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

 

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:

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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.

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 as we get ready 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

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Thoughts on Jimbo at Houston Coach’s Night

Jimbo with team on Sidelines

The Houston A&M Club had their Coach’s Night on July 19th.  A little earlier than normal.  I meant to get these out sooner so my apologies for taking a couple of weeks.  At the event the same things were covered as if it were in July so the earlier date didn’t really change the information.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Jimbo talks different than our previous coaches.  Jimbo talks solely about football and he does it at a rapid pace.  He speaks to specifics and details.  Our previous coaches seemed to hate speaking at this event and just said the same generic things repeatedly.  It seems that if Jimbo is asked to talk about football then he’s going to do it.  He has one way to talk and it’s all about football.

Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of generic talk in what Jimbo said.  50 to 60 percent of what Jimbo said is really no different than what any other coach would say.  Most of that centered around being excited for the season, players working hard this summer, and going through the roster of individual players.  Every coach builds up his players and for good reason.

This is a great event that raises a ton of money for Aggie scholarships.  If you ever get the chance to go then don’t hesitate.  You’ll get pumped up for Aggie football and raise money for deserving Aggie students.  It’s a win-win situation.

There are a few things that Jimbo did cover differently in the past that stuck out to me:

The Schedule:

Every Aggie knows about the 2019 football schedule.  It’s as difficult as it gets.  You know the opponents and the locations.  What I thought was interesting about Jimbo was he never set it up for a lack of wins.  I remember Fran, Sherman, and Sumlin referencing their schedule and setting it up as an excuse for fewer wins than expected.  Their statement was always something like, “With this schedule our record won’t reflect how good our team really is.”  That always struck me as weird they were counting wins and losses before the season ever started.  That told me they didn’t think their team was as good as it should be.

Related to the 2019 schedule Jimbo said, “I can’t really worry about our record right now.  All I can worry about is my process for coaching.  The wins and losses will take care of themselves.”  Jimbo did say he welcomed the challenge of this year’s schedule as it would be good for his team long term.  He knows it’s tough but he wasn’t making excuses for anything.

Based on his comments I think he sees this season as a building year.  To him it’s not a re-building year despite key starters lost at key positions.  He plans on taking another step from a 9-4 season with an impressive bowl win.  Jimbo knows he’s got a young but talented team playing the toughest schedule in the country.  He could make excuses in advance about not winning more games this season.  He didn’t.  He never referenced reducing the expectations of wins based on scheduled opponents.  He’ll let the season play out and go from there.

We all know that 8-4 is the barometer for this season.  Win 8 regular season and we’ll be happy but not excited.  Win less than 8 and we’ll all be disappointed.  Win more than 8 and we’ll all be ecstatic.  I think Jimbo probably feels the same way but he’s not saying it.

He did say one funny thing about the schedule.  As part of a fundraising activity before Jimbo spoke the phrases, “Beat the hell outta Clemson, beat the hell outta Bama, and beat the hell outta Georgia” were said in the room.  Towards the end of his speech when talking about the schedule Jimbo said, “Earlier y’all said we hoped we beat Clemson, Bama, and Georgia.  So if we win those games and go 3-9 then everyone is going to be happy?  Yeah.  I didn’t think so.  We know we have to win a lot more than those three games so that’s what we plan on doing.”

Ultimately any season is judged with wins and losses.  I don’t think he plans on making excuses for our schedule.  He has standards for himself and the team.  They’re likely higher than most fans.  We’ll just have to wait and see the final record but it’s clear Jimbo isn’t worried about it.  He’s worried about coaching football.

Player Development:

I think the one thing that gets overlooked in Nick Saban’s coaching is his ability to develop players.  Saban recruits well but he knows if he doesn’t develop those guys then it’s wasted effort.  That’s why Saban never has a down year talent wise.  It’s not just having the best recruiting class year after year.  It’s about developing those guys year after year.  Ask Les Miles and Mack Brown about recruiting the best guys every year and not having much to show for it.

I think Jimbo understands player development is a crucial component to winning football games.  Jimbo made the comment, “We can have all the talent in the world.  If we don’t develop it into football players then we we’re not going to win as many games as we should.  It’s on the coaching staff year-round to make sure these guys are always developing as football players.”

He talked about recruiting the right guys with the mentality to want to work and play football.  There’s lots of guys that are athletic and good at football.  However, if they don’t like working or really like playing football they’re not the kind of player Jimbo is looking for.  Based on what I’ve heard Jimbo say I think there’s merit to it.  Jimbo loves “coaching ball” so he’s looking for guys that love playing football and want to work at it.

I’ve read Nick Saban won’t offer anyone that he hasn’t worked out in person because he wants to see how they handle criticism and coaching.  Jimbo sounds like he’s in a similar situation where he loves working high school guys to see if they can be coached.  Playing football isn’t just about stars and measurables.  It’s about wanting to learn and play the game.  I think Jimbo understands that.

Jimbo said one other interesting thing related to player development.  He said that when he sees a great play in practice or a game he likes to ask that player what they did.  If they can’t tell him what they did then it was just luck and they might not be able to repeat it.  Jimbo said coaching isn’t just about correcting mistakes but it’s driving home what someone did right.  His point is if you understand what you did on a great play then you can do it again.  If you don’t understand what you did then it was just luck and replicating it is in question.  I thought that was very insightful into developing players.

Kellen Mond:

I know a lot of Aggies don’t like Kellen Mond.  You know I like Kellen Mond.  I’m not going to get into a lot of details about Mond but Jimbo did make it clear that Kellen is his man.  I think that much is obvious.  Jimbo is excited for 2019 Kellen Mond.

Jimbo did say a couple of interesting things about Mond.  He re-iterated how Ole Miss was the turning point in Kellen’s season.  He commented about how Kellen responded after turning the ball over where Ole Miss returned it for a touchdown to go up 21-14.  He said everyone in the stadium was doubting Kellen including his head coach but Kellen responded and he felt he played his best football after that game.  He pointed to the LSU and bowl game as examples of how Kellen developed from that play.

Kellen is not without fault in the LSU and Gator Bowl games but Jimbo did feel that his response to that mistake in the Ole Miss game was a turning point.  This is a team game but there’s no doubt in my mind the 2017 Aggies would have lost to Ole Miss after that turnover and would have likely lost to LSU and the bowl game.  You can debate how much of the wins over LSU and NC State where Jimbo and the team.  There’s no doubt that Kellen Mond deserves credit for responding after a really bad play.

Jimbo pointed to one play specifically about how Kellen responded after that Ole Miss play.  That was the final play in regulations against LSU.  Jimbo said they were on the sideline while the knee down play was under review.  They were confident there would be one more play.  He said he offered two plays to Kellen to score and asked which play he wanted.  He said Kellen picked his play and Jimbo said, “That’s the one I would have picked so let’s do it.”  That might be a coach building up his quarterback to the fans.  I don’t think Jimbo would have told that story if he didn’t have a ton of confidence in Mond.  Jimbo then went on to say passing to Quartney Davis to tie the LSU game was Kellen’s second read.  He understood the play design and read the defense.  Kellen picked the right play and executed it in a pressure packed situation.

I know that won’t mean much to you folks that don’t like Kellen. To me though it does show that Kellen can make football decisions in pressure packed situations.  At least according to Jimbo.  At this point I’m going to take Jimbo at his word.

I have no clue what that means for 2019 Kellen Mond but I do believe there’s lots of positives heading into the season.  Jimbo feels the same.  We’ll find out if it’s coachspeak or not.  2019 will be a big year for Kellen Mond.

 

July 1st is upon us so the 2019 Aggie football season is getting closer and closer.  Over the coming weeks I’ll write up my expectations for the position groupings in the 2019 season.  After that I’ll do a game by game breakdown.  2019 will be the key season to find out if Jimbo can in fact 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/

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 as we get ready 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 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 size 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 on the Ross Bjork Hire

Ross Bjork AD Intro

When the news broke of Texas A&M hiring Ross Bjork as it’s Athletic Director my initial reaction was, “Meh.”  After reading and doing more research on Bjork along with watching his introduction and initial press conference my reaction is now, “Eh.”

This was not a home run AD hire by any stretch.  It doesn’t mean that Bjork can’t be an outstanding AD.  Only time will tell what kind of hire this is.  He’s a stray from our most recent AD hires as he’s short on experience compared to Bill Byrne, Eric Hyman, and Scott Woodward.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing as ambition can sometimes serve someone better than experience.  One of those names on that list was a failure and the other was just okay when it was all said and done.  I think it’s possible Bjork can be better than those two people so he has that going for him.  If he’s not better than the worst name on that list we’re in big trouble.  I don’t think that’ll be the case.

Bjork Before A&M:

Before Bjork was hired I only knew of him due to the NCAA investigations and Hugh Freeze hiring at Ole Miss.  How that was handled by Ole Miss was a colossal failure in my mind.  Ole Miss was taken down in classic failed leadership fashion by not getting in front of what they were charged with.  They then made it worse trying to make it sound better than it was placing the blame somewhere else.

It was clear to me the administration at Ole Miss did minimal digging when allegations came about.  They simply hoped time would pass with a toothless NCAA that couldn’t find anything.  It’s a decent plan but it didn’t work out so well for Ole Miss.  The Ole Miss football program is paying a major price today for decisions made under Bjork’s watch.  How much of it was Bjork’s decision I have no idea but he was certainly along for the ride and was front and center at times.

If you don’t know the details Hugh Freeze went public taunting people to come forward with specific examples of NCAA infringements.  That was a moronic decision unless you know you’re clean.  Nobody in collegiate sports is completely clean so keep your mouth shut.  To make it worse Freeze then went on to say the NCAA was investigating issues under Houston Nutt who was the previous head coach.  I’ve read Bjork did that as well.  Houston Nutt then sued Ole Miss for making those statements.

Because of the lawsuit, an open records request was made of Hugh Freeze’s university phone.  I believe it was done by Freeze’s attorney as they were trying to find evidence of Freeze talking to a specific sportswriter.  This writer had Tweeted the news the NCAA was only investigating allegations under Nutt’s tenure and not Freeze.  Nutt’s attorney made the request over a three-day period to hopefully not clue in Ole Miss to what he was looking for.  After receiving the phone records Nutt’s attorney worked with a moderator from a Mississippi State message board who discovered the call to the Tampa escort service.  This moderator had already started investigating the NCAA allegations and Nutt’s attorney had somehow found him to get information for their case.

Nutt’s attorney takes the apparent call to an escort service to Ole Miss.  Ole Miss claims it was simply a mis-dial.  This causes Ole Miss and Bjork to investigate Freeze’s cell phone calls.  They then uncover the “pattern of conduct that is not consistent with our expectations.”  At that point Freeze confesses to the conduct in question and resigns.

I’ll add links to all of this at the end if you want to see the details but here’s the jist of what happened – Ole Miss was not honest in their statements of what was going on with the NCAA investigation.  They were also not proactive in their investigation.  Because of that they wrongly placed the blame on the previous coach.  He then sued the University because they wouldn’t apologize for the unjust claim.  If they never blame Nutt or even just apologized after blaming him there’s no lawsuit that uncovers Freeze calling an escort service.  The discovery of that call lead to Freeze’s abrupt resignation.  Bjork was AD as all of this went down.

I’m certainly not saying this is a scandal at Bjork’s doing but it’s certainly not a good look for the man in control of the Ole Miss Athletic Department at the time.  Ole Miss GROSSLY mis-managed this and made it worse than what it could have been.  How much Bjork is to blame I have no idea.  It gives me some pause and I hope proper due diligence by A&M was done related to this specific matter.  It’s pretty bad when you analyze it on the surface.

Bjork might have simply been caught between a winning head coach and clueless administration leaving him powerless.  It’s a position many ADs often find themselves.  The point is he was there and the athletic department was under his leadership when all of this happened.  Ole Miss sat on their hands while denying and even lying about the allegations and paid a major price.  Look at the state of Ole Miss football today.  I never want that to happen to the Texas A&M football program.

It’s very possible Bjork learned a great deal from all of this.  Hopefully he has.  Hopefully he would handle it differently in the future.  I hope he was questioned extensively about what happened, his role, and how he would handle it differently.

Bjork Today:

Today, Ross Bjork is a 46-year-old serving in his third role as an Athletic Director.  He had previous stops at Western Kentucky (3 years) and Ole Miss (6 years).  He also served as Associate AD at Miami and UCLA prior to that.  He’s certainly not a seasoned AD like the ADs that came before him at A&M.  He does have some experience with most of it in the SEC so he’s familiar with the conference.

After watching his introduction and press conference there’s certainly some things to like about Bjork.  He appears enthusiastic and capable.  He seems very likable and personality wise I think he’ll fit in at A&M just fine.  He seems to understand the day to day mechanics of running an athletic department so that’s not a concern at all.  There’s no doubt he’ll be actively engaged which is a great thing.

My greatest reservation about Bjork outside of the mess at Ole Miss is if Bjork has the acumen a seasoned athletic director has.  Some things can only be developed with experience.  He’s definitely not at a point in his career where he’s experienced a number of situations or has an extensive network of deep connections.  In a role like his that experience and those connections can prove to be invaluable.

The reality is Bjork shouldn’t have to do much other than one single thing which I’ll get to in a bit.  He has one of the best coaches in college football signed to 9 more seasons.  He has a new football stadium that won’t need any major work anytime soon.  He has a brand-new basketball coach that appears to be the perfect fit all things considered.  Reed Arena might need some work from a fan experience standpoint, but he can worry about that when Aggie basketball starts winning again.  The two big revenue sports couldn’t be in a better situation.  He just needs to keep the trains on time for these two sports.

Blue Bell Park might need some enhancements with the success of ticket sales in recent years.  There certainly appears to be demand for Aggie baseball based on attendance.  There might be some things that can be done to Blue Bell Park to create some more revenue.  He has brand-new track and softball facilities.  Facility wise A&M is in great shape so it’s all about keeping them fresh and relevant.

Coaching wise he’ll likely have to make a move on a baseball or softball coach soon depending on if the A&M administration wants to win a national championship or not.  We have two good coaches but their body of work says they’ll never win it all.  Gary Blair basically has tenure so if he doesn’t completely bomb he’ll get to pick when he steps down.

There shouldn’t be any major decisions in the foreseeable future for Bjork so that should give him plenty of runway to gain experience and connections.  That’s good for Bjork and A&M.

Bjork’s Number One Responsibility:

Bjork’s number one job will be keeping Jimbo Fisher happy.  Everything else is secondary.  A&M has basically mortgaged the next decade of Aggie Athletics based on the success of Jimbo Fisher.  I’m totally fine with that.  College athletics is a cyclical thing based on coaching hires.  A&M is positioned in an upswing so Bjork needs to make sure A&M capitalizes on that.

I know Jimbo signed off on the hire but they’ve never actually worked together.  Bjork apparently had a strong recommendation from Jimbo’s agent but that doesn’t mean everything will be fine.  This is a situation where someone has a strong endorsement from a mutual colleague but you never know until you’ve actually worked with someone.  This is a MAJOR difference between Woodward and Bjork.  Jimbo and Woodward had worked together so they knew what to expect from each other.  Bjork and Jimbo still have to feel each other out on a day to day basis.

In conjunction with this, Bjork needs to make sure there’s no interference from A&M administrators when it comes to Jimbo Fisher coaching football.  I have no clue if the rumors about John Sharp are true when it comes to needlessly meddling in the athletic department.  There’s no doubt that John Sharp carries a big stick when it comes to the A&M administration though.  If there’s any truth to Sharp rubbing people the wrong way then Bjork needs to make sure he absorbs every arrow that Sharp could ever fire at Jimbo.

I thought it was interesting Bjork and Sharp had only talked on the phone and didn’t meet in person.  I don’t think it’s that big of a deal as talking in person wouldn’t likely change anything but it’s clear Bjork and Sharp don’t really know each other at all.  I’m sure Bjork was taking the job no matter what as this is a major step for him.  It seems Sharp was okay with Bjork if President Young and everyone else was okay with it.  Let’s hope Sharp continues to leave it to everyone else to manage the athletic department leaving Jimbo to do his thing.

I don’t believe Jimbo has any reason to leave A&M.  However, that doesn’t mean Scott Woodward or another AD won’t be waiting for an opportunity to grab Jimbo based on timing and circumstances.  Bjork better make sure that opportunity never comes.  If Sharp does indeed have an ego it better never clash with Jimbo’s.  An early departure by Jimbo would be a colossal failure for A&M.  Bjork must make sure his number one priority is avoiding this.  This is why his lack of seasoned experience bothers me the most.  I’m not sure he has the acumen to navigate a pending riff between Sharp and Jimbo if one develops.

I hope it never comes to that but stranger things have happened.  There are examples where egos in athletics sank an organization.  The most famous is probably Jimmy Johnson quitting on Jerry Jones.  Similarly, Bill Parcells appeared to give up on Jerry’s meddling.  For you Astros fans Gerry Hunsicker quitting on Drayton McLane put the Astros in a decade long funk that took getting new ownership to turn around.

When you have a competent person running a part of your organization they need to be left the hell alone.  That’s Jimbo Fisher with Aggie football.  Provided Bjork does everything he can to keep distractions away from Jimbo his tenure his going to be just fine.  A happy and content Jimbo at Texas A&M is all that really matters.

 

This is not a terrible hire but it is an unknown hire.  There are some questions based on Bjork’s tenure at Ole Miss.  It doesn’t mean he’s not capable.  Only time will tell what kind of hire this is.  Anyone that says otherwise is lying.  There’s certainly some potential for immense success with Bjork but there’s also a possibility it could be a failure if he’s not proactive in some regards.

I never want to see Bjork in a similar situation like at Ole Miss talking about a premature Jimbo departure for any reason.  I want Jimbo’s departure to be a recognition of success with lots of championship hardware on display in addition to a MAFGA hat.

 

Here’s some examples of what I never want to see with Bjork at Texas A&M.

The first one is the Ole Miss administration reacting to the NCAA allegations.  It looks like a hostage situation with expressionless faces simply reading words.  I can’t believe anyone thought this was a good idea.  They should have just done a press release and been done with it.  It’s 20 minutes of inane chatter with nobody looking good.  It almost looks like an extended SNL skit.

This is Bjork explaining why Freeze was forced to resign.  It’s not terrible but it’s not a good look for an AD either considering how the resignation came about.

 

This is a long but GREAT read on how things went down including things that Bjork said that wound up not being true.  The whole article encompasses how crazy college athletics can be.

https://deadspin.com/the-mississippi-state-fan-who-took-his-revenge-on-ole-m-1819064586

#MAFGA

 

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/

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 as we get ready 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.

Game of Thrones – Episode 4 – Random Thoughts

GoT Episode 4 Picture

EPISODE 4 SPOILERS!

With two episodes left I have some random thoughts on how Game of Thrones could play out.  I say “could” because I have no clue which is what makes the show so great.  Just when you think something is going to happen then something else happens.

The first three episodes played out exactly how one would think.  We all had a pretty good idea the North would square off against the Night King.  We just didn’t know who would kill him.  We spent three episodes to find out Arya was the one to do the deed.  Episode 4 finally brought some plot twists.

What happens from here I have no clue but there’s LOTS of ways this thing could go in just two episodes.  There are so many plot potentials I really think this could play out over 6 more episodes.  I hope I’m not disappointed but the final two episodes are set up to be some intense and fast paced stuff.

Here’s my random thoughts so far:

Jon, Danny, Sansa, and Arya Dynamic:

This is such a fascinating dynamic for so many reasons.

  • Danny loves Jon.
  • Jon loves Danny but is now confused because she’s technically his aunt.
  • Sansa and Arya don’t trust Danny one bit. Their bitch radar is running full speed.
  • Jon loves his sisters even if they’re not really brother and sister anymore.
  • Jon’s sisters love him.
  • Danny doesn’t like his sisters because she knows they don’t trust her.
  • Danny is power hungry and is afraid Jon will take her power.
  • Sansa just wants the North to the Starks and to be left alone.
  • Arya is the silent assassin not interested in the politics but could totally kill Danny.

There’s more but this whole dynamic is fascinating to watch.  It proves no matter the time or level of power, family dynamics have not changed in thousands of years.  Jon is caught between a woman he thinks he loves and his sisters he truly loves.  Both sets of females don’t trust the other females and now they’re playing Jon against each other.

Danny wants the secret private because she wants her man and her power.  Jon thought his sisters would keep that news secret since they “swore” to do so.  He’s a moron.  Women can’t keep juicy secrets.  Especially when it’s against someone they don’t like.  That’s the just the way it is.  He messed up believing they could keep that news a secret.  The SECOND his sisters heard the news Sansa couldn’t figure out fast enough who to tell to her advantage.  Arya will keep it a secret for now but she’s going to use it later to justify something I have a feeling.

How all of this plays out I have no clue as there’s so many directions it could go.  I think it’s obvious there’s ZERO chance the storyline of Danny getting the Iron Throne while marrying Jon and having happy Starks in the North happens.  Even if Danny somehow defeats Cersei I don’t think her reign as Queen lasts very long.  The family dynamics involving the females aren’t going to let Danny have her dream.  Women are crazy, men are stupid.  It’s been that way for thousands of years and it’s not changing anytime soon.

Strategy of Cersei and Danny:

Until Episode 4 we forgot how cunning Cersei is.  She’s a bad B, y’all.  She hasn’t been sitting around waiting to see who won between the North and the Night King.  We knew she was working some stuff with Euron Greyjoy and the Golden Company but she was doing more than that.  Having Euron’s fleet ready with scorpion arrows to take out the dragons was amazing.

The difference in tactical thinking between Danny and Cersei is so different.  Danny has completely relied on power and might.  She has no real strategy other than to have a large number of fighters along with fire from her dragons.  Danny’s whole march for the series has been about acquiring numbers and assuming the dragons are invincible.  Both of those are now in major question.

Danny has thought through some basic strategy but it’s all been predicated on troop numbers and fire from her dragons.  She’s not cunning at all.  Meanwhile, Cersei has been assembling additional troops but she was clearly looking for strategic advantages.  She accomplished that with scorpion arrows and a surprise attack at Dragon Stone.  She might have more in store based on what we’ve seen in the past.  This is the same lady that burned an entire fleet and blew up an entire building of people.  She’s proven to be one step ahead of her opponent.

Right now, Danny is down in numbers of troops and only one dragon.  Cersei has numbers and a weapon system that can minimize the power of the final dragon if not completely defeat the final dragon.  To potentially gain an even bigger advantage Cersei beheads Missandei.  Cersei knows this will likely throw Danny into an emotional rage.  She’s hoping she can bait her into attacking on rage alone and no strategy.  Cersei is ready for Danny no doubt.  She’s got a big trap set for Danny if Danny doesn’t step back and think strategically.

One final thing on Danny is her response to her second dragon being killed.  She basically stays in the same flight pattern and flies directly at the ships.  She’s all but asking to be shot at losing her final dragon.  A competent strategist gets the hell out of that flight pattern either retreating or looking for a different pattern to attack from.  She eventually retreated but she completely put herself and her final dragon at risk of being lost.  All because of emotion.

Danny is very emotional while Cersei is cold as ice.  I think something happens to Cersei in the end but she DEFINITELY has the upper hand on Danny right now.  Danny won’t be able to defeat Cersei without help.  Cersei is infinitely superior at strategy.

Jaime:

The dynamic of Jaime is also fascinating.  Why he left Winterfell in this episode is up for debate but I think he’s leaving to go kill Cersei.  Jaime has seen the good side of life.  I don’t think he went to Winterfell just to fulfill Cersei’s obligation to help defeat the Night King.  I think he partially left King’s Landing for Winterfell to get away from Cersei.  Upon getting to Winterfell and seeing the Starks (especially Bran) and Breinne he was reminded of a different way of life.

He appeared to be completely content in Winterfell to live out his days with Breinne.  Upon hearing the news of what Cersei did he knew he had no choice but to head South.  I believe his comments to Breinne was about who he was and not who he wants to be going forward.  I think he regrets the things he did for Cersei (Bran especially) and he’s going to rectify all of it by helping kill Cersei if not do it himself.  As long as Cersei is alive then the bad parts of Jaime are still alive.  I think Jaime wants to live out his life as a different Jaime.

I could be wrong but that’s how I see Jaime developing the last two episodes.  I don’t know if he kills Cersei but he’s willing to die trying because Jaime can’t become who he wants to be while Cersei is alive.

Bronn:

I’ve been waiting for this moment and it was a solid scene.  Even though he’s a mercenary Bronn has an allegiance to both Tyrion and Jaime.  He doesn’t want to kill either of them.  It wasn’t about getting a bigger castle or believing Danny will win the pending battle.  He may believe Danny wins but he doesn’t want to kill Tyrion or Jaime.  He wanted those two to give him a reason to not kill them and they did exactly that.  Bronn knows he’s not a Lord.  He just wants to be a sidekick to those with power that he trusts.

Bronn doesn’t trust Cersei at all.  He better not trust her for sure at this point.  The second Cersei saw Tyrion then Bronn became a dead man walking.  Cersei ordered Bronn to kill him and he didn’t.  There’s no doubt in the back of Cersei’s mind in that moment she made a mental note to kill Bronn.

Something tells me the dynamic of Jaime, Tyrion, and Bronn with the crossbow are what takes down Cersei.  If not, they’ll all be happier dead than living under Cersei’s rule.  They’re all dead to her.

Bran:

What the hell is this guy’s role now?  He does nothing but stare into space.  It was clear the Night King was coming for him but other than that he’s done nothing this season.  He’s offered NOTHING with his unique abilities.  This dude can see all of the present and the past and it’s not utilized at all for anything.

Maybe he turns out doing something dramatic but he’s a big of nothing right now.  Shouldn’t he have been watching Euron Greyjoy and King’s Landing this entire time to see what they were doing?  His powers have not been utilized at all.  It’s a little disappointing.

Varys/Tyrion:

Tryrion has proven to not be the strategist he appears to be.  He’s like the coach that keeps getting hired because he talks the part but doesn’t actually win games.  I don’t think Tyrion has had any major contributions to winning battle strategies.

Meanwhile, Varys is as astute as it gets when it comes to awareness and strategy.  It’s pretty clear he’s dead to both Danny and Cersei at this point but he thinks they’re dead to everyone when it’s all said and done.  I think Varys dies at the hand of Danny but not before he sets up something that takes down Danny for the greater good.

Basically, Varys is Mike Leach and Tyrion is Kliff Kingsbury.  Bet on the one with the actual winning track record.

Ghost:

Ghost has played a weird role this season.  He shows up at times but has had no role.  Maybe Jon sending him north with Tormund is nothing, but I think it could be a plot twist.  Remember Ghost was the only thing in the room when Jon Snow came back to life.  There’s a theory that Jon can warg into Ghost which is what he did when he was being stabbed.  Maybe Jon sent Ghost out of harm’s way so he has a place to warg if something happens in King’s Landing.  I’m not sure how warging works and if there’s a distance limitation but I think it’s something to see if it develops.

Maybe Jon just wanted Ghost and Tormund away from harm’s way.  This way, if he survives the pending battle at King’s Landing he can go back to the North.  Jon doesn’t want to be king.  Maybe when the fighting is over he plans to find his drinking buddy and have a good wolf to pet leaving all that political ruling to the others.

Ghost may turn out to be nothing.  His appearances and actions so far lead me to believe some kind of plot line will happen with him.

Golden Company:

This group is the biggest wild card into how all of this shapes out.  Based on numbers they’re the swing play for Cersei.  Is it possible for Danny and/or Jon to swing the Golden Company to their side?  Will they walk away if Cersei is killed?  Will they look for the payment promised?

There is a theory the majority of the Golden Company is descendants of Targaryens.  If this is true it makes sense that Danny and/or Jon could sway their allegiance if it looks like a Targaryen will rule the Iron Throne.

I think whoever has the Golden Company on their side will wind up with the Iron Throne.  It will be interesting to see how their efforts play out.

 

My Prediction:

Based on what we know so far here’s what I think happens:

  • The Hound kills The Mountain. I’d be SHOCKED if this doesn’t happen.
  • The trio of Tyrion, Jaime, and Bronn kill Cersei with the crossbow.
  • With Cersei dead Danny convinces the Golden Company to align with her since she’s a Targaryen ending the battle.
  • Danny’s reign is short as Arya kills her believing she’s on her way to going mad if not already there. She likely does it as someone else I think.  Either Jaime or Jon.
  • Everyone wants Jon to assume the throne. He’s had enough of all the bickering between the women so he heads North to find Tormund and Ghost so he can live the rest of his life in peace.
  • Sansa assumes the Iron Throne.
  • Bran is sitting at the tree wondering where everyone went.

In all seriousness I don’t think Jon heads North when the fighting is over.  I think he assumes the Iron Throne with Sansa being the Warden of the North.  I do think Bran will still be sitting at the tree doing nothing useful…

What Does Woodward’s Leaving Mean for Texas A&M?

Woodward Aggie

Now that the dust has settled on Scott Woodward’s departure let’s look back at what happened and what it means for Texas A&M.  I’m not an insider and have no inside information to what took place.  I’ve only read the public reports with speculation on what happened.  Seems no one other than those involved know the real story but there’s plenty of speculation on what happened.

What we know:

  • A Tweet emerged from LSU media that LSU’s AD would be stepping down and Woodward would be the target. This was the first public report.
  • It caught everyone in the media including Aggie media “insiders” by complete surprise. There was a lot of shock and surprise on what was happening.  This seemed to be the first anyone close to the Aggie program had heard about Woodward leaving.
  • As people started chasing sources it became apparent that Scott Woodward was likely leaving A&M for the LSU AD job. This happened within a few hours of the first Tweet by LSU media about LSU’s AD stepping down.
  • The next day everyone agreed that after hiring Buzz Williams to coach Men’s Basketball Scott Woodward was in fact leaving for LSU’s AD job. It was a done deal and more covert than his hires.  Woodward being more covert in his departure shouldn’t be a surprise.  The dude is an assassin when it comes to job hires.  He keeps quiet and you’re only sure it happened when it’s already done.

What has been speculated:

These aren’t chronological but just a summary of the speculation as to why and how Woodward left.

  • Someone above Woodward in the A&M chain of command rubbed him the wrong way. This caused Woodward to put out feelers about becoming the LSU AD.  The belief is that when information about LSU’s current AD stepping down came out Woodward to LSU was already a done deal.
  • Once Woodward had agreed to take the LSU AD job he didn’t/wouldn’t consider any counter offers from A&M.
  • A&M didn’t make any efforts to keep Woodward upon learning of his potential departure to LSU.
  • Woodward simply wanted to “go home.”

What this means for Aggie Athletics:

  • Texas A&M was set to have a SOLID decade run of athletic success with football and men’s basketball. It wouldn’t be easy, but a proven AD, proven football coach, and proven men’s basketball coach were in place.  Their past success says A&M was set up really well.  Now one of those key pieces is gone.
  • A&M’s biggest competitor in terms of conference and geography just got infinitely stronger at the AD position. LSU under Joe Alleva as AD for football and men’s basketball was a complete mess in recent years.  He botched the firing of Les Miles and getting Jimbo Fisher.  He then thought he had Tom Herman locked up only to see him go to Texas.  He had to settle for Coach O.  In basketball Alleva’s hires of Trent Johnson and Johnny Jones didn’t work out.  The Will Wade situation is a mess right now.   Maybe it’s issues with LSU but Alleva’s handling of the football and men’s basketball program is a complete 180 from how Woodward handled those positions at A&M.  LSU now has an AD that’s shown he can execute in hiring coaches for those positions.  Life for A&M athletics would be easier if LSU continued to botch the handling of the head coaches for those two positions.  There’s no doubt LSU is MUCH better off in the hands of Woodward than Alleva.

My Thoughts on Everything:

Why Did Woodward Leave?:

While there are certainly some elements of Woodward “going home” I believe there was a big factor of someone at A&M upset Woodward.  Who that person is I don’t know but speculation is John Sharp.  I’ll get to more on Sharp later.

I believe this because of the timing and how people that are normally connected were taken by surprise.  For a few hours people that were normally connected were freaking out trying to figure out what was going on.  Those connected people didn’t see this coming at all.  The whole timing and lack of awareness speaks to Woodward wanting out before a natural departure and finding his way.

I have no issues at all with what he did.  If someone above you in the chain of command dis-respects you the only real recourse is to leave.  To gain even more respect you go to a competitor with the opportunity to go head to head with the person that dis-respected you.  I don’t think Woodward is vindictive but he took the absolute best position to prove his worth.

I respect the hell out of how Woodward handled the situation and where he went.  There’s nothing worse than working for someone that doesn’t value your true worth.  Woodward quietly put out feelers to take the job at a place he wanted to go.  When feelings were reciprocated he was able to work out the details to make it happen.  It’s fascinating in this day and age Woodward kept this all under wraps.  It’s remarkable and speaks to how the guy operates.

Even on his way out of Aggieland Scott Woodward showed he is a true professional while looking out for himself.  I can’t blame him for one thing he did.  I wish he hadn’t left but he proved how adept he is at change one final time in Aggieland.

Interim AD:

While I think R.C. Slocum is an outstanding representative for Texas A&M I cringed when I heard he was named Interim AD.  This is not a knock on R.C. at all.  We live in a different era of college athletics.  Gone are the days of plugging in good ol boys to run the athletic department.  You need an experienced administrator who has proven success in the financial, regulations, personnel, facilities, and marketing components of a major athletic program.  A popular figurehead doesn’t cut it anymore.  Just look at Lynn Swann at USC.

Mal Moore at Alabama was probably the last coach to have a successful tenure as an athletic director.  And Moore wouldn’t have been perceived as successful if he hadn’t hired Nick Saban.  That hire erased his hires of Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula before him.  Without the hire of Saban Moore’s tenure as AD is in question.   That single hire changed the long-term perception of Mal Moore.  It’s also an interesting read on how Moore made it if you have the time.  It’s a fascinating read.  Just Google, “Mal Moore, Nick Saban Hire”.

Things have changed in college athletics and I don’t think coaches are equipped to handle the decisions an AD has to make in this day and age.  It’s a constant battle of generating revenue and smartly spending so your athletic programs are as competitive as other programs in the country.  What do you spend on staff, marketing, outside entities, and facilities?  It’s not just gland handling and raising money.

If R.C. was named the Interim AD for a few weeks that would make me feel better.  However, I don’t see the reason for that.  If you just needed a short-term placeholder I think Stephanie Rempe or Justin Moore would have been completely adequate as they seem to have been pretty involved with Woodward.

I get the feeling R.C. isn’t a true Interim AD.  I think he’s a short-term AD that’s set for a 6 to 18-month tenure.  The powers that be at A&M feel everything in the Athletic Department are fine with Jimbo and Buzz being on board.  They feel R.C. is just fine as the figure head of the Athletic Department for now.  R.C. will be the face of the athletic department while those at the highest level make decisions they should leave to a true professional AD.

Maybe things will be fine.  It’s certainly not the approach I’d take if I had influence on how the athletic department should be handled with Woodward’s departure.  I would be looking for the most professional AD I could find and put them in place right away.

Once again, none of the above is a knock on R.C. Slocum at all.  I had my issues with him as a head coach as in the end he didn’t win enough games.  I don’t blame him one bit for being the Interim AD.  He did what was asked of him.  He’ll be a fine figurehead but I think A&M needs more right now.

Future AD:

I have no clue what to think on the next AD in Aggieland.  I’d like to think we go hire another person like Woodward right away but I don’t see that happening.  This feels like when Mike Perrin was named Interim AD in Austin to bridge the gap from Steve Patterson who was a disaster.  Perrin wound up having the interim tag removed from his title four months on the job and would serve two more years before the Longhorns hired Chris Del Conte from TCU.

I’m not comparing A&M to the Longhorns so settle down.  I’m just saying this feels like a similar situation where the Interim AD could have a longer tenure than originally expected.  I’m not sure R.C. ever loses the interim title but it could be until the summer of 2020 until we see a new AD.  Why we wait so long I have no idea but that’s the general feel I get.

If I were going after a new AD my first call would be to Oliver Luck.  He’s currently serving as CEO and Commissioner of the XFL but I think we all know how that’s going to turn out.  He has AD experience having served as West Virginia’s AD for 4 years.  He spent 4 years with the NCAA as Executive Vice President for Regulatory Affairs.  He’s also spent time as GM for the Houston Dynamo, President of NFL Europe, and served as GM for some NFL Europe teams in the 90s.

He’s spent considerable time in Texas having played for the Oilers for 4 seasons.  After football he earned his law degree from Texas.  His son Andrew graduated from Stratford High in Houston before going to Stanford.  Needless to say he’s familiar with this part of Texas.  He’s the guy I thought the Longhorns should have hired when they hired Del Conte.  Not sure if Texas even tried to hire him but he’d be my first call.

Maybe R.C. was named the Interim AD to buy time and see if the XFL would fail.  I don’t think that’s the case but the XFL starts in Q1 of 2020.  The original XFL and more recent AAF couldn’t make it past the first season so odds are it won’t succeed.  Maybe R.C. was a chess move waiting to see if we can land Luck a year from now.

I personally wouldn’t wait on Oliver Luck and would look at current ADs at P5 schools and would start in the SEC.  I don’t think Greg Byrne would leave Alabama for A&M but if he would I’d make that move in a heartbeat.  I’d certainly ask.  I’d also investigate Hunter Yurachek at Arkansas.  He’s got time in Texas as the AD at UH.  Not sure there’s anyone else in the SEC I think would be possible to grab.  I’d still look down the list of current SEC ADs and see if there’s any worthy of asking.

Outside of the SEC I’d look at Kirby Hocutt.  I know we tend to despise things at Tech but Hocutt seems to have done okay in Lubbock.  Football has struggled but I don’t think he had a choice in hiring Kingsbury and holding onto him as long as he did.

There’s speculation of Dan Radakovich who is the current AD at Clemson but I’m not sure he’d leave what he has at Clemson right now for A&M.  He’s from Indiana and the closest he’s been to Texas professionally is 5 years as senior associate AD at LSU.  If he was interested in moving from Clemson to A&M I’d certainly do the due diligence but I don’t see it happening.

I’m certain with effort and diligence A&M can hire a quality AD sooner than later.  That certainly would be my approach.  We have serious momentum with what Woodward left us and we need to act like a major athletic program.

As for the talk of having Jimbo involved in the AD hire I’d certainly seek his input and allow him to sign off.  I wouldn’t waste Jimbo’s time on being fully involved though.  He’s got a football program to run.  I can’t see Jimbo wanting to meddle in the search.  Just hire the best AD you can that’ll support Jimbo and leave him the hell alone to win football games.

There is speculation Rick Perry will step down as Secretary of Energy to become the Aggie AD.  I can’t imagine that.  Rick Perry is a likable person but putting him as the Aggie AD would be the most good ol’ boy move ever.  He has no business running the Aggie athletic department.  It would be a disaster.  If this is being considered I’d much rather see R.C. named the Aggie AD.

Is This John Sharp’s Fault?:

As reports of Woodward leaving surfaced, Aggie insiders started investigating and a similar story seemed to emerge.  Woodward had enough of someone above him.  Some of those insiders implied it was John Sharp without saying his name while others directly stated Sharp’s name.  The smoke sure made it seem like Woodward was tired of working under Sharp.

I have no clue if this is true but this speculation came from people who seemed to be correct about lots of things in the past.  I don’t know if Sharp did something specific or if it was a collection of things.  I do think there’s a lot of truth to Woodward’s leaving coming down to an issue with John Sharp.  Based on timing and most folks being blindsided by the news I believe Woodward was tired of someone above him.  It sure seems like John Sharp.

LSU is Woodward’s home but he was in a good position as Aggie AD.  He’d just made two amazing hires in the biggest revenue sports.  Maybe he just wanted to go home but wouldn’t he want to see the fruits of his labor at A&M for a little while?  Something seems off in the timing of all of this.  I don’t think Woodward just decided to head to Baton Rouge having no issues with anyone above him.  There just feels like there’s some kind of fire to the smoke from Aggie insiders.

With the smoke around Woodward’s departure there’s now three big data points related to leadership at A&M since Sharp took over as Chancellor:

  • Bowen Loftin who astutely took us to the SEC stepped down as President so he could teach in the College of Engineering. He then took the job as Chancellor of the University of Missouri.  That tells me he wasn’t ready to stop leading a university.  There was speculation he was tired of working with Sharp.
  • Eric Hyman had an interview with Mac Engel where he referenced leadership at Texas A&M meddling with the AD and not letting them do their job. I’ll post the relevant quotes at the end of this so you can read them.  I’m no fan of Eric Hyman as Aggie AD but his comments align with the smoke around Woodward’s leaving.  Hyman also specifically referenced things changing in his role when Loftin stepped down.
  • At least two Aggie message boards that have been on point with major moves in the past pointed to Woodward having an issue with someone above him as major factor in leaving. Those issues were pointed towards John Sharp.

Maybe John Sharp is a fine Chancellor for Texas A&M. However, there’s some data that indicates he needs to stay in his lane as Chancellor and let those he hired do their jobs.  Especially those that have proven to be extremely competent.  Texas A&M is greater than any one person.  If any one person believes they are greater than Texas A&M they need to be shown the door.

If Sharp is the reason Woodward left then someone needs to have a serious conversation with him.  We don’t need anyone else of Woodward’s competence level leaving.  John Sharp is not bigger than Texas A&M.

Will Jimbo Leave?:

As of right now I don’t think there’s any concern with Jimbo leaving.  However, I’m not foolish enough to think that Jimbo can’t do to us what he did to Florida State.

10 years for $75 million was certainly a factor in Jimbo’s leaving FSU for A&M but that wasn’t the only reason.  It was also about Jimbo not seeing eye to eye with the leadership at FSU when it came to program support.  Jimbo felt he wasn’t getting the support he needed to win national championships.

Jimbo isn’t coaching for money at this point.  He’s coaching for national championships.  Kevin Sumlin he’s not.  Jimbo knows he’s going to get paid wherever he coaches so it’s all about the opportunity and support to win national championships.  He wants to be compensated on the level of the highest paid but it’s not just about the annual salary.

As long as the leadership at Texas A&M leaves Jimbo the hell alone and gives him all the support he requests as head coach there’s no reason for Jimbo to leave.  If someone above Jimbo pisses him off I can see Jimbo doing the same thing Scott Woodward did.  Texas A&M leadership needs to study the Alabama playbook for dealing with Nick Saban.  They also need to study all the mistakes Jerry Jones has made in handling his head coaches.  Support Jimbo and leave him the hell alone.

As for LSU I’m not dumb enough to think Jimbo could never go there if someone pisses Jimbo off.  The state of Louisiana might not be the most financially stable state but you’re a fool if you think they won’t find the money to lure Jimbo and especially under Woodward’s stewardship if the opportunity and timing are there.  They’ll search every couch crevice and pass every gumbo pot in the state to find the money to get Jimbo this time.  LSU also has one of the most talented teams in the country so Jimbo could step right in and compete with anyone in the country from day one.

There’s no concern in Jimbo leaving right now but if A&M leadership doesn’t learn from other events it could happen.  Thinking it won’t ever happen is foolish.  We’ll just have to see if those in power have learned anything from the past at A&M and other places.

So Now What?:

What’s done is done.  Texas A&M’s best AD is gone and A&M is in EXCELLENT shape as an athletic department.  There’s no immediate concern.

If the powers that be feel the athletic department will run itself then we’re in trouble.  If the powers that be believe it’s okay to meddle in the day to day operation of the athletic department then we’re in trouble.  There’s a difference between checking in and getting updates compared to meddling.

What Texas A&M needs to do is hire the most experienced and competent AD they can find.  They need to do it sooner than later.  I’m fine taking time to make the right hire but that shouldn’t take more than a few months.  I don’t see any reason why the new AD can’t be in place by summer.  That would be my goal.

Texas A&M is set up to have an unprecedented run in football and men’s basketball.  The leadership just needs to make sure what’s in place doesn’t get off track.  They need to hire the best AD they can get and then just leave them the hell alone.

No one person is bigger than Texas A&M.  We can all celebrate together as the good times happen in football and men’s basketball.  Egos and stupidity don’t need to ruin this.

Gig ‘Em.

 

 

Here’s the excerpt of Hyman’s interview with Mac Engel that I referenced earlier in this piece.  Like I said I’m no fan of Eric Hyman as A&M AD but his comments seem to have a little more merit based on the smoke around why Woodward left:

Here’s the link if you want to read the whole thing:

https://www.star-telegram.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/mac-engel/article174596706.html

You have a legacy at TCU and South Carolina; do you feel like you have one at Texas A&M?

I wasn’t there long enough. We tried to implement some programs but at A&M they managed the activities, they didn’t manage the results of what we were trying to do.

What does that mean?

They were in the day-to-day activities of athletics. If you want to hire an athletic director you have to let them do their job.

Who is they?

The leadership of the university.

Do you regret taking the job?

There are some things that I felt because of my ethical standards I was not a good fit. I felt if I had to do it again, I would probably do a lot better job of researching it.

The myth surrounding the expansion at Kyle Field is that it was done on the back of success of Johnny Manziel. Is that true?

It was already done. When I got there, before Manziel won the Heisman Trophy, a lot of work had already been done. The road map was in place. Did Johnny make it easier? Sure. No question. Because of the success and notoriety. When I got there, I think, most people were apprehensive about the SEC. Most people felt they were not sure how well they were going to do. Johnny flipped the thought process and gave them a boost of confidence.

Can A&M in the SEC be successful and sustain it?

It’s a tough league but if look at historically, what A&M has to do is not shoot itself in the foot. Yeah, I think the potential is there. My reservations about taking the job was the 12th Man Foundation and how involved they were in what you were doing. I thought they were fantastic.

What were those reservations?

I had heard they ran athletic department, which was just a rumor. When I got into it, that was my biggest surprise. The quality of people was terrific.

Did you enjoy your time at A&M?

Parts I enjoyed and parts that I did not. There were situations they did not let the athletic director do their job. People there wanted to run the athletic department and not let the athletic director do it. It was so political. Because of that it’s made it difficult to achieve of what you wanted to do.

I laid out, in the interview process, what I wanted to do to do what a successful athletic department does. I didn’t deviate from that. That’s what I tried to do. When I got into the situation, that was not true.

They told you what you wanted to hear?

Well, Dr. (Bowen) Loftin was the president, and then he was asked to leave. At that point in time, it was Katy bar the door.

Are you hopeful or concerned about the future of A&M athletics in the SEC?

If they allow the people to do the job, they can be very successful. They’ve got people there that want to be the athletic director. They micro manage.

Do you think that is a common problem at other large, Power 5 state schools?

You have the presidents more wired than they used to be, because of the visibility and because of the money that is involved. Some schools, probably so. It just varies. But the ones I’ve talked to, none are like Texas A&M.

Thoughts from the Gator Bowl

trayveon gator bowl

I don’t care the record, location, or opponent of a bowl game.  When you dominate your opponent in a bowl game it feels good.  Especially after experiencing recent losses against Louisville, Kansas State, and Wake Forest.  I know Louisville had Lamar Jackson but that was still a very winnable game that we lost.  I don’t like losing.

After three seasons of frustrating bowl showings it’s good to see Jimbo bury an opponent in a bowl game.  This really reminded me of the 2012 Cotton Bowl where we played OU close for a half and then buried them in the second half.  The Gator Bowl had a slight question mark for the Aggies in the second quarter but the Aggies responded right before half and then buried NC State early in the second half.  The second half turned into a party for those Aggies in attendance at the Gator Bowl as Tyrel Dodson picked off a pass on NC State’s opening drive for a touchdown.  The Aggies then forced a punt and responded with a touchdown followed by forcing another punt and responding with a touchdown for a 42-13 lead right after the fourth quarter started.  When Trayveon Williams finished off his 93-yard touchdown for a 42-13 lead, the party was in full effect.  It wasn’t like it used to be.

Let’s get to what happened.

Offense:

The Key Decision:

The thing that’s impressed me most about Jimbo Fisher so far this season is his in-game recognition and adjustments.  He’s not perfect but Jimbo is really aware of what’s going on in the game.  I’ve never seen a more obvious moment with an adjustment like in the Gator Bowl.

We all know about Kellen’s long run for a touchdown on the first drive.  On the second drive it was an inconsistent drive with Kellen going 3 for 7 on completions.  Trayveon had one nice run with 2 runs for no gain.  The drive gained 3 first downs but ultimately stalled after a false start on 1st down.  They couldn’t gain 15 yards on three downs and the Aggies would punt.

On the third drive Corbin had a nice 4-yard run but on the next play Mond’s pass is tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted.  Back to back bad drives.

The fourth drive was by far the worst drive of the night.  I think because of what happened on this drive Jimbo changed things up.  The drive started with two incompletions where I don’t think the receivers were that open but Kellen threw the ball anyway.  On 3rd and 10 Kellen drops a beautiful ball between coverage to Quartney Davis for a 30-yard gain.  The Aggies are set up 1st and 10 at the NC State 35 and down 13 to 7.  Looks like they’re about claw back into this thing after giving up 12 unanswered points and struggling on offense.

Kellen hands the ball off to Trayveon who is stuffed by the NC State right defensive end who blew up the Aggie left tackle.  That results in a loss of 4 yards.  On 2nd and 14, Mond hits Ausbon on a nice slant route for 13 yards.  On 3rd and 1, Mond keeps the ball and tries to go left side but gets nowhere.  It’s 4th and 1 at the NC State 26-yard line.  Jimbo decides to go for it rather than kick a 43-yard field goal.  Mond hands the ball off to Trayveon who tries the left side and is stuffed for a one-yard loss.  Once again, the NC State right defensive end destroyed our left tackle.

Up until that moment the Aggie offense had a couple solid plays in Kellen’s long touchdown run and the 30-yard pass to Quartney.  The offensive line had looked decent pass blocking but the receivers weren’t really getting open.  Run wise the Aggies hadn’t done much and it appeared the NC State defense was owning the line of scrimmage against the Aggie offense.  Especially the NC State right defensive end against the Aggie left tackle.  Things weren’t looking good for the Aggies despite only being down by 6 points.

I was at the game so I didn’t see this but apparently the television showed Jimbo talking to the offensive line in the second quarter.  It seemed like he was challenging his offensive line and asking them if they could get push.  I’ve seen this before with Jimbo at Florida State where he would basically tell his offensive line they were getting pushed around and asked them if it was going to continue.  Basically, Jimbo was telling his offensive line they were getting their ass whipped and if they wanted to respond.

That’s great recognition by Jimbo to know his offensive line wasn’t dominating the line of scrimmage.  A lot of coaches would just look at their spreadsheet trying to figure out plays that might have a “schematic advantage.”  Apparently Jimbo understands if you’re not winning the line of scrimmage it doesn’t matter what plays you’re calling.  Every play works better when the offensive line isn’t getting pushed back.  Rather than try new plays, Jimbo went to the heart of the matter addressing the offensive line directly.  That’s solid coaching.

Even more solid was a recognition and adjustment based on what had happened.  On their fifth offensive possession the Aggies were set up nicely thanks to a decent punt return by Rashaud Paul.  On the first play Mond hit a wide open Sternberger for 28 yards.  Mond misses Rogers on the next play but the following play changed everything about the game.  Mond handed off to Trayveon who ran to the right side and ripped off a 30-yard run to the 2 yard line.  This run was even on the right hash so it was the short side of the field.  The right side of the Aggie offensive line sealed the edge for Trayveon to get loose.  Trayveon would punch it in on the next play to take the lead back.

From that moment everything changed for the Aggies.  On their next possession they’d mix passes and runs covering 72 yards in 11 plays consuming 5:15 of the clock.  They’d score on a typical Kendrick Rogers leaping touchdown grab to go up 21-13 with 32 seconds left in the half.  Momentum was clearly on the Aggie side.

Coming out of the second half Jimbo was determined to crush the will of the Wolfpack thanks to a 28-13 lead coming from Dodson’s interception return for a touchdown.  On the first offensive series of the second half Trayveon got the handoff five straight times where he ripped off runs of 38, 5, 4, 18, and 17 yards.  5 handoffs and 82 yards to Trayveon.  The first 4 runs went to the right side.  The final run for the touchdown went to the left side but the play design was perfect.  The Aggie left guard pulled left to kick out the right defensive end that had wreaked havoc on our left tackle.  The play used the aggressiveness of that right defensive end to get up field where the left guard easily pulled and sealed him so he was neutralized on that play.  The rest of the line was blocking downfield and Trayveon strolled into the end zone for an easy score.

On the next offensive series we all know what happened on the first play.  Mond handed off to Trayveon to the right side.  Trayveon had a huge hole to run through and it was off to the races for a 93-yard touchdown.  In addition to the offensive line springing Trayveon, Jhamon Ausbon did a tremendous job blocking his defensive back.  Ausbon flat out owned his defensive back making sure he wasn’t anywhere close to the play.  Without Ausbon’s block those 93 yards don’t happen as Trayveon never broke stride once he hit the second level.

The first 6 offensive plays of the second half were to Trayveon resulting in 165 yards and 2 touchdowns.  That’s 27.5 yards per carry.  That’s total dominance.  That 93-yarder would be Trayveon’s final run of the evening as Corbin would see the next carries where he hit on runs of 4 and 35 yards before the Aggie offense sputtered a tad settling for a field goal.

We all know about Gillaspia’s run on the final offensive play of the night.  I’ve been critical of Gillaspia’s blocking this season but I could not be happier for him scoring that touchdown.  He’s busted his ass and represented the 12th Man well his entire Aggie career.  For him to score a touchdown on his final play could not be a better ending for the 12th Man.

When it was all said and done Jimbo and the Aggie offense simply stomped on the Wolfpack defense with the run.  A team that was struggling at the line of scrimmage early in the first half was challenged to get push.  Most importantly, a coach realized he was better off running away from one side of the ball.  Don’t underestimate Jimbo realizing the left side of the Wolfpack defense was the vulnerable side to run to.  There’s a good chance an offensive coach might have thought a simple “rah rah” speech was enough.  Jimbo knew better than to attack the side that had dominated his offense.  Sometimes it takes words and brains to get the job done.  Jimbo smartly used both in that game which was the difference between a close game and a blowout.

Running Backs:

I pretty much covered everything on the running game above.  Trayveon carried the ball 19 times for 236 yards and 3 scores.  That’s a 12.4-yard average.  That’s insane.  Jashaun Corbin made hay in his short time carrying 4 times for 41 yards so 10 yards a carry.  One carry was for 35 yards but that’s still an impressive 4 carries.

I’ll get to Trayveon’s decision to go pro later but after that final touchdown run it was clear he was going pro.  He started blowing kisses to the Aggie faithful and waving goodbye.  His decision was made before the game and he was just living in the moment.  After that performance I don’t blame him one bit.  The Aggie fans in attendance certainly ate it up.

Offensive Line:

Outside of our left tackle struggling against their right defensive end I thought these guys were tremendous.  The running stats speak for themselves especially when you throw in Mond’s long touchdown run.  In passing situations they gave Mond plenty time of to throw as he wasn’t sacked all night.

Maybe the NC State defense isn’t an SEC caliber defense but they still had enough talent to give our offensive line fits if they didn’t play well.  I questioned Jim Turner and this unit coming into the season and at points this season but there’s no doubt the line got better as the season went on.  That is an EXCELLENT thing to see.  This line developed and improved as the season got better.  They saved their best effort for the last game which was a welcomed sight as they were the key unit in blowing this game open.  We don’t score 45 points on offense without the effort of these guys.

Wide Receiver:

Our receivers had an average game.  Some of this was due to the fact of how well we did on the ground in the second half but a lot had to do with not getting open all the time.  There were times nobody was open.  This is consistent with what we’ve seen all season.  They totaled 14 receptions for 140 yards and the Kendrick Rogers score.  Not a bad day but they weren’t dominant by any stretch.  I think that’s partially why Jimbo finally went to the run to see if we could put it away on the ground.

After watching this game I’ve realized this unit gets open because of play design for the most part.  We run a bunch of routes that feed off each other and force defenders to pick one or the other.  A fair amount of time they pick wrong and we have a receiver running open.  This applies to everyone.  We just don’t really get separation in true one on one situations with a defender.

It’s great to see Jimbo and staff create plays where these guys can get open but right now I don’t have faith in any of these receivers dominating man coverage.  We have guys that complimented each other really well so this receiving corps was serviceable all season.  There’s just not a guy on this roster that you’d completely trust to dominate man coverage and make a play.

Ausbon is your go to guy on a quick slant/in route to pick up 5-10 yards.  Sternberger is your guy to exploit the middle of the field.  Quartney Davis is your quick guy you hope the defense forgets to cover.  Of course, Kendrick Rogers, Jr. is they guy you’re throwing it to the end zone as he’ll battle for a ball when he doesn’t have to worry about continuing to go downfield.

I don’t want to take anything away from the effort and productivity these guys had this season.  It’s just we’re still missing a Mike Evans, Josh Reynolds, or Christian Kirk type play with this unit.

Kellen Mond:

Oh boy.  Here we go.  I thought this was a normal Kellen Mond game.  He had a tremendous run on the second play of the game and then was hit or miss on a couple series after that.  He wound being 14 of 26 for 140 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception.  That’s not a bad day at the office at all.  I don’t necessarily put that interception on him as it was batted at the line of scrimmage and a defensive lineman caught it.

There’s no doubt the offensive line and Trayveon carried this team but Kellen was a big contributor.  He wound up as a 54% passer and had some really solid throws.  The 30-yard pass to Quartney Davis was beautiful as he stepped up in the pocket to avoid their right defensive end who had beat our left tackle and threw a beautiful ball between coverage.  That was an amazing play.

He certainly missed on some passes as he missed some receivers high but when receivers were open he hit them for the most part.  He had a solid game.  If you can’t admit that then I can’t help you.

The reality with Kellen is I don’t think we’re ever going to see him win a Heisman Trophy or be a guy that carries a team all by myself.  That’s okay though as that’s not what Jimbo is looking for.  JImbo wants a guy that understands every play design and can execute it quickly when the defense does exactly what’s expected.  I’ve seen Kellen do that all season long where he follows the play design and executes it quickly.  His job is to anticipate where guys will be open based on the play design and hit them when they’re open.  He does that pretty well other than a few mistakes this season.

Kellen isn’t a guy that’s going to consistently make something out of nothing.  That’s not a bad thing.  Just give me the guy that can execute Jimbo’s play design and calling because we finally have a coach that can read and adjust to a defense in game.  Kellen does this pretty well for the most part.  He certainly still has some developing to do but we don’t have a 9-4 season if Kellen is a complete waste of space under center.

I have no clue if we win a national title with Kellen.  It certainly won’t be because of his play by himself.  I do understand that.  It’ll be because we have 85 scholarship players contributing with a few walk-ons potentially thrown in as well.  Kellen will be under center minimizing mistakes and simply running Jimbo’s offense.  It’s entirely possible we win a national title in 2020 with Kellen under center.  There’s no way to tell right now.

We know of quarterbacks like Tim Tebow, Vince Young, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, and Deshaun Watson winning national titles for their teams.  Here’s another list of names that have also won national titles as the starting quarterback in the last few years – Matt Flynn, Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron, Cardale Jones, and Jake Coker.  I don’t think we’ll see Kellen in that first list of names but it’s entirely possible he shows up in the second list of names.  He’s finishing up his true sophomore season so he can absolutely still develop.  There’s a lot of positives with Kellen after the 2018 season.

If sorry if none of that helps your Kellen Anxiety.  There certainly won’t be anyone on the roster better to run Jimbo’s offense in 2019.  Probably the same in 2020.  It’s not nearly as bad as you think.  I promise.

Defense:

I’m going to write about the defense as an entire unit this game mainly due to a couple key injuries and how the game played out.  The Wolfpack had one drive in the 1st quarter where they drove 71 yards on 12 plays and consumed almost 6 minutes of the clock.  That play resulted in a field goal.  That was by far the most impressive drive of the night for the Wolfpack.  The Wolfpack’s next most impressive drive was to open up the second half where they drove 50 yards in 7 plays consuming 3:42 of clock.  The only issue with this drive is it resulted in Tyrel Dodson baiting them in to an interception return for a touchdown.  I don’t think I’d call that an impressive drive when you give up a touchdown to the defense.

Their touchdown came off our interception where they only had to drive 27 yards for the score.  They had a couple of other series where they gained 35 and 36 yards with one of those resulting in a field goal.  Other than those four drives it was basically three and out all night for NC State.

You probably already know this, but NC State was 0 for 13 on 3rd Down conversions for the night.  That’s right.  In THIRTEEN tries the Wolfpack converted ZERO third down plays for a first down.  ZERO THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS.  That’s unreal.  They were 2 of 4 on 4th Down conversions but to fail on 13 3rd Down conversions is a real testament to our defense.

We only had two sacks on the evening but we had 11 tackles for losses.  We brought pressure to the Wolfpack backfield all night long.  We had 7 defenders credited with 6 tackles or more with the highest number of tackles being 9.  It was spread evenly between those 7 guys.  To me that’s the mark of a defense knowing their assignments and making plays.  Everybody contributed.

I think early on we really missed Otara Alaka as NC State was able to rip off a couple of decent runs on their 71 yard drive.  I think Tyrel Dodson was getting used to playing middle linebacker in Alaka’s absence.  After that drive though, the defense seemed to really settle down and controlled the game for the most part.

It’s hard to isolate any single player on defense because everyone contributed and that’s what you want out of a defense.  Everybody just did their job and helped each other out.

This isn’t a terrible NC State offense either.  Their quarterback is a potential first round draft pick and their center won the Rimington Award as the best center in the country.  They had a nice duo at running back with Reggie Gallaspy II and Ricky Person, Jr.  Yes.  One guy goes by the second and the other guy goes by Junior.  Either way, those guys were solid running backs.  I know NC State was missing their best receiver who decided to sit out and focus on the draft but I’m not sure he would have made that much difference.  The Aggie defense was that dominant.  At best he’s worth two touchdowns.  It would have certainly made the game different but the Aggie defense was ready for what the NC State offense tried to do.

Overall this unit really reminds me of the 2012 defensive unit.  A few really talented guys but for the most part a cohesive unit.  I know out secondary was terrible most of the season but the defense’s ability to play the line of scrimmage was outstanding all season.  I think next season we’ll have even more talent and depth but I think we’ll step back at linebacker trying to fill the holes left by Dodson and Alaka.  Those guys were studs all season long.  I just hope Elko can keep the cohesion going for next years unit as this unit was solid defending the line of scrimmage all season.  If you can defend the line of scrimmage you can win football games.

Special Teams:

Not much to report here.  Seth Small missed a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half but also hit a 35-yarder.  Rashaud Paul had a nice 21-yard punt return and Jashaun Corbin had a nice 30 yard kick-off return.  It was un-eventful for the Special Teams and I’m okay with that.

 

I think that pretty much covers the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl for the Aggies.  You can’t ask for much better when it comes to a bowl game.  Sure, there were some minor issues here and there but for the most part the Aggies took their foot and stomped it on the Wolfpack.  It was a nice ending to Jimbo’s first season.  Maybe this is a total repeat of the 2012 season with a few more losses but this time feels different.  This entire team feels different than that 2012 season.  That was lightening in a bottle.  This feels like the foundation of something bigger being built.

 

Georgia vs Texas:

If you don’t care about the Texas Longhorns no need to read this section.  Here’s the reality of what happened – Texas came out and beat Georgia.  You can blame Georgia not being ready or some other lame excuse like Georgia made some early mistakes with the knee being down on the punt and Swift’s early fumble.  It doesn’t matter.  Texas came out and soundly beat Georgia.  Texas beat Georgia.  Simple as that.

It wound up being a 28-21 game so the final score looks close but Texas controlled that game from start to finish.  I’ve watched a fair amount of Texas games under Tom Herman and what I was most impressed with was Texas’ ability to control the line of scrimmage.  They didn’t let Georgia run the ball and did an outstanding job running the ball on Georgia.  I’ve not seen that under Herman and it was impressive.

Sam Ehlinger managed the game really well.  He didn’t light it up passing but he made some key throws and didn’t make mistakes.  He also did a really good job running the ball fighting for hard yards while protecting the ball.  It was just a solid effort from Ehlinger.  This guy has really grown in his two seasons under center.  He made a lot of mistakes throwing the ball last season and against Maryland but he did a really good job making smart plays the ball down the stretch.

I’ve had my questions about Tom Herman since he got there but that was a damn impressive win.  They were underdogs against a team that almost won the National Title last year and took Bama to the wire in their last game.  It didn’t faze Texas.  They came out and took it to Georgia all game long.

Don’t look now but don’t be surprised to see Texas in the Playoffs next season.  If they can get by LSU at home in their second game of the year they have a very manageable schedule to at worst go 12-1 winning the Big XII.  I expect OU to take a step back unless Kyler Murray comes back but that seems like a longshot.  OU also hired an outstanding Defensive Coordinator but I think Texas is set up REALLY well to make the playoffs in 2019.

I’m not totally convinced it happens as they lose a lot of starters on both sides of the ball from this 2018 team.  They’ve recruited well so they’ll have young talent filling the departures.  I know they played close games against Tulsa, K-State, Baylor, Tech, and even Kansas this season but it’s pretty clear they learned how to win.  There’s a lot to be said for a team that learns how to win.  They get past LSU though and then everything is front of them to make the Playoffs in 2019.

It’s also possible Georgia isn’t that dominant as the body of work on Kirby Smart gets bigger.  They’re certainly a really good football team but he’s not had them prepared against Auburn last season and LSU and Texas this season.  They’ve been playing in a down SEC East the last two seasons so maybe they’ve just benefited.  He also may just know how to coach against Saban.  I tend to think Georgia is a really good football team and Texas won a big football game that could propel them to bigger things.

We’ll just have to find out in 2019.  I do know this – if Texas makes the College Football Playoff next season that means they got past a perennial SEC West power in LSU.  This is partially why I don’t have a problem playing Texas every season.  If Texas makes the Playoff then Aggies can only blame ourselves because we didn’t line up and keep them out of the Playoff.  I still believe in lining up and playing Texas every season as a lot more good than bad can come of it in my book.

Maybe Texas sputters in 2019.  Right now though Tom Herman has a TON of momentum rolling in Austin thanks to the win over Georgia.  If Texas can figure out a way past LSU which is entirely possible their path to the College Football Playoff might be as easy an anyone else’s.

We’ll just have to see what happens.

 

Early Departures:

There shouldn’t be any surprise by the early departures of Erik McCoy, Trayveon Williams, and Tyrel Dodson.  All three of those guys are three-year starters in the SEC and some of the best at their positions.  They have nothing to gain by coming back to A&M for another year.  They’re basically who they are as players.  They wouldn’t get much better by coming back.

While all of three of those guys are a loss for A&M there’s no doubt Dodson is the biggest loss.  We’ve got Corbin behind Trayveon so we might not see a drop off at running back.  McCoy has been our best lineman for three seasons but I think we have enough talent and depth next season where we won’t see a major drop off.  At least I hope.

Behind Dodson there’s major question marks at linebacker.  Anthony Hines and Buddy Johnson have plenty of talent but they haven’t played the majority of snaps in a full season.  We’ve got a lot of youngsters with talent behind them but playing linebacker is as much instinct as it is talent.  Tyrel Dodson was a legit SEC linebacker and I really think our best linebacker since Dat Nguyen.  For selfish reasons I wish he was coming back but I fully understand his decision.  He’ll likely have a pretty long career in the NFL so time to go make that money.

Jace Sternberger is the guy I think made a questionable decision.  He graduated high school 4 years ago and wants to capitalize on a great season so I get why he made the decision he made.  I’m not sure it’s the best one though as he really could use another season in the SEC.  He’ll get his shot at the NFL but I’m not completely sure he’ll stick.  He had issues blocking this season and he disappeared at times receiving in games.  Most of the time he got open because of the play design.  He wasn’t a guy that just dominated defenders when he was covered.  He also had his fair share of drops this season.  He’s excellent after the catch but I think he would have done himself a favor by getting one more season in the SEC so he’s truly ready for the next level.  For the most part you get one shot to make an NFL roster.  If you don’t make an NFL roster your first season out of school you likely won’t make it in the NFL.  There’s stories of practice squad guys getting a shot on a different team and flourishing but those stories are few and far between.  The reality is if you don’t make an initial 53 man roster you’ll never make it in the NFL.  I hope Jace makes it in the NFL but I’m not convinced he’s fully ready for the next level.

I think we’ll be fine at tight end as we have some awesome tight ends coming in.  He’ll be a true freshman but I think Baylor Cupp might be a more talented receiver than Sternberger.  Jalen Wydermeyer can also catch along with block so I don’t think we’ll see a major drop off with Sternberger leaving.  It still would have been good to have Sternberger back for both the Aggies and for him to develop for the next level.

I wish them all the best and hope they have fruitful careers in the NFL.

 

The Future of Aggie Football:

There’s still a decent path to go to truly Make Aggie Football Great Again.  Things look really good right now but the 2019 season will be the most crucial season for Jimbo.  I don’t think we’re quite ready to break through as we’ll be much younger in 2019 than in 2018.  I think we’ll be more talented across the board but in the SEC you need talent and experience.  That’s the main reason Alabama is so good is because when they roll out a new starter it’s someone who’s been on the roster for a year or two.  Unless they’re an exceptional talent Nick Saban doesn’t roll out freshman on his team including redshirt freshman.

In addition to a young team we have a BRUTAL schedule.  We get Alabama at home but I don’t think it’ll matter.  We must go on the road to Clemson, Georgia, and LSU.  While I’d like to see us win more games in 2019 it might not happen.  At minimum we need to go 8-4 to match this season’s total.  I don’t think we beat Bama.  If we can beat everyone on our schedule of the teams I haven’t mentioned and then win one of those three road games I mentioned above that will put us at 9-3.  That would be a really solid season setting us up nicely for 2020 which I think could be the real breakthrough year for the Aggies.

What makes the 2019 season so crucial is we can’t have a regression from the 2018 season.  We’ve seen it time and time again over the last two decades where the Aggies would have an impressive season but then do nothing the year after.  1999, 2005, 2011, and 2013 all come to mind.  For Jimbo to keep this MAFGA train on track we can’t do worse record wise in 2019 than 2018.  We just can’t.  That’s been the missing element for Aggie Football over the last two decades.  We could get a positive step but couldn’t string another step go with it.  When we couldn’t follow up a successful season with another things fell apart.  That has to change in 2019 with at least an 8-4 record but 9-3 would obviously be even better and a major step forward.

Jimbo needs to make sure 2019 ain’t gonna be like it used to be in order to Make Aggie Football Great Again.

#MAFGA

 

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2018 Wasn’t Like It Used To Be

Jimbo with team on Sidelines

On the surface, an 8-4 regular season record in Jimbo’s first season doesn’t look much different than Kevin Sumlin’s final five seasons.  In those five seasons Kevin Sumlin had the following regular season records: 8-4, 7-5, 8-4, 8-4, and 7-5.  Strictly on wins and losses, which is the ultimate metric, Jimbo Fisher doesn’t seem that different of a coach.

When you dig a little deeper, Jimbo’s 8-4 record in his first season looks MUCH different than Kevin Sumlin’s tenure.  Jimbo still has a long way to go to get A&M into the national championship picture but I’ll take his 8-4 over Sumlin’s 8-4 any day of the week.

A lot of Aggies will look at 8-4 and feel we should have been 9-3 or even 10-2 with wins over at least Auburn and maybe Clemson or Mississippi State.  The reality is we’re just as close to 6-6 as we are to 10-2.  We could have EASILY lost to Kentucky and LSU.  Those were both OT games where we came out on the right side.  Hell, we could have been 5-7 had we not overcome key turnovers against Ole Miss.  In the end I do think our 8-4 record is a true indication where this program is under Jimbo after his first year.  It’s a good record in the toughest division of college football but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Let’s look at how Jimbo’s 8-4 is different than Sumlin’s 8-4.

Why 2018 Wasn’t Like It Used Be:

Kyle Field Matters Again:

While it’s only one season it’s nice to have only one loss at Kyle Field.  Especially when it’s a 2-point loss to the second best team in college football.  Alabama was on the road, but the Aggies held their own at Kyle Field this season against some good teams.  This includes the overtime wins over Kentucky and LSU.  Even the Ole Miss game was a bigger win that it appeared.  I’m not certain under Sumlin we win the games against Kentucky, Ole Miss, and LSU the way the flow of the game was.  In each of those games the Aggies had to overcome key turnovers and didn’t give up.  I think we certainly lose one of those games under Sumlin.

We talk about Kyle Field being a home field advantage but under Sumlin it didn’t really seem to matter.  He didn’t just lose games at Kyle Field.  We routinely got our ass kicked at Kyle Field under Sumlin.  It wasn’t just Alabama either.  Every SEC West team at one point throttled our ass at Kyle Field.  Ole Miss, Auburn, Mississippi State, and LSU all kicked the shit of the Aggies at one point during Sumlin’s tenure.  All but Mississippi State have multiple wins against Sumlin at Kyle Field.  That’s right, Ole Miss won multiple times at Kyle Field with Sumlin running the show.  That was inexcusable.

Maybe things change with Jimbo where he loses at Kyle like Sumlin but the first step to Make Aggie Football Great Again is winning games at Kyle Field.  It’s that simple.  During that run from 1985 to 1995 the Aggies lost 5 games at Kyle Field.  That’s right.  In 11 seasons the Aggies lost FIVE games at Kyle field.  The record during that time at Kyle Field was 63-5-1.  That’s a 91% winning percentage.

You must make Kyle Field a tough place to play as an opponent.  Jimbo took care of that in his first season.  Let’s hope it continues.

Ironically enough in Sumlin’s best season where we went 10-2 the two losses were at Kyle Field.  They were against REALLY tough teams and were REALLY close games but for whatever reason Sumlin couldn’t make Kyle Field an advantage in his six seasons as head coach.  You have to leverage 100,000 people including 30,000 screaming students on the opponent’s side of the field.  If you can’t do that you’ll never be successful as head coach of Texas A&M.

Undefeated at Kyle in SEC Games:

Building on the first point but it needs to be noted for the first time ever the Aggies were undefeated in SEC play at Kyle Field.  I think we kind of took those wins for granted because everyone harps on the Miss. St. and Auburn losses.  Don’t discount how important it is to win every SEC game at Kyle.  This was a MAJOR step and I hope like hell it holds.  I can’t state this enough – You can’t lose games at Kyle Field.  It’s too much of a home field advantage to not leverage.

3-1 in November:

Going all the way back to the Dennis Franchione years and even R.C. Slocum’s final years the Aggies had a bad habit of going flat in November.  Every coach suffered from this other than Sherman in 2010 and Sumlin in 2012.  Those were anomalies.

Here’s the breakdown of total wins and losses for previous Aggie coaches in November games:

R.C.’s Final Three Seasons: 2-8
Dennis Franchione: 4-12
Mike Sherman: 7-9
Kevin Sumlin: 13-11

Sherman went 4-0 in 2010 but other than that he was 1-3 in November games each season or 3-9 outside of 2010.  Sumlin had the 4-0 November in 2012 which boosts his November record but he also got a major boost due to the SEC schedule where a non-conference team played at Kyle in November.  Take away the 2012 season and that non-conference game for each season and Sumlin is 4-11 in SEC November games.  Since 2000 the Aggies haven’t played well in November except for two seasons.

Maybe 2018 is anomaly for the Aggies as well.  Hopefully it’s the start of something new.  Either way don’t under estimate the Aggies having a winning record in November.

A Win over LSU:

We’ll find out in a couple more years but the win over LSU feels like it could be the second most important win since joining the SEC.  No doubt until we win a Division Championship the 2012 Alabama will always be the biggest SEC win.  That win got us a Heisman Trophy and national attention.

Since Jimbo got here I’ve said the biggest step we’ll take is replacing LSU as the second-best team in the West.  No doubt replacing Bama as the best team in the SEC is the ultimate goal but in order to get there we have to prove we’re consistently the second-best team in the SEC West.  We finally beat that team that’s been entrenched as the second-best team in the SEC West.  That’s a good start to the ultimate goal of being the best in the SEC.  We just need to beat LSU consistently now.

2nd in the SEC West:

Building on that last point, for the 2018 season we are in fact the second-best team in the SEC West.  We tied with LSU in overall SEC record.  Since we have the head to head win we can claim second in the SEC West.  This is the first time we’ve ever been able to claim second in the SEC West.  In 2012 we shared the same SEC record as LSU but they beat us head to head so they got to claim second place.

A win over LSU is key but coupling it with a good enough record to claim second in the SEC West is even bigger.  That’s a great body of work in SEC play and this needs to be our new baseline going forward.  Expectations don’t go below here.

Margin of Defeat:

Other than the Alabama game where the Aggies lost by 22 the Aggies held their own in every game.  Note that was the smallest margin of defeat for an Alabama regular season game.  The Miss. St. lost was the next largest margin at 15 points but the Aggies where within a score the entire game until Nick Fitzgerald’s late touchdown run.  The other losses were by 2 to Clemson and 4 to Auburn.

I think this is one of the hardest things for Aggies to understand in how Jimbo coaches.  I know the offense and Kellen Mond struggled at times, but the reality is the Aggies were in every game until the final whistle except for Alabama and Miss. St.  That’s a MARKED improvement from Kevin Sumlin where it wasn’t uncommon to get our ass kicked by at least one more team other than Alabama every season.  By getting our ass kicked I mean you could leave the game or turn off the television at some point in the 4th quarter with no concern of missing an Aggie comeback.  Other than Alabama this season you can’t say that about the other 11 games.  Even after Fitzgerald scored his long TD run to go up by 15 the Aggies had 2 minutes to score a TD and get an onside kick.  Against Clemson we were looking to tie the game with a 2-point conversion with less than a minute left.  As big of a collapse as Auburn was we still had one final play to try and win as time expired.

To be competitive in every game this season other than Alabama was also a big step.

Reduction in Blown Leads:

Blowing massive and numerous leads in 2011 got Mike Sherman fired.  Blowing a massive lead to UCLA in 2017 ultimately got Kevin Sumlin fired.  In addition, Sumlin had plenty of other games where blew a 14-point lead to lose or to have to pull out in overtime.  Arkansas, UCLA, and Tennessee all come to mind.

The worst blown lead by Jimbo was a 10-point lead to Auburn with around 5 minutes in the 4th quarter.  Auburn was able to score 14 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to win 28-24.

I certainly don’t like the outcome of the Auburn game but if that was our worst blown lead then I do see this as a minor step.  It’s one thing to get beat but it’s a completely different thing to have a game in hand only to give it to the opponent.  That happened once in 2018.  It happened a LOT under Sumlin.

Time of Possession:

Despite what Kevin Sumlin and Mike Leach say, time of possession in a football game is important.  It’s even more important to a guy like Jimbo Fisher who has a complete game plan.  When you hold the ball longer than your opponent it allows you to control the game more how you want it.

Time of possession is predicated on two things more than anything:

  • The defense getting off the field on third downs.
  • The offense being able to string drives together to get first downs limiting three and outs.

The Aggies winning time of possession while going 8-4 says they did those two things pretty well.  What hurt the Aggies this season was the big plays against their secondary.  With more talent in their secondary the Aggies easily win 1 or 2 more games this season.  Hell, they might have won 11 games as long plays against Clemson, Miss. St., and Auburn were the reason the Aggies lost.

I’ve said it all season that I think Armani Watts is worth one more win and Christian Kirk is likely worth another.  Glad to see Jimbo control the possession clock but he just needs more playmakers to translate that time of possession into more wins.

Comprehensive Game Plan:

It was pretty clear to me Jimbo had a good feeling going into each game the strengths and weaknesses of his team and the opponent.  It didn’t always work out like he wanted but essentially being in every game with 2 minutes left indicates a coach who game planned pretty well.  It feels like Jimbo watched film of both teams on all sides of the ball and knew what the overall game plan should be.  It wasn’t simply let the coordinators do their jobs and see what happens.  He understood how it all fit together from every aspect of the game.

The biggest indicator of this to me was when Jimbo called timeout in the Ole Miss game halfway through the fourth quarter.  The Aggies were up 24-21 and Ole Miss had 4th and 2 from the 5-yard line.  It looked like an easy field goal.  Jimbo frantically called a timeout to keep the ball from being snapped.  Apparently Jimbo or someone on his staff picked up on a potential fake.  It certainly wasn’t to ice the kicker as a time out for that situation is too valuable.

If Jimbo isn’t paying attention to the entire game or isn’t aware of Ole Miss’ special teams tendencies he may not have called the timeout.  That could have swung momentum.

Jimbo’s press conferences also indicate he’s very aware of what happened in the game.  He can speak to the entire game citing specific plays right after it’s over.  There’s no generic coach speak.  He speaks to key moments of every game right after it happens.  He was paying attention to the whole game.

Jimbo is a solid offensive coach but when I watched the Aggie team this year it was pretty clear to me Jimbo had an entire plan to win the game.  It didn’t always work.  It was much more enjoyable to watch someone executing an entire plan rather than someone hoping random selections on a play sheet will produce more points than the opponent.

New Bowl Destination:

In the previous four seasons the Aggies have gone to bowl games in Memphis, Nashville, Houston, and Charlotte.  Nothing against those places as they’re great cities but nobody dreams of playing in those cities for a bowl game.  Especially when it’s not even close to New Year’s Day.  Two of those were even games that started early in the day which tells you how they rank in the grand scheme of bowl games.  ESPN doesn’t air the most intriguing bowl games when the sun is just peaking.

The Aggies lost the last three bowl games to Louisville, Kansas St, and Wake Forest.  Louisville was Lamar Jackson’s coming out party but the Aggies still could have won that game.  I’m sorry, but there’s no excuse for Texas A&M to lose to Kansas St. and Wake Forest in a mid-tier bowl game.  None.  Somehow it happened in back to back years.  That’s bad coaching.

Kevin Sumlin took the Aggies to the Cotton Bowl in his first season which was a major feat but it was a slow and steady decline from there.

In Jimbo’s first season he’s got the Aggies in Florida on New Year’s Eve.  I was hoping for the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day but it could be MUCH worse than playing in Florida on New Year’s Eve.  Crazy to think if we beat Auburn we’re probably in a New Year’s Six Bowl but at the same time had we lost to LSU we’d been in Memphis or Nashville more than likely.  Like I said earlier, 8-4 feels about right for the season.  Starting off the Jimbo Era in Florida on New Year’s Eve is certainly MUCH different than what we’ve experienced in the last four seasons.

Let’s hope Jimbo gets a win over the Wolfpack of NC State to keep the momentum going.

 

Overall Feelings for 2018:

Obviously I’m pretty pleased how things turned out.  In March I established what I felt would be 8 conservative steps for Jimbo to take as head coach of A&M.  Right now he’s slightly ahead of those steps because we’re sitting second in the SEC West after one season.  He got us 8 wins and it looks like there’s no issue closing on a Top 10 class in 2019.  It’s looking like Top 5 but Top 10 for sure.  2nd in the SEC West and a Top 5 recruiting class for his first year is really solid.

If you want some more off season reading here’s the link to what I wrote back in March and those steps:

https://rcwouldhavegonefor2.com/2018/03/27/expectations-for-jimbo-fisher/

Quick Look Ahead to 2019:

I think this team will be better in 2019.  It’ll be young with talent but overall it should be more talented.  I’m not quite sure what that means in terms of wins though.  After all, wins and losses is the only metric that matters in the end.

In my original steps I felt Jimbo needed to win 10 regular season games in 2019.  That is going to be EXTREMELY difficult due to playing Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia in addition to LSU.  Now I think just getting one win more in 2019 will be fine.  If Jimbo can pull off 9-3 in his second year with that schedule it’ll be a really damn good season.

I’ve always thought 2020 would be the year when A&M should take that big step to national prominence.  I don’t think the youth on the team and the schedule will allow us to take that big step to national prominence in 2019.  That’s okay because that’s all part of the building process.  Aggies may just have to be patient one more year before realizing for certain things ain’t gonna be like they used to be.

I’ll leave you one final thing for the 2019 schedule – In 2017 Auburn won the SEC West with almost the EXACT same schedule.  They played at Clemson the second game of the year and then played Georgia as part of their SEC East schedule.  Auburn was able to pull off 10-2 and win the SEC West so it’s not impossible.

We shall see if the Aggies can do the same.

First, we need a win over N.C. State to reverse the losing momentum in bowl games.  It’s small steps to Make Aggie Football Great Again.

#MAFGA

 

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