Thoughts From the Kent State Game

Before I get going on the Aggies performance against Kent State I want to talk about the first full weekend of college football in two years.  It was glorious.  I don’t mind Texas and OU coming to the SEC.  My biggest concern with that move is it could be the first step to destroying college football as we know it.  I feel the networks might be trying to turn college football into the “NFL on Saturdays.”  It would be one super conference or even two super conferences with 30-40 teams.  I don’t think that’s good for college football.

College football is haphazard and unstructured and it works.  5 “Power” conferences and 5 “Non Power” conferences for 4 playoff spots.  Sure, recently it’s the same old teams over and over again at the end but for 100+ schools there’s some level of hope this could be the year something magical happens.

College football is a regional game that drives pride in towns many people wouldn’t visit.  Trying to convert college football to something more like the NFL is a massive mistake in my mind.  People watch college football because they have some kind of vested interest and it’s different than the NFL.

The scenes from this weekend were wonderful.  Starting in Minnesota on Thursday night, Blacksburg on Friday afternoon, all over the country on Saturday, and Tallahassee on Sunday night.  The passion of college football fans for their team is unmatched.  It’s not the NFL and that’s the way it should be.

I hope those in charge don’t get blinded by the money thrown around by the networks.  Mainly ESPN.  I really feel ESPN is trying a last-ditch effort to save it’s network in hopes it can turn college football into “NFL on Saturdays.”  It may work for a few years but I think it’s going to turn off a lot of fans as it becomes too structured.  College football needs to be haphazard and unstructured. 

College football doesn’t need a clear schedule for everyone along with a clear path to the playoffs.  Maybe a little consistency in conferences when it comes to scheduling but nobody should be guaranteed a playoff spot if they win their conference, division, or whatever.  It needs to be some level of a beauty contest.  It’s not perfect but it works.

I think the two best changes college football can implement is to go to the 12-team playoff.  That could give college football that March Madness feel and give more teams more hope.

If the 12-team playoff happens that’s going to destroy bowl season.  With that, maybe “Bowl Season” gets flipped to the beginning of the season.  Teams get assigned to a game in the following season after the end of their season.  There’s lots of logistics to work out as would teams schedule 11 or 12 games and does everyone get a bowl assignment?  Also, are games at a neutral location or someone’s home stadium?  Lots to work out in that scenario mainly when it comes to money.  However, I have a feeling the 12-team playoff is going to destroy the bowl system as we know it as it’ll be matchups no one really cares about and the best guys will continue to opt out.

Whatever it is college football needs 100+ teams and multiple conferences believing if the stars align they can be hoisting the championship trophy at the end of the season.

Texas and OU can come to the SEC but I really hope we don’t see a contraction of teams in conferences that matter.  College football doesn’t need to be a perfect structured system.  We have the NFL for that.  College football needs to be a little confusing because it drives passion like no other sport.  The NFL has theatrics.  College football has tradition no other professional league can match.  Let’s not let a network throwing around a bunch of cash fearing for their existence ruin that.  Let tradition reign over theatrics.

Don’t NFL my college football you stupid network executives.

Let’s talk about the Aggies:

Overall:

I certainly would have liked a better initial performance from the Aggies on Saturday night.  In the end it was okay but it was a little slow to get going.  I was never worried about losing the game even with a 10-3 score at halftime.  The Aggies were moving the ball but shooting themselves in the foot.  Defensively we looked fine other than a few mistakes here and there.

At the end of the game it was a dominant performance against a Kent State team that is better than most people think.  I feel better about this game than I did the last two openers against Texas State and Vanderbilt.  We all know about the slow start to the Vanderbilt game last year and that season turned out fine.

Two years ago we beat Texas State 41-7.  The score is similar to this game against Kent State but we struggled to establish the line of scrimmage in that game.  That would prove out through the rest of the season where our offensive line wasn’t very good that season.  I didn’t see any glaring issues on Saturday night other than receiver which I’ll get to in a bit.

There’s a fair amount of work for this team to do but what I saw on Saturday night is correctable.  We had a lot of guys getting their first playing time in a real game.  I’ve always said don’t tell me what guys do in practice.  I want to know what guys do when live bullets are flying.  That’s what matters.

Everyone looked pretty good logging significant playing time for the first time.  Even if the opponent wasn’t on the same level we’ll see in the SEC.  I believe in Jimbo and this staff.  I think we’ll continue to get better each week but like I said in my season preview we need to get through September to get a good feel for this team.

Things look fine after the first week.  Not great but they look fine.

Offense:

Haynes King and a host of guys on the line took their first starting snaps in this game.  The result was good but there’s some hiccups that need to get cleaned up.

We must realize we lost 4 senior starters on the offensive line and at starting quarterback.  I know a lot of people still don’t like Kellen Mond but the dude was as solid as they come in his last 9 games as an Aggie.  There was no way Haynes King was going to step in and have the same production as Kellen.  He did fine though.

Same thing on the offensive line.  No way you start four guys together for the first time and have no issues.

This offense shot itself in the foot a few times.  That stalled things out but for the most part this offense dictated the pace of the game which is what Jimbo wants.  It would be nice to have a more explosive offense but Jimbo’s just not going to take shots for the sake of taking shots.  He wants to control the ball and win the game.

That’s what this offense did on Saturday night and it worked.

Quarterback:

Haynes King’s stat line wasn’t what you hoped at the end of the night but he did fine for the most part.  He was 21 for 33 with 292 yards.  That’s a 64% completion rate.  I’m good with the completion percentage.  I want another 100 yards against a team like Kent State though.  At some point we need a quarterback that can sling it around.

King threw two touchdowns and three interceptions.  Not the ideal ratio.  Two of those were tipped but one was a complete mistake where he stared down a receiver and the defender read it perfectly.  Cut out those interceptions and his night looks completely different.  Tips or not he can’t throw three interceptions against the better SEC teams and expect to win.  Those mistakes must get eliminated.

Running wise he didn’t run nearly as much as I thought he would.  I think that’s fine as he really needed to work on his passing more than his running.  He certainly showed his athleticism on the scramble where he got a first down.  The kid has wheels and can run.  I’m sure he’ll figure out timing when to run as he gets more experience.

If I have one real complaint about King it’s his apparent lack of chemistry with Wydermeyer.  Mond and Wydermeyer were outstanding together.  It did look like Jimbo was using Wydermeyer a little different trying to get him deeper down the field but it really didn’t work.  Wydermeyer has been a serious security blanket for this offense the last two seasons and I think he’ll be just as important this season.  It was just one game but hopefully it was Jimbo trying something different with Wydermeyer.

I think it’s important King to have some level of chemistry with Wydermeyer like Mond had.  That’ll be important in keeping the chains moving.  We’ll see how King develops over the next 3 games but he certainly has the athletic skill set.  I didn’t see anything on Saturday night to give me concern.

Offensive Line:

This is the group I wanted to see the most on the evening.  They certainly weren’t as good as last year’s line but last year’s line didn’t take off until the third game last season.  When you have 4 new guys it’s going to take a little time gel. 

The thing I liked most about their effort on Saturday night was their ability to impose their will at times.  That gives me a lot of hope once they get use to working together they can be as good as last year’s unit.  They might even be better as the unit is more talented.

The biggest surprise of the evening for most was Bryce Foster starting at center.  I’m not terribly surprised it wasn’t Luke Matthews but a little more surprised it was Foster.  The kid is immensely talented but he’s a true freshman that didn’t participate in spring practice.  This kid showed up this summer and he’s the starting center.  That’s remarkable.

He had a few plays where he struggled but for the most part he held his own and did pretty good.  His physical skill set looks solid and obviously the coaching staff has some level of comfort to have him take those snaps for most of the game.  I’m good with Foster at center.

A couple of bad holding calls by Green and Johnson at tackle but not a big deal.

There’s enough to clean up here but there’s also enough to be optimistic about.  Like quarterback let’s get through September before we pass any major assessments on this group.  I’m good with what I saw on Saturday night.

Running Back:

This unit makes me smile.  It really does.  The combination of Spiller and Achane is outstanding.

Spiller is just an outstanding runner.  He makes everything look easy.  He’s not flashy or bruising but the dude just churns out yards.  He’s not going to get the credit he deserves from the media or opposing fans but he’s the heart and soul of this offense.  He just takes the football and runs for positive yards repeatedly.

Achane picked up right where he left off last season.  He’s obviously much flashier than Spiller because of his raw speed.  His speed was on display on his 63-yard touchdown run.  The offensive line did a nice job of opening a hole for him.  Achane deflected the defender that had a shot at him in the backfield and then he just hit the burners and took off untouched to the end zone.  I don’t know if there’s another running back in the country that could have ripped of that run.

I think the most impressive thing about Achane is his balance.  He’s not the biggest running back but he runs tough for his size and speed.  Usually guys with his size and speed don’t handle contact well but Achane is remarkable at deflecting contact to keep moving forward.

These two guys aren’t going to get the notice of some running backs in the country but I wouldn’t trade them for any running back duo on the country.  They’re the perfect compliment to one another.

Wide Receiver:

If there’s one area of concern for this game it’s the receiving unit.  Ainias Smith did his normal thing catching 8 passes for 100 yards and two scores.  He had a big drop but I’m not going to hold that against him.  I just hope he doesn’t do it in a big game.

Caleb Chapman showed up for a big pass and caught a few others totaling 4 coaches for 91 yards.  That’s a productive evening but we need more out of him or Demas if this offense is truly going to explode.  I saw Demas take some snaps but the majority of the snaps went to Chapman.  At some point I’d like to see both of these guys on the field stretching defenses.  Maybe it’s coming but we certainly didn’t see it in the first game.

Establishing a legitimate regular down the field threat is how we’re going to beat Alabama.

As for the rest of the receiving group I thought Chase Lane looked serviceable. He caught three passes for 41 yards which is good enough for what should be the number 4 or 5 receiving option.

I’ve already talked about Wydermeyer a bit.  I’m hoping his lack of production was due to not having the chemistry with King like he had with Mond.  Wydermeyer has a big enough body of work that I’m not worried about one game.

The biggest head scratcher of the evening was the use of Max Wright over Baylor Cupp.  This isn’t a knock against Wright at all as he looks to have gotten in great shape and Jimbo clearly trusts him for the playing time he got on Saturday night.  Wright did just fine helping the running game.  He’s just not a dynamic receiver. 

Maybe Cupp is just a myth.  Maybe he’s all talent and not much more.  For as much as we’ve heard about Cupp’s athletic ability I was really surprised we didn’t see him at all on Saturday night.  Even more head scratching was that Eli Stowers got snaps at tight end.  Maybe Cupp is hurt and if so that’s not good.  The guy hasn’t taken a snap of football since his junior year of high school football.  Maybe it’s time to just move on from Bigfoot until we have an actual confirmed sighting.

As for the rest of the receiving group we didn’t see anything out of anyone else.  Jalen Preston, Devin Price, and Moose Muhammad got some snaps at the end but they seem to be buried down the depth chart.

I still hold out hope this unit takes the step forward in 2021 like the offensive line did in 2020.  I see the potential and maybe it’s just King getting more familiarity with everyone in actual games.  Until this unit takes that step we don’t really have a shot to beat a team like Bama. 

In today’s college football you need receivers that can take the top off a defense.  We’re clearly still not there with this unit.

Defense:

My biggest takeaway from this game for the defense was the amount of participation.  A LOT of people got snaps.  Some of it was due to suspensions and injuries but there were lots of names I didn’t expect to see on the field.

We were missing starters like McKinnley Jackson, Michael Clemons, and Myles Jones so that was the main reason.

Demarvin Leal, Demani Richardson, and Leon O’Neal were the only three guys that played the majority of the game.  Lots of guys rotated in and out.  We had six linebackers take snaps which I really didn’t see coming.  We had 12 defensive linemen take snaps.  We had 9 defensive backs take snaps not named O’Neal or Richardson.  It wasn’t just guys getting snaps in the last couple of series.  A lot of people were rotating throughout a good portion of the game.

This unit performed about as expected for the first game missing some key starters.  A few mistakes here and there but a solid performance for the evening.  I continue to be impressed with Jimbo’s recruiting and Elko’s coaching when it comes to our defense.

Defensive Line:

This group was missing two key starters but it didn’t miss a beat.  Sure, Kent State doesn’t have the athletes we’ll see in the SEC but this is a pretty damn good offense that struggled against our defense.

Demarvin Leal was his usual self wrecking shop up and down the line.  He reminds me of Spiller in a way.  He’s not the flashiest but when you watch him you realize how productive he is and how he’s the heart and soul of this side of the ball.

I mentioned it earlier but a lot of guys rotated in and out of the game at the defensive line.  They all seemed productive but the guy who stood out the most to me was Shemar Turner.  He had a few plays where was flat out dominant.  He’s a true freshman out of Desoto.

We know there’s plenty of depth with this unit but from what I saw on Saturday night I have hope that we can get Michael Clemons and Fadil Diggs at defensive end with Demarvin Leal and Shemar Turner at defensive tackle on obvious passing downs.  If you can apply pressure with 4 guys on passing downs it really changes what you can do defensively.  I have some hope we’ll be able to finally do that since Myles Garrett left.  This defense has been missing a legitimate pass rush for a long time.

It’ll be interesting to see what the rotation and participation looks like when Jackson and Clemons are back.  We have so much depth and talent here that I’m not worried about this unit at all.

Linebacker:

Aaron Hansford led the team in tackles.  Looks like he’s gonna be just fine leading the linebacking unit.

The surprise of the night was Edgerrin Cooper getting more action than Andre White.  That sort of makes sense as Cooper is more athletic and better at defending the pass.  He did a solid job as he was tied for fourth in tackles with Demarvin Leal.

I think this is an outstanding development as it looks like White and Cooper can rotate out based on the game situation or even opponent for pass happy teams like Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

We’re going to be playing a lot of Antonio Johnson at nickel so he’s basically the third linebacker but it looks like we have some flexibility with Hansford, Cooper, and White.  I’m totally good with that.

We still need to add more talent and depth here but looks like we’ll be serviceable at linebacker this season.

Defensive Back:

As mentioned Leon and Demani played the whole game.  They were outstanding.  Leon had a nice pick 6 after he was wrongly flagged for targeting.  The football gods took care of the situation.  Leon also had another nice interception.  I’ve been critical of Leon in the past but he’s really doing an outstanding job.  Demani kind of fits in that Spiller and Leal role where he’s not super flashy but he’s now on his third year starting and he’s been solid and this year looks no different.

Antonio Johnson spent most of the game at the Nickel and I thought he looked good.  He’s a true sophomore and I think he’s going to continue to develop into an outstanding player.  Keldrick Carper also saw a lot of action as we ran four safeties quite a bit and was outstanding.  He’s not the most talented DB on the roster but he really understands his assignments and does a good job.

Jardin Gilbert who is a true freshman showed a few flashes at safety.  Not sure he’ll get a lot of playing time since we have O’Neal, Richardson, and Johnson manning the three safety spots.  It’s good to see someone make the most of their opportunity though.

At corner we rotated a lot more people out due to Myles Jones being out.  That also meant Ainias didn’t have to do his jersey swap on punts if you were wondering.  I saw Jaylon Jones playing but he didn’t show up on the stat sheet.  That means they didn’t throw against him.  That’s a good sign as Jaylon is the best corner we have.

It seemed Tyreek Chappell and Brian George got most of the snaps at corner and did a solid enough job as the Kent State starting quarterback completed half his passes for less than 100 yards.  Deuce Harmon also got some playing time.  Chappell and Harmon are true freshman with plenty of talent so it’s good to see them get some in game experience.

I fully expect Jaylon Jones and Myles Jones to start most of the season at corner but it’s good to see if they’re not able to go for whatever reason we have some talent and depth behind them.

Kent State was a team that averaged over 300 yards passing last season.  They obviously know how to pass but the Aggie secondary didn’t let them.  That’s a good showing.

We’re thin at linebacker but with the defensive line and this secondary I think we’ll be able to cover for the linebacking unit in most of our games.

Looking Forward:

This was just one game but I would have liked to have seen a better start.  It turned out just fine though.  Lots of new guys taking snaps at key positions on offense so it’s justifiable to take a little while to get going.

We’ve got some good tests coming in Colorado and Arkansas.  Those are both VERY winnable games if this is to be a special team.  We’ve seen in the past where other Aggie teams struggled to get things going against good teams like Colorado and Arkansas.  Let’s hope this Aggie team can avoid that and control Colorado and Arkansas from the start only to put them away in the second half.  They’re winnable but not pushovers.  They’ll provide a good barometer of where this Aggie team really is.

Let’s get through September before we really start believing we have something special with this year’s Aggie team.

Other Thoughts:

I thought the Longhorns looked good in their game.  Not dominant and I’m not saying they’re back but they looked different than the Tom Herman teams that made repeated mistakes.  It’ll be interesting to see how their season turns out.  I don’t think they’re loaded with talent but after one game it looks like their coaching has improved.  This Big 12 may wind up being a tossup this year as OU and Iowa State didn’t dominate in their first game.

I didn’t see any of the LSU/UCLA game but the results sure weren’t good for Coach O.  The more I see him the more I realize he’s like Kevin Sumlin.  He caught lightening in a bottle with a generational quarterback and good coaching.  He got cocky after that season talking a lot of trash with no clue on how it happened.

For me personally I want Coach O to hang around.  His body of work says he’s not a good head coach.  Turns out he didn’t figure out how to be a good head coach when he got the job at LSU.  He just got extremely lucky one season.  He’s delightfully entertaining but he’s not a good head coach.

I’m hoping he can still pull off 9 wins losing to Alabama and A&M.  That should be keep him around for another season.  The last thing I want is Matt Campbell at LSU.  I know Iowa State struggled in their first game but that dude can coach football and I think he’s clearly open to getting out of the Big 12 right now.

Other than those few things college football is back in all of it’s glory.  I couldn’t be any happier.

Can’t wait to be in Denver this Saturday although I really do wish it was in Boulder on campus.  That’s much more of a college feel.

One comment

  1. Missed these. Great analysis as always. I’ll be in Denver, as well. Be careful with the beer at that altitude & Gig em. 👍🏼

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