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August 10, 2009

Storylines: Shaking up the offensive line

With August training camp opening in less than a week at Texas A&M, the Aggies have plenty of questions with just little over a month until opening night at Kyle Field. Over the next week, we at AggieYell.com will take a peek at the top storylines in Aggieland facing the team in camp.

Entering the 2008 season the Aggies already knew they had problems on the offensive line. With several departed seniors leaving after the 2007 season, A&M had just eight scholarship players on the roster at the position in the spring of 2008. Depth was clearly an issue, and it reared its ugly head during the 2008 season.

Basically, injuries at a position where injuries are common couldn't happen if the Aggies wanted any type of success on the line, but they happened. A number of injuries happened where players had to miss games and others had to play out of position. Among them, guards Michael Shumard and Lee Grimes who both moved to tackle during the season. Shumard started the year at left tackle while Grimes eventually moved out to right tackle.

In 2009, Shumard will move back inside to his natural guard position while Grimes will stay outside at right tackle. Grimes' durability is something to pay close attention to during August camp and throughout the season. In 2008, Grimes played through several injuries including a shoulder, both knees and a toe. Grimes has been injury-prone throughout his career after ACL injuries sidelined him in both 2005 and 2006. One thing is for certain, however. If Grimes is able to walk, he will play.

The Aggies feel good in the middle with returning center Kevin Matthews after he missed spring drills after offseason surgery. Behind him the Aggies have sophomore Danny Baker and could also move over redshirt freshman Brian Thomas if need be. It's easily the deepest position on the offensive line.

But the major areas to watch this August are at left tackle and at right guard. At tackle, the Aggies have moved former defensive tackle Lucas Patterson to the offensive line and Patterson has been handed the starting job without taking a snap. He didn't even take one during spring drills after missing the spring due to offseason surgery.

Patterson's development at left tackle could be the key to the Aggie offense in 2009. If he steps in and takes over rather flawlessly, then the Aggies finally could have found their left tackle. If not, then the Aggies could have the same type of problems on the line as they had last season. That's because A&M severely lacks offensive tackles on the roster with redshirt freshman Josh Ayers and Jeffrey Hyde being the only tackles that have been in an Aggie uniform before.

But watch out for true freshmen Stephen Barrera and Rhontae Scales. Both are true tackles that bring a lot of talent to College Station.

At right guard, the position was supposed to fall to LSU transfer Matt Allen, but sophomore Evan Eike might have something to say about that. Eike started as a redshirt freshman in all 12 games and won't give up his started position easily. It will be a very good battle to watch throughout August camp.

Thomas and Baker, who have both worked at guard in practices could also make a move at the position as could sophomore Joe Villavisencio who earned a start last season. In essence, the right guard position is wide open with Allen and Eike most likely out in front as the Aggies enter camp.

But one thing is for sure, the Aggies had a major problem with depth along the offensive line in 2008. In 2009, A&M won't be nearly as thing with the influx of redshirt and true freshmen, especially in the interior. But the Aggies can't afford injuries at tackle where they are still very thin, but just not as thin as a season ago.

Storylines entering August training camp:

Finding a WR next to Fuller
Finding the right leaders
Youth movement on defense
What to do with Tannehill
Improving the pass rush with speed

Like what you're seeing? Want to get all the latest on the Aggie program? Want to feel like you're at August camp yourself? If the answer is yes, then click here to subscribe and get 24 hours of Texas A&M coverage every day with the best team and recruiting coverage you'll get anywhere on your Aggies. With unprecedented coverage of August camp and the 2009 football season just around the corner, now is the time to join the AggieYell.com family!


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