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Aggies will start spring especially green on defense

Texas A&M, with Heisman winner Johnny Manziel leading the way, should be a top 10 team when the first preseason football polls start making their initial appearances this summer.

But the Aggies, as they prepare to start spring workouts on Saturday, are at their core a very young team as they try to better last year’s impressive 11-2 premiere in the Southeastern Conference.

Coach Kevin Sumlin released his first spring depth chart Friday. There are seven players listed on the two deep, most of them on defense, who enrolled in January.

“It’s a little bit out of necessity,” said A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder of the newcomers.

“Some of these guys should be going to prom in a couple of months,” Sumlin cracked.

The greenest spot of the team is at linebacker, especially with Steven Jenkins, the lone returning starter, missing the spring while nursing a shoulder injury.

Freshman Brent Wade of Kennedale is listed as the starter at weakside linebacker. The starter at strongside linebacker is Tommy Sanders, a junior college transfer. The two current backups in the middle are Shaun Ward, a juco-transfer, and Reggie Chavis, a freshman from Houston Sharpstown.

And for now, Nate Askew is Sanders’ backup. A&M fans will recognize Askew’s name — as a 6-4, 230-pound offensive enigma. Askew, a senior, has spent the past three seasons at split end.

“Nate’s been having to hold his weight down,” Sumlin said of Askew. “There are very few guys on this team who have the athletic ability he does. For whatever reason, it didn’t transfer at wide receiver.”

There also are four new starters at defensive line, although the situation isn’t as acute as linebacker. Two of those players — end Julien Obioha and Kirby Ennis — will miss the spring with injury. Plus, Ennis also is serving a suspension because of a recent arrest.

Sumlin gets a raise

A&M is rewarding its coaches. Sumlin will receive a $1.1 million annual raise starting April 1, bumping his yearly salary to $3.1 million, plus bonuses. In addition, he is allowed a $3.4 million annual salary pool to pay his assistant coaches. That’s a raise of $700,000 from a year ago.

To help pay for the raises, athletic director Eric Hyman announced this week that the price of season tickets will rise by $25.

Tailbacks generate buzz

Senior Ben Malena returns as starter at tailback. On Friday, he called A&M’s group of runners the best in the country.

Malena’s opinion may not be hyperbole. Transfers Brandon Williams (Oklahoma) and Tra Carson (Oregon) are now eligible to play after raising eyebrows on the scout team last fall.

Sophomore Trey Williams also will be vying for carries. But he’ll miss most of spring drills after undergoing surgery to repair a hernia. Sumlin said he expects Williams to be available for the last week of practice.

Battle to back up Manziel

Sumlin said the job of Manziel’s backup is “wide open.”

The opening came when Jameill Showers, who had been A&M’s No. 2 quarterback for the past two seasons, announced this week that he is transferring to Texas-El Paso. Showers still is in school at A&M and is on schedule to graduate. That’ll make him immediately eligible at UTEP. Conceivably, he could be starting against his old school when the Miners and Aggies play at Kyle Field in November.

Junior Matt Joeckel and redshirt freshman Matt Davis will compete for the second quarterback spot. Sumlin signed two quarterbacks in February, but incoming freshman Kohl Stewart might opt for a career in pro baseball. He’s projected as a first-round draft pick.

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  • Saturday, funeral services were held in Tulsa, for Oklahoma State Rep. David Brumbaugh. He passed away last weekend due to an apparent heart attack. Friends, family and colleagues had nothing but good things to say about Brumbaugh. “Every time that he spoke, he did it not because of what he thought politically, but because it’s what he thought was right,” one colleague said.  “Hopefully, those of us that are still there will be able to follow that.” The service was held at Tulsa Bible Church.  During the service, Brumbaugh was remembered as a man dedicated to public service and to his faith.
  • A cashier is said to be in stable condition, after getting shot during an armed robbery Friday night. The shooting happened around 7:29 p.m., at the RK Food Mart on North Utica Avenue. “After the cashier cooperated and handed over an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspect shot him in the foot one time,” Tulsa police said.  “The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment.” A description of the suspect hasn’t been released.   Anyone with information regarding the robbery is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-COPS.
  • The heavens opened up in and around the Tulsa area on Friday, but how much rain did we actually get? National Weather Service Meteorologist Robert Darby has the answer. “We did see wide-spread 3 to 4 inches across a large portion of northeast Oklahoma and Tulsa County,” Darby said.   There is a chance of rain in the forecast for Saturday as well.   Sapulpa suffered some damage in Friday’s storms.   While driving around, we found uprooted trees, a destroyed gazebo and one resident received quite the surprise when he woke up. “Getting my dogs ready to go outside and kind of noticed I had no roof towards the bathroom area,” the resident said.   Crews were out helping with the debris around the city.
  • United Airlines is apparently trying to make the 'bumping' process a little less confrontational. A United passenger tells People magazine that when he was checking in for his flight on the airline's website, a pop-up screen asked him if he would be interested in taking a different flight in exchange for a travel certificate of at least $200. A United spokesman says they've done it for years, but the passenger said he didn't see it on the United check-in he did a few days before. Whether it’s new or not, the airline is taking other steps to try to avoid the ugly situation where Dr. David Dao was dragged down the aisle of a plane. United also now has a rule in place that passengers cannot be bumped if they're already seated on their flight. You can read more about the story here.
  • A veteran firefighter died in the line of duty Thursday when he fell from the roof of a five-story apartment building while fighting a fire in New York City. >> Read more trending news William Tolley, 42, was critically injured while battling a 2-alarm fire in Queens on Thursday afternoon, the New York City Fire Department said. He was taken to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, where he died of his injuries. He is survived by his wife, Marie, and his daughter, Isabella. “We lost another hero today,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. “A man dedicated to protecting others gave his life to this work and, like all members of the FDNY, understood every single day that he was putting his life on the line, but he did it willingly in the service of others.” Firefighters were called around 2:20 p.m. to respond to a fire on the second floor of an apartment building on Putnam Avenue. Tolley was working on the roof with other firefighters to ventilate the building and protect higher floors when he fell, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. “It is a terrible tragedy for a department that’s certainly known more than its share of tragedies,” Nigro said. Authorities are investigating the circumstances that led to Tolley’s death. Tolley was with the New York City Fire Department for 14 years and most recently assigned to Ladder 135. He was also the drummer of Internal Bleeding, a well-known heavy metal band, The New York Times reported. Band members described Tolley as “the heartbeat of the band” in a Facebook post Thursday. “There are zero words to describe the loss,” the post said. “He was a good, decent and honorable man who loved his friends, his family and the people he served. There will never be another like him. There are no words to describe the utter sadness and despair we feel right now.” Tolley is the 1,147th member of the New York City Fire Department to die while serving the city, Nigro said.