Some Aggies are hoping Jimbo’s first year will be like Kevin Sumlin’s first year where we catch everyone by surprise. The main reason Jimbo won’t replicate Sumlin’s first season in the record department is because of our offense. Our offense simply won’t supply the firepower our 2012 offense did for a “breakthrough” first year for Jimbo. Let’s breakdown the challenges facing the Aggie offense in 2018 compared to 2012:
Quarterback – Saying there’s no Johnny Manziel on this roster is an understatement. There’s not a quarterback on this roster that’s even close to what Johnny brought to the table in 2012. Johnny’s ability to run along with his pocket awareness made so much happen. He’s a once in a lifetime player. Starkel and Mond aren’t horrible QBs but they’re not outstanding QBs either. They both have skill sets that are one dimensional for the most part. Starkel is a pure pocket guy but doesn’t possess a cannon for an arm. He’s what one would call a game manager. That’s not a bad thing but Nick Starkel is not going to put a team on his shoulders and win a game we shouldn’t. His job is to simply move the team up and down the field as much as possible without turning the ball over. We won’t be lighting up any defense under Starkel.
Mond could still develop into a dual threat quarterback but nothing I saw in his first season leads me to believe that. I know he was a true freshman but he’s not as quick as I hoped he’d be. He certainly didn’t appear to have the burst of Manziel or Kyler Murray. I think Trevor Knight was a better runner than Mond is. I was shocked when Mond got walked down in the Arkansas game last year. He had a wide-open sideline and a defender caught him from behind. Guys with true elite speed don’t have that happen to them. Think of all the times Trevor Knight ran away from people in the open field. I haven’t seen that from Mond. In addition, Mond is erratic as a passer. I think he’ll improve under Jimbo but I’m not sure it’ll be enough for this team to take a major step forward from last season.
Step 1 one of eliminating hopes for a 2012 repeat in 2018 is the quarterback position.
People forget how amazing the 2012 receiving corps was. Everyone points to Mike Evans but there was quite a bit more in 2012 than most people realize. That team also had Ryan Swope, Uzoma Nwachukwu, and Malcome Kennedy. It’s sad to think about what happened with him but Thomas Johnson had a couple decent games including Alabama. That was a REALLY good receiving corps.
For 2018 there’s no telling what we have. Outside of Christian Kirk last season nobody really produced game in and game out. Jhamon Ausbon appears to be the best receiver we have and we’re not sure how good he is. He’s certainly no Mike Evans or even Josh Reynolds/Ryan Swope level at this point. Other than Ausbon I’m not sure what else to expect from anyone. Certainly Jalen Preston has a lot of promise but he’ll still be a true freshman in the SEC. I think he could be a complete stud by the time he leaves A&M but in 2018 he won’t be a dominate receiver. 2012 had a complete stud in Mike Evans, a great receiver in Ryan Swope, and then two really solid guys in Nwachukwu and Kennedy. I’m not sure the 2018 will have one great receiver unless Ausbon takes a major step forward. He has the talent but it remains to be seen if he actually does it. There is some other receiving talent on the roster but it must take some major strides and I’m not sure if it’s quite there yet.
This is where the 2012 and 2018 teams will have the biggest difference. Even bigger than quarterback. Everyone talks about Manziel, Evans, and even Swope from 2012 but most people forget about that offensive line. That offensive line was one of the greatest college offensive lines ever assembled. Every starter on that offensive line started in the NFL at one point. Four guys were taken in the first round but all five guys not only made an NFL roster but actually started an NFL game at one point in their career. I don’t know how many collegiate lines can lay claim to that. It can’t be many. The 2012 offensive line was one for the ages. Maybe more than Johnny Manziel if you want to truly dissect it. It’ll be easier to get a game changing quarterback than it will be to get five guys that will start together in college and then each start in the NFL. It doesn’t happen often.
As for the 2018 Aggie offensive line nobody knows what to make of it. The only guaranteed starter is Erik McCoy and right now it’s not certain where he starts. He’ll either be center or guard simply because the staff must figure out the four best guys to go with him and what positions they play. It’s great McCoy is that good and has the versatility but it’s not good the staff is waiting to see where he’ll plug best along the line because the other four guys are such unknowns.
It looked like someone was taking Koda Martin’s job even if he came back fully healthy. I think that’s partially why he transfered. We’ll be starting someone at left tackle with little experience and have no depth at the position. That’s not a good thing for a very important position on the offensive line. We just don’t have any talent or depth on the offensive line outside of Erik McCoy. I think McCoy might be the only guy that would be in the two deep at Bama or start for schools like Auburn and LSU. Everybody else would just be fighting for a roster spots on the better teams in the conference. We have some solid true freshman coming in but I always tell people the SEC is not a league that favors true freshman. Especially at offensive line.
I know everybody loves Jim Turner and I do as well but I’ve taken a step back from him over the last two seasons. I think he has a LOT to prove over the next two seasons. Some people like to blame Sumlin and Mazzone for the shortcomings of the line but he’s still the OLine coach. He holds a lot of responsibility for the overall results. He signs off on the recruits and coaches them individual technique, fight, and teamwork. We’ve missed a lot of assignments or calls over the last two seasons. We’ve also had lineman get their ass whipped at the line of scrimmage. I’m talking not even getting any engagement on certain plays.
Our recruiting under Turner his first two seasons has been less than stellar and our play has matched that as well. I’m not saying he’s on the hot seat by any stretch but if you measure his results based solely on the roster and performance on the field it certainly doesn’t match up with the perception he’s one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. Sometimes perception and reality don’t match when you judge things objectively. If you were to objectively grade Turner’s second stint in Aggieland the performance and talent of his unit certainly doesn’t match up with the perception for what kind of offensive line coach he supposedly is. Turner has a lot to prove this season in my eyes.
Offensive line recruiting has been amazing of recent so something has apparently changed. Maybe it’s the Jimbo effect or maybe it’s true Sumlin was an albatross around Turner’s neck in recruiting. I’m glad for the recruits that have committed for future classes but the success of the 2018 team centers around the performance of the offensive line more than any unit. Right now, it doesn’t look good for our offensive line in 2018. No doubt having a tight end will provide a huge help but the reality is the talent level is not where it should be for a program like Texas A&M. Turner and Jimbo are working on that but it’s not going to be enough for 2018.
Maybe the Aggie offense surprises me in 2018 but I think Jimbo has a couple of years of work ahead of him to get the offense to championship caliber level. If Aggies are expecting Jimbo to have the same success record wise as Sumlin in his first year it’s likely not happening. There’s a MAJOR talent difference between the 2012 Aggie offense and the 2018 Aggie offense that coaching and scheme won’t be able to overcome.
I do believe Jimbo needs to go 8-4 this season but he won’t go 10-2 during the regular season like Sumlin’s first year. Bama and Clemson are certain loses and there will be at least one more if not two more loses on the schedule. It’s possible we go worse than 8-4 but 8-4 should be Jimbo’s baseline for his first season. He needs to do some building to win the SEC and that means winning 8 games in the regular season.
The dream scenario is likely going 9-3 with a win over LSU and then win our bowl game ending the season at 10-3. If that happens it won’t appear to be as good as Sumlin going 11-2 with wins over Alabama and Oklahoma. However, 10-3 with wins over LSU and a bowl win in 2018 will be MUCH better than Sumlin’s 2012 season.