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What’s Left for the Aggies in 2019?

Quick Bama Thoughts:

Before you get your hopes up for beating Alabama at Kyle Field on Saturday you need to realize this isn’t 2012.  We’re not walking into an Alabama game with an offensive line where all five guys will start in the NFL and four will be drafted in the first round.  We also don’t have Johnny Football although I’m sure he’ll be around somewhere.  Oh, and that Mike Evans guy.  Or Spencer Nealy.  Or Ryan Swope.  Should I go on?

If Jimbo and Elko run out the same schemes they’ve been running for the last 18 games there is a ZERO chance we win this game.  I suppose there’s a marginal chance if Nick Saban, his staff, and players have been in Mexico for the last two weeks and did zero preparation for this game.  Our weaknesses are very evident and we’re just not that talented.  Even a marginal effort by Bama will beat this Aggie team if it’s same scheme.

I don’t see Jimbo doing anything drastic scheme wise in this game.  I go back to this year’s Houston Coach’s Night when he said he must trust his process more than wins and losses.  You might see some wrinkles in this game but it won’t be enough.  Maybe Jimbo will implement a totally different scheme on offense and defense but I just don’t see it happening.

From a personnel standpoint we won’t be much different than we’ve been all season.  Roney Elam appears to still be out which has proven to be a major blow to our defense.  He was our best secondary player in stopping the run and defending passes.  I don’t know what’s going on with Ryan McCollum but until he starts snapping the ball the outlook for this offensive line doesn’t change.  We will continue to get destroyed on the offensive line of scrimmage.

We’ve seen some glimmer of hope in the passing game with the emergence of Ainias Smith but I don’t think it will be enough.  Our most talented running back can’t hold onto the ball.  Jacob Kibodi had nice runs against Arkansas in the second half but they weren’t dominant by any stretch.  The Bama defense ain’t the Arkansas defense.

Defensively Leon O’Neal and Anthony Hines appear to be better athletes than they are football players.  We’re solid up the middle on the defensive line but we have no real speed on the edge to seal or bring a legitimate pass rush.  Our cornerback situation is still questionable.  The Bama passing game isn’t questionable so they’re probably going to light us up.

I’d love nothing more than to have a repeat of 2012 at Kyle Field.  In fact, I’d trade beating Bama and going 6-6 to losing to Bama and going 7-5.  That would mean going 1-2 against Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and South Carolina.  I expect to go 3-0 against those teams but I’d trade going 1-2 if it meant beating Bama at Kyle Field.

Without a doubt I’d take beating Bama over Georgia and LSU at this point in the season.  Beating Bama at Kyle Field would make a major statement.

It’s not going to happen though.  We just don’t have the talent and Jimbo isn’t going to roll the dice.

So What’s Left for the 2019 Aggies?:

I think the most realistic outlook for the Aggies this season is to go 7-5 beating everyone but Bama, Georgia, and LSU.  Even that won’t be easy as Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and South Carolina aren’t push overs.  If we pull off those wins and win our bowl game that will be a solid season.  It’ll be disappointing compared to pre-season expectations but turns out this team isn’t nearly as talented as everyone thought/hoped.  If Jimbo can get to 8 wins and close out a Top 10 recruiting class we’ll be in pretty good shape.

The talk of winning a championship in 2020 should be dead.  There’s no chance of that.

If you can’t stand Kellen Mond it shouldn’t matter anymore.  Kellen will be gone after 2020 and he won’t be the reason we didn’t win more.  There will be a game or two when he could have done more but in the grand scheme it won’t matter.  Keep focusing on Kellen if it helps you cope but the issues on this team are much bigger than Kellen Mond.

The offensive line is our biggest issue right now.  We have no talent with our upperclassmen and there’s no depth.  We need a major injection of talented youth and then we need that talent to season with experience.  Kenyon Green is the only person that fits that bill right now.  There’s 4 more spots to fill.

You can blame Jim Turner’s leaving all you want.  However, Jim Turner was here for 3 years prior to this season.  Jim Turner didn’t recruit or develop any talent in those three years other than Erik McCoy.  I don’t know if Josh Henson is the answer but this offensive line is devoid of talent and technique and Jim Turner has to take the blame for some of it.  This offensive line has been questionable since Turner got here and really hasn’t improved.  That must change for this team to have a chance at winning big and that only happens through recruiting and development.  That could take 2-3 years.

Defensively we’re in better shape from a talent standpoint but there’s still a lot of development that must happen.  We’re still looking for shut down corners along with safeties and linebackers that don’t continually get out of position while not being afraid to tackle.  We also need defensive ends with speed to seal the edges on runs and bring pressure on passes.

I’m not trying to get anyone down.  I’m just trying to be the bearer of realistic expectations.  The 2019 Aggie Football team isn’t nearly as talented as 2018.  2020 won’t be the year we make the big leap.  2021 absolutely could be the year we take a leap if Jimbo can keep recruiting like he has been since he got here.

We need to be competitive in every game and let Jimbo sell the development story to recruits.  What we don’t need is the wheels coming off where we’re losing to teams we shouldn’t be.  That development story gets harder to sell.

Right or wrong Jimbo has his process and he’s going to stick to it.  We won’t see the results as fast as we’d hoped but it doesn’t mean they won’t come in due time.

This weekend’s game will have very little outcome on if that happens more than likely.

I hope I’m wrong and Jimbo proves me the fool for the rest of 2019.  I just don’t see the 2019 games against Bama, Georgia, and LSU as providing that boost we were hoping they might have.  At some point those games will absolutely matter but I don’t think we’ll see it this season.

Turns out it’s going to be a longer road to Make Aggie Football Great Again than I originally imagined coming into this season.

#MAFGA

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Thoughts From The Auburn Game

That Auburn loss on Saturday was not at the hand of any single Aggie player.  Some players aren’t without fault but that loss on Saturday was at the hands of Jimbo Fisher and his staff.  Auburn marched into Kyle Field and punched the Aggies in the nose starting on the first possession and continued the whole game.  While Gus Malzahn can be a little schizophrenic as a head coach he flat out owned Jimbo on Saturday.

Gus and his staff perfectly diagnosed every A&M weakness from last season and especially this season creating a perfect plan of attack.  Jimbo and Mike Elko made no real adjustments and continued to run their standard offense and defense through the whole game.  Jimbo and Elko foolishly believed their normal plan of attack could overcome the point deficit throughout the game.  They were wrong.  Texas A&M truly never stood a chance in that game because Auburn diagnosed and schemed to attack the entire Aggie team before the game even started.

Jimbo and Elko made some slight adjustments but they seemed shocked for the most part by what Auburn was doing.  It’s like they refused to admit to what was happening on the field and kept their original plan of attack in hopes it might work.  They had no Plan B.  It was stick to the same method they’ve used for the last 16 games.  Their plan never stood a chance.  Gus and his staff watched the first three games of the season and knew exactly where to attack.  Gus attacked those weaknesses and Jimbo never shifted gears.

This was basically Clemson 2.0 but worse.  Auburn is a solid team but they’re not as good as Clemson.  To make it worse Auburn walked into Kyle Field and controlled the game from the first possession.  This was a VERY winnable game for A&M but one coaching staff owned the other.  It sure wasn’t the A&M coaching staff as Gus Malzahn walked into Kyle Field and pulled Jimbo’s pants down.

So What’s the Issue With This Team?:

Coming into this season I didn’t think we’d experience a similar situation to the 2012 and 2013 season where one team was dramatically different than the previous year’s team.  I was wrong.  I remember watching the 2013 Alabama game with Bama marching up and down the field against our defense.  My seatmate asked if we were that much worse on defense.  At that moment it hit me.  From that 2012 defense we lost Damontre Moore, Spencer Nealy, Sean Porter, and Jonathan Stewart.  Those guys were huge leaders and performers for the 2012 defense.  We also lost Dustin Harris and Steven Terrell who turned out to be bigger contributors than we realized.  That 2013 defense was much different than the 2012 defense.  Hence the reason we went from 10-2 to 8-4 with basically the same offense.

It hit me during the Auburn game the 2019 offense has suffered a similar fate.  This offense is completely different without Erik McCoy, Trayveon Williams, and Jace Sternberger.  Those three guys really are the difference in what you’re seeing on the field.  In two games against Power 5 opponents we haven’t scored a touchdown in the first three quarters.  We’ve scored 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter when the game was over.  That’s the only time we’ve scored touchdowns this season against quality opponents.  This offense has been completely inept in the first three quarters of the Clemson and Auburn game.

I never thought those three guys would that much to this team but it’s clear to me it’s a bigger issue than I ever imagined coming into this season.  McCoy anchored the offensive line and is now starting in New Orleans.  Trayveon set the single season rushing record and got drafted by the Bengals.  Jace outpaced every receiver on the team by a large margin and got drafted by the Packers.

Jimbo is still running the same exact offense but the production isn’t anywhere near what we saw last season.  Those three guys completely made the offense go last season and now they’re gone.  Except for Jhamon Ausbon there’s not one player on offense that comes close to matching the contributions those three made last season as individuals.  Put all three together and it’s a MAJOR loss when it comes to the productivity of this offense.

I don’t think we beat Clemson with those guys but I do think we could have beaten Auburn with them.  It sure as hell would have been a lot more competitive for both of those games.

I was wrong about replacing those guys.  They’re the difference between last season and this season so far.  Those three guys are the difference in what you’re seeing on the field.

Let’s get to the game itself:

Offense:

Kellen Mond:

As usual if you think Kellen Mond lost that game then I can’t help you as a fan.  You’re like the person that blames the President for everything you think is wrong with anything.  The overall issues you’re seeing go way beyond one position and player.

Before I say anything else I believe quarterback is the best offensive unit we have right now.  I’ll cover the other units next but if you truly look at the contributions of the offensive line, running backs, receivers, and quarterback I truly believe quarterback is the strongest performer of those units.  Jhamon Ausbon is the only offensive player I think you could potentially argue provides as much production as Mond right now.  You can certainly argue that’s like having the best grade in remedial math but my point is the offensive issues go way beyond Kellen Mond.  Kellen is seriously one of the strongest pieces of our offensive puzzle right now.  To think otherwise is foolish in my mind.

Kellen Mond could certainly improve as a quarterback but he had a fine enough day on Saturday.  He was 31 of 49 for 335 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.  I get statistics don’t tell the whole story but when you complete 63% of your passes for over 300 yards and no interceptions that’s not a terrible day.  It’s not even close to a terrible day.

I’m beginning to think Jimbo is part of the issues when it comes to Kellen.  I think it’s Jimbo that’s not lighting any urgency under Kellen.  Kellen took the same approach down against Auburn as he did against Clemson.  If Jimbo was pissed about the pace and not pressing the defense between snaps I would think that would have been corrected down against Auburn.  As it was Kellen keeps doing the same thing between snaps.  I could be wrong but I’m beginning to think Kellen is just following orders.  I believe Kellen is letting the play clock click down because that’s what Jimbo wants.  If not, Jimbo needs to jump his ass and it’s on Jimbo to fix that.

Kellen could do a better job of knowing when to run and pass but I go back to believing that’s influence by Jimbo.  Kellen seems reluctant to run when there’s space.  He also has no interest in attacking deep when the defense jumps offsides and there’s a free play.  We have no deep plays.  We never take shots deep down the field so maybe that’s why Kellen doesn’t try and go deep on free plays.  He’s running the same methodical offense Jimbo wants him to run looking for a high percentage pass and not take any chances.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you Kellen can take over and win games.  That’s not Mond but Mond can only do so much as his supporting cast will allow.  His supporting cast is pretty damn bad right now.  Couple that with what appears to be Jimbo’s preferred method of running his offense and I don’t think Kellen is nearly as bad as the perception is.

Maybe Mond is not the kind of quarterback to win a national title.  With all the issues we have on offense it really doesn’t matter.  Johnny Manziel couldn’t win a national title or even the SEC West with the pieces on this team right not.  I’m pretty sure this team is still 2-2 with Johnny under center.

Gnash your teeth all you want over Kellen Mond.  Kellen Mond could certainly do things differently but Saturday was a glaring example for how the ineptitude of this offense goes well beyond the performance of Kellen Mond.

Offensive Line:

This offensive line is hot garbage.  I don’t know what else to say.  They’re terrible.  Signs of them not being very good have been there from the start.  We couldn’t establish the line of scrimmage against Texas State and we’re getting destroyed by formidable opponents.  In that Texas State game it took the offense three tries to score on a run from the 1 yard line.  I was hoping that was anomaly but we now know it’s a reality.

This offensive line just can’t get any push.  Not against Texas State or anyone else.  On Saturday our running backs carried the ball 12 times for a net of 30 yards.  That’s 2.5 yards per carry.  That’s not great by any stretch.  If you dig deeper you realize 35 yards came on two carries.  Kibodi had a 22 yard carry on a 3rd and 30 where the defense was playing back and then Spiller’s 13 yard carry where he fumbled on the first play of the second half.

That’s right.  We basically had two carries that accounted for all our yards by our running backs.  Take away those two carries and our running backs carried 10 times for a net of NEGATIVE 5 yards.  TEN CARRIES FOR NEGATIVE FIVE YARDS!!!!!  That is hot garbage.  I don’t know any other way to describe that.  Anytime you rush for negative net yards on 10 of 12 carries you got destroyed at the line of scrimmage.

From a pass protection standpoint Mond was sacked three times and officially hurried 7 other times.  You can say Mond holds on to the ball too long but if you watched that game you know Mond didn’t have time to throw for most of the game.

Auburn has one of the best defensive lines in the country but our offensive line didn’t put up any kind of fight all day.  They just got destroyed all damn day.  If you can’t establish the line of scrimmage you’re going to struggle to win games.  This offensive line can’t even put up a fight at the line of scrimmage.  They just get whipped.

What’s even worse is the mental errors.  It’s one thing to get beat physically but this crew routinely false starts.  We know about the false starts in Clemson but this unit had two false starts AT HOME against Auburn.  The worst was the false start by Dan Moore on 3rd and goal at the 1 in the fourth quarter.  We were down by 18 and really needed a touchdown.  We probably weren’t going to score on a run from the one-yard line but the offensive line doesn’t need to false start changing the dynamic of the play calling.  3rd and goal at the one at least gives us a chance at a nice play action or deception.  3rd and goal from the 6 gives the defense a serious advantage as they can pull back and play zone clogging up throwing lanes.  If you can’t help yourself then damn sure don’t hurt yourself.

This offensive line isn’t good enough to have ANY mental errors.  Especially at the goal line.

How this gets fixed I have no idea.  It’s really a talent issue more than anything else.  Where Mike Sherman left Sumlin an offensive line of 1st round draft picks Sumlin didn’t leave Jimbo anyone that could even make the third team All SEC team.

I’ve expressed my concerns with Dan Moore and really think its time to move Kenyon Green out to left tackle.  We haven’t seen the backups get meaningful snaps this season but I think its time to get guys like Luke Matthews and Tank Jenkins some meaningful playing time.  Anybody else that has potential to be a starting offensive lineman should see playing time as well.  We’re now staring down a 7-5 season so we might as well take some chances on getting key players some playing time for the future.

This is far and away the worst unit on the offense right now.  Talent is really the only way to fix it.  Until this offensive line becomes more talented this whole offense is hosed.

Wide Receivers:

Other than Jhamon Ausbon this whole receiving corps isn’t much better than the offensive line.  Ausbon has played with amazing heart this whole season.  I can’t question that guy at all.

The rest of his group drops way too many balls they should catch and don’t get separation from the defender.  Quartney Davis is probably the next best receiver but he’s inconsistent dropping balls and even getting open at times.  Kendrick Rogers is behind him and he’s wildly inconsistent.  I’ve been saying since last season that Rogers is only good if he’s not moving downfield and just looking back for the ball.  He’s not good at running routes or catching the ball while running.  That’s a bad combination for a receiver.

Ainias Smith shows some promise but he’s only recently got minimal playing time.  I’m totally fine if Smith starts taking playing time away from anyone not named Ausbon.

This unit still doesn’t have a touchdown catch over 40 yards against quality opponents.  I know a lot of that is the design of Jimbo’s offense but there is no deep threat in this group.  None at all.  Defenses know this so they rarely play back deep.  They just basically must defend a box 20 yards from the line of scrimmage.  The opposing secondary doesn’t have to worry about defending anyone behind them.

Caleb Chapman has been talked about having that deep ball potential but he’s rarely seen the field.  He was targeted once against Auburn and didn’t even know to look for the football.  He’s got a LONG ways to go if he’s going to be that deep threat.

My favorite moments from the game for this group was both Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rogers staring down the defender after a catch when they had dropped the ball their previous target.  I know it’s a bit tacky on my behalf but if you’re out there regularly dropping passes you shouldn’t be staring anyone down when you do catch one.  Just catch the damn ball and go back to the huddle.

Until this unit not named Ausbon stops dropping balls they should catch and gets yards after the catch I’m going to have serious questions.  I get Mond had a bad day against Clemson but I really thought Mond threw plenty of catchable balls on Saturday against Auburn.  This unit simply must become more productive if the Aggie offense has any hope.

Running Back:

I’m not sure why Kibodi got the start but I don’t think he’s anywhere close to having the ability of Isiah Spiller.  For whatever reason he appeared to have pulled up on a potential touchdown pass when he was open on a wheel route.  Maybe he just didn’t have the speed to get there and he knew it.  Either way he’s not a threat at all with or without the ball.

I know Spiller’s fumble basically killed any chance the Aggies had of coming back but he’s the more talented back.  I think he needs to be our main back going forward.  There’s a reason why Kibodi has been buried on the depth chart for most of his time at A&M.  He just not that good.

None of it really matters if the offensive line can’t create holes to run through but we’re lacking big time at running back when it comes to overall depth and talent.

If Jimbo thinks he can establish the running game between the tackles this season he needs to think otherwise.  What was a unit of major strength last season with Trayveon and Corbin is now a unit of major weakness with little depth and talent coupled with a suspect offensive line.

I get we can’t completely abandon it but trying to run 20 times between the tackles would be a MAJOR mistake unless it’s all about keeping a game close.

Defense:

I’m not sure where to begin with this defense.  I’m not going to do a unit by unit breakdown like I normally do and just talk about the whole defense together.

What has seemed like a unit of major strength under Mike Elko got exposed on Saturday thanks to Gus Malzahn.

This unit was really Jekyll and Hyde on Saturday.  They had some series where they were flat dominating but then they had way too many series where this defense bit on mis-direction or simply didn’t seal the edge on quick tosses.

Auburn ran for 193 yards on 42 carries for an average of 4.6 yards.  That’s damn solid.  They had the long touchdown run of 57 yards but for the most part they were methodical and attacked the strength of this defense coming into this game which was stopping the run.  Gus realized you can’t really run between the tackles on this defense but you can still attack this defense on the ground.  Auburn just used a complete mix of mis-direction, solid reads, and quick tosses to stretch and confuse the Aggie defense.

It was a beautiful coaching clinic by Gus Malzahn on running the ball if you’re a football fan.  I just hate he did it against the Aggies.  I believe Gus knew there was a bunch of young Aggie defenders beyond the front four that he could confuse for a good portion of the game.  It worked beautifully.

They only passed 20 times for 100 yards so they weren’t even using the pass to help the run.  Just a few passes here and there to remind the defense they would throw the ball.  They simply committed to run all game long and the Aggie defense struggled to shut it down when it mattered.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom by the Aggie defense.  For much of the game this defense did more than enough for the Aggies to win the game.  The offense was just stuck in neutral for the majority of the game so the Aggie team never had the chance to win.  We’ve gotten so spoiled by this defense under Elko we think this was a bad defensive effort when it wasn’t terrible.

Auburn only converted 4 of 12 chances on third down so the defense was its usually stingy self on third downs.  That’s what’s so frustrating.  The defense could get off the field for the most part but Auburn lured them into mistakes when it mattered most.  Genius coaching.

I do wonder what this defense would like protecting a lead against a quality opponent.  Auburn held a major advantage spending most of the game being up by two scores.  Auburn never had to worry about needing a true freshman playing quarterback in his first SEC game on the road to make plays through the air.  Because of that, Auburn spent the entire game just needling the Aggie defense with a wide combination of runs.

I believe what Gus identified more than anything was an inexperienced secondary and linebackers he could work out of position by making bad reads.  He was spot on.  For as talented as they are physically Anthony Hines and Leon O’Neal found themselves out of position to make plays on a lot of runs.  The second touchdown where the Auburn tight end simply released with no one paying attention to him is a great example.  Somebody completely blew coverage as the tight end was wide open in the end zone for an easy pass and catch.

Once Auburn got up 14-0 this game was effectively over.  Gus felt no pressure and just continued needling this defense with the run and the occasional pass.  With no answer from the offense the defense couldn’t do anything.

If I do have one major complaint about players it’s Anthony Hines and Leon O’Neal.  Right now, these guys have more physical ability than they do mental ability.  I think both of these guys feel they have the physical ability to make plays but they need to learn sooner than later the mental ability matters more than physical ability.  Especially at the positions they’re playing.  It’s all about anticipating and reading.  I’m certainly not going to pin this loss on those two guys but they certainly could have made plays on the first two scoring drives limiting Auburn to field goals or not even scoring on the first drive at all.

Elko certainly has a lot of work to do with the youth on this team.  He must get their football IQ up to match their physical ability.  It’s rare when a defense plays mistake free football but there’s a lot of mental errors happening with the youth on this team that needs to get corrected.

I still have faith in this defense.  The offense certainly isn’t helping this team win games.  I think this defense would look much better if the opposing offense felt a little pressure to score points.  As it’s been with Clemson and Auburn they got up early and were able to sit on a lead in both games.  All the defense could do was try and slow down a methodical plan of attack against them.  That’s really tough to do.

I’m not happy with the defensive performance on Saturday but it’s still the strength of this team by far.

Special Teams:

Braden Mann:

Braden struggled on his first punt.  His first punt went 54 yards per the stat sheet but he actually didn’t hit it right as it didn’t have any height.  It was a low trajectory and got a great bounce but there was no coverage and Auburn returned it 30 yards to the Aggie 46.  Auburn then used that short field to score their second touchdown.

After that he was his usual self.  He averaged 56 yards on the day with a long of 68 yards.  He was phenomenal after that first punt.

The best part of his day was when he had to punt three times on one series.  Each punt got better where his final punt went 68 yards to the Auburn 1-yard line.  It was an amazing punt.  I could watch those three punts on a loop all day.  All Mann should do is send those three punts to NFL GMs to ensure he’s drafted.  That’s all they’ll need to see.

The best part was the punt returner kept looking to the sideline asking where he should be lined up.  Mann is such a weapon the Auburn returner couldn’t figure out where to line up without help.  Mann is that good.

Seth Small:

Seth was 2 for 4 hitting a 33 and 23 yarder.  He missed a 47 and 52 yarder.  In my book he must make those.  If those are too far for him to make then send Caden Davis out there for anything over 45.  Seth still needs to get more consistent in my book.

Roshaud Paul:

He was fine returning punts all day but he finally did what I said he never does.  He muffed a punt late in the 4th quarter.  Luckily we recovered it.  Paul can’t do that.  If he’s not going to be an electric returner then he needs to protect the ball on EVERY punt return.  Hopefully he never does that again.

 

Going Forward:

Jimbo has a major decision to make for the rest of the season.  A 10-win season after a bowl game seems all but impossible now.  It was a stretch coming into the season but it’s all but gone now.  This team has major holes.  A 9-4 season would be amazing as it would mean pulling a victory over Bama, Georgia, or LSU along with a bowl win.  I know there’s a lot of football to play but I don’t see wins over any of those teams anymore.  This Mississippi schools and South Carolina are now wins in question.

We’re staring down a 7-5 season with a trip to a crappy bowl game at best.  If Jimbo doesn’t make any changes then 7-5 might even be a stretch.  While other teams might not be as talented as Clemson and Auburn they’ve shown the blueprint on how to beat Texas A&M.

It’s simple as there’s two things you need to do:

  • Defensively don’t worry about defending more than 20 yards in a box from the line of scrimmage. Mix in various blitzes along the way.
  • Offensively attack the edges rather than try and establish the run between the tackles.

If I’m an opposing coach I’m going to make sure my team does both of those things well.  That’s the blueprint.

Jimbo’s methodical game plan of controlling the time of possession is not going to work going forward.  It worked last year to a degree but he’s missing some key personnel from his offense.  McCoy, Trayveon, and Sternberger are gone.  Even with those guys his game plan didn’t work against Clemson, Bama, Mississippi State, and Auburn last season.   There’s no one even close to their talent on the offensive side of the ball this season.  Thinking the same type of game plan will be the same or better this season is foolish.

I believe its time to work in the youth and see if Kellen and this offense can push pace.  Winning time of possession is great in keeping games close but it’s time to see if the Aggies can win on the scoreboard.  Screw moral victories.  Make a real effort to win games.

I know Jimbo can look back at the Auburn game and say if that 57-yard touchdown on the opening possession doesn’t happen along with Isiah Spiller’s fumble then the Aggies likely win that game.  That’s a reasonable argument but the reality is the Aggies lost and never really stood a chance.  The Aggies got DESTROYED on the offensive line of scrimmage and the Auburn offense exposed the Aggie defense’s biggest issue.  This team has major holes that need to be fixed or compensated for.

He can keep running the same offense out there but it’s not going to work.  It doesn’t need a major overhaul but it certainly needs some wrinkles.  Defenses know what’s coming at this point.  There’s a reason it took until the 4th quarter for the Aggie offense to score touchdowns against Clemson and Auburn.  Even then it was way too little and way too late both times.

We’ve got Arkansas and then a week off before Alabama.  Arkansas looks terrible but if we’re not careful they can absolutely beat us.  They’ll be hungry and if they follow the Clemson and Auburn blueprint they can absolutely hang with the Aggies and possibly even beat us.  I thought Auburn would be our test but the reality is we weren’t ready for Auburn.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but Arkansas is actually going to be a test for us.  Does Jimbo stick to the same script he’s used since he got here or does he try some new things?  We can absolutely beat Arkansas with the standard Jimbo game plan but we will get DESTROYED by Alabama and struggle to win 7 games this season.  He needs to use Arkansas to do things a little differently.

I still believe in Jimbo as our head coach.  However, starting with Arkansas he needs to admit there’s some serious deficiencies on this Aggie team and begin to correct them.  How he does it I don’t care but something must change.

We’re talking about the man who’s catch phrase last season was, “It ain’t gonna be like it used to be” and this season has been, “If you don’t bite as a puppy you won’t bite as a dog.”  Well, its time to make some changes so it ain’t like it used to be and we start biting.

If not, it’s going to be a much longer road to Make Aggie Football Great Again.

#MAFGA

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We’ll do a re-cap of each game throughout the season along with some other things like game previews for bigger games.

If you want a Make Aggie Football Great Again hat we have some in stock.  They’re $20 including shipping.  You, your friends, and your family will look great in one for the 2019 Aggie Football season!  You can email chewyredding at yahoo dot com for more information.  Payment can be made by PayPal or Venmo.

Thoughts From The Clemson Game

Before I get to anything about the actual game I want to say this – Despite what an offensive lineman and someone that sells maroon Kool-Aid for subscriptions said last week, Texas A&M was never beating Clemson.  Sure, Texas A&M could have beat Clemson but the reality is Texas A&M wasn’t.  It’s disappointing to lose but the odds of an Aggie victory were never really that good.

This is Clemson’s best team under Dabo Swinney.  This is Texas A&M’s hardest game of the season.  Bama, Georgia, and LSU won’t be much easier but this was the toughest game on Texas A&M’s schedule.  Clemson is the most talented team we’ll face, it was on the road, and it was early in the season.  All those factors line up to make a win damn near impossible.

I think too many Aggie fans got caught up in the belief that 2012 Bama was going to happen again.  That would have been great but this team ain’t the 2012 Aggie team.  They’re not even close.  They’re still a pretty good football team but this is not a team that’s going to take down the top ranked defending national title holder.  It’s disappointing to see a reminder of that but that’s what happened in Clemson.

We certainly could have won that game but this team wasn’t really capable.  Too much youth and lacking in talent at key positions.  Clemson is the much more talented team so A&M needed to play a perfect game which they clearly didn’t.  Playing a perfect game in any sport is pretty rare.

It’s okay to be disappointed the Aggies didn’t win it should have been expected when you step back and look at the reality of the situation.

One final thing before getting to the game is Clemson fans are amazingly nice.  I went to the game in 2005 and was blown away by how hospitable they were.  Not much has changed since then.  They’re still amazingly friendly to visiting fans.  It’s a great place to visit and if you’re a Clemson fan you should be super proud of how the entire program and fanbase handles itself.

Offense:

Overall:

This offense other than three drives was not good at all.  We had 11 total drives so almost 75% of our drives were total garbage.  The fact that we covered is a testament to our defense and Clemson dropping some key balls.  It wasn’t a testament to our offense at all.

There wasn’t one player or one unit on offense that stood out at all.  Pretty much everyone on the offense contributed to a hot pile of garbage.

Let’s get to those units:

Kellen Mond:

I’ll start with the most obvious and everyone’s favorite lightening road.  At the end of the day Kellen Mond’s overall statistics didn’t look so bad.  He wound up being 24 of 42 for 236 yards with 1 touchdown pass and 1 interception.  That’s not a great day but it’s not a bad day at all when just looking at the numbers.  That’s only a 57% passer but to be totally fair his receivers probably dropped 6 passes.  If they catch those balls his completion percentage shoots up to 71%.  That would have been a solid day.

That’s enough accolades for Mond as most of his completions came on the final two drives of the game when it was clear Texas A&M was not going to win the game.  Mond was 13 of 19 for 121 yards on the final two drives.  If you take away those two drives then he was 11 of 23 for 115 yards which puts him at just below 50% for completions on the day.  That’s not good.  Roughly half of his passing production came on the final two drives of the game.  For the first 9 offensive possessions of the game Mond didn’t do much at all through the air.  Add in his fumble in the 2nd quarter and Mond was outright pitiful when the game mattered most.

This was easily Mond’s worst performance of his Aggie career.  I can’t think of redeeming quality from his performance on Saturday.  I’ve been pretty clear I don’t think Mond is the type of quarterback that will take over a game but he didn’t do anything at all against Clemson.  I certainly expected a lot more out of Kellen Mond against Clemson.

What the main issue was I have no idea.  The thing that looked different to me is he wasn’t really going through his reads.  As the game wore on it looked like he had already made his decision where he was going to pass when the ball was snapped.  For most of the game it appeared that once he had the ball he was looking one way and really for one receiver.  He wasn’t really making reads.  I don’t know if that was the purpose of the multiple clap snap count or not.

He was off from the start of the game.  We all know he missed Cam Buckley on the second play of the game for an easy touchdown.  He missed his first four passes and wouldn’t complete a pass until his first attempt of the third possession.  Maybe it was nerves but it shouldn’t have been.  He’s a junior that started every game last year including big games and this opponent.  If he was uneasy to start this game we have big problems.

His worst play by far was putting the ball on the ground when the Aggies were holding onto an early lead.  I know he got hit pretty hard but he has to hold onto the ball in that situation.  He’s shown to be a little careless with the ball on the ground in games against Auburn, Ole Miss, and now Clemson.  Jimbo likes to use Kellen’s legs and for good reason but Kellen must anticipate hits better and protect the ball.  He can’t be coughing up the ball when his legs are being used.  He certainly can’t do it in a big moment of a game.

I suppose some people will give Mond a pass on the day for his work on the final two drives but I’m not.  You can’t lay an egg for the first 9 possessions and get credit for the last two drives.  That’s like failing every exam for most of the semester and then doing well enough on the final two exams to barely pass the class.  It’s still a really bad C effort.  Winners make As in games like this.

Somehow Kellen had his best game of his Aggie career against Texas State and then had his worst game against Clemson.  Two games and two drastically different performances.  I now believe the reality is Kellen is somewhere between these two games.  It looks like 2018 Kellen might be the real Kellen despite what Jimbo has said all off season.  He certainly didn’t show up in the biggest game of his career.  Great quarterbacks show up in the greatest games and Kellen didn’t do that.  It’s fair to question if Texas A&M can ever win the SEC West with Kellen under center.  Totally fair.

Obviously Jimbo isn’t benching Kellen anytime soon but I think Jimbo has to be thinking, “Uh oh.  2018 Kellen might be the real Kellen and I’m not sure I can win a championship with that guy.”  Kellen needs to respond against Auburn and Arkansas before the bye week and Alabama coming to town.

Despite their ranking at #8 Auburn is VERY beatable at Kyle.  Arkansas is also VERY beatable.  If Kellen struggles against Auburn, Arkansas, and Alabama then I’m fine with Jimbo benching him for Calzada.

For the sake of the 2019 Aggie football season let’s all take a deep breath and hope this was the anomaly in Kellen’s career.  If the next three SEC games show us that 2018 Mond is the actual Mond then Jimbo is going to have a major decision to make.  Kellen has three more games to show us he’s really advanced like has been talked about all off season.

Wide Receivers:

I had concerns about this unit coming into the season.  Texas State made me question my concerns.  Clemson made me feel vindicated in those concerns.  I don’t like being vindicated at all but this receiving corps is not as good as the internal hype it was getting during the off season and Summer Camp.

Mond certainly wasn’t on his game but these guys dropped some key balls and failed to make any big plays after catching the ball.  The longest reception of the game was for 20 yards when Cam Buckley caught a short ball and made a couple defenders miss for a first down.  These guys simply have problems getting open against better defenses and then don’t do much after they catch the ball.

Jhamon Ausbon was the only guy that seemed to really do much at all.  Kendrick Rogers had some nice catches on the final two drives but I still contend he’s not good at catching the ball when his feet are moving fast.  Rogers effort was too little and definitely too late.  Quartney Davis wound up with 59 yards on 5 catches so not terrible but he had some big drops including a potential touchdown.  I think the reality is Davis is a streaky receiver.

Other than Ausbon I don’t see a receiving corps that’s able to just go get the ball or even separation.  Even Ausbon is in question on that but he just looks better and more consistent than the rest.

This is basically the exact same unit from 2018 so I’m beginning to think last year was what this receiving corps is about.  All of the off season and Summer Camp talk about major improvements was just that.  Talk.

Like Kellen we’ll find out if this unit is truly improved over the next three SEC games.

As for tight end, outside of the touchdown on the final offensive play there is no production from our tight ends to talk.  That’s DEFINITELY a drastic change from last season.  We’re clearly missing Jace Sternberger and that could be the greatest difference in Kellen Mond.  He lost his best receiver and there’s no one close to what Jace did last season.

Offensive Line:

I really thought this offensive line was serviceable on the first three drives but then it fell apart.  On the first three drives Kellen had a pocket and Corbin was ripping off some decent runs.   Not dominant by any stretch but serviceable.  I think starting on the 4th possession of the game Clemson decided A&M wasn’t going to attack downfield so they started applying pressure.  Once they started applying that pressure A&M’s weaknesses were exposed.

Mond suddenly started getting pressure and Corbin wasn’t ripping off runs with any real yardage.  On a few occasions Clemson ran a delayed blitz and A&M wasn’t ready for it at all.  Statistically there were only 2 sacks and 4 quarterback hurries but if you watched the game you know the statistics aren’t telling the truth.  The Clemson defense was applying a ton of pressure at the line of scrimmage and the Aggie offensive line had no answer to combat it.

4 false starts were not good at all and proof of their struggles.  They were playing in a loud stadium but it wasn’t impossible to hear or know the snap count.  That was just a line that felt overmatched both physically and mentally.

I’ve been adamant there’s just not enough offensive line talent on the roster to compete in the SEC.  I believe that even more after the Clemson game.  What should be done I’m not sure.

Kenyon Green was listed as a starter but I don’t recall seeing him much of the game.  Not sure if he got hurt and if so how bad it was.  I still believe he should move to left tackle and start his trial by fire.  Dan Moore is not the answer at left tackle.  Carson Green seemed to really struggle in this game so maybe the combination of Kenyon Green, Hocker, Prater, McCollum and Dan Moore at right tackle is the best.

Until Jimbo gets in more talent across the board this line is just going to struggle.  I think plain and simple this offensive line just isn’t talented enough and until the personnel changes this unit is going to continually have issues against better opponents.  Not a warm and fuzzy feeling but talent matters and it’s not there.

Running Back:

Obviously we know Corbin is out for the season.  I feel terrible for the guy as I thought he’d looked solid when he was in there.  He was running much more assertive and grinding out yards.  He didn’t rip off any big runs but I feel like he was moving the ball through the first three possessions until Clemson started applying pressure.

As for life after Corbin I really like what I’ve seen from Spiller.  I know he hasn’t been in the starter role but I feel like Spiller can fill in just fine.  I’m certainly not happy losing Corbin but I think we might be okay.

Backing up Spiller will likely be Jacob Khabodi.  He has plenty of talent but has just been inconsistent holding onto the ball.  Maybe with more repetitions he’ll get better.  We’ll just have to see.

As for the Clemson game we didn’t do much in the running game for a host of reasons.  Mainly there weren’t holes and we were playing from behind for a good portion of the game.  Corbin averaged 2.6 yards and Spiller averaged 3.4 yards on 20 total carries.  Corbin’s longest run was 8 yards and Spiller’s longest was 11 yards.

Not terrible but not great either.  After the first two games my belief is that Trayveon was greater than we realized our offensive line just isn’t that great.  Maybe Spiller proves me wrong on replacing Trayveon as he’s got the opportunity to show off his ability.

Jimbo:

For the first time in this blog I’m going to question Jimbo as head coach and offensive coordinator.  I think Jimbo is a great play designer and play caller but if I have one complaint about him it’s this – so far at Texas A&M he has no sense of urgency when he’s down against better opponents.

Against Clemson and Alabama last season and then Clemson this season he’s been down by 15 points or more.  In each of those games I feel like he’s shown no urgency or effort to mount a major comeback.  Maybe he believes defeat is inevitable and is simply managing a blowout and working on a normal game plan for development.

If that’s true and why that is I have no clue.  I went back and looked at something that I found intriguing.  How many touchdown passes of longer than 40 yards do you think A&M has had in Jimbo’s time at A&M against SEC teams and Clemson?  One.  That’s right, one.  There’s only been one touchdown pass longer than 40 yards against a quality opponent.  That was a 46 yarder to Jace Sternberger against Kentucky last season.

There’s basically been no big touchdown passes in Jimbo’s time at A&M.  I get Jimbo likes being methodical and believes in his play design but at some point when you’re down against superior opponents you have to take a shot at a homerun play.  Maybe Jimbo doesn’t believe in his offensive line or his quarterback and receivers to go deep.

Whatever it is Jimbo hasn’t gone deep in games.  I think that’s hurt us trying to mount a comeback against superior opponents like Bama and Clemson.  It’s also hurt us in games like Auburn and Mississippi State last year as we allowed them to stay in the game and they pulled it off in the end.

At some point I feel like this offensive is going to need to take shots downfield.  If not, we’re going to struggle to score points against teams that can bring pressure and press coverage.

Maybe I’m wrong but if Jimbo doesn’t figure out a real deep threat the better defenses are going to continue to learn how to defend our offense.  If/When that happens the offense will struggle to churn out yards and score points and lose games.  That will be on Jimbo.

There is a point when winning time of possession doesn’t matter.  We won time of possession against Clemson but we never came close to winning that game at any point.  I’m fine with methodical but at some point a killer instinct must be shown from time to time.

Defense:

Overall:

I think the Aggie defense played a strong game.  I also think they were also helped by some key drops by the Clemson offense.  As good as he is I feel Justyn Ross had some key drops where Clemson could have blown the doors off the game.  It didn’t happen so I credit the Aggie defense for hanging in there and holding Clemson to 24 points.

Since Trevor Lawrence took over at quarterback Clemson has scored under 30 points just one time.  They scored 27 points against Boston College last season.  That was a night game in Boston in November with a temperature of 34 degrees at kickoff.  I’m not really into moral victories but you must give credit to the Aggie defense.  They’ve held the Trevor Lawrence lead offense to the least amount of points in a game.  That’s a pretty solid accomplishment.  Maybe John Sharp will give Jimbo a plaque to go next to the hopeful National Championship plaque.

Defensive Line:

These guys played great.  I wanted more out of these guys but they did everything they could.  I was hoping to see Madubuike have his national coming out party but that didn’t happen.  He got hurt early in the game and I don’t think he was at full strength the rest of the game.  We also had an injury to Jayden Peevy which hurt our depth.

What this unit did do was hold Travis Etienne to 53 yards rushing with his longest run being for 10 yards.  You may not know much about Travis Etienne but this guy is probably the most unheralded running back in college football.  He’s got a legit homerun gear and it’s a credit to the Aggie defensive line they never let him find it.

The reality of this unit is they’re not going to apply a lot of pressure by themselves.  They’re big into gap assignment to shut down the run and slowly collapse the pocket.  I’m good with that as shutting down the run in the SEC is the first thing you have to do compete against the best teams.

This game did expose something I’m interested to see how the coaches respond to.  Clemson’s first touchdown drive in the 2nd quarter was against our second team defensive line.  It looked like Clemson quickly realized this and called some plays that were very effective as they were able to drive down the field.  Clemson scored on a brain fart where the secondary left Justyn Ross alone and Lawrence found him for a 30-yard score.  I wonder if the first team defensive line could have kept Lawrence from rolling out preventing that score.

It was really the only thing that stood out to me.  It’ll be interesting to see if teams pick up on our second unit not being as good as our first unit and attacking that unit differently.

Either way this unit is a carry over from last year where they’re just as steady as it gets.  This is the best unit on the Aggie team and it’s not even close.

Linebacker:

The more I watch this unit the more I like them.  Buddy Johnson can flat out play football.  His play of the game was when he shot the gap and tackled Etienne for a 6-yard loss that set up a 3rd and 11.  Tackling Etienne for a 6-yard loss is a major feat.  That takes serious instinct and speed.  I know they scored a touchdown on the next play but Johnson set up the Aggie defense for a big stop to settle for a field goal attempt after Mond’s fumble and when Clemson was driving.  Players make plays and that was a play by Buddy Johnson.

Anthony Hines is still knocking the rust off after sitting out a season but he’s looked good from an athleticism standpoint.  I’m ready for him to be dominant but I feel good he can get there.  At worst he’ll be solid.

I’m going to include Roney Elam with this crew as I feel he’s on the field a lot as the hybrid linebacker/safety.  He’s not a true nickel as he plays the run as much as he plays the pass.  His interception late in the game was beautiful.  If he doesn’t make that play there’s a possibility the score of the game is 31-3.  24-10 looks a lot different than 31-3 and Roney Elam is the key to that.

None of these guys are likely to make any level of the all SEC team at the end of the season.  That’s much like the 2012 season where we had three “no name” linebackers contributing in Porter, Stewart, and Jenkins.  I like what I’ve seen out of Johnson, Hines, and Elam so far.  This unit and Elko seem to really be on the same page in executing calls and anticipating plays.

Secondary:

I’ve already talked about the brain fart where Justyn Ross was left alone for the 30-yard score.  That was Clemson’s first touchdown and seemed to set the tone for Clemson to win the game.

Outside of that they did a pretty nice job of containing Clemson’s potent passing attack.  That was the longest pass of the game and remarkable for a Clemson team loaded with a quarterback that can throw deep and receivers that can get deep.  Lawrence was pretty efficient going 24 for 35 but other than that 30-yard pass there was nothing really deep and that was the only passing score.  Lawrence only passed for 268 yards and no Clemson receiver went over 100 yards.  Statistically the secondary did a pretty good job.

I stated earlier I believe Clemson had some big drops that could have made this game look differently.  The reality is they didn’t make those catches so credit must be given to the Aggie secondary.

Individually Blades and Myles Jones seem to be a serious upgrade over last year’s corners.  They still have plenty of room for improvement but they look better than any set of corners we had out there last year.  I have a feeling there’s going to be mental errors on plays so they won’t be flawless but for the most part those two look more serviceable than I originally thought.

At safety I thought Demani Richardson played a great game.  He led the team in tackles which isn’t always ideal for a safety but we didn’t give up any long runs or passes.  That’s the job of the safety to make sure that doesn’t happen.  Hence their name.  Leon O’Neal is immensely talented but I think he needs to play his assignments a little bit better.  He seemed out of position a couple of times and it looked like Myles Jones called him out once which O’Neal didn’t respond to well.  O’Neal is definitely better than anything we had last year.  I think he might be looking for the big hit or interception when he should just focus on his assignments and let the big plays happen because he’s in position.

This unit still has a lot of developing to do.  Right now, I certainly feel like this unit will be much better than what we saw last year.

Special Teams:

Braden Mann:

Braden “only” averaged 44.8 yards on his six punts but I thought he was studly as always.  What this guy does with the ball is amazing.  He hit two over 50 yards including a 60 yarder that just hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity.  This kid is just special so enjoy him in his final season in an Aggie uniform.

He even went out and got his kickoff tee opening the second half.  There’s nothing this guy won’t do.

Everyone Else:

Seth Small nailed his one attempt of 32 yards and Rashaud Paul fair caught the three potential punt returns while letting one get into the end zone.

Not much else to say about this group.  Just their normal steady selves and that’s okay.

 

Looking Forward:

Ironically enough the biggest question mark of this team is the specialty of the head coach.  A productive offense and quarterback.  We played the best team in the country on the road in our second game of the year and couldn’t score enough points to win.  It’s disappointing but not surprising.  This team wasn’t ready for this game from an offensive standpoint.

We all wanted Mond to be better in this game but he wasn’t.  Is it because he really hasn’t progressed or was Clemson just that good?  I think it’s somewhere in between.  Mond will never be Johnny Manziel.  That much is clear.  It doesn’t mean we can’t win a bunch of games with Mond under center IF he progresses to a consistent quarterback.  The clock is ticking on him for sure.

This team is still set up to have a solid season going 8-4 at worst.  We have a MAJOR test in two weeks against Auburn.  They should still be ranked in the Top 8 and it’s a 2:30 game on CBS.  Winning that game will be a major confidence and perception boost.  I REALLY think we can beat them even with how we played on offense against Clemson.  They have one of the best defensive lines in the country but I think we can move the ball on them.  I think our defense can shut them down or at least limit them on points where squeeze out a close game.

Obviously Lamar is next but it should just be a tune-up game for our next test when Auburn comes to town.  Before we panic on the season and especially with Kellen let’s see how we do against Auburn.  There’s a lot of football left to be played this season and we might have played the best team in the country closer than anyone else has or will.

Only time will tell.

Quick Thoughts on the LSU/Texas Game:

That was a heck of a football game.  Joe Burrow was the best player on the field but Sam Ehlinger wasn’t far behind.  I know Aggie fans hate the guy because of the hype he gets but he’s fixed his turnover issues and runs Herman’s offense well.  They didn’t back down from LSU at all.

Those were two REALLY good teams that played on Saturday night.  Don’t be surprised if Texas is in the mix for the College Football Playoff at the end of the season.  If they can get by Oklahoma twice which I think is possible then they’ll be in the mix for a playoff spot.

They play in a crappy conference but they’re a good team that could potentially run the table and benefit.

As for LSU their game is a LONG ways away and a lot can happen but LSU looks to be even better than last season.  LSU appears to have finally found a passing game and that could be really dangerous.  The “easiest” of the Big Four games might have just gotten harder.

Oh well.  Like Jimbo said – “If you don’t bite as a puppy you won’t bite as a dog.”  We better learn to bite over the next 9 games if we have any hope of beating LSU at their place.

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We’ll do a re-cap of each game throughout the season along with some other things like game previews for bigger games.

If you want a Make Aggie Football Great Again hat we have some in stock.  They’re $20 including shipping.  You, your friends, and your family will look great in one for the 2019 Aggie Football season!  You can email chewyredding at yahoo dot com for more information.  Payment can be made by PayPal or Venmo.

Can the Aggies Beat Clemson?

Coming into Summer Camp I put the Aggies chances at beating Clemson around 25 to 30 percent.  I know we played Clemson close at Kyle Field last season and the maroon kool-aid tastes oh so good but this isn’t the same situation as last season.

Before I look at Clemson if you want to read my thoughts on the Texas State game here’s the link:

https://rcwouldhavegonefor2.com/2019/09/01/thoughts-from-the-texas-state-game

Here’s three key points that stick out in my mind when it comes to the Clemson game:

  • It’s at Clemson. Unless a team is coached by Kevin Sumlin they always play better at home.
  • This is Clemson’s biggest game on their schedule. They know if they can beat a decent SEC team their margin for error becomes much bigger for the rest of the season.  There’s no “sneaking up” on Clemson.
  • This is not the same team that played at Kyle Field last season. Trevor Lawrence and Justyn Ross had little impact on the outcome as they were true freshman.  By the end of the season they were hooking up to comfortably beat Notre Dame and Alabama in the College Football Playoff.  This team is LOADED with top notch talent.

Because of our offensive line and some questions about our secondary I now put A&M’s chances of winning this game at 10%.  I think this is going to be a lot like the Alabama game last season where we get burned early through the air and it’s too big of a gap to come back from.  We’ll make a push in the second half but it’ll be too little and way too late.

I can see Clemson burning us for at least four scores through the air of 40 yards are longer.  I know our secondary looked improved against Texas State but it’s still Texas State.  Justyn Ross, Tee Higgins, and their other receivers are in a different class than Texas State.  If the Clemson staff has any film from last year they’ll realize where we’re weakest and look to make a statement.  I would if I were Dabo and Company.

I know Clemson “struggled” in the passing game against Georgia Tech but I think they were just more inclined to run it that game.  I feel okay about the Aggies slowing down Etienne but I think Clemson is going to take to the air against A&M.  If Dabo wants to try and establish the run I’ll be totally okay with that as the Aggies will be up to the challenge.  If Dabo unleashes his weapons through the air I’m not sure the Aggies will be able to handle it.

It’s not impossible for the Aggies to win but it’ll take a special effort.

Here’s how the Aggies can do it:

Defensive Line:

The only way the Aggies can win this game is if the defensive line wreaks havoc.  This will be a really tall task as Clemson has one of the best offensive lines in the country.  Justin Madubuike must have his official coming out party for 2019.  He’s going to need to be in the backfield all game long harassing Hunter Lawrence.  The other three guys need to contribute as well but if the Aggies win I expect it’s because Madubuike sets up shop in the Clemson backfield.  He’ll need three sacks on Lawrence along with some quarterback hurries.  People will be talking about Madubuike as a first-round pick if the Aggies win.  He’s the most important guy in this game in my mind.

The best example of what needs to be done in this game is when the Giants beat the New England in their two Super Bowls in 2008 and 2012.  All game long the Giants defensive line dominated the New England offensive line not giving Tom Brady the time he needed to throw.

Four defensive linemen dominated five offensive lineman all game long.  The key component was four guys beating five.  There were no disguised blitzes.  It was just 4 dominating 5 so the rest of the defense could provide extra pass coverage.  Brady couldn’t diagnose weak spots via blitzes or anything else.  By the time his receivers were getting open the defensive line was already applying pressure.

If the Aggies have any chance of winning it’s because the defensive line by itself brings intense pass pressure.  This will allow the remaining 7 defenders to stay back and provide pass protection.  If Clemson receivers get our secondary in man coverage and Lawrence has time to hit them the Aggies are toast.  We simply don’t have the talent and experience in the secondary to defend long developing deep routes against Clemson.  I’m fine with some occasional blitzes but the defensive line must bring pressure by itself for most of the game.

If I’m Jimbo and Elko I’m showing my defensive line film of those two Super Bowls and challenging them to do the same.  It’s a mighty big task but nobody gave those Giants teams a shot at beating Tom Brady.  I think the Aggie defensive line can do it if they want to make a statement.

Jimbo and Kellen Adapt to the Game:

Jimbo and Kellen’s plan of attack will have to be adapted during the game.  If the defensive line is applying pressure and frustrating Lawrence then I’m fine with the Aggie offensive taking a conservative approach.  Burn clock and give the defense time to rest.  This is how Jimbo operates the best.

If Clemson starts burning our defense then Jimbo and Kellen better be ready to shift gears.  We’ll need to fire right back and they better be on the same page.  For whatever reason Kellen plays best when he’s under fire.  Jimbo needs to let Kellen know its time to start letting it fly.

Jimbo and Kellen can’t come into this game with a designed game plan to be conservative and stick to it if our defense is being burned.  JImbo has to be ready to unleash the ball and Kellen better be ready to just let it fly.  There’s a lot of hope from our game with Texas State because of how Kellen and the receivers played but Clemson isn’t Texas State and this isn’t at Kyle Field.

Last year’s Alabama game was our biggest point difference of the season.  Bama was up 25 at one point.  The Aggies never came close to getting back in that game.  Kellen was sacked 7 times which was our largest total in one game.  Some of that was the offensive line but some of it was Kellen hesitating on what to do down so many points.  That can’t happen this year if we do find ourselves down by more than two touchdowns.  Jimbo has to have Kellen ready to let the ball fly to try and mount a comeback even if our offensive line isn’t giving him much time to throw.

In the Clemson game last year we clawed back from 15 points down to only lose by two but that’s not happening with this Clemson team.  If they get up on us they’re going to keep pouring fuel on the fire.  There won’t be any moral victories if we’re just hoping for some late scores to make the final score close.

Jimbo and Kellen just have to be ready to execute two different game plans based on what the defense is able to do.  I’m fine being conservative but if Clemson starts landing big punches we’re going to need to swing back.  Jimbo likes slow and steady but I’m not sure that will be a good course of action if Clemson gets up early.

Other Stuff:

Obviously we’ll need to be equal or on the plus side of turnovers.  We can’t give field position and extra opportunities to Clemson.  Braden Mann will have to do what he does and Seth Small will need to be perfect.  Paul will need to be his usual self returning punts making sure the ball is secure before anything else.  Secure the ball and give the offense a chance to do something.

I don’t think time of possession will really be that important unless our defensive line is doing what I mention above.  If Clemson is hitting big plays then time of possession won’t matter one bit.  It’s why I believe Jimbo and Kellen must adapt to the game as it goes along.

 

It’s certainly possible for the Aggies to win but this will likely be our toughest game of the year.  Clemson likely has the most talent, it’s only our second game so our young guys won’t have the needed experience, and it’s on the road.  Clemson is currently a 16.5 point favorite and that seems about right.  My heart believes the Aggies can win but my head says it too big of a task based on the obvious factors.

I hope Jimbo proves me wrong.  There’s nothing I’d enjoy more than walking out of that stadium having upset the number one ranked team and defending national champion.  It’ll be like Bama 2012 all over again.

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/

We’ll do a re-cap of each game throughout the season along with some other things like game previews for bigger games.

If you want a Make Aggie Football Great Again hat we have some in stock.  They’re $20 including shipping.  You, your friends, and your family will look great in one for the 2019 Aggie Football season!  You can email chewyredding at yahoo dot com for more information.  Payment can be made by PayPal or Venmo.

The Ultimate Aggie Grill:

Aggie Grill small

At the 2019 Houston Coach’s Night the ultimate Aggie grill was on display.  Chaz Hammonds ’13 with Soul Fit Grill has created a maroon kamado grill.  As someone who has one of the big name kamado grills I can tell you this thing is on par quality wise.  It’s comparable in size to the XL of the big name brand for much less.  For $899 you get the grill, side boards, and stand.  If you’re in Houston he’ll even deliver for free.  If you’re in the market for a kamado grill give Chaz a look.  You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a link to his website:

http://www.soulfitgrill.com/grills/the-legend-kamado-by-soulfitgrill

He also has a smaller grill if you’re looking for a smaller one:

http://www.soulfitgrill.com/grills/r4enfujd21dlcgtzq64zbkkbw8lyqe

Thoughts From the Texas State Game

Before I get to the game I have to comment how much I’ve enjoyed these Thursday night games to open the season.  It’s easy for me to make these games so I’m biased but it’s nice to get the first game against a marginal opponent out of the way for Labor Day weekend.  Friday night would probably better for more people but these last two Thursday night games have been great in my mind.  No need to waste all day Saturday for an opponent like this.  Hopefully there’s more of these in the future.

As for the game itself I give it a solid B effort overall.  There were some good things but there were also enough questionable things this team needs to work on.

Let’s get to it on a unit by unit breakdown:

Offense:

Kellen Mond:

If you walked away from Mond’s performance on Thursday night with no respect for how he played you’re just never going to like Mond.  While he wasn’t electric taking over the game he was as solid as it comes.  He made some REALLY impressive throws and was decisive the entire game.  He was not that consistent in any game last season.  Maybe this was just one game or maybe this is the new Mond.  We’ll just have to see.  Either way I think that was Mond’s most complete game in an Aggie uniform.

Statistically he was 19 for 27 which is a 70% passer.  There were some drops by the receivers that should have been catches.  Mond could have EASILY been an 80% passer on the evening.  I know it’s Texas State but anytime your QB is on the mark to be an 80% passer that’s a damn good night.

His touchdown pass to Quartney Davis and his 40 yard pass for an almost touchdown to Jhamon Ausbon where as good of throws as it gets.  Especially the one to Ausbon where he spun out of pressure and threw a perfect ball rolling to his left 40 yards downfield on the sideline.  Mond was just on the mark all night long.   I don’t know if it was just the opponent but Mond played outstanding.

He’s not going to take over a game because he’s not that kind of QB but if Mond plays like he did on Thursday night the Aggies have a chance to win every game.  They won’t win every game obviously but if this is the Kellen Mond Jimbo has been developing things are looking up in Aggieland.  At least at quarterback.

The final thing on Mond that I’ll get into detail a little later is Mond was under way more pressure than he should have been all night.  He handled it well either getting rid of the ball or creating just enough time to pass the ball.  His only blemish of the night was the interception but I feel that was due to defensive pressure as much as Mond just making a bad throw.

I really do hope Texas State Mond is the new Mond as he was just solid all night long.

Wide Receiver:

The receiving corps did a pretty good job on a Thursday night.  Mainly Quartney Davis and Jhamon Ausbon.  Davis played as good as his best moments from 2018.  He had one big drop in the end zone but other than that he showed no regression from 2018.  He’s going to make plays all season I believe.

Jhamon Ausbon has lost some weight and looks like a totally different receiver.  He looked like much more of a downfield threat than he did last season.  Not a true deep threat just yet but someone who can catch a ball beyond 10 yards.

I don’t think this game was an anomaly as I think Ausbon and Davis are going to be Mond’s preferred targets all season and make plays.  They were targeted early and often for a reason.

As for the other receivers there’s still question marks.  Jalen Preston showed he might finally become the receiver his talent indicates.  He’s got a way to go but there was promise on Thursday night.  Hopefully Preston builds on what he showed in moments.  Kendrick Rogers only caught one pass and fumbled at the goal line.  He’s still the enigma where he’s either flashing greatness near the goal line or he’s nowhere to be found.  I’m fine if he catches 10 touchdowns but only has 200 yards on the season.

We didn’t see much out of anyone else.  Caleb Chapman was in the game quite a bit but we never really targeted him.

If there’s one negative for the receiver play it’s there weren’t any true deep balls.  The longest pass was the 40 yarder to Ausbon where Mond did look magical.  I keep waiting the for 50+ yard bomb where we have a receiver just torch their defender and Mond hits them in stride.  I think the lack of that play has more to do with lack of time in the pocket for Mond.  The offensive line has to get better before that play can manifest.

This group still has a way to go to be great.  They had a nice first game and there’s a solid base to build on.  I feel a little better about this group than I did coming into the season.

Tight Ends:

From a receiving standpoint the tight ends didn’t do much.  It’ll be interesting to see how Jimbo handles the tight ends with the loss of Sternberger and Cupp.  We ran a lot of 4 wides so I think Jimbo is just going to mix it up based on what he’s seeing.  I certainly don’t think we’ll have a tight end leading the receiving corps this season in yards and touchdowns.

Running Backs:

Coming into the season I thought replacing Trayveon Williams would be the easiest of the juniors that declared early with Erik McCoy and Tyrel Dodson being the other two.  I think I was wrong.  Replacing Trayveon may be much harder than I ever imagined.  Trayveon made things looks so easy that I didn’t realize just how great he was.  No doubt I always thought Trayveon was great but what I saw from our running backs on Thursday night gives me some level of concern.

Statistically everything looked great as we had two 100-yard rushers and averaged 6.8 yards a carry.  We had one long run by Isiah Spiller that really skewed those numbers.

From an eyeball standpoint I have concerns about Corbin being an every down back.  The dude has top end speed but he’s not nearly as fluid as Trayveon.  He doesn’t read the holes nearly as well and doesn’t seem as explosive through the hole.  Don’t get me wrong as he’s not a terrible back.  Right now he just doesn’t appear to be the plug and play running back I was hoping he would be.

I did like what I saw from Isiah Spiller in his short time.  He seems a little more explosive but clearly doesn’t have Corbin’s top end speed as he got walked down by Texas State players.  I know he’s a true freshman but running backs with elite top end speed score on that run.  Maybe he’s got better top end speed and wasn’t prepared since it was his first game.  That was my only real issue in Spiller’s short time in there.  A complete back scores on that run.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see Spiller’s workload increase.  I also wouldn’t be shocked if at some point this season Spiller is getting more carries than Corbin.  We’ll just have to see how things go with our running backs but right now I think we’re going to miss Trayveon more than I ever imagined.

Offensive Line:

While the stat sheet looks outstanding for this group with no sacks and 246 yards rushing my eyeball test says otherwise.  This was the worst performing unit of the night BY FAR.  At best I would grade this unit with a C+.

Mond was under reasonable pressure all night long and the running game had to grind out short runs other than Spiller’s long run.  I expected a much more dominant effort against a unit like Texas State.  I expected a lot more runs of 10-15 yards and they just weren’t really there.  8 of Corbin’s 22 rushes were for 2 yards or less.  Two of those include getting no yards on back to back tries to score from the 1-yard line.  I’m not trying to demean Texas State but the Aggie offense shouldn’t need three tries to get a touchdown from the 1 yard line against an opponent like that.

To their credit we did start churning out more yards per carry later in the game but we should have been ripping off runs more than 2 yards from the start of the game.  I want an offensive line that can establish the line of scrimmage from the start of the game and we certainly didn’t do that.

From a pass blocking standpoint we were worse.  Even though there were no sacks it doesn’t mean Mond was without pressure all night.  This offensive line suffered the same issue from last season of failing to pick up delayed blitzes.  They just weren’t working as a cohesive unit for most of the night slowing down the pass rush of Texas State.  That has got to get better.

I hate knocking this guy but I didn’t see any improvement by Dan Moore at left tackle from last season.  There were several times guys were getting by him.  To me he’s by far the weakest link on the line at the most important position.  I believe he’ll start against Clemson but if he struggles against Clemson I wouldn’t be shocked to see Kenyan Green move out to left tackle for the rest of the season.  I just don’t think Moore is the answer long term at left tackle so might as well throw Green in the fire and see how he responds.  That would allow us to put Prater or McCollum at right guard.

I’m not completely sure how it plays out but this line has to get better.  What they did on Thursday night is not going to work in the SEC.  Something tells me the starters you saw on Thursday night won’t be the same by the time Alabama comes to Kyle Field if not sooner.

 

Defense:

Defensive Line:

The defensive line flat out shut down the Texas State running game.  Texas State’s main running back rushed 7 times for 22 yards.  That’s only 2.7 yards per carry and his longest was 8 yards.  There’s no doubt Texas State is a passing team but when they tried to run there wasn’t anything there.  Overall they only rushed for .5 yards per carry for a total of 8 yards.  Some sacks skew that a bit though as negative yards from sacks are counted to the rushing totals in college football.  Either way you can’t fault anything the defensive line did against the rush.

This is by far the best unit on the team and they showed it on Thursday night.  If there’s one disappointment I have it’s they didn’t get more pressure on the quarterback.  They didn’t do anything fancy from a stunting standpoint and Texas State wasn’t holding the ball very long trying to pass downfield.  That made it look like we struggled to get a strong pass rush.  I’m being greedy and wanted to see our defensive line dropping the Texas State quarterback more.  I’ll get to why in my preview of Clemson I’ll post later.

This group simply did what they do on Thursday night.  I’m good with their play.

Linebackers:

Linebacker was by far my biggest question coming into the season.  What I saw on Thursday night gives me a lot of comfort.  I thought Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines looked outstanding.  While they’re not as physical as Alaka and Dodson they’re plenty physical and make up for it with their speed.  For the most part they played their assignments well.  Buddy Johnson led the team in tackles and really reminds me of a Sean Porter type linebacker.  He might not be the most imposing or get the most attention but the dude can play the position.

Roney Elam was excellent in the nickel position.  He came in right behind Buddy Johnson in tackles but also had a sack, interception, and two pass break ups.  Elam might be the most pleasant surprise of any one player.

Right now this grouping of Johnson, Hines, and Elam looks like it’s going to be okay.

Secondary:

The secondary looked really damn good against Texas State.  I have questions with this unit when it comes to elite opponents but their performance on Thursday night was certainly a good start.  In addition to Elam’s interception, Leon O’Neal added an interception, and Myles Jones added two interceptions as well.  One interception was beautiful where he just climbed the ladder to grab the ball.

I still have questions about this unit to cover the deep ball against elite receivers like we’ll see against Clemson and Bama but for their first game you can’t ask for anything more.  I have some cautious optimism coming out of this game.

 

All in all when it comes to the defense you can’t ask for anything more.  It would have been nice to shut out Texas State.  Other than the last one the Texas State offense didn’t do anything so we basically did.  Must give credit where credit is due to the defense.  Mike Elko and his unit looks to be solid again.

Special Teams:

Braden Mann:

Braden Mann punted three times and put all three inside the 20-yard line.  His best punt all night was a 55 yarder where the Texas State returner had to backpedal to catch it and then just fell down.  He only averaged 43.3 yards on the night but that was mainly because the Aggies didn’t need him to flip the field.  I still have the utmost confidence he’s the best punter in college football right now.

Seth Small:

Seth Small was perfect on kicks of 22 and 26 yards.  That’s all you can ask for considering the game.

Roshauud Paul:

I thought Paul was outstanding returning punts.  He’s not going to light up returns but his awareness of when to fair catch and when there’s a little room to run is outstanding.  He understands his main job is to secure the ball before anything else.  If you’re not Christian Kirk then just make sure to ALWAYS catch the ball.

 

Had the offensive line and Corbin established the running game earlier and gave Mond more time to pass I would say this was as good as you could ask for.  We would have easily scored two more touchdowns.  It was a good tune up game for Clemson.  There’re certainly some areas to improve and it gives Jimbo a good idea of what this team looks like against an opponent that’s not your own.

So, can the Aggies beat Clemson?  Here’s my thoughts:

https://rcwouldhavegonefor2.com/2019/09/01/can-the-aggies-beat-clemson

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/

We’ll do a re-cap of each game throughout the season along with some other things like game previews for bigger games.

If you want a Make Aggie Football Great Again hat we have some in stock.  They’re $20 including shipping.  You, your friends, and your family will look great in one for the 2019 Aggie Football season!  You can email chewyredding at yahoo dot com for more information.  Payment can be made by PayPal or Venmo.

The Ultimate Aggie Grill:

Aggie Grill small

At the 2019 Houston Coach’s Night the ultimate Aggie grill was on display.  Chaz Hammonds ’13 with Soul Fit Grill has created a maroon kamado grill.  As someone who has one of the big name kamado grills I can tell you this thing is on par quality wise.  It’s comparable in size to the XL of the big name brand for much less.  For $899 you get the grill, side boards, and stand.  If you’re in Houston he’ll even deliver for free.  If you’re in the market for a kamado grill give Chaz a look.  You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a link to his website:

http://www.soulfitgrill.com/grills/the-legend-kamado-by-soulfitgrill

He also has a smaller grill if you’re looking for a smaller one:

http://www.soulfitgrill.com/grills/r4enfujd21dlcgtzq64zbkkbw8lyqe

What Has Brent Venables Meant to Clemson?

As college football becomes bigger and bigger key elements are becoming more and more known.  One of the biggest factors in modern college football is how important the offensive and defensive coordinators are.  The reality is coordinators have always been a big thing but 20 years ago most people didn’t care or realize how important they were to a program.  It’s a little different today.

A look back in history can show just how important a coordinator was to a head coach’s success.  Gary Patterson probably had more to do with Dennis Franchione’s “success” than Dennis Franchione himself.  It’s no coincidence that Mack Brown’s only two B12 titles and national championship game appearances came with Will Muschamp and Gene Chizik as his defensive coordinators.  Speaking of Chizik, in six seasons as a head coach he had three winning seasons.  All three of those were when Gus Malzahn was running his offense.  Throw in Cam Newton with Gus Malzahn and Chizik wins a national championship.  Not sure how much Chizik himself had to do with winning it all.

The list of coordinators being the key to a successful football program is long.  I wanted to look at Brent Venables as he’s the defensive coordinator for Clemson.  Prior to taking the Clemson job, Venables was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma.  Venables is widely regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football but I wanted to take a dive and see if there’s information that bears it out.

Venables was in Norman for the start of the Bob Stoops era in 1999.  Not to steer from Venables but most people don’t realize Mike Leach was Stoops first Offensive Coordinator at OU.  Stoops was the DC at Florida while Leach was the OC at Kentucky prior to Stoops getting the OU job and hiring Leach.  They had gone head to head for two seasons so they were familiar with each other.  Leach would serve as OC for one year before getting the head job at Tech.  Just a bit of trivia for you.

Back to Venables – Venables served as co-defensive coordinator with Bob’s brother Mark from 1999 to 2003.  Mark Stoops was listed as the Defensive Coordinator and Venables with the “co” title.  In speaking with Oklahoma fans over the years the arrangement was basically that Mark Stoops got the players fired up and Venables handled the Xs and Os of the game plan each week.  It worked well as Oklahoma was really successful during that era even.  They played in two national championship games winning one while also winning a Rose Bowl game as well.  This period is when Bob Stoops got the moniker, “Big Game Bob.”

Starting in 2004, Brent Venables took over the sole responsibility for the Oklahoma defense after brother Mike took the head job at Arizona.  Venables would hold this spot through 2011.  At the end of the 2011 season Venables decided to leave Oklahoma for Clemson.  According to Venables, he decided he needed to do something different.  Bob Stoops was bringing back his brother Mark to help with the Oklahoma defense.  Venables claims that wasn’t a factor and he just wanted to try something else.  Dabo Swinney gave Venables the hard sell he was what Clemson was missing.

Whatever that reason was, Venables took the job and helped ensure a different path for each program from a defensive standpoint.   I went back and looked at the total defensive rankings for each time in the period Venables was at Oklahoma and Clemson.  I took these rankings from www.sports-reference.com.  It lists the season stats for each team and ranks them.  I’m sure there’s other sites that may rank total defense a little differently but for this exercise I felt these rankings listed would give a good idea on how these defenses fared with and without Brent Venables.

Dabo Swinney took over the Clemson program halfway through the 2008 season.  2009 was his first full season.  If you go back and look at the season records for Clemson from 2004 to 2011 they’re pretty similar.  They generally won around 8 games a year during that period.  I feel comfortable comparing Clemson during that period with Oklahoma as the there’s not a dramatic difference between Tommy Bowden and Dabo Swinney during that span of time.

Here’s the data in table and graphed:

2004 2018 Defensive Ranks

2004 2018 Defensive Ranks Graphed

As you can see during the period that Venables was at Oklahoma the Sooner and Tiger defenses weren’t terribly far apart for the most part.  There were some hiccups for each team in a couple of seasons and the Clemson defense was generally ranked higher but they were both pretty solid defenses in the grand scheme.

In 2011 the Clemson defense took a serious tumble which l assume lead to Dabo Swinney looking for a new defensive coordinator.  His defensive coordinator for that 2011 season and the two seasons prior was Kevin Steele.  Steele would later serve as linebacker coach at Bama and then to LSU for one season as defensive coordinator.  Steele is currently serving his fourth season as Auburn defensive coordinator.  Kevin Steele is not a great defensive coordinator but he’s not terrible either.  He’s pretty average in my mind.  Clemson had a decent but not great defensive coordinator in the three years before Venables got there.  Venables certainly wasn’t having to rebuild a terrible defense.

In Venables first three seasons he made SERIOUS progress with Clemson’s defense taking it from the 81st ranking in 2011 to the 3rd ranking in 2014.  That’s the year Clemson DESTROYED Oklahoma 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.  The 2015 Clemson defense took a slight step back falling to the 24th overall ranking but Venables took on Oklahoma again in the first round of the CFP holding Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma’s offense to 17 points.

In 2016 the Clemson defense held a Top 10 ranking.  That’s the season Clemson won its first national title.  Making things more impressive for that season is Clemson completely shut out Ohio State in the first round of the CFP.  Clemson destroyed Ohio State 31-0 before beating Alabama for the title.

In 2017 and 2018 Venables would have his best seasons yet from a statistical standpoint ranking in the top 2 each season.  In 2018 Clemson would add it’s second national title beating Notre Dame and Alabama in the CFP.  They held Notre Dame to 3 points and held Alabama to 16 points.  That was Alabama’s lowest point total all season.  Alabama hadn’t been held under 20 points all season and had only been held under 30 points two other times.

Needless to say, Venables made his mark on the Clemson defense and the team as a whole in his 7 seasons at Clemson.  Clemson likely doesn’t see the same level of success without the hire of Brent Venables.  No doubt Dabo Swinney can recruit but Venables knows how to coach.

Meanwhile in Norman, brother Mark is back coordinating Bob Stoops’ defense and things look completely different.  In Mark’s first season the Sooner overall defense rank jumped from 32 in 2011 when Venables left to 51 in 2012.  They would have some decent defenses in 2013 and 2015 but outside of those seasons the Oklahoma defense wouldn’t be ranked in the Top 50.  In seven seasons since Venables left the Oklahoma defense has been ranked outside the Top 50 in five of those seasons.  In 2018 they fell to a jaw dropping rank of 101.  That’s 100 spots away from where Venables’ Clemson defense ranked in the same season.

Along with those rankings there’s some pretty bad bowl losses as OU got blown out by Texas A&M in 2012 and Clemson in 2014.  They’ve also failed to win a CFP semi-final game in three tries.  They have a couple nice wins over Alabama and Auburn in the Sugar Bowl but overall their bowl record has not been impressive since Venables left.  That’s 2-5 in bowl games since Venable’s departure.

Some people might argue the rankings are skewed because the B12 conference is an offense focused conference.  Defenses are going to give up yards and points because the B12 offenses are so advanced.  I think there’s certainly some merit to that argument.  There’s no doubt B12 offenses for the most part focus more on putting up yards and points and really hope to just win in a shootout.  Defense is an afterthought.

To try and balance this argument I looked at Oklahoma and Clemson’s out of conference record against Power 5 schools.  I wanted to see if there’s any major difference in the wins and losses for those games with and without Venables.

This isn’t a perfect exercise as prior to 2012 the Power 5 conferences didn’t exist.  The Big East was considered a decent football conference so I counted that conference as a “P5” similar conference.  In addition, teams from P5 conferences can vary in talent but I feel it’s a reasonable comparison to check out of conference success.

Here’s that data:

Out of Conference Record

Venables time at OU and after OU isn’t terribly different at 10-6 with him and 7-7 without.  It’s much closer than you think if you count losses against TCU, Boise St, and BYU during Venables time at OU.  Those were legit football teams at the time OU played them.  That would take it to 10-9.  During the time without Venables there’s a loss against UH that could take that record to 7-8.  Either way, you can argue Venables departure hasn’t meant much for OU’s out of conference record.

For Clemson though Venables arrival has a MAJOR impact on Clemson’s out of conference record against P5 opponents.  Prior to Venables arrival Clemson was 8-11 in the time Venables was defensive coordinator at OU.  It could be worse as Clemson lost to TCU and South Florida before Venables arrival.  Both solid football programs at the time Clemson lost.  That would be 8-13.

Since Venables arrival, Clemson has gone 18-5 in non-conference P5 games.  You can gripe about the ACC not being competitive but when you win 82% of the games outside your conference that’s damn impressive.  Two of those losses are to Alabama.  Needless to say, Clemson is competing at an elite level with Venables as their defensive coordinator.  Two national titles help prove that but 18-5 shows it wasn’t a couple flukes.

I’m not saying Oklahoma wins a national title with Venables still at coordinator.  That’s impossible to say as there are too many variables to make that comment.  I do think it’s safe to say Venables is a BIG reason Clemson has two national titles.  Dabo Swinney is an outstanding head coach.  However, without his hire of Brent Venables in 2011 I think it’s safe to assume Dabo wouldn’t be talked about as the heir to Nick Saban as the best in college football.

Next time you see a coordinator getting a big contract there’s a reason for it.

Will the Aggies Be More Talented in 2019?

As we look upon the 2019 season here are my thoughts on the position groups for the Aggie football team.  Overall, we’ll be more talented but we will be VERY young.  We may only start one senior during much of the season.  That will be Michael Clemons.  He’s not even a senior due to missing last season to an injury but he’s listed as a senior on the Aggie football website.  We’ll go with that for now.  Colton Prater will likely start the season on the offensive line but he’s going to be in a battle all season to hold his spot.  I don’t think any of the senior DBs will start very long if they start at all.  Having two senior starters out of 22 should tell you how young this team will be.  Don’t mistake youth for talent though.  There will be talent.

We lose key starters at Center, Running Back, and Linebacker.  Not only were these guys talented but they were VERY experienced in the SEC.  All of them were three-year starters in the SEC and that’s tough to replace.

From a comparison standpoint I don’t think we’ll see the same drop off in talent/leadership we saw from 2012 to 2013 though.  That was Johnny/Sumlin’s first and second year where we lost some key people on the defensive side of the ball and didn’t realize it until the season was underway.  I don’t see 2018 to 2019 as being close to the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

We’ll probably see some hiccups early on as the younger guys get adjusted to playing full time.  I think by the end of the season the 2019 team will be better overall than the 2018 season.  At least I hope.

I believe Jimbo sees this season as a building year for 2020 and beyond.  That doesn’t mean he won’t try and win as many games as possible but I think he’s going to be focused more on developing his guys than worrying exactly about wins and losses.  That doesn’t mean we go 6-6 but I think 10-2 would be a stretch based on the lack of experience.  Jimbo has his method and he’s going to stick to it.  I think we all know 8-4 is the expected record for 2019.  Compete in every game and wind up with an 8-4 record and we’ll know things are on track.  Let’s not worry about the record just yet though.

As I talk about these guys nothing is meant to be personal.  They’re all Fightin’ Texas Aggies and damn glad to have them on the team.  I’m just trying to look at them objectively in how they match-up with the rest of the SEC and past Aggies.  I’m not trying to pump people full of maroon kool-aid and just trying to offer one person’s objective analysis for the position groups.

This is really long at 12 Word Doc pages so it’ll take some time to get through.  I’ve broken it into sections as much as possible so there’s natural stopping points.  Hopefully that allows you easy start and stop points as I don’t think many will be able to read it all at once.  If so, hopefully you don’t get too far behind with your daily work requirements.

With that, let’s get going…

Offense:

Offensive Line:

I’ll start with the offensive line.  I always feel this is the most crucial unit to any football team.  If your OLine can’t hold their own at the line of scrimmage it doesn’t really matter how good the rest of your offense is.  An offense can score points without an effective offensive line but it won’t be able to sustain drives.  Winning football games is about sustaining drives.  That starts with the offensive line.

We have a MAJOR departure along the offensive line in Erik McCoy.  McCoy was probably the best center we’ve had in the last 2 decades of Aggie football.  He might be the best center of all time considering his competition.  Patrick Lewis is up there but I think McCoy is the best one we’ve had.  You don’t just plug someone in his place.

Ryan McCollum is all set to take over at center.  By all accounts he’s done a great job this off season.  He started a handful of games last year at guard along with filling in for McCoy a couple of times.  He’s a two-year letterman with experience.  If the reports are true I’m not terribly concerned but there’s no way he’s matching McCoy’s production.  There will be a step down at center.  Those are just big shoes to fill.

Guard worries me the least as we’ve got decent talent and depth here.  Right now, I’d say Jared Hocker and Colton Prater are the penciled in starters.  They’re going to face serious heat from Tank Jenkins and maybe even Kenyon Green.  Jenkins is probably more talented than both but doesn’t have the experience.  Hocker can probably hold onto his spot but Prater is in question.  I hope Jenkins takes the other spot as he appears to be really talented.  Nothing against Prater.  All things being mostly equal I’d rather see talent get the nod over experience this season.  Either way there’s going to be some battles in summer practice and even during the season which is not a bad thing.  I think we’ll be okay at the guard spots.

At tackle I have my concerns.  We currently have Dan Moore Jr at left tackle and Carson Green at right tackle.  Green is serviceable but neither of these guys are great at pass blocking.  Moore especially struggled last season.  He’ll be a three-year starter but I just don’t think he has the raw talent.  There’s not much talk of this guy other than he’s our starting left tackle.  Seriously.  He’s just kind of our left tackle by default.  In the SEC you need a stud at left tackle.  The SEC is loaded with guys that love to rush the blind side of the quarterback.  Your left tackle must be able slow them down.  I don’t have the exact stat but I’d wager half of Mond’s sacks last year were guys Moore was assigned to.  He just didn’t develop much all season.  He even got owned in the Gator Bowl until we started running the ball and ran it away from his side.

Maybe these two guys develop but I just don’t see it happening to the level we’ll need.  I’d be okay with Kenyon Green taking over the left tackle spot if Moore struggles.  I think it hasn’t been talked about because Kenyon didn’t go through Spring Ball.  There’s no idea how he’ll adapt to the next level.

There’s been talk of him competing at guard in 2019.  If that’s the case I’m of the mindset to just groom him at left tackle from the get go.  If he’s as good as advertised he should be starting at left tackle going into next year.  Let’s see if he responds.

Maybe Moore changes my mind but I just don’t see it happening based on what I’ve seen from him so far.  He reminds me of all the tackles we had before the run of Joeckel, Matthews, and Ogbeuhi.  There’s a difference in superior talent and I don’t think he has it.  Name me one really good tackle in the last two decades beside those three guys.  Moore just seems to be in that group you can’t name.  That won’t work very well in the SEC.

As far as Jim Turner’s departure I’m not too concerned about that.  Much like Jeff Banks I think Turner’s reputation got built up by message boards because of how he looked and acted.  This would have been his fourth season as OLine coach and we have minimal talent and depth.  He deserves some blame for not recruiting and developing enough talent over the last 4 years.  Based on what we’ve seen Josh Henson is doing a pretty good job on the recruiting trail.  We now get to see what he can do developing talent.  Something tells me Turner’s departure was a mutual one and didn’t catch Jimbo by surprise.  Coaching doesn’t bother me on the offensive line coming into 2019.  Talent and depth does.

Running Back:

Like the offensive line we lose a MAJOR presence at running back coming into 2019.  Trayveon Williams was a complete stud in 2018.  He was solid in 2016 and 2017 but he took it to a different level in 2018.  He showed discipline waiting on plays to develop along with improving his pass blocking as the season wore on.  He really was a complete back by the time it was all said and done in 2018.  It would have been great to have him back.  He had nothing else to prove at the college level so I hope he continues on his development path at the next level.

Jashaun Corbin looks like a solid enough replacement.  No way he has the year Williams had in 2018 but I don’t think it will be a major step down.  Corbin isn’t as fluid as Williams searching for holes but he’s more explosive.  In his time in maroon and white he’s shown he can fill most of Williams’ shoes.  I’m okay with him at starter.

The biggest issue at running back is who backs up Corbin.  There’s lots of names but also unknowns.  The Vernon Jackson neck injury is out there.  Jacob Kibodi has flashed potential but also very inconsistent when it comes to protecting the ball.  Cordarrian Richardson is a big back and was decent at UCF but hasn’t seen a snap in the SEC.  Deneric Prince had two carries last year.  These guys have potential but none of them have produced anything other than Corbin.

My hope is Isiah Spiller comes in and repeats what Trayveon and Jashaun did which is prove they belonged on the field as true freshman.  Corbin is going to get the brunt of the carries so we don’t need much depth but we certainly need some.  If Spiller can repeat what Trayveon and Jashaun did their freshman years along with Richardson proving to be an occasional hammer I think we’ll be fine here.  Jimbo has done a nice job recruiting talent and depth at this position.  We just need to see some consistent production by someone with a different last name than Corbin.

Tight End:

We lose our most productive receiving threat across the board in Jace Sternberger.  Sternberger didn’t just lead tight ends in receiving.  He lead ALL RECEIVERS in yards and touchdowns.  Production wise he’s a lot to replace.

If Baylor Cupp is as good as advertised I think we’ll be fine.  What I’m about to say on Sternberger is not a knock.  He’s an exceptional athlete and clearly a great worker.  However, I think Sternberger was as much a product of scheme as it was raw talent.  He found himself wide open a lot of times due to great play design.  Sternberger certainly did a lot after the catch but I think his efforts can be replicated due to Jimbo knowing how to leverage an athletic receiving tight end.

Remember Sternberger’s experience prior to A&M was Kansas and some JUCO in Oklahoma that’s not even a big name.  He did just fine in one year in the SEC.

I believe Cupp can do the same by the end of the season.  I think Cupp is more talented than Sternberger but he’s going to have some growing pains in his first couple of games.  He’s a true freshman.  Cupp had a nice touchdown in the M&W game but it was not the coming out party Sternberger had last Spring.  Sternberger made his presence known in the M&W game.  Cupp didn’t.  By the second half of the season Cupp should be doing the same thing Sterberger was.  It might take a few games before Cupp really gets going but I think he’ll replace Sternberger just fine when it’s all said and done.

Trevor Wood is gone as the blocking tight end but Glenn Beal looked decent as a true freshman.  We don’t expect a lot of blocking from our tight ends so it’s not a big a deal but Wood was definitely used to help our tackles out last season.

Jalen Wydermyer has the talent to be somewhere between Cupp and Beal.  We’ll just see how he adapts to playing tight end in the SEC.  He may not get the attention Cupp does so it might work to his advantage.  He may find himself open a few times because no one’s focused on him.

This group has me the least concerned for replacing major production from last season.  It would have been great to see Sternberger come back but we should be fine.  If Cupp can live up to his talent potential I wouldn’t be shocked to see him exceed Sternberger’s receiving production in 2019.  Jimbo’s coaching and recruiting so far shows he knows what to do with tight ends so I’m not too concerned.

Wide Receiver:

For whatever reason I think I’m in the minority when it comes to this position group.  I’m not impressed with any of these guys at all.  I don’t think they pass the eyeball or statistic test.  Eyeball wise I certainly wouldn’t put any of these guys up with the names like Evans, Kirk, Swope, Reynolds or even Fuller and Ferguson if you want to go back quite a few years.  They make plays at times but they’re just not that consistent.  They certainly didn’t take over any games in 2018.

Before I talk about these guys individually look at this chart showing the cumulative stats for the 2019 Aggie receivers.  Hopefully it opens your eyes a little:

Number Player Games Catches Yards Avg TDs Long Per Game
81 Sternberger, Jace 13 48 832 17.33 10 53 64
1 Davis, Quartney 13 45 585 13 7 37 45
14 Buckley, Camron 13 34 474 13.94 1 69 36.46
2 Ausbon, Jhamon 9 31 375 12.1 0 26 41.67
13 Rogers, Kendrick 12 27 336 12.44 5 30 28
5 Williams, Trayveon 13 27 278 10.3 1 38 21.38
9 Jones, Hezekiah 13 15 134 8.93 0 18 10.31
7 Corbin, Jashaun 12 10 85 8.5 0 16 7.08
6 Paul, Roshauud 13 6 70 11.67 0 25 5.38
12 Gillaspia, Cullen 13 5 52 10.4 0 21 4
80 Wood, Trevor 13 2 17 8.5 0 9 1.31
22 Etwi, Kwame 8 1 16 16 0 16 2
10 Preston, Jalen 8 1 14 14 1 14 1.75

Believe it or not Quartney Davis was our most productive receiver last year from a statistical standpoint.  Even then that was only 585 yards and 7 touchdowns.  That’s a decent amount of touchdowns but that’s a terribly low amount of yards for your leading receiver that’s not a tight end.  There should be someone surpassing 800 yards and even pushing close to 1,000 yards.  Hopefully there’s two of those guys.  I think that chart shows just how productive Trayveon was.

I know Jhamon Ausbon missed 4 games but even if you extrapolate out his numbers he’d have under 550 yards receiving with no touchdowns.  That’s supposed to be your number one receiver.  I know he’s a Michael Irvin style possession guy and he’s great at getting 6-12 yards but that’s it.  He doesn’t seem like a guy that can go down the field and win one on one battles.  I like him as a roster guy as he provides needed talent and depth in a key role but he’s not making the All SEC receiving team at any level any time soon.

Cam Buckley had the longest reception for 69 yards last season.  No other receiver caught a pass longer than 37 yards.  Trayveon had a screen play for 38 yards that was longer than any receiver not named Sternberger or Buckley.  I’m sorry but that’s not going to cut it in the SEC.  Especially if you want to compete with the elite teams in the SEC.  You need a dominant one on one receiver that can stretch the field.  Ideally you have a dominant one on one receiver and a true deep threat to compliment that receiver.  Right now I don’t think A&M has either of those.

I know everyone is high on Kendrick Rogers but I don’t see him more than a red zone target.  I’ve said it before if he’s not running downfield and just facing the quarterback he’s an outstanding receiver.  He really struggles to run downfield routes.  If he’s having to take steps forward AND look for the ball he doesn’t have the same set of hands.  I want him in the red zone no doubt but the rest of the field is a major question for me right now.

Jalen Preston was supposed to be as talented as they come but he didn’t do anything in 2018.  He had one catch for 14 yards.  Even in the SEC if you’re going to be a great player you’re making plays your true freshman year.  Look at what Christian Kirk did his true freshman year.  Nobody on this roster comes close to that guy right now.  Not a single guy can be even remotely compared to Christian Kirk.

From a recruiting standpoint we’re bringing in some nice guys from the 2019 class but I think they’re more of the same.  They’ll need some time to develop.  Dylan Wright might be the exception as he’s got the height and speed to be a downfield threat.  We’ll just have to see how he adjusts to the SEC.

I just don’t see the overall talent for this to be anything more than an average unit.  It’ll be productive at times but I don’t see this unit dominating the SEC at all.  To their credit some of it’s by design as Jimbo wants to control the ball and time of possession.  I know some will blame Mond but if you watch these guys run routes it’s just an average receiving corps for the most part.  There’s nothing super impressive about anything these guys do other than Rogers catching balls in the end zone.  Davis will flash from time to time.  Ausbon will get you a first down when you need 5-6 yards.  That’s all good stuff but there needs to be more.

I really believe the best collection of receiving talent tied to this program is the three guys that are our verbal commits for 2020.  Demond Demas, Muhsin Muhammed, and Troy Omeire will be in the 2020 two deep the moment they’re on campus.  A couple if not all three will either be starters or logging significant minutes in 2020.  Those guys are outstanding but in no way should three true freshmen come in and take over starting spots.  I honestly think it could happen if this current group doesn’t take a massive step beyond what they did in 2018.

Caleb Chapman could be a wildcard here as he could be the deep threat we need if it’s not Dylan Wright.  He missed pretty much all last season with a leg injury.  Can’t remember if it was his knee or ankle.  He’s around 6’5” and appears to have the top end stride speed that deep threats must have.  Think Josh Reynolds.  I’m not saying Chapman will be Josh Reynolds but physically he has the same characteristics.  If Chapman can emerge as a guy that’s even close to what Reynolds did then he could change the entire outlook for this receiving corps.  He may not show it statistically but if he can keep safeties looking back it will help open the middle of the field for the other guys to make some plays.

I REALLY want this unit to step up and be much more productive.  Based on what my eyes and the stats tell me there’s a LONG ways to go.  I’m just not sure they can get there.  I certainly hope they prove me wrong.

Quarterback:

I’m not going to spend too much time on Kellen Mond.  It’s like talking politics.  Everyone has their opinion and you’re not likely changing anyone’s mind discussing it.  I’ve never seen an Aggie quarterback so polarizing.  It really feels like half of Aggie fans support him and the other half don’t like him.

It’s kind of obvious but Kellen Mond will be the reason this team gets to the 9 and even 10 win level in the regular season.  He’ll have to improve his game by a large margin from last season.  At Houston Coach’s Night Jimbo mentioned he felt like he was speaking Chinese to Kellen much of last season.  Jimbo believes Mond has digested their first year together and he’s ready to go to the next level.  Maybe its coach speak but if Kellen can advance his game beyond last year that’s going to cause the Aggies to take a MAJOR step forward in their building plan.  I’m talking wins and losses in that regard.

Kellen is obviously talented enough to do it.  He’s made some outstanding reads and plays but he’s also made some questionable reads and plays.  He’s all about being more consistent in understanding plays and executing them.  We won’t see Kellen in the Heisman talk and that’s okay.  What I want to see at worst is the Aggies competing in every game with Kellen leading the charge to victory no making mistakes.  If Kellen can do that consistently he’ll change a lot of doubters.  I could be wrong though.  People may just always dislike Kellen like the President they didn’t vote for.

As for the backup losing Starkel hurts but I think it’ll be okay.  If Mond stays healthy he’s Jimbo’s guy.  Nobody else stands a chance to take snaps.  No need to have Starkel hanging around if that’s the case.  As for who will be the backup I think it’s Calzada.  Blumrick and Foster seem to be okay but Calzada appears to be a step above them talent wise.  He had a decent M&W game so he just needs to keep getting reps.

I believe Jimbo’s ideal scenario is to have Calzada back up Mond for two seasons and then be ready to step in as the starter in 2021.  If Mond falters then throw Calzada in there and see what happens.  Calzada certainly looks like he has the physical talent to be a top-flight quarterback so let’s find out sooner than later.  Kirby Smart went to a national championship game with Jake Fromm as a true freshman.  Sometimes you just have to find out if a guy can play or not.  I’m fine with Calzada seeing the time behind Mond.  It could also potentially free up a couple of scholarships if Blumrick or Foster want to transfer knowing they’ll always be on the outside looking in at getting snaps.

Overall Offense:

I think this offense can be just as good as last season and maybe even better.  I don’t think it will look the same and that’s fine.  I don’t think there’s anyway we have the same run game as last season.  Trayveon and McCoy were just that good.

I think it will still be very much focused on winning time of possession and total number of offensive plays.  That means a lot of running plays which is fine.  There will still be plays designed to set up other plays through the air.  It won’t be the inconsistent offense we’ve seen under previous staffs.  Those would either strike quickly or go three and out.  That’s not Jimbo’s style and I’m good with that.

It’s possible we don’t miss a beat on the ground with Corbin and the offensive line.  If that happens along with Kellen Mond and the receiving corps taking a big step forward from last year this could be a really potent offense.  I hope the receiving corps proves me wrong and I hope Kellen proves that half of Aggie fans that question him wrong.  We all just want to score more points than the other team in every game.  I believe we can all agree on that.

Defense:

Defensive Line:

Outside of McCoy and Trayveon there’s no doubt the defensive line was the shining part of this team last year.  They likely were more valuable than those two guys.  They were tremendous all damn season.  The defensive line kept our linebackers clean and limited the exposure of a shaky secondary.  I think we were 3rd against the run in all of the NCAA last season in a run first conference.  The defensive line last year was just legit.

We lose a lot with Keke, Mack, and Durham.  Those guys played amazing ball all season.  Despite their departures I believe the defensive line will be better.  We have some experienced and talented guys coming back.  We also have some talented youth to add in the mix.

The defensive line will start with Justin Madubuike at defensive tackle.  This guy is a legit playmaker.  He’s disruptive like Daylon Mack and he can make plays.  His stats basically mirrored Mack’s last season so I think we’ll see them progress as he gets more playing time.  He’ll probably wind up leaving early and in many ways I hope he does.  That’ll mean he had an awesome junior year.  We’ve got depth to cover him in 2020.  Go ahead and set yourself up as a first rounder, Justin.

I think Bobby Brown will kind of play the role of Kingsley Keke last year moving inside to play a lot of defensive tackle depending on team and formation.  Bobby Brown is a giant man that can move.  He came in as a defensive end but has grown into a defensive tackle for the most part.  Brown may move out to defensive end against run heavy teams and certain formations but I think he’ll spend a lot of time inside with Madubuike wreaking havoc.

Jayden Peevy will rotate in quite a bit with Madubuike and Brown while Josh Rogers and Mohamed Diallo provide some really nice depth.  Peevy is no slouch but I think on pure talent Madubuike and Brown can be as good as any pair of defensive tackles in the country.  They should see a lot of snaps together.

At defensive end we’ll likely see Michael Clemons and Tyree Johnson starting.  Clemons is coming off missing all last season but appears to be healthy.  He’s loaded with talent so if he’s healthy he’s going to be outstanding.  Johnson is coming off a good freshman season.  I suppose there’s some question marks of what these guys look like starting over a full season but I’m not terribly worried.  They should be really damn good.

Backing them up will be a host of guys.  Jeremiah Martin brings the most experience and DeMarvin Leal brings the most talent.  Leal missed the spring with a knee injury but the reports on this guy is he’s a physical specimen.  Jimbo really feels he might have been the best recruit in the country last season.  If he’s healthy and lives up to his potential he’s going to be a big contributor in 2019.  We’ll just have to see.

Beyond those guys there’s also Max Wright who was a four start recruit. He’ll find his way onto the field for playing time but how much will be dictated by his development along with the health off the guys above him.  Having Max Wright as your 5th defensive end is a major luxury.  He’d likely be starting on most teams in the country.

This defensive line may not get the press of Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, or whoever else.  Make no mistake if they’re not on the same level they’re not far behind.  I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say this defensive line could be the best in the country.  It certainly could be in 2020.  There’s some serious talent here.  It just needs to develop and stay healthy.

Linebacker:

This position is my greatest fear for the 2019 Aggie football team.  I don’t think most people realize how fortunate last year’s team was in keeping Alaka and Dodson healthy all season.  They missed a little time here and there but they never missed a full game from what I remember.  They certainly benefited from the defensive line but those two guys were unsung heroes making plays right behind the defensive line all season.  They could be sorely missed as there’s just no depth and real experience at this position.

Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines are penciled in as their replacements.  Johnson has two years experience but never as a starter.  I also think he’s not quite as talented as Alaka or Dodson.  He’s not terrible but he’s got some big shoes to fill if we’re to not miss a beat losing those two guys.

Anthony Hines is VERY highly rated but has no real experience.  He’s battled the depth chart and injuries his entire time at A&M.  He has the potential but just hasn’t done much.  If he lives up to his talent and stays healthy he’ll be fine filling the role of Dodson or Alaka.  I just have to see both before I can get excited about what he offers.

Beyond those two guys it becomes a major crap shoot.  Braden White has the size but I’m not sure he has the ability.  He may wind up being the 12th Man and I don’t really want a walk on playing linebacker.  Sure it makes for a great story but Cullen Gillaspia got moved to fullback because he couldn’t cut it at linebacker.  There’s not really a precedent for the 12th Man playing linebacker at a high level.

Andre White showed some potential in the M&W game but he’s a true freshman.  True freshman don’t wind up doing very well at linebacker in the SEC unless they’ve killed a bear with their hands.  I don’t think he’s done that.  Aaron Hansford moved over from receiver after playing some linebacker in high school.  He certainly has the athleticism but does he have the instincts?  Instincts tend to matter more than talent at linebacker.  Ikenna Okeke has some potential but had his entire season cut short by an injury last season.  He’s another unknown.

We’ve got some other true freshman coming in at linebacker.  I think Chris Russell and KeShun Brown who have the desired size might add some depth.  I just don’t see them contributing a lot as true freshmen.  You know my bear theory and I don’t think these guys have killed bears with their hands either.

There are certainly several bodies to try and throw at the linebacker position.  We’ll see if it works out with raw numbers.  I’m afraid it won’t totally work out with talent.  We still need help with future development and recruiting.

I hope some guys step up and fill the shoes of Alaka and Dodson.  I’m just fearful they won’t and this will look like the 2018 secondary.  The real test is how many 5 to 15 yard runs the opposing offense rips off against us.  That’s the real test of the linebackers.  When running backs are getting an additional 5-10 yards beyond the defensive line that’s because the linebackers aren’t doing their job.  They’re either blocked or out of position.

I also don’t want to be in a position where the safeties are forced to stop the run game.  In the SEC you need linebackers that can help shut down the run.  If not, teams will expose you up the middle.  We’ll just have to see if this group can step up and match last season’s production.

Secondary:

The 2019 Aggie secondary will be a good attitude test for people.  You’ll likely either see a glass half full or a glass half empty.  The 2018 Aggie secondary was far and away the biggest Achilles heel of last year.  Time and time again it was either burned through the air or failed to make a play when it mattered most.  We would have likely won the Clemson and Auburn games had the secondary made one key play in each game.  They wouldn’t even have been amazing plays.  There were a couple of plays in both of those games where the secondary was just completely out of position to defend a pass or didn’t take down a receiver with the ball at contact.  They make one of those plays and we have another win last year.  They make two plays in each game and we have two more wins.

The good news is if you compare this year’s secondary to last year’s it can’t get any worse.  You can see the glass half full.  If you compare this year’s secondary to where it should be you’ll see it as half empty.  They’re going to make a few mistakes.

From my standpoint I don’t want to see anyone in the secondary from last season starting other than Leon O’Neal.  It’s not a knock on them personally but they’re just not that good.  I don’t see how it’s possible they make a serious leap from last year to this year.  Because of that, I don’t see any point in them logging serious minutes.  I’m fine with guys like Derrick Tucker, Larry Pryor, Jr, Keldrick Carper, Myles Jones, Debione Renfro, and Charles Oliver logging minutes but there’s more talented guys that need to get experience sooner than later.  One of those guys can regularly play the nickel but that’s about as far as I want it to go.

If Jimbo’s recruiting, player development, and coaching are on point then Elijah Blades and Erick Young should be our starting corners.  At least by mid-season for both.  Blades is a highly coveted JUCO transfer so I’m really hoping he’s starting the first game.  We need serious help at corner.  Blades locking down a spot to start the season would go a long way to improving the 2018 performance.

Young is a five-star recruit.  He’ll certainly have a learning curve but at worst he should have a Leon O’Neal year where he shows improvement every game and by the end of the season shows he’s ready to take over the position.  I think his development should be advanced as the sooner he gets reps the better off he’ll be long term.  There’s no red shirting this kid so let’s see what he’s got.

At safety Leon O’Neal clearly has one spot locked down and he looks like he’s the real deal.  He should only build on where he ended last season.  At the other spot I’m hoping Demani Richardson or Brian Williams can establish themselves in the other spot.  They’re both really talented.

I’m probably being too ambitious so I’m guessing the real secondary will be a combination of Blades and O’Neal with the best of the rest filling out the other corner and safety spot.  Even if that’s the case I can’t imagine how this secondary is any worse than last season.  With the talent and experience they bring to the table in 2019 those guys will be better than any group we started last season.  At least they better be.

This secondary will still make mistakes giving up plays they shouldn’t.  It should be better to the point where it’s a serviceable unit as opposed to a vulnerable unit like last season.  I’m still shocked anyone tried to establish the run on us last season.  What Elko and Jimbo did defensively last season with that weak of a secondary was remarkable.  It really was.  Mike Elko and his defensive staff were the true MVPs of the 2018 season.  We’re likely 6-6 without them.

Overall:

Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines will be the key to any defensive improvements in 2019.  If they can stay healthy and come close to the production of Alaka and Dodson this defense will see big improvement.  As crazy as it is to say I think the defensive line will be the biggest improvement over 2018 once they figure out their true roles and rotations.  That 2018 defensive line was the best we’ve seen in some time.  That’s a major statement to make but I believe the 2019 defensive line will be better when it’s all said and done.

The secondary should be vastly improved at two positions if not more.  Maybe the youngsters don’t need to be thrown to the wolves right away but O’Neal and Blades starting should be a major boost.  The 2020 secondary should take another major step so the 2019 secondary should be a preview of things to come.

We’re also still missing a serious pass rush specialist like Myles Garrett or Von Miller.  I think the defensive line will be disruptive enough by creating schemes where someone will consistently be in the backfield forcing the quarterback to throw sooner than later.  It won’t be one guy but a mix of guys applying pressure.  I think we’ll be fine there.

It’s all about filling those linebacker spots.  Cross your fingers.

Special Teams:

Punter:

Not much to say about Braden Mann.  He led the NCAA with a 51 yard per punt average last season.  We all saw what he did.  He’s the best punter at A&M since Shane Lechler and is probably better.

I can’t say enough about this kid.  The statistics bear it out but he’s just special to watch.  His ability to kick different punts at key times is uncanny.  The dude can sky it, angle it, and most importantly he has this booming liner.  I’ve never seen someone punt a ball like him where it’s a low trajectory screamer that’s covering 60 yards in the air.  It’s like watching Tiger Woods and John Daly drive golf balls in the late 90s.  Nobody else can do what he does.

Multiple times last year he completely flipped the field.  I’m talking we’re snapping the ball from our 20-yard line and the other team winds up snapping the ball from their 20.  It wasn’t complete luck either.  He could just put the ball in a spot where the punt returner couldn’t get it and watch it roll.  The returner would wind up chasing it down while the punt coverage team was able to get down and convene around the returner limiting the return.

I assume he can repeat 2018 and that’s all I ask.  I don’t need improvement.  He just needs to do the same thing he did in 2018 and nothing more.  He’s one of the rare punters that is truly able to keep points off the scoreboard.  Enjoy him while we can.  Guys like this don’t happen very often.

Kicker:

Seth Small is the incumbent at placekicker.  He’s pretty good but needs to develop some consistency.  He was 19 of 26 with a long of 52.  That’s a bit shy of 75% so he’s got to be better than that.  He was 3-3 in games against Bama and LSU so pressure doesn’t seem to bother him.  He was also 34-34 on extra points.  Extra points appear automatic.  Hopefully he improves his accuracy to at least 80% if not better.

Caden Davis is a true freshman coming in and apparently has a major leg.  He hit a 57 yarder in high school.  He also hit a 76-yard field goal practicing on July 4th.  If Seth Small struggles at least we have a guy with a big leg backing him up.

Let’s just hope Seth Small improves his consistency.

Returners:

I know a lot of people don’t like Roshauud Paul because he’s not Christian Kirk but I like the guy.  He’s REALLY good about catching punts.  Most importantly he seems to have that knack for knowing when to fair catch and knowing when there’s safe room to run.  Guys like Kirk returning kicks don’t happen along every season.  If you don’t have a Kirk then you better have someone that’s good at catching punts.

Nothing changes momentum like a fumbled punt recovered by the punt team.  Think back to the 2011 Texas game when Dustin Harris fumbled the punt in the second quarter.  Texas ran a trick play on the next play and scored a touchdown.  That was a major momentum swing letting Texas back in the game.  I don’t like fumbling punts.  There’s no Christian Kirk on this team that’s a threat to take it to the house.  Give me the guy that can catch the damn ball and doesn’t get cute trying to do too much.

As for kick returns I’m not sure who all we’ll have doing this.  Corbin did it last year as the backup tailback but I don’t see him doing it this year as the starting tailback.  I’m confident Jimbo and his staff will find two capable guys to do this.

Summary:

I’m certainly high on the talent for Texas A&M for 2019.  The experience and depth at a couple spots give me some concern on how that looks for wins and losses.  The ultimate judge of any season is actual wins and losses.  Moral victories are okay but in the end they’re still losses.  Nobody likes losing.

I’ll do my season prediction in the next blog but I think A&M is going to be better as a whole compared to the 2018 team.  Jimbo has done an outstanding job of bringing in depth and talent in just two recruiting classes.  There’s still a way to go but the 2019 Aggie football team will have more talent and ability across the board than the 2018 team.  I feel confident about that.

If Mond and the receivers take the next step and the linebackers do what was done last year this team can compete with anyone in the country.  There’s only one way to find out and that’s to snap the ball.  Labor Day Weekend can’t get here soon enough.

 

Make Aggie Football Great Again!
#MAFGA

 

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We’ll post our season prediction in the next few weeks and then do a re-cap of each game throughout the season.

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The Ultimate Aggie Grill:

Aggie Grill small

At the 2019 Houston Coach’s Night the ultimate Aggie grill was on display.  Chaz Hammonds ’13 with Soul Fit Grill has created a maroon kamado grill.  As someone who has one of the big name kamado grills I can tell you this thing is on par quality wise.  It’s comparable in size to the XL of the big name brand for much less.  For $899 you get the grill, side boards, and stand.  If you’re in Houston he’ll even deliver for free.  If you’re in the market for a kamado grill give Chaz a look.  You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a link to his website:

http://www.soulfitgrill.com/grills/the-legend-kamado-by-soulfitgrill

He also has a smaller grill if you’re looking for a smaller one:

http://www.soulfitgrill.com/grills/r4enfujd21dlcgtzq64zbkkbw8lyqe