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Decisions for A&M
Jones looks for answers at third scrimmage tonight
With its season opener still two weeks away, Alabama A&M has some decisions to make before settling on a starting lineup.
Who will start at mike linebacker? There is still a battle going on at defensive tackle and wide receiver. Some depth has to be found along the offensive line.
“We’ve got some positions where we’ve got two guys that are going to play, but we’re trying to figure out who’s going to start and who’s going to be the backup,” coach Anthony Jones said. “We’ve got a situation like that at linebacker, in the defensive line and at wide receiver.”
Jones hopes to answer those questions tonight when A&M holds its third scrimmage of the preseason. It is slated to start at 7 at Louis Crews Stadium.
Junior David Gaines and sophomore Afu Okosun are in a heated battle for the starting mike linebacker job. Okosun, who came on late last season, was the Bulldogs’ sixth-leading tackler with 38 stops. He entered training camp as the starter, but was sidelined a couple of days with a pulled hamstring. That allowed Gaines, a seldom-used junior, to overtake him. Gaines started working with the first team earlier this week.
The sam linebacker job belongs to Quinton Holmes for now. Newcomer Alfred Williams, a transfer from Duke, was pushing Holmes until he had to be taken off the field Thursday to clear up some eligibility issues.
Senior Whitney Garrett and sophomore Frank Kearse are neck-and-neck at right defensive tackle, according to line coach Ben Blacknall.
Garrett had the lead early, but Kearse, arguably A&M’s best tackle, has come on since becoming a little healthier. Kearse underwent offseason knee injury and has slowly been working his way back into shape.
Thomas Harris and Rashad Johnson are A&M’s top two receivers. Gerald Stockdale and Nate Baxter are also in the rotation. Who starts will depend on the formation.
Still, receivers coach Roger Totten is trying to find at least two more. Anthony Mitchell will be one of them if he can get eligible. Freshman Torey Smith also has a chance to be in the mix.
The offensive line is practically set with the exception of left tackle. Newcomer Michael Brown will start there is he can get eligible. If not, the Bulldogs will likely have to go with seldom-used junior Emmett Smith.
Junior center Darrius Turner will be a key backup along with junior Phillip Thomas and freshman Jamal Johnson-Webb. According to offensive coordinator Cedric Pearl, who handles A&M’s offensive line, Johnson-Webb has progressed well enough that he could swing between both offensive tackle positions.
“We’d like to have our lineup solidified when we go back to practice Tuesday,” Jones said. “That’s when we’re going to start working on Tennessee State.”
By Reggie Benson