There are fewer than three weeks before Texas A&M kicks off its 2012 season Aug. 30 against Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, La. On Saturday at Kyle Field, the Aggies held their first full scrimmage of fall training camp. Here's a look at a few things we learned and how they might impact the team moving forward:
• The quarterback battle is truly that: While many assumed that redshirt sophomore Jameill Showers was the leader going into fall camp (and even junior running back Ben Malena referenced Showers' jersey number when talking about pass protection last week), redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel and redshirt sophomore Matt Joeckel each made compelling cases of their own Saturday with strong performances as Showers struggled. Head coach Kevin Sumlin indicated after Saturday's scrimmage that he could name a starter as late as the coming weekend, and if the scrimmage was any indication, this battle is far from over. All three are in the mix and will continue to compete this week, one in which the Aggies have eight practices plus another scrimmage.
• The Aggies have a budding star in the backfield: It may be too early to be making grandiose proclamations about true freshman running back Trey Williams, but he certainly didn't disappoint in his first live action in front of Aggies fans. The four-star running back was ranked fifth nationally at his position last year and 56th overall in the ESPN 150 out of Spring (Texas) Dekaney. So far he appears as advertised after rushing for 136 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries (unofficially). He provided the most oohs and ahhs to the onlookers at Kyle Field on Saturday with his swift footwork, balance and agility that allowed him to shake numerous defenders on the way to the end zone. The Aggies already have two quality backs with playing experience (senior Christine Michael and junior Ben Malena) but if Williams continues to get better, the coaching staff might have to make room for the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Williams. And while Williams starred, Michael showed on the few touches he has that he's healthy and ready for his senior season, which could be a good one if he can avoid the injury bug that bit him the last two seasons.
Oregon transfer Tra Carson warrants a mention, showing his ability on Saturday though he won't be eligible to suit up for the Aggies this year as he sits out. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder should be an asset to the Aggies backfield a year from now.
• Mike Evans will be a weapon: The 6-foot-5, 218-pound redshirt freshman has only been playing organized football for two years, but he already appears ready to produce for the Aggies. His height and athleticism allow him to go up and get jump balls, which he did successfully over senior cornerback Dustin Harris for a touchdown in Saturday's scrimmage. He came in to fall listed as a starter at one of the outside receiver positions and he'll likely head into the season that way if he keeps it up.
• Freshmen will be given a chance to play, if worthy: Kevin Sumlin said Saturday that "anybody who has been around me knows the best players play." For Sumlin, that applies whether you're a walk-on or on scholarship, a true freshman or fifth-year senior. Evidence could be seen in the form of De'Vante Harris, the true freshman cornerback out of Mesquite (Texas) Horn who received extensive work with the first-team defense. Freshman receiver Thomas Johnson (Dallas/Skyline) could also be seen several times with the first team at inside receiver. Same can be said for kicker Davis Plowman, a walk-on competing with scholarship kicker Taylor Bertolet.
• The defensive is a work in progress: Defensive end Spencer Nealy received plenty of time at defensive tackle in the scrimmage, partially because of the absences of Kirby Ennis and Jonathan Mathis, two defensive tackles who were held out because of injury. But it will be worth keeping an eye on the 6-foot-5, 277-pound Nealy to see where he'll line up most this fall, because it could be inside rather than at end. Defensive end Damontre Moore, who converted from linebacker to defensive end as the Aggies transitioned to a 4-3 alignment, shined by getting in the backfield several times.
True freshmen could find themselves on the field in several spots, not only cornerback with Harris, but also along the defensive line. Julien Obioha received a lot of playing time on Saturday, including work with the first-team defense. Polo Manukainiu and Alonzo Williams, who were recruited as defensive ends, also are getting work at defensive tackle to add depth.