkansas last Saturday, Texas A&M returns to College Station for its first bye week in over a year. After sustaining multiple nicks and bruises during the weekend’s rain-soaked matchup, including three high-profile injuries, the Aggies look to recover and refocus with the off days.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin said the importance of the bye week extends beyond physical recovery, as many young players require mental recuperation from both constant practice and weekly games.
“Some teams, you don’t want a week off, like last year, we were a hot team and just wanted to keep playing,” Sumlin said. “This year we’ve got some guys limping around. For our team, this bye week comes at a good time. Not only physically, but mentally, we needed this week.”
Against Arkansas, true freshman linebacker Darian Claiborne, sophomore wide receiver Mike Evans and senior defensive tackle Kirby Ennis suffered injuries, all of which Sumlin addressed Tuesday.
Claiborne received a thigh bruise and will sit out a majority of the upcoming practices, but is expected to be back for the Oct. 12 road matchup with Ole Miss. Evans is “still limping around” but should also be able to play against the Rebels in two weeks with treatment.
Ennis’ condition is considered “serious” and will require reevaluation following the conclusion of the week.
Senior running back and team captain Ben Malena said the bye week will provide the team with time to regain focus and treat injuries.
“We’re focused on getting some injured guys healed up,” Malena said. “I think that’s the importance of the bye week. We need to maintain focus and starting focusing on our next opponent. Last year we went on a 12-week stretch without a bye week, but I think it’s fortunate this year that we have two bye weeks.”
During the Arkansas game, the A&M defense allowed 483 yards while surrendering 33 points, 68 yards and four points over the Razorbacks’ season average.
Despite A&M’s performance, senior defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. remained optimistic about the development of the youth-injected squad.
“I feel like each and every quarter we’re playing better football,” Hurd said. “We started playing better and better against Arkansas, but each and every quarter, I feel like the defense plays more together — the communication is better and there’s less missed assignments. The passion and energy is there.”
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said the Aggies have increased their consistency as a unit, generating stops and turnovers when needed.
“We’re getting some continuity,” Snyder said. “We need to continue to have continuity and have some consistency. We play well in spurts. We did a good job of showing [Arkansas] some things they hadn’t seen, but consistency is key for us.”
Junior defensive back Deshazor Everett broke his thumb during fall camp and is still in the process of recovering the injury. Despite the hindrance of playing with a cast, Everett has emerged as the Aggies’ star defensive player, securing two touchdowns for the defense in the past two games.
Everett’s key interception for a score in the third quarter helped A&M hold off a surging Arkansas squad. Sumlin said Everett’s presence in the secondary was vital to its success down the stretch.
“I can’t wait until [Everett] gets that cast off, maybe he’ll score twice a game,” Sumlin said. “We moved him from corner to safety and he’s making tackles, he’s scored in back-to-back weeks. He’s an invaluable piece to what we’re doing. He understands what we’re trying to do.”
Offensively, sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel and his stable of running backs kept consistent pressure on Arkansas through the game, even against harsh weather conditions.
Offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney said the unit was sub par on third downs and within the red zone and the Aggies’ offense would require improvement over the course of the recovery time to become more efficient against tough conference defenses.
“Every time we get a possession, our goal is to score a touchdown, and we haven’t done that yet,” McKinney said. “I think we’re about 54 percent conversion [on] third downs and we’d like to build it higher than that. We’re about 80 percent in the red zone and we’d like to be 100 percent.”