COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The last week was filled with discussion about off-the-field matters for Texas A&M, from the allegations against quarterback Johnny Manziel to the funeral for teammate Polo Manukainiu, who died in a car accident on July 29.
Last week was also the first week of practice in preseason training camp for Texas A&M. Now we turn our focus to the field and look at some of the things we've learned from the first week of practice:
1. No drama for Johnny on the field
If the stories about the NCAA's investigation into allegations that he profited for autographs bothered Manziel, you couldn't tell by watching him practice. He looked like an even better version of the Manziel that observers came to know en route to him becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. He was accurate during 11-on-11 sessions, showed good command of the offense and even showcased his trademark scrambling ability to buy time to throw when plays broke down. Head coach Kevin Sumlin said Manziel has gotten better in several areas, including his understanding of the offense.
2. Receivers taking shape
When the first team worked out in 11-on-11 during the open-to-the-media portions of practice last week, the first-team group of receivers regularly featured four players: returning starter Mike Evans, sophomore Sabian Holmes, junior Malcome Kennedy and senior Derel Walker. While it might be too early to say with certainty that those will be the starting four the Aggies trot out on Aug. 31, but it might be safe to assume they'll be heavily in the rotation come the start of the season.
3. Obioha making smooth transition
One of the primary questions to be answered on defense centers around who will replace the production of defensive end Damontre Moore, who entered the 2013 NFL draft and is now with the New York Giants. Obioha has slid over to the rush end position occupied by Moore last season, and the reviews so far are positive for the sophomore. He started last season as a true freshman. Sumlin called him tough guy and hard worker and hopes he can continue to improve every game, like he did a season ago. Others will be counted on to help put pressure on the quarterback but Obioha will be a key piece.
4. Key players recovering from injuries
Sophomore running back Brandon Williams and kicker Taylor Bertolet were among the players to miss practice time last week because of injuries. Williams wore a walking boot and is recovering from offseason surgery on his foot, according to Sumlin, but should be ready for the Rice game on Aug. 31. Sumlin didn't expand on why Bertolet wasn't participating or when he'll be ready and most of the placekicking repetitions were taken by sophomore Josh Lambo and senior Kyle Serres, so that's worth monitoring.
5. Battle for backup quarterback job continues
If the first week is any indication, the battle for the backup quarterback job is wide open. During open portions of practice, there were instances where both redshirt freshman Matt Davis and junior Matt Joeckel got to work with the second group. Toward the end of the week, it appeared Davis got the first opportunity with the second group more often, but the battle will continue to go on. Also keep an eye on true freshman Kenny Hill. The Southlake (Texas) Carroll product doesn't have as much experience as the aforementioned two, but he is a true dual-threat with a good arm and good mobility and time in a similar scheme at Carroll.