Editor's note: This is the fourth part of a weeklong series looking at five position battles to watch in spring practice, which begins Feb. 28 for Texas A&M.
Though Texas A&M is saying goodbye to another likely top-10 NFL draft pick from its offensive line, the Aggies expect to have a strong unit up front once again in 2014.
Jake Matthews, the Aggies’ left tackle in 2013, graduated and is projected to be a high selection in the 2014 NFL draft, but he’s the only starter the Aggies lose off their offensive line. Four others -- Cedric Ogbuehi, Jarvis Harrison, Mike Matthews and Germain Ifedi-- return.
That means there will be a battle for one spot on the offensive line: right tackle.
That’s where Ogbuehi lined up last season but he is making the transition to left tackle for the 2014 season. With the Aggies returning Harrison at left guard, Mike Matthews at center and Ifedi at right guard, one of the most-watched battles in spring football will be at right tackle.
The early contenders are likely to be two new prospects on campus: Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy. The pair of ESPN JC 50 prospects signed by the Aggies in their 2014 recruiting class were mid-term enrollees who have been on campus since classes began in January.
Gennesy, who signed from East Mississippi Community College, is 6-foot-5, 310, good size for the position, and he plays with good strength. The four-star prospect had several notable offers, including Tennessee, Ole Miss and Kentucky, as well as perennial powers from outside the SEC like Ohio State and Oklahoma.
Eluemunor, native of England, was also heavily-recruited nationally. With roughly two dozen offers, including ones from Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska, Tennessee, USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-4, 315 pound four-star prospect can play both guard and tackle.
But those are not the only two options, especially if offensive line coach B.J. Anderson is willing to shuffle the offensive line up some. Ifedi, who checks in at 6-5, 311, would be an intriguing possibility to slide from right guard to right tackle. Harrison, who played two games at left tackle when Ogbuehi was injured last season and Matthews flipped to right tackle briefly, has playing experience at a tackle position, so it wouldn’t be out of the question to move Harrison over to right tackle.
In those instances, that would mean a potential new starter at one of the guard positions. Ben Compton, the backup at center last season, would be a potential option to compete for the right guard spot and Garrett Gramling, who started two games in Harrison’s place at left guard when Harrison slid to left tackle, would make sense if the Aggies moved Harrison to tackle for the season.
Joseph Cheek, a 6-7, 300-pound junior, was second on the Aggies’ depth chart at right tackle last season behind Ogbuehi and would be another name to keep in mind if the coaching staff isn’t satisfied with the aforementioned names.
But for now, with spring practice slightly more than a week away, look for Eluemunor and Gennesy to be the first players to get a shot at the starting job at right tackle. It should make for an interesting competition.