Looking Back at the 2019 Aggies

Despite the difficulty of the Aggies 2019 schedule there was a lot of optimism heading into the season.  There was good reason for it.  The Aggies closed out the season with a 7 OT thriller against LSU and then absolutely demolished NC State in the Gator Bowl.  There was reason to think some level of momentum would carry over to the 2019 season.

In the end, the 2019 Aggies were only one win off from the 2018 Aggies.  The 2019 Aggies wound up 8-5 compared to the 2018 Aggies that finished at 9-4.  That doesn’t seem like much of a difference.  Especially when you factor in the Aggies traded Kentucky for Georgia so that one-win difference kind of makes sense.

Despite the records, the 2018 and 2019 teams don’t even come close to comparing to each other.  While the losses of Kingsley Keke, Daylon Mack, Otara Alaka, and Tyrel Dodson weren’t that significant on the defensive side of the ball the losses of Erik McCoy, Jace Sternberger, and Trayveon Williams proved extremely significant.  Believe it or not Erik McCoy might have been the biggest loss of all.

The 2019 Aggie team took a major step back from a talent standpoint with a more difficult schedule.  Somehow only wound up one win worse.  I think that’s a major testament to the Aggie coaching staff and the effort of the players even if they weren’t as talented.  There’s a lot of previous Aggie teams with different coaches and players that would have wound up at 6-6 if not worse.

The 2019 Aggie football schedule makes it really hard to truly evaluate this Aggie team.  They played against 5 teams that were ranked in the Top 10.  Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, and LSU were ranked at some level of the Top 4 all season.  Auburn was no slouch either.

On the flip side the Aggies played against 7 teams that couldn’t crack the Top 50.  Only one of those teams even qualified for a bowl at 6-6.  That was Mississippi State.  They qualified thanks to an Ole Miss player who pretended to be a dog peeing on a fire hydrant on what could have been the game tying touchdown.  The SEC, y’all.  It just means more.  MSU would go on to get soundly beat by Louisville in their bowl game.  That was the Aggies best win during the regular season.

Even the Aggies’ bowl game left one confused how good this team was.  Nobody knows how good Oklahoma State was in 2019.  It was a great hard-fought victory but the Aggies really should have won in a more convincing fashion.

The Aggies were on the brink of getting blown out by Oklahoma State being down 14-0.  They then reeled off 24 unanswered points to win 24-21.  In probably the most equal of matchups all season the Aggies looked like two different teams at times in the span of 4 quarters.  You take the win but this bowl game left confusion on how good this team really was much like the rest of the 2019 Aggie season.

There’s no good gauge to determine where A&M stood between the elites and the dregs of the 2019 college football landscape.

Here’s my thoughts on what I saw for the position groups in 2019 and see for 2020.

Offense:

Offensive Line:

I’m going to start with by far the biggest weakness of the 2019 Aggie football team.  This is also the biggest concern of the Aggie football team going forward.  This line was HORRIBLE pretty much the entire season.  They’d have some moments when they looked like a decent unit but those moments were few and far between.  I never thought a center could mean that much to an offensive line but the loss of Erik McCoy was huge.  I believe the biggest loss between the 2018 and 2019 teams.

This line went from having a second-round pick who would go on to start for one of the best teams in the NFL to a line that won’t have anyone signed to an NFL practice squad in their current state.  Yes, I know Kenyon Green has tremendous upside but 2019 Kenyon Green wouldn’t get signed to an NFL practice squad.  That’s not a knock on Kenyon as he was a true freshman playing in the SEC.  It is a knock on the rest of the offensive linemen on the 2019 roster.  A true freshman was one of the best 5 offensive lineman on the roster.  At times he was the best which makes the state of the 2019 offensive line even worse.

I personally put most of the blame for this on Kevin Sumlin and Jim Turner.  They simply did a HORRIBLE job of recruiting talented offensive linemen.  There have been a few unfortunate injuries to some promising linemen but there should be more talent and depth for this group.

I’m a little worried about Jimbo’s recruiting as we’re really missing some promising tackles on the current roster.  I think the interior of the line will improve over the next two years but to compete at the elite level of college football you need talented tackles.  It might be that Kenyon Green and Chris Morris develop over the next couple of years.  They’ve got a long ways to go and a short time to get there though.  I’d rather not rely on a true sophomore and freshman to man the tackle situation in the SEC West over the coming years but it’s our current situation.

Of the players that have taken a snap as an Aggie offensive lineman there’s only one guy that has any real potential.  That is not a good situation at all.  Let’s hope 5 guys pan out over the next 2 seasons because until that happens this Aggie team is not competing at an elite level no matter who else is starting in the other 17 spots.  If you don’t have an adequate offensive line then you have no chance of competing at an elite level in football.

Running Back:

Jashaun Corbin came into the season as a running back with lots of promise.  He looked good at times filling in for Trayveon Williams in 2018.  That promise wouldn’t prove out at all in 2019.  Corbin got a season ending injury early in the season and then decided to transfer to Florida State after the season.

I said in my write-up after the first game of the season that Corbin really didn’t look that good and Derrick Spiller looked like he had more potential.  I had no idea Corbin wouldn’t ever be a factor for Aggie football.  This sport takes some funny turns.

Derrick Spiller had some serious growing pains along the way as he proved to be a liability with the ball at times.  He certainly got better as the season went on and might have had his best two games against LSU and Oklahoma State.  I don’t think he’s a guy that will ever be talked about as a first or second round pick for the NFL but he does look like he has some potential to be part of a strong running back platoon.

It looks like the Aggies are going to miss out on Zach Evans so Jimbo will need to figure out who he’s going to pair with Spiller next season.  There’s no running backs left thanks to injuries and transfers.  Ainias Smith looked good in the Texas Bowl and Devon Achane looked solid in his state title game even though his team lost.

This unit still needs some depth and size but I do think there’s some pieces that Jimbo can work with as we head into the future.

Wide Receivers:

I think the 2019 Aggie wide receiver unit might be the most overhyped receiving unit in Aggie football history.  Jahmon Ausbon is far and away the best receiver of this group.  The second best receiver is a true freshman tight end in Jaylen Wydermeyer.  The rest of this group really didn’t do anything.  Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rogers just never produced.  Quartney was the more productive of the two but he only amassed 616 receiving yards in 2019.  That’s right at 50 yards a game.  Rogers was even worse getting 351 receiving yards.  Between the two they didn’t even achieve 1,000 receiving yards.  That’s terrible.

You can certainly blame Mond and the offensive line to some degree but the reality those two guys rarely beat their man on their own and never did anything after catching the ball.  Both of those guys will leave A&M having never caught a touchdown pass over 40 yards against a Power 5 opponent.  Outstanding receivers find a way to get open, routinely catch contested balls, and make plays after the catch.  I never saw that out of Davis or Rogers.  I know they’re fine Aggies but I do believe it’s best they moved on so some other receivers can get some snaps.

For whatever reason Ainias Smith never really got significant playing time this season.  Even with limited snaps I thought he showed the most promise behind Ausbon and Wydermeyer of the receivers.  I think that will change going into 2020 based on the Texas Bowl.  He looks like he’s going to be a guy that lines up in multiple positions trying to find matchup advantages for him and the rest of the offense.

Obviously Demond Demas looks to be a guy that should take snaps from Day 1.  Having a guy that can blow the top off coverage or repeatedly win contested balls will do wonders for this offense.  We’ll also get Baylor Kupp back to pair with Wydermeyer which should be a solid boost.

The 2020 Aggie offense won’t turn into the 2019 LSU or Bama offense but I do think it can make some major strides with some fresh blood running routes.

Good luck to Davis and Rogers at the next level but I do think their leaving will be best for everyone.

Quarterback:

Time for what I believe might be the most polarizing Aggie player ever.  Because of that I’m not going to spend a lot of time here.

After two full seasons under center it’s clear in my mind Kellen Mond is who he is.  He’s a wildly inconsistent quarterback that can make beautiful throws at times and then miss wide open guys for no good reason.  He also stays at the same level no matter the opponent.  He doesn’t play up in big games nor does he play down against lesser opponents.  He’s consistently inconsistent against everyone.  It’s kind of remarkable

I have no reason to think Mond makes any significant improvement in 2020 and we’ll see the same Mond we’ve seen the last 2 seasons.  The only slight change we might see is being more apt to run.  Truthfully Kellen’s legs are what made the difference in the 2019 season.  Without his running we might have lost to Arkansas (as painful as that is to say) and Ole Miss.  We certainly lose the bowl game in my mind.  We also probably don’t beat Mississippi State and South Carolina in convincing fashion without Kellen’s running.

The good news about Kellen is he’s shown he’ll beat the teams he should beat over the last two years.  That hopefully sets the Aggies up well based on their 2020 schedule.  Kellen isn’t going to lead this team to the SEC West crown.  If he wins 10 in the regular season and then adds a bowl victory to finish 11-2 I’ll thank him for his service and we’ll move on down the road.

Until that offensive line is fixed it won’t matter who we have under center.  That offensive line isn’t getting a major overhaul in 2020.  Let’s all hope Kellen goes 11-2 so we can get back to what Aggies do best – look forward to the following season where hope springs eternal.

DEFENSE:

Defensive Line:

The strength of this team was far and away the defensive line.  I think it took a slight step back with the loss of Daylon Mack and Kingsley Keke but it wasn’t much.  Justin Madubuike proved he might be the most dominant defensive lineman since Myles Garrett.  I don’t think he’ll be drafted in the second round but he’ll likely go in the third if not fourth round.  He had the best season of any player on the 2019 Aggie team in my mind.  Yes, even better than Braden Mann.

This unit still needs a rush end but there’s some solid pieces moving forward.  I think Bobby Brown might be a tad bit overrated as I think he’s a little too big and soft but he’s certainly serviceable in the middle of the line.  Demarvin Leal probably showed the most promise but he too has a lot of developing to become dominant.

Jimbo has recruited the defensive line really well since arriving in Aggieland and I think we’re going to be fine here.  We’ve still got a long way to go to match what LSU, Bama, Auburn, and Clemson have or have had in recent years but I feel good with where things are right now relative to the rest of this team.  Without this unit over the last two years I shudder to think what the Aggie record looks like.  They’ve been the heart and soul of the past two years.

Linebackers:

I knew it was going to be hard to replace Tyrel Dodson and Otara Alaka.  Luckily the fall off to Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines wasn’t as bad as the offensive line without Erik McCoy.  I really like Buddy Johnson.  I doubt he winds up on any All SEC teams or spends any time in the NFL but the dude balls out for his ability.  Every team needs a guy like him.

Anthony Hines is the exact opposite.  The dude is dripping with talent but he has yet to develop the instincts to play exceptional linebacker.  He’ll flash at times but he’s often out of position because he doesn’t anticipate the play and his athleticism can’t make up for not being in the right place.  Maybe he takes a major leap in 2020 because he certainly has the athleticism but he needs to become a much smarter player if he wants to play at the next level.

I thought Aaron Hansford develop nicely as the season wore on.  I don’t know that he’s an every down linebacker in the SEC but he certainly provides nice depth and situational role.

I feel linebacker is another area where Jimbo has done a decent job of recruiting.  Some of these young guys need to mature and develop but I feel like Jimbo has the numbers and talent even if they’re young.  Enough guys should shake out where we finally get a serviceable group of linebackers over the next couple of seasons.

Secondary:

This is still a MAJOR area of need.  We had some unfortunate injuries with Elijah Blades and Erick Young so we never really got to see if they could develop into legit SEC talent.  They showed promise at times but mostly they were hurt or still adjusting.

Safety play never developed other than Demani Richardson showing he could turn into something with more experience.  Leon O’Neal certainly didn’t take that leap we all hoped he would.  He reminds me of Anthony Hines.  He’s dripping with talent but until he decides he wants to rely on smarts over athleticism he’ll never take that step as an elite football player.  O’Neal might be a guy that wants to “test” the NFL waters after the 2020 season.  It’s not because he’s ready but more because he feels he’s getting passed on the depth chart.  In a way I hope O’Neal has one more season in Aggieland.  That would mean he either took that leap or Jimbo has found someone better than him because he never developed beyond where his right now.

Due to the injuries to Blades and Young, Mike Elko was forced to trot out the same cornerbacks that got burned in 2018.  I thought they did an outstanding job for much of the season.  They definitely did a much better job for most of 2019 compared to 2018.  However, against superior opponents they just couldn’t hang.  Most of these guys just aren’t talented enough to cover elite receivers.  I’ll give them it’s not from lack of effort as they definitely improved from last season but it’s not enough.

For this Aggie team to compete at an elite level it needs MUCH better cornerbacks.  This is another area that Jimbo has recruited well.  Our issues at corner won’t be totally cured in 2020 but if the guys Jimbo has recruited stay healthy I think there will be some major improvement from a coverage standpoint.

Coaching:

I think Mike Elko has been the unsung hero of Jimbo’s two years in Aggieland.  While everyone has been gnashing their teeth about Kellen Mond or bitching about the secondary getting burned Mike Elko has strung together an outstanding defensive unit all things considered.

While he hasn’t been perfect, much more often than naught his game plan and in game adjustments have been outstanding.  Other than against elite level teams this defensive unit has given the Aggies a chance to win games.  Even against elite level teams in 2019 like Clemson, Auburn, and Georgia I believe the Aggie defense played well enough for the Aggies to win.  The offense just couldn’t muster any kind of momentum.  We certainly don’t beat Oklahoma State without the in-game adjustments Elko made.  The dude can flat out coach.

In a way I’m kind of glad the Aggies went 8-5 this season.  It kept Mike Elko around for another season as I don’t think a lot of people were paying attention to the Aggie defense.  There’s no doubt Elko is going to take a head coaching position at some point.  The longer we have him in Aggieland while Jimbo loads the cupboards with talent the better off we’ll be.  If we can somehow keep him around for 2 more seasons I think we’re going to be in really good shape defensively.  We should at least get one more season barring anything drastic happening between now and the beginning of the season.

 

Quick Look at 2020:

There will be plenty of time to discuss what could or should happen in 2020.  From my standpoint I definitely think the Aggies will be better from a talent standpoint.  They return roughly 18 starters with a lot being really young and talented which means they should only get better.

The schedule is cake compared to 2019.  It really sets up where there’s a solid chance the Aggies could be 10-0 with games against Bama and LSU to close the season.  Colorado won’t be a cake walk but it should be a solid chance at a win.  Ole Miss and Mississippi State will definitely be more competitive but I think the Aggies should still out talent them.  Auburn should be slightly worse and I think Jimbo is in line to finally beat them.  At worst the Aggies should be 9-1 with Bama and LSU left.

I don’t think 2020 is the year the Aggies win the SEC West simply because of the offensive line.  It won’t be good enough to beat both Bama and LSU.  2020 should be the year we take that next step to an elite level team though.  Not to elite level but a strong step there.  Hope springs eternal but I think 2020 will be the season we finally see something different from Aggie football where that eternal hope is actually built on something sustainable.

Make Aggie Football Great Again.

#MAFGA

How to follow us:

If you’re reading this blog for the first time and want to get notice when new blogs are posted you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook by using the following two links:

Twitter – https://twitter.com/m_a_f_g_a

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Make-Aggie-Football-Great-Again-1998293353741315/

It’s the off-season but we’ll post some random things here and there and get back to game re-caps next season.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s