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March 22, 2012Now that 2012's signing day has come and gone, Texas A&M knows for sure who it will be going into SEC play with. Aggieyell.com will look at the 2012 team, position by position, as spring practice approaches. The latest in the series: center.
Losses from last season: None
Players on scholarship: 3
Players taking part in spring practice: 2
Overall talent level: very high
Overall experience level: Very high for the starter, non-existent for the backups
Overview: Patrick Lewis will be the starter for the second consecutive season and he's as good as there is anywhere. Backups Ben Compton and Mike Matthews have the potential to develop into all-conference candidates themselves in time.
Senior Patrick Lewis
• Started every game at center last season after moving from right guard
• Greatest assets: Extremely smart and extremely strong. Makes good line calls and has the ability to manhandle the opposition's biggest linemen.
• The bottom line: Texas A&M has had some really good centers in the last 15 years, going back to the Big 12's very best in Seth McKinney. Lewis (6'2", 306 lbs.) doesn't have to take a back seat to any of them. A mainstay on the offensive line since his arrival on campus, he overcame some hesitation about moving to center last season and had a great year. Former coach Mike Sherman said Lewis would be an NFL-caliber center, and he did much to prove his former coach right in 2011. Whoever wins the quarterback competition this spring and fall will probably rely heavily on Lewis' intelligence and experience next season. He's a leader both on and off the field and will probably prove Sherman correct when he's taken in the 2013 NFL draft.
Sophomore Ben Compton
• Played nose tackle as a true freshman
• Greatest assets: Massive for a center (6'4", 315 lbs.). Powerful run blocker with a mean streak.
• The bottom line: One of the nicest young men you'll ever meet off the field, there's nothing gentle about Ben when he's on the field. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and likes to push around his opponents until the whistle and a little longer. He struggled with snapping last fall, but will get a second shot at it this spring. If he can get used to it, the former left tackle has the potential to be a devastating center.
True freshman Mike Matthews:
• Four-star recruit and second-rated center in the nation in 2012
• Greatest assets: As technically sound a lineman as a true freshman can be; not just quick, but fast for his size.
• The bottom line: When Jake Matthews arrived on campus three years ago, one of the things most observers commented on was how polished he was as a blocker. Mike is even more refined than his older brother, and a good bit nastier. Even though he could use a year to get a little bigger and stronger, Matthews could end up as the team's long snapper this fall and provides quality depth should something happen to Lewis and/or Compton. When his time does come, he'll be extremely successful.