As we learned last year the health of a football team is critical to the results of a season. There’s no doubt in my mind had Haynes King been healthy all season we improve to at least 9-3 if not 10-2. Hell, we could have been NATIONAL CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD! Just kidding. I don’t think we’d won a national championship even with King under center last year.
We might have actually lost to Bama but we would have won at least 2 of the losses to Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and LSU with King under center. That’s water under the bridge at this point but we would have had a better overall record with Haynes King all season. I’m confident of that.
Here’s who I think are the most important players for the Aggies to stay healthy for the 2022 season. This is in order of importance.
I’m excited to see what Devon Achane can do as the featured back. I have some durability concerns because we’ve not seen him get the majority of carries. He’s not the biggest back but he’s elusive with great balance. He seems to avoid the big hit so I believe he can stay healthy all season. We just need to see it happen.
He’s number one on my list because I think he’s a potential Heisman Trophy contender. I really do. I believe 1,000 rushing yards is a lock for him but I really think he can get close to 2,000 total yards. We’re talking about a guy that has averaged over 7 yards per carry in his first two seasons. He’s a homerun hitter that keeps hitting homeruns.
If he’s healthy all season the Aggies are going to win a lot of ball games.
I have Edge Cooper as the second most important because we have no real depth at the linebacker position. Edge Cooper has All SEC talent which makes him staying healthy all that more important. He’s not just a body filling a position with no real depth. He’s a player that’s a legitimate difference maker in how our defense attacks our opponents. If he’s out for any amount of time it’s going to change what D.J. Durkin can do.
We have talent and depth on the defensive line and in the secondary. We don’t have it a linebacker.
When you’re lacking depth and have a guy that’s All SEC caliber you it’s REALLY important for him to stay healthy.
Right Side of the Offensive Line:
I’m a big believer in line play. You can have all the skill position in the world but if you don’t have talent in the trenches it won’t matter.
The combination of Bryce Foster, Layden Robinson, and Deuce Fatheree also have All SEC talent. They played well last year considering two of them were true freshman. I expect this group to be better than last season. If these guys stay healthy and build on what they did last year we’re going to be as good as anyone in college football on the right side of the offensive line. They’ll be a big help to the newcomers on the left side of the line. Defenses won’t be able to exploit the new guys on the left side if our right side is destroying their defense. We’ll just keep running it to the right until they stop us.
These guys go hand in hand with Devon Achane. If they stay healthy along with Achane I believe we’re going to have one of the best running attacks in the country. You can control a lot of a football game if you can establish the running game. These guys will be a big key to that.
Antonio Johnson will be the most talented Aggie player in 2022. He’s potentially the best safety in the country and likely a first round draft pick. Maybe even a Top 10 selection. He’s that good.
When you have one of the best players in college football you’re much better off when they’re healthy. That’s stating the obvious.
Antonio Johnson listed as the fourth person is not a knock on him as a player. I think the people listed above him are a little more important to the actual wins and losses for the Aggies in 2022. Thankfully Jimbo and his staff have stocked the secondary so we have a little cushion here.
Antonio would be second on this list if we didn’t have the depth in the secondary.
This is a slight leap of faith so I hope I’m right. The one thing Jimbo has lacked in his four seasons in Aggieland is a playmaker at the receiver position. Early reports are that Evan Stewart can be that guy.
Having a guy that can put pressure on a defense down the field totally changes the dynamic of an offense. We need Evan Stewart to be that guy.
I’m hoping at minimum Stewart can have a Christian Kirk type freshman year. Even better if it’s a Jaylen Waddle type freshman year. We really need an explosive player at the receiver position and I think Stewart is going to be that guy.
So there you have it. “Five” players the Aggies need to stay healthy in 2022. If these guys stay healthy and play to their ability I don’t see any reason why the Aggies won’t win double digit games in 2022.
The title of this post is a little mis-leading as Jimbo’s biggest goal for 2022 should be to win the SEC West. That should be the goal every season. Sure, winning the national championship is the ultimate goal every season but it all starts with the SEC West. You win that and you’re playing in the SEC Championship. Win that and you’re in the College Football Playoff. Win those two games and you’re the National Champion. Easy enough.
It all starts with winning the SEC West. If you can’t win the SEC West it doesn’t really matter. Sure, you can potentially sneak into the College Football Playoff without winning the West but it’s just easier to win the SEC West.
I’m not sure A&M is just ready to win the SEC West in 2022. I think it’s very possible but this is a really young team with some questions. I’ll do my season prediction next month but for now this is all about Jimbo’s biggest goal for 2022.
That goal? Simple – Win every game at Kyle Field in 2022.
The most underrated part of Jimbo’s tenure at Texas A&M is his success at Kyle Field. In four seasons he’s lost four games at Kyle Field.
Here’s those four games:
2018 – Clemson (eventual National Champion) 2019 – Auburn (Kind of a stinker but Gus had a great game plan and Derrick Brown destroyed our offensive line) 2019 – Alabama (Nick Saban. Need I say more?) 2021 – Mississippi State (Total stinker like a baby’s diaper. Pee Yew)
It should really be 2 losses as 2019 Auburn was winnable and 2021 Mississippi State was absolutely winnable. Either way, I’m not terribly upset with Jimbo’s performances in his first four years at Kyle Field.
Kevin Sumlin lost 10 games at Kyle Field in his final four seasons.
Mike Sherman also lost 10 games at Kyle Field in his four seasons.
I’m not even bringing up Dennis Franchione as my therapist says it’s best.
Jimbo has done really damn good at Kyle with two wins over LSU and that win over Bama. He got the never beat Auburn at Kyle monkey off our back. He’s beat every SEC West team at Kyle and redeemed that Florida loss from 2012.
He has to keep the winning at Kyle momentum going.
Kyle Field must be a home field advantage if you expect to win the SEC West. Winning in the SEC is tough so you better leverage every advantage you can. If you can’t leverage Kyle Field as an advantage you’re not going to be successful.
Jimbo appears to be doing that but 2022 is going to be a massive test.
Here’s who we have at Kyle in 2022:
Sam Houston Appalachian State Miami Ole Miss Florida UMass LSU
Those are all winnable games. Three of those teams aren’t in a current Power 5 conference. Three of those teams are under new coaches and the other is a team I believe takes a step back from a talent standpoint.
I don’t know about wining the SEC West in 2022. I do know Jimbo needs to put wins over Miami, Ole Miss, Florida, and LSU at Kyle in 2022. They won’t be easy but they’re more than attainable. If he’s going to be a championship coach there’s no excuse to not be perfect at Kyle Field in 2022.
I’m not saying Jimbo can lose the road games in 2022 if he wins at Kyle. I do believe 10-2 is the baseline in 2022. Establishing 7 wins at Kyle in 2022 is the easiest path to doing do that. 7 wins at Kyle and at least 3 on the road.
Will Jimbo make it happen? I don’t see any reason why he can’t.
Before I get going on this “analysis” I must fully disclose I’m a Max Johnson fan. I remember watching him at Kyle Field in 2020 and thinking LSU had a chance to beat us if he started that game. Thank goodness Coach O couldn’t figure that out. Part of that was TJ Finley looked so bad but I thought Max Johnson had some quarterbacking chops about him. We obviously saw what Max Johnson did to us in 2022. I think the kid can quarterback.
I don’t know what’s going to happen at quarterback for the 2022 Aggies. I don’t think Jimbo Fisher knows either. He’s got too many unknowns to pin down how quarterback is going to play out for the 2022 Aggies. Haynes King doesn’t have enough snaps. Max Johnson doesn’t have enough snaps in Jimbo’s system. Conner Weigman doesn’t have any snaps in any college. Lots of unknowns and variables.
In addition, Jimbo isn’t sure how strong his offensive line is going to be. He doesn’t know what capabilities his receiving corps has. He also doesn’t know his full running back situation. Lots of unknowns on the offense outside of just who’s taking the snaps.
I think it’s only between Haynes King and Max Johnson for the 2022 starter. I know Conner Weigman is the next coming of Johnny Football. I get that. However, even Johnny Football didn’t start his true freshman year in Aggieland. I know the promise of a backup quarterback is always the most exciting thing for a college football fan. That means hope springs eternal with Weigman.
For 2022 I don’t necessarily want Conner Weigman taking snaps. Sure, Trevor Lawrence won Clemson a title as a true freshman but I don’t think that’s what we’re looking at for the 2022 Aggies. That Clemson team was much different than this Aggie team. If Conner Weigman beats out of both King and Johnson then so be it. I don’t have a problem with that. I just don’t think you can make any analysis where Weigman gets significant playing time in 2022.
We’ve been hearing about Haynes King for 2 seasons. The problem is we don’t have a body of work to truly know what he can or can’t do. We know he’s extremely fast. Devon Achane says he might be the second fastest guy on offense which is quite a statement. Achane knows speed.
King is the son of a coach and won a state title in high school. He looks the part and talks the part. He just hasn’t played the part. Not saying he can’t. I think he can but we just haven’t seen it yet.
Max Johnson is the son of an NFL quarterback. He’s 6’5”/220. He’s left-handed which is rare from a success standpoint but he’s the prototypical quarterback from a physical standpoint. If he’s right-handed people are drooling over him. He can throw the ball and is much more mobile than people realize. He’s taken a lot of snaps in football games so we have a body of work we can get some information from.
Max Johnson’s biggest problem is he played 2 seasons for a crappy LSU football team. Those 2 seasons were so crappy it got a coach fired who had won a national title less than 2 seasons before he got fired. That’s crappy. Max Johnson didn’t have a lot to work with. LSU was tied for 111th in the country last year in sacks allowed. They averaged 3 sacks a game so Johnson didn’t have much time to throw for the most part. I don’t know what Max Johnson looks like with a better team but a quarterback is often the product of their surroundings. You need time and targets.
There’s not a lot of disappointment from LSU fans that Max Johnson left. They feel he didn’t do enough to win more games as the LSU quarterback. Like I said, most college football fans always believe the backup quarterback is always the better quarterback. Maybe Max Johnson is the LSU equivalent of Zach Calzada. I don’t see that. I think Johnson is everything Calzada was physically but with a much higher football IQ.
I also know getting Max Johnson also helped get his younger brother Jake Johnson. He’s a five star tight end. No doubt it helped but I don’t think that’s the only reason Max Johnson came to Aggieland.
Here’s What We Know From Games:
Haynes King has started 2 football games. None of them in the SEC and only played one full game.
Haynes King’s one full game was against Kent State where he was a 64% passer with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
Max Johnson has started 14 games with 10 of those being SEC games. He’s played in 3 other SEC games.
Max Johnson is a 60% career passer at LSU. He’s 58% in the SEC. 57% in SEC starts.
Max Johnson has thrown 35 career touchdowns and 7 interceptions. That’s an outstanding 5 to 1 ratio. In career SEC games he’s thrown 22 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. In SEC starts it’s 20 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. That’s still an outstanding 4 to 1 ratio.
Max Johnson has played significant snaps in these stadiums – Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama.
What Else Do We Know:
For whatever reason Jimbo has never felt comfortable naming Haynes King the definitive starter. After the loss of Kellen Mond, it was clear the next starting quarterback would be Haynes King or Zach Calzada. It always seemed like Haynes King was the front runner, but Jimbo would never definitively say it. After watching Calzada last season it’s a little concerning to me Jimbo never named Haynes King the definitive starter much sooner in the process.
Jimbo convinced Max Johnson to come to A&M. This has lots of variables because Johnson didn’t know his future at LSU with the coaching change. However, Jimbo likely convinced Max Johnson he has a legit chance to start at Texas A&M in 2022. Johnson didn’t announce his transfer intentions until after Brian Kelly was hired. Myles Brennan was already in the Transfer Portal. Brennan was LSU’s other quarterback so Johnson’s competition was leaving. Brennan decided to stay once Johnson left and Brian Kelly got there but before Johnson left it looked like Max Johnson would be the incumbent quarterback at LSU for Brian Kelly. Max Johnson didn’t care. He decided to transfer. Max Johnson didn’t come to A&M to back up Haynes King. He believed he could win the starting job. Max Johnson may wind up never taking significant snaps at A&M but Jimbo convinced him he had a legit chance to take significant snaps at A&M. Does that mean Jimbo doesn’t have full confidence in King? Maybe. Maybe not. I think it means Jimbo wants as much quarterback talent on his roster as he can get. Max Johnson is confident he can win the keys to the Aggie offense.
Coming out of Spring 2022 there’s still not a clear leader at quarterback. Haynes King clearly has the most time in Jimbo’s system and took the first team snaps in the Spring. However, Jimbo talks as if it’s an open competition. I think he’s saying that because there’s no definitive leader.
What Does Jimbo Want To Do in 2022?:
There’s a bigger variable in all of this besides each quarterback’s ability. I believe King and Johnson are different quarterbacks. I believe King to be a decent passer with excellent speed. Not sure how elusive King is as a runner but he has raw speed. That brings a different element for attacking a defense. A running quarterback can do real damage to a defense. I think King can run every bit as good as Kellen Mond and likely much better. We saw how Jimbo liked to use Mond’s legs to keep defenses honest. Jimbo already has a blueprint of what he can do with a guy like King.
I believe Johnson to be a superior passer with better mobility than most people realize. Johnson can make throws. He did it against A&M in the 2021 game. That last touchdown pass that beat us was as good as it gets. That was the second great touchdown throw he had it in that game. Couple that with the fact Michael Clemons was hammering on Johnson the whole game and that pass looks all that more impressive. Johnson didn’t back down.
Does Jimbo believe he finally has the receivers to attack a defense downfield? Does he have faith in Ainias Smith, Evan Stewart, and Moose Muhammed to repeatedly get open? Does he think he has a deep threat? Does he trust his offensive line to give his quarterback time to throw?
If the answer to those questions is “Yes” then I think Max Johnson wins the job. He’s simply the better passer. If the answer is “No” then I think Haynes King wins the job. Jimbo will hopefully turn King into an improved 2020 version of Kellen Mond. That’s not a bad thing, people. 2020 Kellen Mond lost one game all season to Alabama. I think 2022 King will be better than 2020 Mond if that’s the route that Jimbo goes with.
I think we’re going to be fine at quarterback in 2022 but these two quarterbacks are different style players. A lot is going to depend on what kind of offense Jimbo thinks he can and wants to run.
What To Watch For:
Jimbo has a saying – “Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying.” That goes for how he handles playing time with his quarterbacks.
Zach Calzada played in zero games in 2020. Haynes King took the backup snaps in 2020. Zach Calzada didn’t get any significant snaps in the first game of 2021. King was always well ahead of Calzada in the quarterback hierarchy the past two seasons. JImbo said there was a close competition but his actions clearly indicated King was his quarterback all along. Calzada’s play in 2021 showed us why.
In game snaps mean everything to Jimbo when it comes to quarterback snaps.
I do believe at this point Jimbo is giving King the job to lose. He’s also telling Johnson he can win the starting job but his room for error is small. Johnson must be perfect to take the job. King knows the system and is a solid quarterback. I don’t think either guy is going to let the other guy win it during the off season. It’ll be decided on the field early in 2022.
The first two games of 2022 will give us a good indication of where things stand. This is assuming Jimbo doesn’t declare a definitive starter at some point over the summer. I don’t think he will as he’s not going to truly know what he has until there’s some game action against a non-Aggie opponent. Even if it is Sam Houston and Appalachian State.
I expect Haynes King to start each of these games. The big indicator will be when Johnson gets his snaps. If Johnson gets snaps in the first half of those two games then he’s neck and neck with King. If he doesn’t get snaps until the second half when the game has been decided then King is clearly the starter. The timing of snaps for Johnson will tell us what’s going on in Jimbo’s head.
If Max Johnson takes the first snaps of the first game then he’s the definitive starter for 2022. Jimbo will believe he’s the guy going forward and King is the clear backup. In that scenario Johnson can still play himself out of that position but if Johnson takes the first snaps of the season then that’s the horse Jimbo would prefer to ride.
I think the first 3 games will decide who the starting quarterback is for the rest of the 2022 season. We get a nice couple games at home and then a Miami team that’s in the first year of a new coach. That gives Jimbo the perfect scenario to decide which guy to ride the remaining 9 games.
I think we’re going to see King and Johnson share snaps in the first two games. How that happens I’m not sure and that doesn’t really matter. Maybe it’s 2 series and 2 series or 1st quarter and 2nd quarter. I think you’ll see Johnson in the first half of both of those games though. That means there is no definitive starter for Jimbo to start the season.
I think at some point in the Miami game Johnson goes in the first half and doesn’t come back out for the rest of the season. At least as a starter.
I have nothing against Haynes King and hope he’s successful. Jimbo didn’t just go get Max Johnson for the depth chart though. Max Johnson didn’t come to College Station because he likes wearing maroon on the sidelines. Jimbo and Max Johnson both believe he can be the starter.
I think Max Johnson will be the Aggie starter after the Miami game.
As long as whatever starter wins football games I don’t care who it is. I just want Aggie wins. My hunch tells me Jimbo thinks that’s Max Johnson for 2022. Which obviously means Haynes King will be our starter for the whole season…
The Jimbo/Saban Comments:
My quick thoughts are I don’t have a problem with any of it. Both coaches made their comments to weaponize their fan bases. Saban did it to spur more money from his boosters and Jimbo was standing up for his. Nothing more or less.
It’ll all get settled on the field but this makes for some great theater. I’m a little nervous because Jimbo just wrote some big checks he and his team need to cash but let’s be real. Bama has always been the target. Might as well go at them with everything you got.
To be the man you have to beat the man. Dusty Rhodes wasn’t afraid of Ric Flair and Jimbo ain’t afraid of Nick Saban. It’s risky business but Jimbo’s clearly up for it.
My last post talked about the Aggie position groups for 2022 in quite a bit of detail. For this I’m going to take a “quick” look at the position groups and compare them to the 2021 team. My initial thought was some of these groups won’t be as good. After thinking more I believe my initial thought might be wrong.
With the NFL Draft done I think we can make a full analysis of the 2021 team. The NFL Draft isn’t an end all be all on judging talent but it’s a damn good indicator. Early rounders tend to fare better in the league than late rounders and undrafted free agents. It’s an inexact science but it’s a pretty good indicator of talent. The more players you have drafted and especially the earlier rounds is a good indicator of talent on a team.
There’s a reason teams that won the most games get the most players drafted. Talent is a DEFINITE indicator of on field success.
The Aggies were 8-4 last year and wound up with 4 Aggies drafted. That’s less than what we expected but it’s a great data point. We had Kenyon Green (1st round), Demarvin Leal (3rd round), Michael Clemons (4th round), and Isiah Spiller (4th round) drafted. That’s the same number of guys we had drafted in the 2021 draft.
I think I can say the 2021 Aggie football team wasn’t as talented as I thought it was. I expected a couple more guys to get drafted. It was still a damn good team and closer to 10-2 than people realize but they were an 8-4 football team. That’s decent but not great. Good enough to beat Bama so I’ll take it.
Will the 2022 Aggie football team be more talented than the 2021 Aggie football team? Let’s look at the position groups.
Quarterback – Much Improved:
I’m going to do a much deeper dive into the 2022 Aggie quarterbacks in my next post.
For now I’ll just say I think it’s safe to say/hope that one of Haynes King, Max Johnson, or Connor Weigman will be more productive than Zach Calzada in 2021.
If not, well, just get ready for the Aggie Football/Jimbo jokes from college football fans and the talking heads. Much of it will be justified.
Running Back – TBD:
Initially I would have said the loss of Isiah Spiller would be a challenge to overcome. Jimbo has recruited well but Spiller was a really damn productive back for 3 seasons. Him leaving seems like a pretty big loss. He was a very well rounded back in that he could run, catch, and block. His blocking was probably the most underrated part of his game.
I’m putting TBD for two reasons – Devon Achane and the offensive line. We all know about Achane’s talent. We just don’t know about his durability. If Achane is durable we’re gonna be just fine. We might even be better. If not, we’ve got some real inexperienced guys in the backfield. Talented but inexperienced.
The other reason for TBD is because of the next group. If they do what I think they’re going to do then our running game will be better than last season.
Offensive Line – Much Improved:
I’m really bullish on the 2022 Aggie offensive line. We lose a first rounder in Kenyon Green but I think we’re going to be better. Bryce Foster, Layden Robinson, and Deuce Fatheree all have All American talent. All three of these guys are going to get drafted to play in the NFL. Foster and Fatheree were true freshman last year and Robinson was starting his first season. I don’t see how these guys won’t be much improved over last season.
Left tackle and left guard is a big of a crapshoot but I think we’re going to be fine. We’ll step back a tad at left guard replacing Green but we’ve got talent in the wings.
I was never a fan of Jahmir Johnson at left tackle. I’m not worried about improving from him at all.
This group could be better than 2020 offensive line which was a damn good unit. If these guys gel early then the 2022 Aggie football team is going to be damn good.
Wide Receiver – Improved:
I’m marking this as improved for two reasons – It can’t be worse and there’s some young talent.
I’ve said repeatedly the wide receiver unit has been the most disappointing unit of Jimbo’s tenure in Aggieland. We haven’t had a receiver drafted since Christian Kirk in 2018. We’ve missed the days of Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, Mike Evans, and Ryan Swope.
We get Ainias Smith back which is a good base to start from. We lose Demond Demas and Caleb Chapman. I’m okay with this as they were long on talent but short on production. Production matters.
I think Moose Muhammed is going to have a good year now that he’s a year older and getting regular snaps. The early reports on Evan Stewart are REALLY positive. Yulkeith Brown and Chris Marshall will hopefully provide that deep threat we’ve been missing.
I’d like to mark this unit as much improved but there’s just too much uncertainty.
Tight End – TBD:
I’m marking this as TBD just because it turns out Jaylen Wydermyer wasn’t as dominant as we thought. It seems he just had a great rapport with Kellen Mond. Don’t get me wrong in that Wydermyer was good but he wasn’t a special tight end. Special tight ends get drafted. That sounds harsh but it’s a reality.
This is TBD because there’s no one with experience but we’re long on talent and depth. I personally think we’re going to see some combination of Jake Johnson and Donavan Green produce at this position. At least from a receiving standpoint.
I think Baylor Cupp left because he wasn’t separating himself from the guys on the roster. He knew he needed to find some place where could get snaps.
I believe we’ll have at minimum the same production we got in 2021 but likely more.
Defensive Line – Improved:
I can’t believe I just said the 2022 defensive line will be an improvement over the 2021 defensive line. The 2021 defensive line was the heart and soul of that team. It was a damn good unit.
I just think there’s so much talent and depth on the defensive line that we’re going to see an improvement in 2022. Not a drastic improvement but I think our defensive line is going to start doing what some Bama and Georgia defensive fronts have done in years past.
Like the offensive line I’m bullish here.
Linebacker – Improved:
Aaron Hansford was an outstanding linebacker for the Aggies in 2021. I think Edge Cooper and Andre White are going to be better though. In addition to the starters we’ve got some talented youngsters I think are going to add some nice depth.
This won’t be a massive improvement or a dominant unit but I do think the 2022 linebacker unit will be better than the 2021 unit.
Secondary – Improved:
I almost scored this much improved but I’m just going to say improved because of the inexperience. We lose Leon O’Neal who I thought had turned into an outstanding safety.
There’s a lot of uncertainty of who plays where other than Demani Richardson but that’s not a bad thing. The reality is we have a lot of talent to fill 4 spots. This is a good problem to have.
I think when things shake out we’re going to have a really strong secondary with talent and depth. Last year’s unit was pretty good but I’m comfortable saying the 2022 secondary will be better than the 2021 unit.
Obviously I’m bullish on the 2022 Aggie units. I think every unit could be better than the related 2021 unit. Running back and tight end are in question but the talent is there to be better. We just need health and early adapting to SEC play from the talented depth we have.
Every unit should be better than 2021.
I’m not exactly sure what that means for wins and losses but I definitely feel 8-4 is the floor. I know that seems disappointing but that should really tell you how far Jimbo has brought this program in 4 seasons. 8-4 is now the absolute floor.
We’ve still got some developing to do but things are looking good.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged but I recently found some time. I’m being cautiously optimistic on the 2022 Aggies. 2021 left a sour taste in my mouth. If you look back there were a ton of factors. More injuries than we realize and some coaching blunders along the way.
Calzada seemed to be the biggest factor but he’s just the most obvious. Quarterback play is generally the biggest input into a team’s success or failure so that’s what people saw. There were other issues leading to that 8-4 record though.
My biggest frustration in 2021 was Jimbo Fisher. His inability to recognize what Arkansas and Ole Miss was doing with a 3 man front was really frustrating. It also appeared some opposing defensive coordinators figured out how to make the Aggies one dimensional and Jimbo had no answer.
The entire offensive scheme simply got confused against certain defenses. Jimbo has been pretty good at scripting plays and adjusting his offense in game but for much of 2022 he seemed like a willy nilly play caller. He was just calling plays off a playsheet with no rhyme or reason. Like a kid playing Madden. Much of that was likely because he had no faith in Calzada but he didn’t do much to overcome Calzada’s issues.
Jimbo’s biggest issue in 2021 was sticking to what appeared to be a pre-determined running back rotation. His greatest sin was not riding Devon Achane in the 4th quarter against Ole Miss. He rides Achane late in that game and we likely end up 10-2 headed to the Sugar Bowl against Baylor. I think a win over Ole Miss would have given us the momentum to beat LSU. I could be wrong though.
Who knows what would have happened with our COVID mess in December so maybe it’s best we had to bow out of the Gator Bowl and not the Sugar Bowl. The Lord works in mysterious ways…
Enough of 2021. Let’s talk about the 2022 Fightin’ Texas Aggie football squad.
My biggest concern heading into 2022 is leadership. More than experience. We’re a REALLY young team and lose our biggest leaders in Demarvin Leal and Kenyon Green. These guys weren’t the most vocal of leaders but make no mistake they were the two guys everyone else looked up to.
The talent is there. It’s still young but I think we’ll be a more talented team in 2022 than in 2021. We just need some leaders to step up and guide this team. If we get leadership the experience will come a lot quicker.
Let’s get to the units on each side of the ball.
Seems like the new additions at quarterback leads to a lot of uncertainty with the new QB but I don’t think that’s the case. Leading into the 2021 season there was talk of a quarterback competition between King and Calzada. The reality is there never was one. King was the guy all along.
I think that remains the same. This is Haynes King’s team and Max Johnson and Connor Weigman don’t have the experience to overcome him in the off season.
I still have no idea what to make of King because he hasn’t played any meaningful minutes. We all assume he can play at a solid level in the SEC. We haven’t seen it though.
I’m not too worried about his injury because it was a bone break. From what we can tell he’s been healthy his whole career except for that. The guys you tend to worry about are the people that seem to have repeated tissue injuries. Those seem to linger or manifest other injuries elsewhere. Minor breaks don’t tend to be nagging.
Health wise he should be fine. I just don’t know what to expect of him on the field. I need to see SEC reps. He seems to be extremely mobile. I think that mobility in addition to experience in Jimbo’s system is what keeps him in from of Johnson and Weigman in the off season.
As for the other two I’m a big Max Johnson fan. This dude is extremely talented from a throwing standpoint. Those two touchdown throws against us weren’t his only great throws in his time at LSU. The dude was good all things considered. He was playing on a pretty crappy LSU team the last two season after their magical 2019 run. It happens. Just because his team didn’t win doesn’t mean he’s not a good quarterback. He’s pretty athletic and a lot more mobile than people realize. He doesn’t run nearly as well as King but he’s not a statue by any stretch.
I think of the three QBs on the roster Max Johnson will have the most productive NFL career. He’s simply built like an NFL quarterback and has the mental aspect to go with it. If Max Johnson is your backup quarterback you’re in a good spot. Actually, a great spot.
As for Weigman I know everyone thinks he’s Johnny Football 2.0 but let’s hold off on that a bit. True freshman quarterbacks tend to struggle a bit. Let’s let him simmer in Jimbo’s system for two offseasons and then see what happens.
I do think King will be on a semi-short leash. He’ll have plenty of rope but I don’t think Jimbo will be afraid to roll Max Johnson out there if King just isn’t getting it done. I hope it doesn’t happen but I could see a scenario where King doesn’t overly impress the first two games against much lesser opponents and then struggles the first half against Miami. If that happens then I think you’ll see Johnson under center starting the second half.
I think we’ll be fine at quarterback but it’ll take a few games to figure out what we have and the true direction of the offense.
I can’t believe I’m about to write this but I am – I’m not sure how much the 2022 Aggies will miss Isiah Spiller. That’s not a knock on Spiller at all. The dude was a solid running back. He ran hard for his 3 years in Aggieland and is a Top 10 all-time Aggie running back. But, we may have something special on our hands in Devon Achane.
He’s had limited touches since Spiller took the brunt of the work the last two years but he’s been EXTREMELY productive in the work he’s received. He has the highest yards per carry of any running back in Aggie history at 7.4 yards per touch. That’s with 173 carries which is a pretty fair number to still have that average yard per carry. No doubt that number is likely to go down as he gets more touches but that’s an impressive number for a running back in the SEC.
Achane doesn’t get a lot of attention because he’s not that imposing and he’s just so fluid of a runner. He doesn’t get stuffed very often or take a big hit. He just somehow churns out lots of yards in an unassuming fashion. He reminds me a lot of Emmitt Smith and Mark Ingram but with a Tony Dorsett top gear. He has legit Olympic sprinter speed with great vision and balance. From a top end standpoint he’s probably the fastest player in college football.
If you need any reminding of his speed just watch his kick return in the 2021 Bama game.
I contend this will go down as one of the most unheralded plays in Aggie history. This kick return kept momentum on the Aggie side. It was about to swing to Alabama but Achane kept it with the Aggies. People want to talk about NIL money but there’s no doubt in my mind that win over Bama at Kyle Field got the recruiting momentum going. That night was electric and the Achane kick return was the most electric moment of the night. The recruiting momentum for the 2022 signing class started with this kick return.
With 55 yards to go Achane has cleared every bit of Alabama traffic and no one even comes close to him. Not one Alabama player even comes close to Achane on this run. Bama has the best athletes in college football and they’re all toast with 55 yards to go. It doesn’t even look like he’s running that fast but he’s flat out flying. This is game changing speed.
It’s a big question mark who backs up Achane as it’ll be some combination of Amari Daniels, L.J. Johnson, Earnest Crownover, and Jacoby Mathews. I think Daniels and Johnson will get most of the carries. Daniels can flat out fly and Johnson is more of your between the tackles guy.
We certainly won’t have the experience we had with Spiller and Achane in 2021 but we’ve got some depth and talent so I think we’ll be fine.
I’m excited to see what Devon Achane does with a regular workload. In limited experience he’s shown he can handle it. He might even be on a level nobody sees coming.
Coming into the 2021 season this was my biggest question mark. Turns out I wasn’t wrong. Next to the obvious injury to Haynes King the lack of the offensive line ever turning into a cohesive unit was our biggest issue. At least from a player standpoint.
They showed up in some games but in others they seemed to be overwhelmed. Most notably the Arkansas and Ole Miss games where those defenses ran a three-man front. For some reason this created utter confusion.
I do expect the 2022 offensive line to be much improved from 2021. The loss of Kenyon Green isn’t easy to overcome but this line will be more talented and experienced compared to the 2021 unit.
The right side of the line will be as good as it gets in the SEC. Duece Fatheree was by far the best freshman tackle we’ve seen since Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Layden Robinson at right guard was second team All SEC. We’re in good hands with these guys.
At center Bryce Foster returns. He did outstanding as a true freshman in the SEC. Like Fatheree, Foster was a Freshman All SEC and All American. This kid is loaded with talent and I see no reason why he doesn’t take a major step forward with one season under his belt.
The left side has question marks mainly because we replace likely first round pick Kenyon Green at left guard. Right now it looks like Blake Trainor will be replacing Kenyon Green. That’s a tall order but this guy is coming into his fourth season in Aggieland. He’s a little short on in game experience except for one game – He started at left tackle in the Bama game. He more than held his own in that game. I thought he actually should have started the rest of the season in place of Jhamir Johnson but Jimbo and Josh Henson didn’t see it that way.
At left tackle it looks like Trey Zuhn will get the nod. He’s a redshirt freshman that saw limited experience last season. I’m a little cautious about a freshman with limited experience starting at left tackle but I’ll defer to Jimbo and his new offensive line coach Steve Addazio. I don’t think he can do worse than Jhamir Johnson from last season. I wasn’t impressed with Jhamir Johnson at left tackle last season at all so I think improving from him will be pretty easy.
Speaking of Addazzio this seems like a great hire to replace Josh Henson. This guy has a ton of coach experience and is an offensive line coach at his core. We’ll find out soon enough but I do feel this could be addition by subtraction. Nothing against Henson as he did a decent enough job but the resume of Addazzio for an offensive line coach is pretty amazing.
There may be shuffling along the left side of the line between now and SEC play but I think we’ll find a solid unit. I’m not nearly as worried about this unit coming into 2022 as I was in 2021.
It appears we lost the twin Bigfoots in Demond Demas and Baylor Cupp. Heard all about them but never actually saw them. I can’t recall a pair of guys that had more hype as legit game changers and we never saw a thing from them. Demas had the one touchdown catch against New Mexico and that’s about it from them. They’re gone and we’re moving on but man those two had some serious hype with a big bag of nothing on the field for the Aggies.
Ainias Smith is back for his fourth year. I think it’s in everyone’s best interest. He seemed to take a step back last season but that I think that’s probably due more to our quarterback and line play. I have no issues with this guy and expect him to have a big 2022 as I think he’s going to be used all over the field creating matchup problems. We need to get the ball in this guy’s hands and let him do his thing. He’s probably going to see some time in the backfield which is fine by me. He’s dynamic and needs to be used all over the field.
The practice reports on Evan Stewart sound positive. This guy enrolled in December dripping with talent. He was one of the best receivers in the country in the recent signing class. Seems he’s got the work ethic to match his talent and he’s going to be seeing a lot of the field. If you want a comparison think what Christian Kirk did his first year in Aggieland. If that’s what we get I’ll take it.
As for the rest of the receivers we’ve got some names we know but none have separated themselves. Caleb Chapman is hurt again so he’s a guy you can’t really rely on. Plus, I contend he’s more of just a true deep threat than an all-around receiver.
Jalen Preston is back for his fifth season. He hasn’t flashed yet but he’s a guy that has the talent if something could just click for him. He’s had some solid moments in games but nothing super consistent.
My hope is that Moose Muhammad finally breaks out. He showed up last year in some non SEC games with spectacular grabs. Maybe the third year is the charm for him as he has the talent.
The rest of the receivers are names you’ve heard before and no clue if they’ll ever be major contributors. Chase Lane, Devin Price, and Hezekiah Jones.
Two names that could break out are Yulkeith Brown and Chris Marshall. Yulkeith saw limited action last year but could potentially be a deep threat. Chris Marshall is still in high school but he too has the speed to be a deep threat. We just won’t know until he’s on campus and playing in games.
I hope something finally happens with this group. This has far and away been the worst unit under Jimbo. It’s been a long time since we had a guy that was even of Josh Reynold’s caliber. That was the 2016 season.
To the best of my knowledge Christian Kirk was the last wide receiver drafted in the NFL and that was after the 2017 season. We’ve had 4 seasons where not one Aggie wide receiver has been drafted. You can’t have that in today’s college game.
Let’s hope that changes this season where Ainias Smith starts another trend of Aggie receivers getting drafted.
Normally I lump these guys with the receivers but I’ll note them separate for this piece.
The loss of Baylor Cupp is definitely disappointing. I was really hoping he was going to finally get healthy and live up to his talent. By most reports from spring practice he was doing just that. Then one day he appeared in the portal with nobody really knowing why. Just another chapter in the Baylor Cupp mystery.
We should be just fine here. We’ve got two of the best tight ends in the country coming to Aggieland. Jake Johnson and Donavan Green were two of the highest rated recruits at their position last year. Depending on the service they were the best. Johnson is already on campus practicing and Green comes in this summer.
Don’t forget Jaylen Wydermyer came in as a true freshman and contributed right away. No reason to think these guys don’t do the same.
We’ve got Max Wright back as the blocking tight end that will catch 5-10 passes. He’s not the most dynamic receiving threat but he’s long on experience and willing to block. He’ll serve his role.
We’ve also got Blake Smith and Fernando Garza who rated pretty highly as recruits. We’ve also got the Norwegian kid coming in this summer but he’s going to need a couple seasons acclimating to American football.
Truthfully I’m hoping 2022 is the first season under Jimbo where a tight end isn’t the main receiving threat. Nothing against these guys but it’s time for the receivers to carry the passing game and the tight ends to just add a dimension that makes the offense tough to defend.
I feel good about the offense in 2022. We need some positions to grow and stabilize but I think that will happen.
2021 had a quarterback and offensive line that Jimbo couldn’t trust and that really affected his play calling. At least that’s what I hope happened.
We’ll find out in 2022 if Jimbo completely forgot how to call plays.
Anyone that reads my blog knows what a fan I was of Mike Elko. Despite some defensive lapses last year’s defense was really solid. I hate to pick on one guy but Jaylon Jones didn’t make plays late in the Mississippi State and LSU games that could have really turned the outcome. If he makes two plays we’re likely 10-2 with a totally different feeling for the season. That didn’t happen and we move on.
I thought what Mike Elko did in 2021 was outstanding. Sure, the record doesn’t show it but what I saw on the field was a defense that routinely held it’s own if not dominating. They played their asses off while the offense was just out there sputtering around.
The best example of this was the Auburn game. Auburn wound up not being a very good football team after us but our defense completely shut them down. The defense scored the only touchdown that game. You can’t ask for much more.
We were in a LOT of games last season thanks to our defense. We might have been staring down a 6-6 season without this defense.
I hate to lose Elko but Jimbo went out and got one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. What Durkin did with the Ole Miss defense down the stretch last season was remarkable.
They shut down Malik Willis who might be the first quarterback taken in this year’s draft. We saw what Ole Miss did to us with a bunch of nobodies. They kept Mike Leach’s offense in check in Starkville and then the Ole Miss defense was the only reason Ole Miss had any chance against Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
That Ole Miss didn’t have much talent but Durkin did an outstanding job scheming and getting his guys to play within that scheme as the season wore on. That’s usually the mark of a good coach. In addition, he’s had highly ranked defenses in his time as defensive coordinator at Florida and Michigan. I’m confident the dude can coach defense.
Durkin is definitely on par with Elko as a defensive coordinator in my mind. I’ll miss Mike but I’m ready to change my adoration to Durkin.
We lose Demarvin Leal who’s been the heart and soul of this team for three seasons. We also lose Michael Clemons, Jayden Peavy, and Tyree Johnson who started and played most of the games on the defensive line last year.
That’s usually a bad thing but Jimbo has recruited the defensive line better than any position on the team. We’re a little short on experience but we’re loaded with talent here.
Looks like we’ll have Fadil Diggs, Shemar Turner, McKinnley Jackson, and Tunmise Adeleye starting for us. All of these guys are legit football players.
This is McKinnley Jackson’s third season and he’s logged significant playing time. He’s flashed at times and if he’s really committed he can be one of the best defensive tackles in the country. The talent is there.
Shemar Turner is short on playing time but long on talent. This guy could take right over from Leal playing up and down the line depending on the offense and situation.
Diggs should be able to bring some pressure off the edge and Adeleye will serve as the strong side defensive end in likely running scenarios.
Behind them is a cornucopia of talent. Guys that have logged significant playing time like Adarious Jones and Isaiah Rakes. Then there’s highly recruited guys like Jahzion Harris, Anthony Lucas, Braedon Mowry, Elijah Judy, Marcus Burris, and Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy who are on campus. Some of these guys have been or are hurt and not practicing but the depth and talent on campus is pretty amazing.
Lucas and Brownlow-Dindy are part of the amazing 2022 recruiting class but we’re still waiting on Enai White, L.T. Overton, Shemar Stewart, and of course big Walter Nolen. Those four guys alone would make up an amazing recruiting class. We’re loaded before they’re even getting to campus. Unreal.
2022 won’t be the year we completely dominate the defensive line of scrimmage but it’ll be the start. Some of these guys won’t pan out but life is a numbers game and I LOVE our numbers along the defensive line right now.
We still need some serious talent and depth at linebacker but this isn’t the major issue it has been for some seasons.
Part of that is running a mostly 4-2-5 defense where we only use two linebackers. That helps in only needing two linebackers. We’ve got some decent talent and experience at those two starting spots.
Andre White returns as a starter along with Edgerrin Cooper. Cooper got quite a bit of playing time last season and looks like he could be a stud. He’s got speed and loves to hit. He also tends to be in the right spot. VERY important for a linebacker. I wouldn’t classify White as a stud but sandwiched between the defensive line and secondary he’ll be just fine.
Looks like they’re going to try Donell Harris at linebacker. He came in as a defensive end. This makes sense due to his size and the numbers along the defensive line. He only weighs around 220 but he’s got serious speed. I think we’ll see him as a pass rushing outsider backer on obvious passing downs. I’m good with this.
Tarian Lee and Chris Russell have seen the field so they have some experience. Ish Harris is a true freshman and looks like he can play ball but he needs to put on some weight. Hopefully he can put on the “Freshman 15” in straight muscle. Martrell Harris will join in the summer and he has a lot of promise.
I’ll classify linebacker as the “weakest” link of this defense but that’s only because the line and secondary are so good. Linebacker is not the liability it used to be which is a good thing. We just need to continue adding some more talent and depth in future recruiting classes.
This unit used to be a MAJOR liability. We’ve had a good run of safeties but prior to Jimbo’s arrival and early in his tenure we couldn’t find corners to save our lives. Decent receivers would just torch our secondary. Not even good receivers. Decent receivers would have a field day against our corners.
That’s slowly changing thanks to Jimbo’s recruiting.
I’m going to start with our two studs in the secondary – Demani Richardson and Antonio Johnson. Thankfully Demani returns for his fourth season in Aggieland. This guy probably won’t ever start in the NFL but he’s a damn good college safety. I fully expect him to take over Demarvin Leal’s role as leader of this defense. If he does that’s going to be a great thing.
Antonio Johnson was second team All SEC in his first year to start. This kid is a STUD. It remains to be seen if he’ll continue to play the role of Nickel close to the line or if he’ll take over Leon O’Neal’s spot at the back of the secondary. Wherever he plays he’s going to be fine and the Aggie defense will be better for it.
As for the rest of the secondary nobody knows how it’s going to shake out including the coaches. They’ve got numbers and talent which is a good problem to have. At the other safety it’ll be someone between Bryce Anderson, Jardin Gilbert, Deuce Harmon, and Jaylon Jones. There’s also Jacob Mathews coming this summer. Harmon and Jones have traditionally played corner but I think they’ll get looks at Nickel due to the amount of talent we now have at corner.
Seriously. We have an amazing crop of defensive backs either on campus or coming in. We used to clamor to have one or two of these guys on campus and now we don’t know who’s going to start and play. It’s a damn good problem to have.
It appears Jaylon Jones and Myles Jones are working with the first team at corner this spring but I don’t think that’s going to last. We’ve got a TON of young talent at corner that probably overtakes those two at some point next season. The early returns on Denver Harris are he’s everything he was recruited to be. Tyreek Chappell was freshman All SEC and All American. I think these two guys are the most likely to take over from Jaylon and Myles.
We’ve got Brian George who’s been on campus for a couple of years. I don’t think he’s as good as some of the younger guys and tends to get injured but he’s some nice depth. Myles Jones goes all the way back to the Sumlin Administration (seriously) and he’s returning for his 6th season. He really came on late in 2020 but spent all of 2021 hurt. Similar to George I think he’ll eventually get beat out by the younger guys. Crazy as 6-7 years ago we would have loved to have guys of their caliber starting for us even with their injury history.
I mentioned Denver Harris but we’ve got some other great corners in this signing class. Marquis Groves-Killebrew is a four star out of Georgia. Bobby Taylor is a four star out of Katy and the biggest reason for this recruiting class from a player standpoint. Smoke Bouie is another four startout of Georgia.
We’ve got some older guys with solid experience and some younger guys with amazing talent. Much like the defensive line it’s a good problem to have. Enough guys will shake out where this unit will be really damn good. It won’t be without hiccups as growing pains occur but I’ll take that over just not having the talent.
What Does All of this Mean?
I’ll get to my season prediction at some point this summer. I’m really torn what all of this means for the 2022 season record wise. There will be enough talent to win every game and a national championship. I don’t think the experience will be there though and we’ll likely lose a game or two we shouldn’t.
More than anything I hope this 2022 signing class is similar to the Herschel Walker trade that will prove to be a springboard for a run of National Championships. Hell, I don’t even need multiple. I just want at least one to prove all the haters wrong the Aggies can’t win it all.
We absolutely can and the talent we have on campus or coming will be enough to do it. We’ll just have to wait and see if it develops.
Writing about Sterling is a little bit difficult. Not because of emotion but because it’s hard to put her personality into words. Sterling had a lot of personality and you just kind of had to be around her to understand it.
Before I attempt to put her personality into words I have to to tell the story of how I happened to get Sterling. I’ve written a lot of stuff in my life. Without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever written in my life was the note to Sterling’s foster mom. When I was ready to add a replacement for Chopper’s original sister I was pretty specific on what I wanted. When I saw a picture of Sterling on PetFinder.com I knew she was the dog for me. She’d probably be okay for Chopper as well…
I wrote her foster mom a note explaining how Chopper’s original sister didn’t survive a severe sickness and he was now ready for a new little sister. I explained what kind of life they would live along with too many details like I tend to write. Well, it worked. The foster mom wrote me back a note saying Sterling was already promised to someone. However, she thought Sterling would be a better fit for me. She wanted to talk to the other person and make sure they were okay with it.
The foster mom responded back Chopper and I could get Sterling. I was extremely elated. That first person interested in Sterling wanted to turn her into a dog that did those obstacle courses. You know those courses where they jump over and run through things?
Holy cow. I thought I was lucky to get Sterling. EVERYONE was lucky I got Sterling. Sterling was not made to be an obstacle course dog. The girl was made to be a damn princess. I can’t imagine the hell Sterling and the other owner would have experienced trying to get her to go around, through, and over obstacles. No way Sterling would have enjoyed that life. She would have made whoever was trying to make her do that stuff pay for it. Her foster mom made the perfect call.
Funny how life tends to find the right course. Pun intended…
As for Sterling herself I think it’s easiest to break her down in little vignettes of her personality and stories of her life.
Sweet and Sassy:
I always joked Sterling had two settings – Sweet and Sassy. I’m not really joking. She basically had two personalities. The one where she just wanted to lay around and sleep or snuggle and the one where she was awake and either barking her head off or looking to see what she could get away with.
When the sweet setting was on there was no sweeter dog in this world. She really was. She just wanted to lay around and sleep. Even better if someone was next to her snuggling or cuddling on her. She just wanted to be loved and share love. So sweet.
When she was awake, she was VERY demanding of things. She didn’t speak English but she did her damndest to tell you what she wanted.
The girl made three sounds:
Whine: This was her warning she needed attention.
Woof: This was the second level warning she needed attention because you missed her whines.
Bark: This was full throttle top of her lungs pierce your ears the girl needs something and you better figure it out. Sterling went about 50 pounds but she was part hound dog so she had the lungs and vocal cords of a jet engine. The girl was LOUD. When she barked at you there was hell to pay. It would hurt your ears and you couldn’t think clearly.
I loved each of her settings. When she was Sweet you had your own little angel you could love on. She reciprocated the love. When she was Sassy you had a devil on your hands and you better get things corrected right away. The girl seemed like she could bark for 30 minutes straight so you weren’t going to ignore her demand for corrective action. You were just going to have to do it.
There really was no in between personality with her. She was either sleeping or barking. She didn’t need tasks to complete. She didn’t need treats or food. She wanted sleep or attention.
I sometimes joke if my ex-wife communicated with me like Sterling did we might still be married. I suppose that’s why Sterling and I lasted a lot longer. Good communication really is key to a successful relationship. Sterling certainly knew how to communicate.
Daddy’s Girl/Uber Possessive:
Anyone that spent any time with Sterling knew she was a Daddy’s Girl. There was one person in this world that mattered more to her than anyone. That was me. I don’t know how it happened but it did. I suppose a lot of it was me being a total sucker for her. I loved her personality and looks. I thought she had the funniest personality and she was a beautiful dog. She had those floppy hound dog ears. When she perked them up at me I’d melt. I make no apologies for how I treated her. I thought she deserved to be treated like a princess so that’s how I treated her.
In addition to being a Daddy’s Girl she was also super possessive of me. Whenever she was roaming around off leash and another dog was in the area she’d often walk in between my legs if I was standing. She’d put her front legs about where my legs where and she’d look up at me as I looked down because I felt something between my legs. We’d make eye contact as if she was saying, “Don’t forget I’m yours.” Then she’d lower her head waiting for another dog to come near. When that dog came near she’d snarl and growl at it.
It was pretty common at parks. I’d just be standing and feel this dog walk between my legs. I’d look down and there was Sterling just looking up at me. Then I’d see another dog in my general vicinity. The girl wanted everyone to know who belonged to who. I always laughed even if it meant Sterling was ready to fight another dog. She never did as I’d step away and call her to me if another dog got near. It was a fun game we played.
The best story of Sterling’s uber possessiveness was after Kelly and I moved in together. Kelly and Sterling’s relationship was one of love but moderate toleration. It’s the classic tale of two females fighting over one man. I’m not kidding. They did love one another but they really just tolerated each other when I was around.
One day I was upstairs in our sports room watching the Astros. Sterling had found me and was laying on the floor next to the couch where I was. Kelly came in to tell me something. Not more than a minute or two into our conversation Sterling jumps up and just lays into Kelly with her loud barks. We tell Sterling to be quiet but she’s not piping down. Kelly walks out of the room and downstairs into the kitchen. Sterling follows her all the way downstairs into the kitchen still barking her head off. She spent another minute or two just barking at Kelly. I’m sure it felt like an eternity to Kelly. When Sterling was done barking at Kelly, Sterling makes her way back up the stairs to where I was. She just lays down on the floor resuming her position before Kelly came in the room. I’m sure if we could translate Sterling’s barks it would be something like, “Lady! This is my special time with my dad. You get yours. Get out of here and leave us alone! Don’t come back either!”
Let me be clear – Kelly was a wonderful mother to Sterling. She was always very loving on Sterling even if Sterling didn’t always reciprocate it. Kelly was EXTREMELY loving on Sterling after she had her stroke. Kelly was her main caretaker during the day. Without Kelly we would have had to make a difficult decision much sooner. I know Sterling certainly appreciated it even if she didn’t always show it.
Still, it was funny to see the back and forth between those two over my attention.
Love Language – Affection:
Chopper was a treat machine. That dude would do ANYTHING for a treat. Sterling didn’t give a damn about treats or food. Sure, she enjoyed them when given to her but her love language was affection. If you wanted her to do something you better love on her.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’d try to get her to do something. If she wasn’t feeling it she’d just lay down on the ground. I’d go over to pet on her and talk sweet to her. After a minute or two I’d get up and she’d follow me to do whatever it was that I wanted her to do. She just needed a little affection and she was good to go.
This was never more evident than in her final moments. We had a vet come to our house to put her down. Sterling was on the couch while Kelly and I loved on her while the vet got things ready. The vet came over to give her the anesthesia and brought Sterling a treat. It was a treat Sterling liked. Sterling refused the treat from the vet and me as if to say, “Nah. You’re not buying me off with a treat in this moment. I want to be petted!” So she got lots of pets as she took her last breath.
It was only appropriate her final moments were full of pets and affection.
Sterling’s greatest gift was the fact she never aged. Seriously. The girl never aged. If you go back and look at puppy photos of her she just looks like a mini-version of her current day self. It was uncanny. She never grayed and she never gained any weight until after her stroke. She basically looked like the same dog for 14 years. As Chopper grayed people were shocked to learn Sterling and her big bubba were only 4 months apart.
The two funniest stories of this involve visits to the doggy emergency room. Chopper hurt himself one day at the park a few months before turning 14. He couldn’t get comfortable that night so around midnight I decided to take him to get checked out. I took Sterling along for moral support.
The vet comes in to start checking on Chopper. As we’re talking about things she mentions Chopper is almost 14 and things just don’t work as well. She looks at Sterling and says, “He doesn’t have the benefit of youth like her.” I tell her Sterling is only 4 months younger and she says, “You’re kidding me?” I tell her Sterling will be 14 soon too. She says, “I thought she was 9 or 10 at the most. She’s gonna be 14 soon? Girl, I need your secrets because you’re killing this aging thing.”
The other time was when Sterling had her stroke. We took her to the Doggy ER and talk to the vet on duty that night. She gives us the initial analysis that nothing life threatening has happened and they believe a recovery is possible. She said we could go home and they would call us in a couple of hours once they’d run some X-rays and tests with a further diagnosis. She calls us and tells us they think Sterling has had some neurological event and they want Sterling to see their Neurology Department in the morning. We hang up and a couple minutes later they call back. I’m worried something else has happened. The vet says, “I was looking at her chart and the age they put down shows her turning 14 next week. Is that correct? I think that’s an error.” I tell her it’s not an error. She says, “Holy cow. This girl looks good for almost 14 years old. I really thought it was wrong. She looks amazing for her age”
Sterling was the J-Lo of dogs.
A Smart and Devious Brain:
I often said, “Sterling hates being in trouble but she loves getting into it.” I really mean that. That girl was EXTREMELY smart but she liked to play dumb. She loved pushing boundaries to see what she could get away with. She knew all the rules but some she chose to ignore or knew they couldn’t be enforced when no one was around.
The best example of this was the bed and couch. She knew she wasn’t supposed to be on any furniture. She obeyed this rule when her daddy was around. The second I’d leave though she’d jump on the couch or the bed when she still had the ability. When I came home she’d either get alerted by Chopper I was home or she’d hear me at the door and jump off before I could see her.
The few times Chopper didn’t alert her or she didn’t hear me I’d look through the window and see hear. I’d jiggle the key a few times and she’d pop her head up realizing I was home. She’d then jump off the couch and immediately go into a stretch and yawn routine as I walked through the door pretending she’d just woke up on her bed.
She knew what she was doing and so did I. I didn’t care. I thought it was funny. I loved her smart and devious brain.
I mentioned Sterling was uber possessive of her dad but she was also very territorial of where she lived.
At every house she ever lived she had an archnemesis. I’m not kidding. There was one specific dog she absolutely could not stand and would never get along with. It wasn’t playful. It was pure spite.
There would be multiple dogs next door and somehow Sterling and one other dog would become sworn enemies. Every single house she lived there was one dog she just couldn’t or wouldn’t get along with.
The house before I moved in with Kelly was probably the worst. The dog lived next door and there was a wooden fence between us. Sterling would go outside and just sit at the fence peering between a crack waiting on that dog to come out. Seriously. She’d just sit there forever waiting.
When that dog did come out Sterling would just run up and down the fence line barking her head off. Maybe they were playing but I think it was Sterling antagonizing him.
The craziest story of those two involved breaking windows. The house was on a cul-de-sac so I’d let the dogs run around off the leash. The neighbors had a window that went all the way down to the ground. Sterling would run to the window in a full sprint and hit the brakes right as she got there. She’d have her nose inches from the window and just go crazy barking at that dog. I mean just go at each other.
Every now and then you’d hear glass break. Sterling would antagonize that dog so much that it would charge at her breaking the glass. This happened four times. Every time it happened the glass would be on the outside of the house which meant their dog had charged at Sterling. Each time it happened I offered to pay but they refused because in their eyes it was their dog that did it. They said they thought it was funny. Somehow Sterling always got away with it because she knew the boundary and wouldn’t go past it. She was sure going to push that boundary as far as she could. She loved pushing boundaries.
At the house Kelly and I live in now we didn’t have any dogs next door that became her archnemesis. She somehow identified a dog that lived on our block around the corner. This dog had a front yard with a picket fence so they could easily see each other. Before her stroke that dog would see her and start going crazy. Sterling would give it right back and they’d go crazy at each other through the fence. I mean just an all-out war between those two. I knew what was going on. That was her current sworn enemy and she’d never show weakness to that dog.
She didn’t even back down after her stroke. I’d take her on a walk around the block and that dog would be outside. Sterling could hobble along just fine but she couldn’t run at all. However, when she saw that dog she’d stop and make a legit running attempt at that dog and they’d just light into each other. Usually she’d fall down and I’d pop her back up and they’d keep going crazy at one another.
I thought one time it was the death of her. It was probably the hottest day since her stroke and that dog was outside. Sterling did her usual quasi run and going crazy. Right when we got past their house where they couldn’t see each other, Sterling went into the next house’s yard and passed out. I mean just went limp and fell in the grass with no movement. Her eyes were shut and she wasn’t breathing. I thought she was dying. I lay down next to her just petting her in case she really was dying. I figure if she’s going to go out she might as well do it going after an archnemesis.
After about 30 seconds she opens her eyes and starts breathing heavily. She’s alive. I just lay there with her. Luckily the neighbor heard something going on and came over. She went and got Sterling some water. I called Kelly to come get Chopper. After a few minutes we realize she’s okay so I carry her home. We put her on the couch with some ice packs to cool her down. 30 minutes later she was barking her head off ready for dinner.
In addition to having an archnemesis Sterling would not allow being trash talked to. If she was out and about and another dog started barking at her she NEVER backed down. It didn’t matter if it was a dog behind a fence, walking across the street, or even driving by in a car. If she got barked at she was lighting up barking right back. I’m sure she knew her dad or big brother would cash the check she was writing but Sterling would NEVER let a dog bark at her without a bigger volley back. Nobody trash talked the Sterls. Nobody.
The Time She Growled at Reveille:
To further how territorial and possessive Sterling was she once totally broke my heart. My ex-wife and I took the hounds to dog night at the Texas Rangers. It was a little overwhelming for them as they were a little anxious but they were doing okay.
Reveille, the Texas A&M mascot, was there taking pictures with other dogs. I thought it was a good idea to get a picture with all of us including Reveille. This was going to be wonderful. A photo we could frame, send to people for Holidays, or just show how big of an Aggie family we were.
As I’m trying to get everything lined up for the photo my ex-wife says, “Chewy. This isn’t a good idea.” I ask her why not and she says, “Look at Sterling.”
I look down and Sterling is showing teeth and growling at Reveille. My heart sank. Reveille was doing just fine but Sterling wasn’t having any company with her. It was as if Sterling was telling Reveille, “There’s only one female dog in my dad’s life and it ain’t you.” I was devastated. I knew if I tried to get that picture with Reveille and Sterling it might not end well. We moved on.
Sterling didn’t care if you were Aggie royalty or not. There was only one female dog in her pack and she was it. She defended her territory.
Bed and Snuggles:
I’ll close with how much Sterling loved beds and snuggles. Words really can’t express how much Sterling loved both. He favorite place in this world was snuggled in bed next to her dad. Not even a close second. Snuggling in a big bed with her dad was her favorite spot.
When she slept in my bed Sterling would get up several times through the night and get closer to me. She would basically lay on top of me and I’d slide away from her. At least 4-5 times a night she’d get up, do this little circle thing, and then fall back down as close as she could get to me. If she didn’t feel enough pressure from me she’d make sure she got it. It was all about the snuggles for her.
After her stroke she spent the next 9 months sleeping next to me every night in our bed. Some of it was sympathy but some of it was she needed to be turned in the night. It was just easier if she was lying next to me for me to turn her during the night.
Even in her post stroke state if I wasn’t touching her she’d move herself until one part of her was touching me. If I rolled over closer to Kelly it was only a matter of minutes before Sterling would use her legs to slide sideways until something of her was touching me. The girl couldn’t get up but she figured out how to slide so she could be touching her dad. It was cute.
As for beds the girl didn’t lay on the floor. She wanted something soft and fluffy to lay on. The softer and fluffier the better. Throughout her life she had many beds. As she got older the beds became more fluffier and plentiful. She had multiple beds at my house and multiple beds at Kelly’s house. When we moved in together there were multiple beds on both levels of the house. If you were going to be in a room it better have a bed as she’d bark or whine until you got her one.
Her second favorite spot was on the couch. After her stroke she couldn’t get up on the couch but she still wanted to be up there. Kelly bought her this bed that lays on the couch. It quickly became her favorite spot besides the upstairs bed. When she was ready to get on the couch she’d simply walk next to that bed on the couch. She’d stand there waiting on you to lift her on it. If you weren’t fast enough she’d give you a bark as an indication of what she wanted. Good communication and clear wants.
She passed on that couch bed and I’d like to think that’s how she wanted to go. On a bed on the couch with her parents loving on her. Sterling didn’t ask for much in life. Just a soft and fluffy place to lay with all the pets. She was a female afterall…
It’s been almost two months since she passed. She was the end of a marvelous era in my life with her brother. We’re all doing fine but we miss them dearly. Coming home from the first trip we took after her passing was weird. There was no one to greet us even if it was just a broke down dog laying somewhere barking for attention. It was eerily lonely. We missed the sound. We loved her and her brother so much. They made us a more complete pack.
We’ll get dogs again one day but we’re not in a hurry. That’s the problem with perfection. Once you have it and lose it you’re not sure if you can get it back just the way it was. Chopper and Sterling were perfection to us. They gave me 14.5 years of wonderful companionship and showed a girl who never had dogs just how much they can bring to a pack. That was a remarkable achievement.
Rest in Peace Sterling. I hope you and your brother are playing in a park in Heaven chasing squirrels waiting for the day one of us calls y’all over. We miss you both dearly but so thankful for every moment we had together.
Damn that feels good. Before I go any further let me say this – That was an AWESOME win but it wasn’t a program defining win. Not even close. That was a win over the best team in the country and one step closer to getting on their level. We still have two losses and don’t even control our own destiny in our division. Program defining wins are the kind that launch you to a level of success you’ve never experienced before. We did this 9 years ago. This was not a program defining win.
Right now, this team is still behind the 2020 team. Scary to think but it’s true.
Enjoy the win but let’s not get carried away on what it means for Aggie football. As Jimbo said – We ain’t done yet. Not even close. We still need to get to a point where we control our own destiny for a national title.
I knew this win was possible. However, I didn’t think it would happen after what I saw the last two weeks. I’ve been consistent in saying this team is more talented than last season but lacking on experience. I believed the lack of experience would continue to show against Bama.
I’ve never been happier to be wrong. The talent on this team showed up and showed out. This team went toe to toe with the best team country simply because it had the talent. It wasn’t even mistake free football. They simply just executed for most of the night and had the talent to go toe to toe. We swung first, they swung back, and when it mattered most we delivered the divisive blow.
The most impressive part of this game was we gave up 21 unanswered points late in the game to go down by a touchdown. Bama was starting to exert their will and it sure felt like they were going to get the victory. However, this Aggie team didn’t quit. They kept swinging back. We put together a solid drive to tie the game and then the Aggie defense made an amazing stand. Even with that I thought we were headed to overtime.
The Aggie team had a few more punches and drove down into field goal range where Seth Small delivered the final blow as time expired. The fans and stands exploded.
It’s one thing to go up on Alabama and hold a lead. It’s something completely different to blow a lead only to claw back and take the lead at the last possible moment. That takes grit and determination. For 60 minutes against the best team in the country the Aggies not only never gave up but had enough confidence they could win. We executed late like we did because of confidence. It was an outstanding effort.
I’ve been to a lot of games at Kyle Field and that was an outstanding environment. It’s going to sway some recruits without a doubt. It showcased what Kyle can be and what this program is capable of. While I’m not going to call this a program defining win it certainly was a program building boost.
After the last two games it sure seemed like something we’ve seen before. We’ve routinely experienced a disappointing season after a good season and struggle to hold recruits. 2021 will likely turn out be a level of disappointment but we still might be able to salvage a good portion of this season. While we don’t control our own destiny in the SEC West we can still be the third best team in the SEC and finish in the Top 10. That’s a damn good season by most standards.
We beat Bama.
Let’s get to the game itself.
I’ve been hard on Jimbo for not trying to win games we weren’t quite ready to win. That’s how I felt about this game. I knew we had the talent to win but I didn’t think we had the experience. I thought Jimbo would lay up yet again. Jimbo decided he wasn’t going to let experience get in the way of trying to win.
His play calling was tremendous. It felt like we went a little stale in the second half but I feel that was a little more on execution than play calling. Bama decided to sell out on the run and Calzada went cold for a little bit. He missed on some passes and we just couldn’t get any momentum going. Meanwhile when it mattered most we didn’t back down and went back on the attack.
I’m totally okay with the play calling as it’s hard to call a complete game. Great staffs make adjustments and you have to adjust back. When it mattered most we had the play calls and execution.
Statistically Bama won this game. They won time of possession and outgained us by 150 yards. What mattered most though was the score and we got that. Jimbo and his staff deserve some MAJOR credit. They called a game for a team short on experience but with enough talent to beat the best team in the country. Just win, baby. That’s exactly what we did. Kudos to the coaching staff.
Is it okay if I eat my crow with BBQ sauce? I think BBQ sauce makes everything better.
Zach Calzada showed everyone why he was a four-star recruit and a ton of schools wanted him. He showed why Jimbo Fisher said over the summer he’s got an NFL career ahead of him. He proved every doubter wrong and I couldn’t be happier for him.
4th quarter Colorado game Zach Calzada showed up for three quarters. The dude came out throwing perfect passes. The line certainly gave him time but he was confident the whole game. He knew the game plan and executed it wonderfully.
He made one mistake on the interception in the first half and was a little off in the third quarter. When it mattered most in the 4th quarter he hit the passes he needed to. It also helped that his receivers didn’t have any crucial drops.
I don’t know what the future holds for Zach Calzada but you sure hope this is the game that he can build on. He certainly appears to have taken a major step. I’m really hoping this is a Kellen Mond moment over Florida in 2020. The other is a Trevor Knight leading OU over Bama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl and he ends up playing somewhere else. That path is up to him because he’s got the keys to the kingdom right now.
For one night he showed everyone what he’s capable of. I hope there’s more where that came from.
I assumed coming into this game Bama would focus on shutting down our run. They did. Even despite that we had enough success on the ground. Spiller had a pretty pedestrian 16 carries for 46 yards but his running helped set the tone early on and forced Bama into defending us a certain way. His touchdown run was outstanding. Because of Spiller’s efforts the Bama defense couldn’t quit focusing on the run which I think helped our middle receivers get open against their safeties. Their safeties had to defend the run and the pass.
What these guys do through the air is outstanding. Spiller and Achane are outstanding receivers either running a flare out or down the sidelines. Achane and Spiller were a perfect 7 for 7 on targets for 87 yards. These guys have a real knack for moving the chains and keeping the defense honest because there’s another element that must be defended.
In addition they’re also outstanding blockers when the blitz is coming.
Can’t say enough about these guys.
If I’m not mistaken this was the sixth combination of players we’ve used on the offensive line this season. This was game six. Six games and six different combinations. Usually that’s not good. It didn’t matter as this unit showed up in a big way. These guys were outstanding. Just flipping outstanding.
They created holes for the running backs in the first half and kept Calzada clean all night long. They went up against NFL caliber defensive linemen and linebackers and imposed their will at times. They seemed to get a bit stalemated in the second half but Bama was selling out for to the run. They held their own all night long against one of the best defenses in the country.
They did an excellent job picking up the blitz which they’ve struggled with this season. They seem to be figuring out playing with one another.
Just in case you don’t know their names and positions here they are:
Kenyon Green – Left Tackle Blake Trainor – Left Guard Bryce Foster – Center Layden Robinson – Right Guard Reuben Fatheree, Jr. – Right Tackle
What a game for those five guys.
I don’t now what combination we go back to once Jhamir Johnson is back from his suspension. At this point I’d roll with these guys. The five of these guys earned it so let’s just keep rolling with them. You’re not supposed to lose your job over an injury but I have no problem losing your job to a suspension. Blake Trainor deserves to stay in the starting lineup.
I would make one switch in moving Fatheree to left tackle and Kenyon Green back to right tackle. I think Fatheree is a better pass blocker at left tackle and Green the better blocking tackle. Having Green and Layden Robinson on the same side seems like a great way to open holes for the running backs. I get paid zero dollars for this blog and Jimbo gets $9 million so I suppose we can defer to him.
Either way, kudos to the five guys on the offensive line on Saturday night. They went toe to toe against Bama and imposed their will at times. It was an impressive effort and I hope they can keep it up.
I thought the receivers were outstanding on Saturday night. Not dominant by any stretch but they were solid. Ainias Smith lead the way followed by Jalen Wydermyer. Smith caught 6 balls for 85 yards and two scores. Wydermyer caught 3 balls for 73 yards and one score. Calzada actually missed each of these guys for what could have been another touchdown.
On our first possession of the fourth quarter Calzada was forced out of the pocket. As he was rolling right he spotted Smith who had burned the secondary. Calzada let a bomb fly and missed Smith by a foot or two. It was an unbelievably tough pass but had they connected it might have put the game away. We wound up punting on that possession.
On our last offensive possession Bama sold out for the blitz to try and get us out of field goal range. Jimbo smartly knew it was coming and sent Wydermyer down the field. Wydermyer slipped by the defender but Calzada couldn’t get enough on the ball in the face of the blitz for Wydermyer to go get it and score. We got a pass interference so the result was fine but if Calzada could have connected on that pass it could have been a 7-point win rather than a last second field goal.
I’m not blaming Calzada for that. I’m just pointing out Smith and Wydermyer had two possible touchdowns we just couldn’t quite connect on due to pressure in the backfield from Bama. We were close to blowing that game open.
I’ve talked about the running backs as key receivers as well. They are key contributors to this receiving unit.
As for the rest of the receivers Demas, Preston, and Lane caught five balls. I’m fine with them not doing more. Bama has an outstanding secondary. Jimbo decided to attack it with his two best guys just running down the field. It was a smart move. Let the guys that have produced in the past carry the receiving load. Let other guys essentially be decoys that Bama had to cover.
One thing I’ve also noticed with Calzada as it relates to the receivers is he’s much better throwing balls down the field. It forces him to put touch on the ball rather than gunning fastballs on a crossing or stop route. I’ll be curious to see if Jimbo and the receivers figure out a way to run more routes down the field since that’s what Calzada seems to do best.
Great job by this whole unit.
Just when I was totally down on Mike Elko for his decisions against Mississippi State he totally went and redeemed himself against the best team in the country. I’m still a little frustrated though. If he calls the game he did against Bama against Mississippi State we have one loss and control our destiny to the national championship. We’re that close.
Maybe he needed the Mississippi State game to wake himself up. Whatever it was it worked.
I know lots of people still think of Bama as a dominant defense with an evolved offense. It’s actually the other way around. Bama is now a dominant offense with an evolved defense. Don’t get me wrong as they’re still loaded with NFL guys on defense but this whole team has evolved. For the last few years Bama has had one of the best offenses in the country.
This current version of the Bama offense is loaded with elite receiver speed and an outstanding quarterback. Of course they still have an outstanding offensive and running game. I really feel this Bama offense is the best in the country. I do think they’re still feeling their way a bit and I think we got them at a great time. This offense is going to torch a lot of teams the rest of this season.
The receivers were turning passes at the line of scrimmage into 4-8 yard gains because they’re so fast. It’s basically a long hand off. They are excellent at blocking, catching, and running. They don’t have the names at receiver they had last season but these guys are still damn good. It’s probably the best wide receiver unit in the country. Saban’s just re-loading at receiver these days.
What Mike Elko did to Bryce Young (Bama QB) was the difference in the game. We got to Young early and that changed the complexion of the game. He was never truly settled and ready to let the ball fly. Because of that he forced some passes he couldn’t quite connect on.
The Bama offense finally synced up and came charging back scoring 21 unanswered points. As part of that the Aggie defense did an outstanding job converting two 1st and goals to field goals. That was part of the difference in the game. That’s a potential 8-point swing if those two possessions result in touchdowns over field goals.
There’s some armchair quarterbacking over if Bama should have run more in those situations but the Aggie defense has been good at stopping short yardage plays. We did it against Colorado, Arkansas, and even Mississippi State. I know they’re Bama but I agree with what Bama was trying to do. They had superior matchups outside but the players just didn’t execute. It worked on their last touchdown where we didn’t get lined up correctly. We were clearly focused on the inside.
It’s fun and easy to make fun of Bill O’Brien who’s the former Texans head coach and now Bama offensive coordinator. I don’t have an issue with his play calling in those situations. I think he learned in the Florida game to keep his foot down on the gas and it almost worked.
Either way I thought Mike Elko had an amazing game plan despite the points we gave up. In the end we made the stop we had to and our offense did enough to get the win as time expired. I have no idea what happens if that game goes to overtime but I’m glad we didn’t find out. Take the win and storm the field with the $100,000 fine.
By the way – I’m back on paying Mike Elko $5 million a season to stay and coach our defense. We all make mistakes from time to time…
As expected, these guys were the heart and soul of the defense. Tyree Johnson had a breakout game recording two sacks and being in the backfield pretty much all night long. Michael Clemons was his usual self on the outside tying up the Bama tackles and getting a sack. Demarvin Leal spent most of his night lined up inside just wreaking havoc. Jayden Peevy was solid lined up next to Leal most of the night. McKinnley Jackson and Isaiah Raikes did a good job rotating in an out.
I know we gave up 38 points but this unit set the tone for the whole night letting Bryce Young know he couldn’t get comfortable. They also dictated to Bill O’Brien Bama was going to battle for running yards and weren’t going to have time to go deep.
Alabama won’t face a better defensive line until they play Georgia. This unit is elite SEC caliber. Jimbo and his assistants have just done an outstanding job recruiting and developing SEC caliber defensive linemen.
Without these guys we’re not knocking on the door of being able to challenge Alabama every season. Elite SEC teams win in the trenches. These guys are a major reason why we’re able to do so.
Our linebackers are still the weakest link of this defense but they’re not bad. They’re simply out of position from time to time. I wouldn’t say we truly miss Buddy Johnson but I do think this defense would be much improved with him in the middle.
The good thing about our linebackers is they’re physically talented. They’re not getting beat physically. They’re just not in the correct position at times due to not diagnosing the play properly.
They did fine on Saturday night considering who they are. They missed a few assignments here and there which really allowed Bama to roll up some yards on the ground.
However, they were REALLY solid on pass pressure and helped change the complexion of the game in that regard. This is their strength because our defensive line is so good at consuming the offensive line. These guys get to benefit from one of the best defensive lines in the SEC getting turned loose to chase the quarterback.
I hold out hope they continue to develop overall but I think Elko learned a valuable lesson in the Mississippi State game. These guys are best when they’re allowed to be disruptive. They’re going to make mistakes from time to time but it’s also best if Elko puts them in a position to be disruptive. Even just the threat of being disruptive helps this unit in a big way.
Hopefully we continue to see these guys inched up on the line of scrimmage as it’s their best element.
These guys are the second-best unit on the defense and it showed on Saturday night. They gave up 369 yards of receiving but they didn’t break. Bama had two completions over 30 yards on Saturday night. If you remember Bama games in the past couple of years they’d have a couple long touchdown passes over 50 yards. That didn’t happen on Saturday night. Most of that was thanks to the guys up front but this secondary played bend but don’t break defense remarkably well.
They did a really solid job of harassing the Bama receivers all night long which lead to some timely incompletions. You’re not going to shut down the Bama receivers so at minimum they need to know they’re going to work for completions and there’s going to be contact when they catch the ball.
Individually I thought Jaylon Jones looked good. He’s by far our best cover corner. He’s physical enough though to make receivers work for completions.
Antonio Johnson looked great. Demani Richardson had one of the plays of the game with his interception in the end zone. That interception was all him. He was in great position to defend the receiver but most importantly he recognized the route and was able to cut underneath to make a play on the ball. That’s being prepared.
I don’t know if Leon O’Neal played the best game of his life but it was up there. I don’t recall him making any major mistakes. He did an outstanding job tackling all night and blitzed beautifully sacking Bryce Young once. He was also in a great spot to pick up the ball on a 3rd and 1 when Bama’s running back didn’t get the hand off. He seemed to have himself in the right spot all night long and executed well. This guy has really matured and I’m very proud of him.
This unit is going to make mistakes from time to time and give up plays. They’re also a unit that’s going to make big plays. I think Elko also learned from the Mississippi State game this unit is better off attempting to make some plays here and there. These guys can play football. It’s okay to take some chances rather than sit on our heels.
Fortunately and unfortunately I have to write about special teams.
The Punt Block:
This was 100% on coaching. We completely screwed up because we gave this to Bama. I haven’t been paying attention all season but in this game we used two “personal protectors.” Those are the guys lined up between the line and punter. They’re supposed to be a secondary/last line of defense for the punter. I’ve seen most teams use three guys but we used two on Saturday night. I don’t know if that’s how we’ve been doing it all year but Bama created an opportunity because of it.
Bama set this up in classic Nick Saban fashion. On the previous punt they overloaded one side but didn’t send everyone. They were just checking numbers. On the next punt they overloaded the same side. When A&M didn’t react like the previous punt they sent everyone and overwhelmed the “personal protectors.” Nice job by Saban and his crew but a TERRIBLE job by Jimbo and his crew. Someone should have noticed it on the previous punt and reacted accordingly.
That could have been in a HUGE momentum swing but it wasn’t because…
The Kickoff Return:
I personally think this was the play of the game. Bama had just swung some momentum their way. They were still down a touchdown but the Aggie offense was not doing much. That punt block sure felt like one of those plays where the momentum was about to swing big time. Some people believe a blocked punt is the most demoralizing play in football. I don’t know if I’d say that but it’s up there.
However, Devon Achane made that play moot for the most part. He hadn’t returned a kick all night long but the ensuing kick off fell a little short of the goal line so he decided to take it. He caught it in stride, took a few more strides, saw a hole, hit the hole, and was gone. It was beautiful.
The dude is so damn fast. 25 yards after the catch he still had some traffic to get out of but everyone in the stadium knew he was gone. Nobody could catch him. This is Alabama who’s special teams players can start at pretty much every program in the country. They have plenty of speed.
The don’t have Devon Achane speed though. Before he got to midfield this dude had run away from the Bama kick off team. All he did was field the ball cleanly and head up field. It’s not like he did a bunch of cuts and jukes to suck everyone in. He simply ran straight and before midfield he cleared everyone coasting the last 10 yards into the end zone. He’s so fast he let up the last 10 yards because nobody could catch him. That’s unreal.
He’s got really great vision which helps a ton but damn the dude can fly. He’s a true homerun threat. Having to defend guys like Devon Achane is demoralizing because sometimes you just can’t do it.
Is this the Florida game from last season? Do the Aggies rip off 7 straight wins and finish in the Top 10? I have no idea but it sure feels like it. The Aggies that played on Saturday night can beat every team left on their schedule. That’s pretty obvious considering Bama is the best team in the country. That doesn’t mean it’ll happen though.
We need to see if this offensive line and quarterback that showed up for 3 quarters can do the same the rest of the way. I think they can. I think we’re going to see a lot of what we saw after the Florida game last year. Establish the run and hit some passes from time to time. I think that will do wonders for Calzada or King if/when he comes back. I’m not talking about a quarterback controversy. Just acknowledging King may still come back this season as no one seems to really know.
It was originally expected Kind would be out 4-6 weeks but Jimbo mentioned before the game he may not be back this season. At this point I hope it doesn’t matter. We can win 7 in a row no matter who’s under center.
We have two of the best running backs in the country and they need to be the focus of this offense. I think Jimbo will go back to this without question. Especially if we can get some consistency in who’s playing on the offensive line.
We need to get through Missouri and South Carolina first before worrying about November. Strangely Auburn worries me more than Ole Miss or LSU right now. That’s not to say Ole Miss or LSU will be easy games but I think we match up with those teams really well right now.
I do think we’re going to look back at the Mississippi State game and wonder what could have been. Oh well. Welcome to Aggie Football. Give me 11 wins and a Top 10 finish so we can focus on next year. There’s always next year…
We. Beat. Bama.
In other news I have a batch of Make Aggie Football Great Again hats in stock. They’re $25 including shipping. I believe this is going to be the last batch. I truly think we’re going 7-0 with a Top 10 finish. When that happens there we won’t be any need or hope to Make Aggie Football Great Again. Jimbo will have us on solid footing and we’ll be where we need to be. We’ll remember 2020 and 2021 as the early foundation of a great run in Aggie Football.
I’d like to congratulate Jimbo Fisher on his first “Kevin Sumlin Loss” where he completely botched a win into a loss. There was no reason to lose to Mississippi State at Kyle Field on Saturday night. In my last piece I analyzed Jimbo’s losses in his time at A&M. Prior to this game I really felt the 2019 Auburn loss and the 2021 Arkansas loss were the only two losses that were solely on coaching. I am okay with those losses to a degree because Gus Malzahn is a gambler and Sam Pittman and Arkansas simply wanted that game more than the Aggies and staff. Jimbo has done a really good job winning the games he should have.
Mississippi State was COMPLETELY different. Mike Leach has Mississippi State in a decent place but they’re still a long way behind where Texas A&M is right now. Jimbo wasn’t prepared for what Mississippi State could do. We trailed pretty much the whole game. Jimbo and his staff couldn’t figure out how to get the lead so we basically played from behind the whole game. That hasn’t been a good recipe so far this season.
Jimbo thought he could come out and grind Mississippi State into the ground and sneak out with a win. There was a point I thought it was going to happen. Kyle Field was ABSOLUTELY rocking and the team couldn’t take advantage. The atmosphere was electric so you certainly can’t blame it on the fans.
In the end Jimbo couldn’t pull off another one of his patented wins where we sneak it out by the smallest of margins. In this business all that matters is wins and losses. We’ve lost some games we could have won. That hurts.
I think the biggest issue is A&M can’t build a lead and do what Jimbo wants to do. Jimbo isn’t doing well playing from behind. Sure, he’s got a quarterback who has deer in the headlights but great coaches figure out a way to get these wins. Jimbo keeps hoping his offense will break a big score and his defense will hold. It did almost happen on Saturday night but almost doesn’t count. We lost. We didn’t run out of time. We lost.
In my mind we lost the worst game of Jimbo’s career. A very winnable game at Kyle Field we figured out how to lose. That’s what Kevin Sumlin did here. I’m not saying Jimbo is Kevin Sumlin but every good coach figures out a way to win the winnable games at Kyle Field. Those should be gimme games in a very tough SEC West. You must have those wins. Kyle Field against less talented opponents has to mean something. You can’t give those games away. That’s what Jimbo did on Saturday night and he’s put a disappointing season further down the rails.
I have no idea if this is a trend we need to be worried about or Jimbo and his crew are going to get it corrected. It’s all certainly fixable. We just have to wait and see.
Let’s get to a quick analysis for the play on the field.
I’ll start with the most obvious issue. I hate to bag on a college kid but the fact is Calzada is in his 3rd season at A&M. I get he’s the backup but even capable backups progress when they finally get snaps. They may have a little rust but that gets knocked off quickly and they start progressing.
That’s not happening with Calzada at all. I had some hope coming out of the Colorado game that 4th quarter Calzada would be what we’d get going forward. 8 quarters into SEC play and 4th quarter Colorado Calzada is nowhere to be found. Nowhere at all.
The moment looks to big for him and he’s wildly erratic. Something that struck me in this game were his slides. On a couple scrambles he slid WAY before any contact and basically gave up getting any yards. He was clearly shying away from contact.
There’s a theory Jimbo told him to do that to make sure he didn’t get hurt. We don’t have a backup. If true Jimbo should be fired. I get being cautious but if Jimbo told him to make sure he doesn’t get hurt it’s the stupidest thing ever. You have a quarterback who is obviously unsure of himself and you just introduced another element to his brain in avoiding injury.
I have no idea why he slid like he did. All I know is his slides are further proof this is a kid that’s really uncertain of what he needs to be doing on the field. If he’s completing passes and doing those slides that’s fine but he’s not. He’s all over the place on the field. He’s got the physical talent but maybe the mental football ability is just not there.
A couple of other things as we see more of Calzada. It’s clear there was never a quarterback competition between King and Calzada. If there was we’re in bigger trouble than we think. I said in my pre-season blog King was the obvious choice for the starting position based on Jimbo’s actions last season. Think about this – In our second game of the season against the best team in the country a true freshman took the second team snaps over the guy who is supposed to be just as talented with an extra season on the team. For the rest of the season that true freshman continued getting the second team snaps over the kid with one more season under his belt.
At this point I think that says more about Calzada than King. Calzada just isn’t developing to his talent. He’s had more opportunity to grab the starting job from King but it’s clear he hasn’t.
Here’s the other thing – There’s not an Aggie fan alive that wouldn’t take Kellen Mond over Zach Calzada right now. Ouch.
Let’s just hope he can get us two more wins before King comes back. Make no mistake this is King’s team the second he’s able to take a live snap with contact.
We had a new combination of people on the offensive line on Saturday. We had Jahmir Johnson at left tackle, Kenyon Green at left guard, Bryce Foster at center, Layden Robinson at right guard, and Rueben Fatheree at right tackle. I think it’s our best collection of talent even if two guys are true freshman. Personally, I hope this is the unit we use going forward. If this unit can stay healthy and get some time together I think we can finally get the offensive line to gel. The talent is definitely there.
I thought these guys did okay on Saturday night. Maybe the best we’ve seen so far this season. We ripped off some decent runs and Calzada had time to throw most of the night.
Mississippi State isn’t a vaunted defense but they’re not terrible.
Let’s hope these five guys stick and get some cohesion. Beyond getting King back this will be the biggest difference maker once we get past Bama for salvaging the season. These five guys will be the most crucial for salvaging the season.
Spiller ran 16 times for 107 yards and Achane ran 8 times for 76 yards. That’s an average per carry of 6.3 yards and 8.6 yards respectively. That’s with the defense keying on them. That’s damn good and highly underrated since we’re losing games. These two guys are flat out producing with Spiller leading the way. He’s really the best back in the country nobody is talking about.
I get you can’t run the ball every down but I really do think we need to use the run even more to set up the pass rather than just try and be balanced. Run. The. Damn. Ball.
The running backs are the only saving grace of this offense right now.
We attempted 20 passes and completed 12 of them for 135 yards. That’s a 60% completion rate and over 10 yards a pass. Statistically that’s not terrible.
Eyeball wise it’s terrible. This whole unit looks out of sorts. These guys just aren’t a threat. Wydermyer sure looks like he misses Mond in a major way. Ainias can’t quite break anything open. The other guys just kind of catch some passes here and there. Nobody you can consistently count on.
I know we’ve got some guys hurt but I’m not sure they’d make a difference. This unit just has some bad mojo right now and I’m not sure why.
Baylor Cupp has been suited up since Kent State but we haven’t seen him in a game. He’s supposed to be a matchup nightmare. He’s simply Bigfoot at his point. A lot of talk but nobody’s seen him.
I don’t know what else to say about these guys. I know the quarterbacking isn’t great but these guys don’t appear to be helping the quarterback at all.
I can’t believe I have to write this but in my mind Mike Elko and his crew cost us the game on Saturday night. Mainly more Mike Elko than the players. I love Mike Elko but he botched the game on Saturday night. I’m devastated.
I was okay with the 3 man defensive line if we’d brought more pressure with our linebackers and secondary via disguised blitzes. We didn’t do that. We simply tried to get to the QB with a 3 man front and it didn’t work.
I don’t know why Elko continued to sit back and let Mike Leach pick apart our guys in space where they busted off a few long passes here and there. He should have been disguising pressure bringing at least one person on every play from the second level and occasionally two or even three just to keep the quarterback from getting comfortable. We didn’t and Will Rogers got comfortable and completely picked us apart.
We got 3 sacks but we never got consistent pressure at all. Mike Leach’s QB doesn’t need much time in the pocket and he got all the time he needed pretty much all night.
Will Rogers completed 46 of 59 passes. That’s a 78% completion rate. That’s basically completing 4 out of every 5 passes against our supposed elite level defense. They threw just shy of 60 passes. Major league starters don’t even throw that may times in some games anymore. That’s a lot of damn passes.
Mississippi State passed for 408 yards on us. 408. They had 5 different receivers catch passes over 20 yards on us. You know how you catch passes over 20 yards? One of two ways – 1) No pressure on the QB or 2) busted tackles. Both occurred on Saturday night.
Makai Polk destroyed us all night catching 13 balls for 126 yards. You ever heard the name Makai Polk before Saturday night? I hadn’t. How we couldn’t shut that guy down is beyond me. He had twice as many receptions as any other Mississippi State receiver. Mississippi State was either keying on him all night or we completely forgot about him. At some point you must shut down the hot receiver. We didn’t do that.
I’m not doing a unit analysis because the whole defense had issues thanks mainly to the scheme. The strength of this team is our defensive line. I get we don’t have a perceived pass rushing threat like a Von Miller or Myles Garrett. We’ve got a pretty good corps of people though that can destroy an offensive line with 4 people.
When it was apparent Will Rogers was comfortable making completion after completion changes were warranted and necessary. Elko didn’t do that. He’s been so good in his four seasons at A&M of making in game adjustments and he didn’t do that in this game. I just don’t understand it. He dominated Mississippi State last season and apparently completely forgot how he did it. He brought pressure so their quarterback couldn’t get comfortable last season. How did he forget how to do that?
Our weakest unit is our linebacking crew and Elko left them all alone to get picked apart. Leach just flooded the mid-level and Rogers had time to find the open man. That’s the Mike Leach system so you can’t let him do that.
I just don’t understand why someone with a headset didn’t ask why we weren’t trying to apply more pressure. This wasn’t the 2019 LSU team with Joe Burrow and that receiving group. This was Will Rogers and a host of receivers that likely never see the NFL. Apply some damn pressure. Elko had a complete vapor lock in his brain.
Credit to Leach and the Mississippi State team. They took what A&M gave them and executed it flawlessly. I just tend to think we’re a MUCH better defense than what happened on Saturday night. Especially with the atmosphere at Kyle Field for a night game.
Maybe we’re not that good of a defense. Maybe Mississippi State just exposed us completely for who we are on defense. If so, oh boy…
I personally still hold out hope for this season. I say that simply because we could be 5-0 right now. I’m not saying should be. We got beat by teams that wanted it more and executed it better than we did. We got beat in these last two games plain and simple. Tip our hat because they beat us. I’m not denying that.
However, different decisions by the coaching staff and a little better execution by the players and we’re 5-0 ranked number 3 in the country with Bama coming to town. We’re not nearly as far from that as it seems. I’ll fully admit we’re also not far from 2-3 with zero wins over FBS programs. That’s the part of football most people forget. It’s always a few plays that swing most games. All about coaching and execution.
Our mistakes are completely fixable. They really are. It’s not a team devoid of talent. Well, not everywhere…
We’re 3-2 and no longer ranked in the Top 25 with Bama coming to town. There is exactly ZERO chance of us beating Bama. It’s not in Jimbo Fisher to figure out a game plan to beat Bama. We simply don’t have the talent at quarterback, receiver, and linebacker to beat a team like Bama right now. The offensive line is in question but I think we’re finally on the right path.
My hope is this season winds up turning out like the 2010 season where we hit a first half snag going 3-3 and then go on a tear ripping off 6 wins to get to 9-3 on the season. I honestly believe that to be possible. There’s enough talent on this team and every game after Bama is winnable.
I’m not saying we win those games as it’ll be up to the coaches and players. I don’t look at our schedule post Bama like in 2019 where you saw games we just couldn’t compete in. We can absolutely compete and win the remaining games on our schedule after Lord Saban goes 25-0 against his assistants this coming weekend. Hopefully there’s a run like we had in 2020 that just comes a few games later than we ever imagined it needed to.
I think what’s going to happen against Bama is Jimbo is going to try and establish the run which I’m okay with. It’s going to be an ugly game as our offense will look anemic. Well, it is anemic. However, if our offensive line can do some good against the Bama defense at times then every defense the rest of the way won’t old a candle to the Bama defense. I’m hoping we can use this game as the point where our offensive line finally learned to play together even if it doesn’t exactly show up on the field.
At this point I don’t want Jimbo to even try and beat Bama. No crazy wrinkles or anything like that. Let’s just go out and play fundamental mistake free football our normal way. Even if it’s against the best team in the country we should treat it like a glorified scrimmage where your single goal is to execute assignments and not worry about the score. For once this season play a complete game of football even if it means getting beat.
Learning to play mistake free football against the best team in the country could pay major dividends the rest of the season. It sucks this is our reality but we’re here. Let’s not let the season slip away as there’s still a lot to salvage.
To the Fightin’ Texas Aggie football team I say this – The spread is 17.5 at some books, fellas. Let’s go out there and show the country we can cover it! I’ll take a damn moral victory this week! BTHO 17.5!
Someone tell the Yell Leaders we’re making a slight modification to one of the yells on Saturday. BTHO 17.5!
If you’re going to the game make sure you tailgate appropriately. If you’re watching at a bar make sure you have a designated driver or an Uber account. If you’re watching at home make sure you’re somewhere comfortable so you can just pass out and get some good rest.
Copious amounts of alcohol are going to be needed for this game. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya’…
After 40 games Jimbo Fisher is 29-11. That’s a 72.5% winning percentage which is pretty damn good. Especially when you consider the team he took over and the schedule he inherited. That 2019 schedule was just brutal with Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, and LSU who were all ranked #1 at one point in the season. All but Alabama was on the road that season. Brutal.
I went back and looked at Jimbo’s 11 losses. In my mind there’s only 2 losses that are completely on the coaching staff. That was the 2019 Auburn game at Kyle and the 2021 Arkansas game. Jimbo and his staff got completely jumped by Gus Malzahn and Sam Pittman in those games. Both coaches had wrinkles and a game plan that identified A&M weaknesses. They got really early leads and the Aggies could never claw back. The Aggie coaching staff was just completely overwhelmed from the start. Without a doubt those 2 losses were coaching failures.
Of the other 11 losses, 7 of those were against teams that won the national championship that season or was ranked at #1 at some point in the season. I would have loved to have won those games but A&M really didn’t have the team to compete. I’m not going to say Jimbo should be 29-4 but let’s be real no coach in America other than maybe Nick Saban is winning those games with the talent A&M had at the time. Just completely overmatched. Jimbo actually almost pulled off a win against Clemson in 2018 and Georgia in 2019.
The other 2 losses I’m putting on the players and coaching staff. The 2018 Mississippi State game was on the road against a quarterback that simply had our number. Nick Fitzgerald had A&M’s number for whatever reason. Their defense had 3 or 4 guys that went in the first few rounds of the NFL draft. They were a good team and our guys simply didn’t make the plays they needed to.
The 2018 Auburn game was a complete meltdown by the players. Cullen Gilaspia botched an assignment that created a fumble by Kellen Mond early in the game. That gave Auburn a short field where they scored a touchdown. A&M would claw back to have a 24-14 lead with 7:00 left in the game. Auburn would score two touchdowns their final two drives were Aggie defenders had an Auburn player stopped but simply didn’t tackle him. It was a comedy of errors by the defensive personnel on those final two drives. That should have easily been a win but the players didn’t execute. This game certainly wasn’t on the coaching staff.
Jimbo has proven to be a stubborn coach in wanting to play a certain way every week but his method has worked as we could have easily lost the following games:
2018 Ole Miss
2019 @Ole Miss
2019 Oklahoma State (Bowl Game)
2020 North Carolina (Bowl Game)
A bunch of 2020 games could have been lost but Jimbo somehow turned Kellen Mond and an offensive line devoid of real talent into the number 4 team in the country by season’s end. That was a great team last season. Maybe it was lightening in a bottle but Jimbo’s stubbornness certainly paid off in a big way last season. That team definitely played above it’s talent level and won all but 1 game. That’s an outstanding season.
I have no idea what the rest of 2021 holds for the Aggies but Jimbo’s previous 3 seasons say we’re still going to win a lot more games than we lose. This is still really a talented team that needs to correct some mental errors and get a couple of key players healthy. Mainly Layden Robinson and Haynes King. It’s usually easier to correct mental errors than overcome talent. The talent is there.
I HATE the Arkansas loss. I can’t tell you how much I hate losing games we should win simply because we weren’t prepared. That’s not the mark of a championship program. However, other than Alabama it happens to most programs in the country.
2021 is likely going to go down as a season of disappointment as we all wanted more in Jimbo’s 4th season. However, if Jimbo can manage 10 wins including the bowl game this is still a pretty good season and better than most in college football. We’ll probably still be a Top 10-15 team when it’s all said and done.
Even better if we just lose to Bama the rest of the season and I do think that’s still possible. I don’t see us beating Bama with Calzada under center. No way he goes from deer in the headlights against Arkansas to beating the #1 team in the country in two weeks. Hope I’m wrong.
We’ll just have to wait and see what happens for the rest of the season. I personally don’t think it’s time to panic just yet. Let’s give Jimbo the benefit of the doubt because I think he’s earned it.
Here’s a spreadsheet summary of Jimbo’s 11 losses for quick reference:
What you saw on Saturday was a coaching staff and team that wanted it more than the other team. Unfortunately, that team was Arkansas and not the Aggies. Arkansas came out ready to punch and when they punched the Aggies just staggered back rather than respond. Jimbo certainly bears some blame here but I think I was most disappointed by the lack of responding by the players.
The defense finally settled in but it was really too little and too late. Before that they just let Arkansas punch them for almost a half of football. The second touchdown was the perfect example. Multiple guys had a chance to tackle the ballcarrier but just didn’t do it. That drive should have been a field goal attempt but instead it was a touchdown that really put the game away way too early in the game.
Coaching wise Arkansas did a masterful job on the Aggies. The long touchdown pass was perfect. They sucked in all the safeties and put possibly the best receiver in the SEC one on one with our injured corner back. Jefferson threw the perfect pass which is rare for him but that’s how you win football games. You identify matchup advantages and when you get it you take advantage. That’s exactly what Arkansas did.
Meanwhile on the other side of the field the Aggie coaching staff had ONE wrinkle and it was a tight end screen to Max Wright. Nothing against Max Wright as I love his heart but he’s not going to exploit a defense. Arkansas created a matchup advantage for the top receiver in the SEC. A&M created a tight end screen to their back up blocking tight end. That’s the coaching difference.
11 penalties for 75 yards was also really bad. That just reeks of a team that’s not fully prepared or focused. The Aggie team was by far the more talented team. That’s not a knock on Arkansas. They played a tremendous game and deserved to win. It’s just that when you’re the more talented team you don’t commit penalties if you’re prepared and focused. It’s also an indication of there being minimal team leadership to get everyone focused and hold players accountable.
Coaches and players need to realize we’re playing SEC games and if you don’t have wrinkles or aren’t ready from the whistle you’re going to struggle.
Let’s get to the game.
Jimbo is THOROUGHLY confused on calling plays right now. He has no sequencing of plays. He has no idea what his offense is capable of. He just calls plays willy nilly. We had some really key injuries especially with the loss of Layden Robinson and obviously Haynes King. However, Jimbo has to scheme and call plays on the talent that’s playing. We didn’t do anything new on Saturday. I know that’s how Jimbo tends to roll but when your talent is down you better figure out your strengths and weaknesses real quick.
On the Arkansas side of the ball they DARED A&M to run and we wouldn’t do it. They had 3 defensive lineman on the line and 3 linebackers with 5 defensive backs for most of the game. They were bringing up linebackers from time to time but for the most part those linebackers were just dropping back clogging up passing lanes. Arkansas wasn’t worried about the run and was all about defending the pass. Jimbo played into their hand perfectly.
They were even putting two guys on Demas running deep routes to make sure he didn’t get open. Barry Odom, the Arkansas Defensive Coordinator, simply defended where Jimbo kept trying to go. It was a masterful job of coaching simply because Jimbo was being stubborn.
After Spiller’s touchdown run the Aggies were back in the game. The defense was stopping the Arkansas offense. I really thought we should have just kept the ball on the ground but Jimbo kept trying to pass the ball. I’m sure the Arkansas coaching staff was shocked Jimbo was playing into their hand.
I know the offensive line was struggling in a big way but we couldn’t get guys open, our quarterback had dancing feet, and our backs are the biggest asset of the team. Spiller didn’t see one single carry after that touchdown run. Run. The. Damn. Ball.
Establish some identity as an offense because right now there isn’t one. It’s a confusing mess of plays that make no sense and most importantly simply aren’t working.
If you wondered why Kellen Mond was our quarterback for the last two season you got your answer on Saturday. I had some hope for Calzada getting the keys. He can still turn it around but he sure doesn’t look like the guy.
Calzada got handed the thing he’s coveted the most and hasn’t done anything with it. In my book winners win. Not calling Calzada a loser but he certainly hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunity he’s been given. If he truly wants to be the Aggie starting quarterback he’s showing he’s either not capable or doesn’t really want it.
He was confused the entire game. The other parts of the offense weren’t hitting on all cylinders but Calzada wasn’t leading at all. He had no answer for what Arkansas was throwing at him and it wasn’t even that complicated. He had NO confidence.
He couldn’t anticipate any pressure or guys getting open. The line struggled to block but he had some time and all he did was dance in the pocket. He was simply overwhelmed for the entire game.
He’s likely got 4 more starts at the most. I hope he develops but after almost 3 full games it’s pretty clear he’s pretty lost as the starting quarterback. I really hoped for more with the kid but he backed down against a defense that is solid but not spectacular. That’s not good.
I think the loss of Layden Robinson is bigger than the injury to Haynes King. Robinson might be our best lineman. Without him we have a major hole. Kenyon Green filled in at right guard with Rueben Fatheree at right tackle. At some point in the second half Jhamir Johnson got hurt. That moved Green to left tackle and Blake Trainor at right guard.
Last week Fatheree filled in at left tackle when Johnson went out. Green was at right guard and Trainor at right tackle. See the issue? We’re continually moving guys around and they’re not getting comfortable at one spot. Green’s versatility is great but he’d be better off settling in at one position.
Fourth game of the season and we can’t figure out our offensive line.
At this point I’d give the starting left tackle to Fatheree and put Green back at right tackle. Johnson and Trainor can fight out the right guard spot until Robinson gets back. I get trying to find the best 5 in various spots but you can’t gel as an offensive line with guys continually moving around.
When Robinson comes back we should be able to run on the right side with Green and Robinson.
Bryce Foster continues to look like a true freshman being overwhelmed at times. He had some snap issues so those need to get cleaned up.
Let’s get Robinson back and maybe we can get this line to gel. Until then it’s really hopeless.
Chase Lane was out but I don’t think that really mattered. Arkansas took notice of Demond Demas being able to get deep last week and took that away. For much of the game when Demas went deep Arkansas dropped a safety to help the corner back. Even with a safety dropping back we couldn’t get any of the other receivers open.
Jalen Preston took over Lane’s role which utterly confused me. This is his fourth season in the program and he hasn’t produced anything. Surely he wasn’t the best option behind Lane. I was really hoping to see something out of Moose Muhammed this game but we didn’t.
Baylor Cupp was suited up but I never saw him. I thought he was supposed to be a matchup nightmare for defenses.
I don’t know what to say on receiver. These guys simply struggle to get open for the most part.
You saw what a dominant receiver can do for an offense with Treylon Burks for Arkansas. Until A&M gets that this offense is going to continue to struggle through the air.
Isiah Spiller was the only person on offense who produced anything of real value this game. He did a nice job of making something out of nothing on quite a few runs. His cutting ability is outstanding.
Achane did bust anything but he’s a great change of pace. The fact that he’s a homerun threat out of the backfield is a huge asset.
You know how I feel about these two guys – Run. The. Damn. Ball.
Kendall Briles is a heck of a college offensive coordinator. He landed his big punch with the Treylon Burks touchdown pass. Then he got a gift on the second touchdown when no Aggie defender wanted to tackle the guy with the ball. Other than that they didn’t do much on offense. They didn’t need to. They just kept running their Run Pass Option (RPO) getting a few yards and burning clock while not creating a turnover or big play for the Aggie defense. Kevin Sumlin could have learned a thing or two from Sam Pittman when it comes to protecting a lead.
For whatever reason the defense had issues tackling this game. I think that’s because they were confused and just not fired up early on. The defense came out flat but did get going and controlled the Arkansas offense in the second half.
This unit played well enough to win but with the current state of the offense they must be perfect. I think I’m most shocked how flat they came out. I expected Demarvin Leal or someone to step up and fire these guys up from the start. I don’t like the long touchdown pass but I’ll give credit to Arkansas in that it was an outstanding play call and execution. The second touchdown pass was the result of a defense that wasn’t focused.
I’m hoping this game is a wake up call they can’t go into a game sleepwalking. They must bring the pain from the first snap.
These guys weren’t spectacular but they were solid. The RPO confused them at times but for the most part they did a good job defending it to limit Arkansas breaking off big runs. Peevy had another outstanding game and I thought Michael Clemons was solid. Leal was his usual self.
These guys cost us the game from a defensive standpoint. I thought they had turned into a pretty solid unit but I was wrong. They were routinely out of position letting the Arkansas running backs gash them on longer runs.
On the second touchdown play we all saw the push by Hansford rather than tackle. Edgerrin Cooper actually busted the assignment which is frustrating. The running back was lined up as the wide receiver. Cooper correctly moved the corner inside to the slot receiver. The running back then motioned into the backfield and Cooper followed him which means Cooper had him in man coverage. When the running back flared out Cooper was a step slow which left the running back open and Cooper out of position to tackle him upon the reception. Just a completely botched play by the linebackers.
Hansford did blow up the 4th and 1 stop so he wasn’t terrible.
Opposing offenses are going to see you can get these guys out of position on running plays. They’ve got to develop more discipline and execute their assignments. This can be an elite level defense if these guys can improve.
We all know Myles Jones got burned on the long touchdown pass. That seemed to be his only play as I don’t recall seeing him again. Maybe he’s still hurt or maybe Elko just replaced him. I don’t know.
Why we didn’t have Jaylon Jones on Burks the whole game I don’t know. Jaylon played a great game as usual. If Jaylon is on Burks on that play I bet it doesn’t happen. Jaylon is damn good.
The safeties did fine. They seemed out of position quite a bit early on but they got settled in as the game went on.
Am I worried about this Aggie team? Not really. Am I concerned? I absolutely am.
Turns out we miss four senior offensive lineman and quarterback more than I thought we would.
I had big hopes for this team. I really thought we had a shot to be a special team and make the College Football Playoff. I don’t see that happening right now but it’s still technically possible. This is still a football team that’s going to win a good amount of games. I truly believe that.
We’ve just made too many mental mistakes up until this point to be a great team. The good news is those can get cleaned up.
I said coming into this season we needed get through September and see what kind of team we have. Well, we’re there. The loss of Haynes King and especially Layden Robinson has been big. We’re still 3-1 and played Arkansas tough despite making a ton of mental mistakes.
I’m going to assume King is out through the bye week. It just makes the most sense to make sure he’s fully healthy. We have four more games until that break. We should beat Mississippi State and South Carolina. We don’t stand a prayer against Bama unless Jimbo really gets creative. I think Mizzou is a 50/50 game right now.
If we can somehow go 3-1 over those three games we’ll be 6-2 which isn’t bad. We’d then get King back for Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU. I’m not worried about Prairie View. Assuming Robinson is back and the line is finally settled in and gelling with King under center we could still go 10-2. More than likely we’ll lose one of those games and go 9-3. It’s disappointing but that’s still a solid season when you factor in losing your starting quarterback for a spell.
After the Bama loss last year we thought the season was over. We assumed it would be another shitty Aggie football season. I get that feeling. However, that Bama loss did something to the team and everything started clicking.
I’m really hoping this loss wakes Jimbo up as much as the players. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t run the ball more. I don’t really want to be one dimensional but we can go 3-1 over the next three games by running the ball. Let’s get 3 wins over the next 4 games and get King back under center for the tougher part of our schedule outside of Bama. Let’s go into limp mode and beat the teams we can beat.