Texas Aggie Football

Thoughts From the Colorado Game

Not sure where to start with my thoughts from Denver.  A couple things that haven’t really been discussed are the clouds and the location of the game.  For those that weren’t there you don’t have any idea how hot Denver was.  Coming from Houston it was worse.  At the beginning of the game the sun was intense.  The clouds came in the second quarter and the heat really wasn’t an issue.  The clouds hung around for most of the rest of the game as the sun didn’t really make an appearance until sometime in the 4th quarter.  Even in the 4th it was off and on.

We wound up winning time of possession by 1:26 but that’s thanks mainly to the 4th quarter as we started moving the ball and stringing first downs together.  I don’t know how our defense would have held up if they had to deal with the blaring sun for the entire game.  I really think the cloud cover help keep the defense fresh.  They weren’t gassed at all in the 4th quarter when they did their best work. Fatigue tends to lead to mistakes and we didn’t have that issue at all in the 4th quarter.

The other thing that hasn’t really been discussed from a win standpoint is the location of the game.  That was a decision by the Colorado Athletic Department.  They controlled all the ticket sales so this was a true home game for the Buffs.  At least from a technical standpoint.

It was referenced by the television crew but it really was a 50/50 crowd with the Aggies concentrated all together.  Folsom Field in Boulder only holds 50,000 people.  I have no idea how their normal ticket sales are but I would guess there’s no way a game in Boulder looks like 50/50 and the visitors concentrated in the same sections.  Certainly not near the field.  At best you’ve got 8,000 to 10,000 Aggies in the same section away from the field.

As things turned out at Mile High Stadium you had roughly 15,000 Aggies strong right behind the Aggie bench near the field.  That’s a guess on my part but I don’t think it’s far off.  As referenced on TV you didn’t know the Aggies were at an away game late in the 4th quarter.  The 12th Man came alive and it was electric as the Aggie Defense put the clamps on the Buffalo’s offense.

If you’re a long time Aggie fan you know how the Aggies have fared in Boulder.  It’s got that same Lubbock feel where the luck doesn’t tend to go our way.  I’m not sure the Aggies pull out the win in Boulder. 

I’ve never been to Boulder for a game.  I was a little disappointed the game was moved but I’ll take the Aggie win in Denver over watching the Aggies lose in Boulder.  Hopefully Ross Bjork sent a “Thanks for the Neutral Site Game” bouquet to the Colorado Athletic Director.  I really think the 12th Man had a big impact late in the game when it mattered most.

As for the game itself there lots to discuss.

Overall/Coaching:

I’ll start with some general thoughts. 

First off, lets start with the defense.  Their performance saved the day.  They had their struggles in the first half but they absolutely put the clamps on the Buffs offense in the second half and especially the 4th quarter.  They only allowed one first down in the second half.  They forced a 3 and out and 4and out on the Buffs final two drives.  They stepped up all game long but they put their foot down when it mattered most.

I’ve seen his name mentioned a few times but the work that Nik Constantinou did can’t get lauded enough.  I mean this guy channeled his inner Braden Mann and just hammered some balls when it was needed most.  He kept Colorado deep in their territory most of the game when our offense was struggling.  He even completely flipped the field from the end zone once.  What he did was remarkable.

His leg coupled with the defense’s effort allowed us to walk out of a Denver with a win.  At the end of the day an ugly win beats a good loss, moral victory, or whatever you want to call feeling good about loding.  Give me the damn win all day long.  That’s what this Aggie team did.

Offensively it was a mess and it’s due to one word – INCONSISTENCY.  The only two people that get a pass from this are Isiah Spiller and Devon Achane.  I’ll talk about them later.

Jimbo’s play calling was widely inconsistent.  It seemed like he was picking plays rather than his normal sequencing where he’s stringing 4-5 plays together for consistent gains.  I think a lot of this had to do with Calzada and playing from behind.  Colorado was hell bent on stopping the run which they did and Calzada was wildly inconsistent passing the ball.  I think Jimbo was desperately trying to figure out a way to get ahead so he could pound on the Colorado defense with a margin of error.  I think he was also calling plays that Colorado was trying to dictate because they didn’t want the Aggies to establish the run.  Jimbo was calling more pass plays because that’s what Colorado wanted.  They wanted Calzada to beat them through the air.  It almost worked.

I’m certainly not defending Jimbo because he called a bad game.  However, I do think we would have seen a different game from a play calling standpoint had we been able to establish a lead much sooner.  Jimbo kept looking for some knock out punches early in the game but couldn’t find them.  Luckily they found them in the 4th quarter.

Beyond Jimbo the entire offense other than Spiller and Achane were EXTREMLY inconsistent.  The offensive line couldn’t establish the run and did just okay on pass blocking.  We all know about Calzada’s inconsistency as a passer.  The wide receivers were wildly inconsistent at getting open and even catching the ball.

It was almost like the perfect storm of mistakes from an offensive standpoint.  Play calling, blocking, passing, and catching.  Credit to the whole team though.  They never quit punching and when it mattered, they got the knockout they needed.

Defense:

This is going to be short because you saw the effort on Saturday.  It was every bit worthy of the moniker Wrecking Crew.  I know it won’t happen but if I’m Ross Bjork I ask Jimbo if he’s okay with us giving Mike Elko a 4-year contract for $20 million.  I’m not kidding.  Mike Elko is a defensive mastermind.  I know he’s got a good staff but his play calling and adjustments are outstanding.  Elko’s defense has been the heart and soul of Jimbo’s tenure here.  If Elko ever leaves it better never be over money unless it’s Top 20 head coach money.  He’s easily worth $5 million a year.  I don’t care what the market says.  I care what my eyes see and he’s arguably the best defensive coordinator in college football right now.

Defensive Line:

I don’t know how to describe what these guys did.  They tore it up.  Just flat out dominated the Colorado offense from start to finish.  Demarvin Leal lead the way but Jayden Peevy probably had the game of his career.  He was all over the place from his defensive tackle position.  Michael Clemons took on double teams freeing up linebackers even when he wasn’t applying pressure himself.  Tyree Johnson had an outstanding day.

They’re doing all of this without McKinnley Jackson who is an All SEC caliber talent at defensive tackle.  Couple that with the youngsters getting more experience and this defensive line is just going to get better as the season goes on.

Nothing more to say on these guys.  Just sit back and enjoy their greatness.

Linebackers:

These guys aren’t as good as the defensive line and secondary but they’re proving to be pretty serviceable.  They had a bad first half as they often found themselves out of position quite a bit.  They cleaned it up in the second half in a big way though finally staying home and in their lanes.

Aaron Hansford led the way with Edgerrin Cooper and Andre White behind him.

These guys aren’t going to be All SEC players at the end of the season but we don’t need them to be.  We just need them to execute their assignments.  That’s it.  Let the defensive line do their work and don’t make the secondary work any harder.

Secondary:

I must start with Antonio Johnson in this group.  He’s playing in his 12th college game and looked like a man among boys out there.  Two years ago he was in high school at this time.  He plays the nickel position so he’s a hybrid linebacker/safety but the dude was all over the field on Saturday making plays.  He led the team with 9 solo tackles.  This is a guy from St. Louis that was the top player in the state.  Jimbo somehow convinced to come to A&M over Mizzou.  He’s one of those players that really gives me confidence Jimbo and his staff know how to identify real football talent.  He’s looking like an All SEC type safety and that’s what you need to compete against the likes of Alabama and LSU who routinely have those guys starting for them.

Beyond Antonio Johnson, Demani Richardson and Leon O’Neal do what they do.  They just play damn good football. 

Jaylon Jones might be the most underrated corner in college football.  Nobody throws his way for him to get on the stat sheet or make plays.  They don’t throw his way because he has his guy blanketed.  I saw Colorado throw at him once and he just batted it away without much effort.

Beyond Jaylon we have Brian George and Tyreek Chappell who are serviceable.  We’re still missing Myles Jones so like adding McKinnley Jackson this defense could get better.

Most of the people that watched the game really missed out how great this defense played.  People are talking about how A&M is screwed due to the loss of Haynes King.  We’ll get to that part in a bit but let me tell you something – Texas A&M is not screwed.  This defense is going to get better thanks to two key guys coming back and talented youth gaining experience.  There’s certainly an offensive challenge that Jimbo needs to figure out but Texas A&M is not screwed.  They aren’t screwed at all thanks to Mike Elko and his charges.

Offense:

Like most football fans all anyone wants to talk about is the first three quarters of this game when it comes to the offense.  The negative gets precedent over the positive.  The starting quarterback gets hurt and points don’t come so everyone naturally assumes the offense is screwed.  We’re not.

Maybe I’m more bullish than most but what I saw in the 4th quarter was an offense that was finally starting to click.  The offense essentially scored on the last two drives.  How are you feeling if we walked out of there 17-7 as opposed to 10-7?  It’s not much score wise but it’s a huge mental difference knowing we scored on the last two drives.  Replay correctly overturned the call but we basically scored two touchdowns on our last two drives.  The offense that struggled so much finally clicked when it mattered.

While the offense was wildly inconsistent they never stopped trying.  The offensive line kept blocking, Calzada got more accurate, and receivers made more plays in the fourth quarter.  Look at the difference between the Aggie offense and the Colorado offense in the 4th quarter.  They were playing different caliber defenses but the Colorado offense was physically and mentally beaten.  They had no confidence in the 4th quarter.  The Aggie offense kept plugging away and finally started moving the ball in the 4th quarter.  They weren’t mentally or physically beaten and were trying to figure out.

There is LOTS of work to do with this group but there is a strong glimmer of promise if you shield some of the negatives.

Running Backs:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I wouldn’t trade Spiller and Achane for any running back duo in the country.  I would not.  All everyone is talking about is how we couldn’t run the ball.  That’s true.

Spiller only got 22 yards on the ground.  Achane only got 50.  Calzada was our second leading rusher for the game.

What no one is talking about is Spiller’s receiving ability.  We all know he got the winning touchdown but he caught 6 balls for 56 yards.  When he couldn’t move it on the ground he took to the air.  He and Calzada were also inches away from probably another 15-20 yard gain.  Spiller was a lot closer to 100 total yards than people realize.

The other thing nobody is talking about with Spiller is his ability to block.  If he’s not going out for a pass or taking a handoff he’s picking up blitzes and doing it remarkably well.  He’s helping the passing game by giving the quarterback more time.  He’s also an outstanding run blocker which not many people realize.  Although he didn’t post some gaudy rushing stats it doesn’t mean he wasn’t an integral part of the win.  He absolutely was.  That’s a complete back.

Achane did what Achane does coming in and giving the defense that jab they’re not quite ready for.  The Colorado defense was so focused on shutting down Spiller between the tackles they weren’t quite ready for Achane to stretch the corners.  Achane carried 9 times for 50 yards with most of that coming in the second half.  It doesn’t seem like much but having Colorado worry about him hitting the knockout punch kept their linebackers playing the whole field and not just dropping into passing lanes or focused between the tackles for runs.  They had to worry about defending the edge on the run.

Achane also had a beautiful 25-yard reception on the winning drive that set us up in Colorado territory.  He found the open spot in zone coverage and Calzada threw a perfect pass.  It was wonderful execution.

These guys compliment each other so well.  We’re going to try and run Spiller between the tackles.  If that’s not working then we’re going to see if you can defend Achane on the edge while we flare Spiller out.

Jimbo has been a little reluctant to run the two-back set with Spiller and Achane.  It’s pretty much all we ran in the second half.  I think we’re going to see a lot more of it going forward because it’s just so tough to defend.  Spiller and even Achane to a degree are showing they can do it all.  That’s tough for a defense to defend when you have two talented running backs.  That’s what Texas A&M has.

Offensive Line:

I don’t think these guys were as terrible as a lot of people made them out to be.  They certainly didn’t consistently bust open holes or give Calzada all day to throw.  What they did do is create some gaps to run through at times and did give Calzada some time to throw.

I’ve seen a lot worse offensive lines over the past couple of decades. 

This unit is starting four new guys in their second game.  One of those is a true freshman who wasn’t on the team until this summer.  This was their first against real competition. 

Shout out to Layden Robinson who appeared to be playing with a pretty nagging injury.  The dude gutted it out.

I need to see more from this unit before I pass judgement.  I do see some promise with these guys so I’m hoping time, competition, and coaching get them to a similar point as last year’s unit.

Wide Receivers:

Calzada certainly didn’t help this group but they certainly didn’t help themselves either.  I’m still not sold on this group at all outside of Ainias Smith and Jalen Wydermyer.  Ainias didn’t have a big game at all but he was the receiver that appeared to get open the most.  Calzada just didn’t see him for some reason.  Calzada hits Ainias and this game gets busted open a lot earlier.

Wydermyer appears to be trying to be more Kyle Pitts this season going deeper down the field.  Pitts was the tight end at Florida last year.  I’m good with that but it needs to develop better.  More than anything we need Wydermyer to develop the same rapport he had with Kellen Mond.  If we can get that going I think you’re going to see the passing game really open up.

As for the rest of the group I have no clue.  For whatever reason Calzada seemed to focus on Chase Lane even though he wasn’t getting open and had some drops.  Credit to Chase though as he had a key 12-yard reception on 3rd and 7 during the phantom touchdown drive deep in A&M territory.  He caught that ball while he was blanketed and kept the drive alive.  I think Lane is fine as a 4th receiver.

We really shouldn’t be talking about Lane though as the balls should mostly be going to Smith, Wydermyer, and whoever our deep threat can be.

I don’t know what to make of Caleb Chapman.  For all the bitching about Calzada late in the 2nd quarter he laid a perfect ball into Chapman’s hands and he dropped it.  Chapman was covered to an extent but Calzada laid the perfect ball in his hands.  Chapman needs to figure out how to get more open or catch perfect passes when he’s covered.  He also had a bad holding call on 26 yard reception by Achane.  That penalty took us out of field goal range.

Chapman is what I like to call a strider.  His advantage is going down the field because he’s not good at working intermediate routes.  He needs time to get his legs going.  He needs to watch film of Josh Reynolds and see how that guy got open.  They’re similar receivers in my mind.

If I were Jimbo I’d take a page out of the Art Briles’ playbook.  I’d rotate Chapman and Demas on the Aggie side of the field and make them run straight fly routes wearing the cornerback out.  When it looks like the corner is tired start running 15 yard stop routes.  I’m not kidding.  Briles used to do this with the sole purpose of making a corner tired.  Chapman and Demas don’t look good for much else right now so let’s start using their long legs on deep routes every play.

If the safety doesn’t respect their speed downfield then have Calzada take some shots to see if they can connect.  He’s got the arm.  Just have Chapman and Demas turn into a track meet and see what happens.  We’re not getting much out of them so we have nothing to lose.

Either way, this receiving corps is still holding this offense back.

Quarterback:

Yep.  I saved the thing everyone wants to talk about the most for last.

What if I told you two things:

  • You’d miss Kellen Mond
  • Zach Calzada might be better than Haynes King

The first statement is 100% accurate as 2020 Kellen Mond is infinitely better than what we’ve seen at quarterback so far this season.  You’re lying or a fool if you don’t agree.  I hope things change but that’s the reality two games in.

The second point we have no idea on.  We’ve basically seen King play 4 quarters against a lesser opponent then get hurt when he wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire.

In this game King piloted a 3 and out where he missed Chase Lane on 3rd and 6 and then another 3 and out where he couldn’t convert a 3rd and 4 running the ball where he wound up getting hurt.  This isn’t a knock on King.  It’s a reality check.  He appears to be an outstanding quarterback based on practice reports but we haven’t actually seen it on the field yet.  I’m not blaming King for getting hurt but we won’t know how good King is until he’s healthy again.

We think King is good but we really have no idea.

I personally hope we have a full-blown quarterback controversy on our hands.  I want Calzada playing so well Jimbo has no choice but to keep playing Calzada when King is healthy.  That means we’re moving the ball and winning games.  Last thing I want is for Calzada to be struggling so bad there’s a loud cheer when King comes back.

That’s not a knock on King or hope for Calzada but simply the reality.  I still want this Aggie team to win a bunch of games.  I think they can.

Calzada looked like dog feces for most of the game.  He was WILDLY inconsistent.  He couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat throwing the ball.

However, something happened in the 4th quarter as he completed 8 of 14 passes which is a 57% passer.  That’s not dynamite but it’s solid.  He started finding the open guys and hitting them.

His pass to Achane was a tough pass he threaded perfectly.  His pass to Spiller to win the game was beautiful.  I saw Spiller break open and when I saw the ball leave Calzada’s hand I knew it was on the mark.  That’s not an easy pass but Calzada put it right on the money.  That was 3rd and 9 down by 4 and maybe one possession left.  The pressure couldn’t have been higher.  He didn’t let it get to him.  He deserves credit for that.

Jimbo didn’t look prepared to call a game with Calzada and Calzada didn’t look prepared to be the starting quarterback.  When it mattered most though they figured it out and did what needed to be done.

We all know Calzada has a big arm and at times on Saturday he threw a beautiful ball.  Calzada has prototypical NFL size and arm strength.  That’s a good place to start.  We’ve had much worse to start from under center in Aggieland.

So who is Zach Calzada?  Is he the guy that we saw for three quarters or is he the guy we saw for one quarter when the pressure was on?  I have no freaking clue.

A lot of it is going to depend on Zach Calzada.  For the next 4-8 weeks this is his opportunity to take the reins and never give them back to Haynes King.  Nothing personal against King but I’m tired of the Aggies falling short for whatever reason.  I want to win a lot of football games.  I hope Calzada realizes what could be in front of him and takes advantage.  If Calzada is a true gamer he’ll never give the starting position back to King.

Alabama won a national championship with two quarterbacks.  Clemson won a national championship with Trevor Lawrence taking over from Kelly Bryant during the season.  Sure, everyone knew Lawrence was the better quarterback but the point is there’s two recent examples of a team that won a national championship with a quarterback that didn’t start the season.  You can even go further back to the 2014 season when Ohio State won the title with their 3rd string quarterback.

Professionally Tony Romo never got the ball back from Dak Prescott.  We all know about Tom Brady.

I truly hope the best for Haynes King.  I just hope more for the Texas Aggies.  This is Calzada’s show for the next several weeks and I hope like hell 4th quarter Zach Calzada is who we see because the Aggies can win a lot of games with that guy.  They’ll struggle to win half the games Calzada starts if he’s early in the Colorado game Zach Calzada.

Right now we have no idea what we have so we’ll just have to wait. 

Looking Forward:

I said before the season started we need to get through September to really determine what the Aggie season might look like.  I obviously feel that way now more than ever.  We need to make sure our defense stays dominant against Arkansas and even Mississippi State before Bama rolls to town.

More than anything we need to figure out if this offense can develop any consistency and score points.  We have no clue right now.

If you’ll think back to last year after the second game we didn’t think much of this team.  They struggled against Vandy and got blown out against Bama.  Florida came to town and something magical happened.  The Aggies traded blows with a Top 10 team.  They didn’t back down and got the breaks at the end.  Then they went on a magical run for the rest of the season.

There’s no reason to think this Aggie team can’t do the same.  It needs to prove out but I saw enough glimmers at the Colorado game that this team can build on and get better.

I’m not saying I’m drinking the maroon Kool-Aid.  I’m just saying I’m willing to let Jimbo keep mixing that batch a little more because I’ve seen what he can do.

If we roll through Arkansas and Mississippi State I may just take me a big swig before Bama comes to town.

I just need to see how Jimbo keeps mixing it…

Thoughts From the Kent State Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk about the Aggies:

Overall:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offense:

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

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

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

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

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

Quarterback:

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

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

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

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

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

Offensive Line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running Back:

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

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

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

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

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

Wide Receiver:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense:

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

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

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

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

Defensive Line:

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

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

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

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

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

Linebacker:

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive Back:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Forward:

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

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

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

Other Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Look at the 2021 Aggies

Haven’t blogged in a while mainly because I got married and as part of that we bought a 1968 Bronco.  It’s been requiring a little bit of attention from me but it’s been fun to tinker with.  Enough of that, we’re less than a month away from football season so time to make a little effort towards Aggie Football.

Before I get going on the 2021 team here’s my thoughts on some recent big news.

Longhorns to the SEC:

I don’t like it but it’s the reality of college football.  What I hate even more is the leadership of A&M through all of this.  The Big 12 was always the most unstable Power 5 conference in college football.  It didn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that.  The leadership of Texas A&M was woefully unprepared for the inevitable.  It appeared the leadership at A&M didn’t know or didn’t ask the protocol for adding teams to the SEC.

If Brent Zwerneman had not leaked his story then the Sooners and Longhorns join the conference in less than 7 days.  One week to collapse the Big 12 and jump to the SEC.  ONE WEEK.

Even with Brent Z leaking the story they joined the SEC in less than 10 days.  Think about that.  In less than 10 days NOBODY knew about the Sooners and Longhorns joining the SEC and then all of a sudden they’re voted in.

When Brent Z published his article connected people all over the country were scrambling trying to figure out how much was true because they hadn’t heard anything about it.  Highly connected people had no clue this was coming.  Now, obviously some people knew but most people didn’t know. 

This leads me to my biggest issue with A&M leadership through all of this.  As we look back now it appears some people at A&M knew.  Or maybe just some one.  A&M didn’t go from saying they didn’t want Texas in the conference to voting them in a few days later without someone in power having some knowledge.

The rumor is John Sharp knew but didn’t tell anyone.  Maybe he was sworn to secrecy but he hung our AD out to dry.  Poor Ross Bjork looks like a fool saying we didn’t want Texas to join the SEC.  It’s true and we didn’t but the reality is the train was far down the tracks.  When Brent Z published his article the Sooners and Longhorns were coming to the SEC.

That well done Bradley Cooper video got made because of Ross Bjork’s soundbites right when the news broke.  If John Sharp knew he hung Bjork out in a bad way. 

We got to look like the inferior little brother who was afraid of the Longhorns joining the SEC.  I’m tired of that narrative.  We’re the better football program and we’re actually the bigger school now.

Our narrative from the moment the news broke should have been something like this, “We’re aware conference re-alignment is always happening.  We also understand why teams want to join the premier athletic conference in the country.  We made that decision a decade ago leaving an inferior conference.  We will gather with our member schools in the conference and make the best decision for the conference.”  That’s it.  That should have been the narrative all along because we really knew what was going on.

Behind the scenes you can work like hell to keep the Longhorns out but on the exterior don’t act inferior or scared which is what we did.  Even if John Sharp knew and was sworn to secrecy he could have given Bjork and the school president a little info that something might be brewing with the SEC adding teams.  When that news did come out we needed a consistent message of being aware and not being afraid. 

Even if Brent Z didn’t leak the story on a Wednesday afternoon it would have come out the following Monday.  Did Sharp have some grand plan to get everyone aligned in those days?  I don’t think so.  Maybe I’m wrong on Sharp knowing but someone somewhere knew and the leadership at A&M failed in how they handled this.  Completely failed.

If you can’t trust your school president and athletic director then there’s some big issues going on.

From a football standpoint I don’t think this really hurts us that much.  We truly have the superior program right now.  Sure, it sucks we can no longer sell we’re the only SEC school in the state but how much did that really help Sumlin?  It didn’t.  Sumlin won in 2012 with most of Sherman’s players and then never did much in recruiting or really winning after that.

At the end of the day coaching staffs matter more than anything else.  Conference really doesn’t matter.

I remember when R.C. Slocum was complaining about facilities when Mack Brown started crushing him in recruiting and coaching.  R.C. was certainly correct our facilities needed improving in a big way but the reality is Mack Brown was a superior recruiter.  It also didn’t help that Bob Stoops and Nick Saban at LSU were also superior recruiters.  Coaching matters more than anything else in college football.

I truly believe Texas A&M has the superior coach and we’re going to be fine.  What happens if Texas joins the SEC and we go on a 10-year run like we did from the mid-80s to the mid-90s?  It will actually help A&M because we can definitively show we’re the better program right now.

Things will finally get settled where they should have been settled all along – On the field.  For 12 months one school is going to have definitive bragging rights.

Trust me when I say this – When you see the Maroon and Burnt Orange line up on the field it’s going to feel right.  It really will.  Rivalries are meant to be contested.  That’s what makes them a rivalry.  Actual competition.

Would I be happier if Texas was swirling around in that god forsaken conference known as the Big 12?  You bet.  But they’re not.  They’re coming to the SEC.  There’s too much money involved.  Let’s saddle up and ride proving we’re the better program on the field because we are.

Stop acting so damn scared.  Stop worrying about the narrative and perception.  We’ll settle it on the field.  Just like it should have been all along.

The 2021 Aggie Football Team:

Overall:

I feel great about this team.  I really do.  Jimbo and his staff are excellent coaches.  I truly believe they’re a Top 5 staff in college football.  They recruit well and have a strong game plan week in and week out.  There’s only been a few games in 3 seasons I’ve been disappointed in Jimbo’s approach.  He’s been excellent in 3 seasons as the Aggie head coach.

Let’s recap what the 2020 team did:

  • 8-1 record in 9 SEC games with our only loss being to Alabama
  • Orange Bowl Champs
  • Finished #4 in the Country

Read those three bullet points again.  Read them one more time.  That’s an outstanding season.

The best part about last season was how we put teams away in the 4th quarter.  We might have struggled through 3 quarters like against Auburn and North Carolina but when it mattered most we pulled away and won.  That’s the mark of a well-coached team.

I say that because it gives me confidence Jimbo and his staff will continue the development of this year’s team.  That wasn’t a team that won on raw talent.  That was a team that won on good coaching and hard work by the players.

I don’t see any reason why 2021 will be different.  Talent wise we’ll have more raw talent than last season.  We lose a lot of experience at some key positions.  However, we have something carrying over that I believe is the most underrated thing in sports – Player Leadership.  Demarvin Leal is without a doubt the heart and soul of this team.  He’s the leader that demands excellence.  Behind him you have guys like Demani Richardson, Kenyon Green, Isiah Spiller, and Ainias Smith.  I think you can include Leon O’Neal to a degree.  Sure, he makes some bone headed decisions from time to time but for the most part the dude has really developed into a pretty good football player.

Either way you have a lot of guys at the top that just love playing football.  That sets the tone for the rest of the team.  Tom Brady is a decent physical quarterback.  There are much more talented quarterbacks in the NFL.  What he excels at is leading his team and setting the tone they are there to win football games.  If they don’t want to win football games they don’t need to be there.

I see a lot of guys like that on this team and that bodes well for the season.  Great teams tend to have great leaders on the field.  I think we have that for this season.

Offense:

I think we’re going to see more of the same from Jimbo which is good.  No need to mess with what’s working.  Jimbo runs an offense that works with his talent on both sides of the ball.  We have a stable of running backs and a really dominant defense.  Because of that winning time of possession is key.  Wear the other defense down and keep ours fresh.

I like big plays on offense as much as anyone.  I like winning football games more.  Winning “ugly” games is much sexier than losing high scoring contests.

We lose a ton of experience at quarterback and offensive line.  We’re still waiting on great receivers to emerge.  I think we’ll be more talented at each of those positions but experience is a huge part of being successful.  The good news is the people taking over these positions have been in the program for a year or two so they should be prepared.  It may take them a little bit to figure some things out as in game experience is more valuable than anything else.

Hopefully by October 9th they’ve got all the kinks worked out and are hitting on all cylinders.  Yes, that’s when Alabama comes to Kyle Field.  That will be the most important game at Kyle in almost a decade assuming the Aggies get through September.  I’ll detail it out later but you don’t win it all without beating Nick Saban.  It’s just that simple.

Quarterback:

Although Jimbo hasn’t named a starting quarterback I don’t see how it’s not Haynes King.  King took the backup snaps last season behind Mond.  All indications are he’s acting like the starting quarterback.

King is extremely talented and really fast.  That’s what you want in a college quarterback.  Calzada has a complete cannon of an arm but I think King gives Jimbo more flexibility because of his legs.  Don’t be shocked if Calzada turns into a better NFL quarterback but I expect King to be the starter at A&M for his career.  I think after this season Calzada likely transfers somewhere else after 3 years in the program.

I’m not too concerned about King being a redshirt freshman.  The list of freshmen that have done great things as a college quarterback are pretty long.  Names like Manziel, Jameis Winston, Tua Tagovailoa, and Trevor Lawrence come to mind.

No reason King can’t follow those guys because of the talent surrounding him.

There will certainly be some learning curves and some mistakes here and there but in the end I think King will be just fine.  If not, we have Calzada waiting in the wings.  Jimbo has proven he can develop college quarterbacks.

Offensive Line:

This is my biggest question for the 2021 team and it’s because of this question – Was the 2020 offensive line the result of talent finally developing into coaching or was it just because the guys had so much experience with one another?  They had basically played 3 seasons together.

That 2020 offensive line was OUTSTANDING.  I can’t say enough good things about those guys.  We had 4 seniors and Keyon Green. 

I personally believe it was talent developing into coaching.  Because of that I don’t have a lot of concerns with this group.  They’ll take a little time to develop but I’m hoping by October 9th they’re one cohesive unit.

Kenyon Green moves out to left tackle and Layden Robinson takes over at right guard.  These two will be the heart and soul of the unit.  These are two guys that are going to have long NFL careers.

Aki Ogunbiyi looks to start at left guard, Luke Matthews at center, and Jahmir Johnson at right tackle.

Overall this will be a more talented unit than last year.  Ogunbiyi was a highly rated recruit, Matthews has excellent genes, and Johnson was a four year starter at Tennessee before transferring to the Aggies.

Like quarterback there will be some growing pains but I feel good about this bunch.  They’ve all been in the program for a while and I believe in Josh Henson.  I don’t think last year was the result of four seniors just having familiarity with each other.  I think Henson was a major factor in their performance.  Until I see differently I’m going to believe that.

Running Back:

Texas A&M may really have the best running back group in the country.  Alabama is always loaded with running back talent but the Aggies have an impressive group.  At the top is Isiah Spiller.  The dude isn’t splashy but he just churns out yards.  He and the offensive line work really well together as he waits on holes to develop.

Behind him is Devon Achane who was EXTREMELY impressive in his limited carries last season.  He’s a little small but he has good balance and world class speed as we saw in the Orange Bowl.  He’s the perfect compliment to Spiller.

You also have Ainias Smith who you’ll see lined up in the backfield from time to time. 

Behind those guys you have L.J. Johnson who was a four star recruit out of Cypress.  You also have Amari Daniels who was highly rated out of Miami.  Then you have Earnest Crownover who’s 6’3”/220 and has taken some snaps.

It’s a stacked group and next to the defensive line it’s the most talented bunch on the team.

Wide Receiver:

This is the group that still frustrates me the most.  The best pass catcher in Jimbo’s three seasons has been a tight end or slot receiver.  You’ve had Jace Sternberger, Jaylen Wydermyer, and Ainias Smith.  That’s it.  We haven’t had a truly dominant receiver stressing the secondary down the field.

I know Caleb Chapman flashed in the Florida game but he’s struggled to stay healthy.  Hopefully he can get back to the Florida game form AND stay healthy.  He’s played in 3 games in his Aggie career and had 2 big catches. That’s it. He needs to stay healthy. We need a deep threat in the worst way.  It’s crazy to think what this offense has done with no real wide receivers. For one game we saw it but we need a lot more of it.

We’ve been hearing about Baylor Cupp for two seasons but haven’t seen anything.  I know he’s been hurt but this is a guy that’s missed the last three years of football going back to his senior year of high school because of injuries.  I feel bad for him but until he can stay healthy it’s just empty hope of what he can be as a compliment to Wydermyer.

Demond Demas allegedly has all the talent in the world but we haven’t seen any of it on the field.  Promise is one thing.  Production is even more.  He needs to produce on the field.

Chase Lane is serviceable but I don’t think he’s a superstar.  Same thing with Hezekiah Jones.  Jalen Preston came into the program as a heralded four star and hasn’t done anything.

Moose Muhammad and Devin Price are redshirt freshmen with lots of promise.  Hopefully they show up this season.

Yulkeith Brown is a true freshman with lots of speed out of Miami.

The numbers and talent are there but the production isn’t.  I don’t know why that it is but something needs to change if this Aggie team is going to dominate.  We’ve got to have receivers on the outside that can stress the defense down the field.  That has been the biggest change with Nick Saban’s offenses over the last few seasons. 

Alabama now has a fleet of receivers stressing a defense’s secondary rather than just pounding them on the ground.  The Aggies need to do the same.

I’m really hoping the receiving corps takes the same step the offensive line took from 2019 to 2020.  If it does, there’s no reason Texas A&M can’t win the national championship in 2021.

Defense:

I feel REALLY good about this defense.  Demarvin Leal is probably the most underrated football player in college football.  He’s not flashy but the dude does work up and down the defensive line.  His football awareness and technique is off the charts.  He may not rack up gaudy stats but he’s the heart and soul of this defense working to create plays for everyone.  The dude loves playing football and others follow his lead.

Beyond Leal this side of the ball has plenty of talent.  The loss of Buddy Johnson is pretty big but I think there’s enough talent and experience to overcome that loss. 

This defense is going to be damn good.  Beyond Leal on the field the other reason is Mike Elko.  What Elko has done in three seasons as the Aggie Defensive Coordinator has been outstanding.  I don’t see that changing in 2021.  He’s an elite college defensive coordinator.

One positive about the Sooners and Longhorns to the SEC is we might be able to hold onto Mike Elko for another season or two.  I really think college football is about to turn into the haves and have nots.  I think firing coaches and hiring new guys for big money might cool down a bit until the college re-alignment talks slow down a bit.

You’ve got 8 teams left in the Big 12 and it looks like they won’t have a landing spot in any new conferences.  I don’t think the money is there.  I think some other smaller schools are going to be reluctant to give a new head coach a lot of money.  Big schools tend to hire guys with head coaching experience.

I’m not saying Mike Elko will never leave Texas A&M but right now he’s making good money and there’s a lot of uncertainty for a lot of schools.  He may see a guy like Dave Arande and wait a bit before he gets his chance for a more stable school.

Before this Sooner and Longhorn news I would have assumed he’s gone after this season.  I’m not sure of that right now.  That’s good news for the Aggies.

Mike Elko is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country.  The dude is fundamentally sound, makes great in game adjustments, and works well with Jimbo’s overall game plan.  I can’t say enough good things about Mike Elko.  Every national championship team has a great defensive coordinator and A&M has a great one.

Defensive Line:

The Aggie defensive line is just stacked.  Just stacked.  It could be the best in the country.  I’ve talked about Leal already.  He’s going to play up and down the line going from defensive end on running downs and defensive tackle on passing downs.  The dude is a monster.  We won’t have him after this year but that’s fine.  There won’t be anything else for him to prove when he’s done this season.

At defensive tackle we have Jayden Peevy and McKinnley Jackson.  Jackson is currently suspended but I’m hoping he gets things cleared up and is only gone for one game.  He’s a true sophomore but was excellent when he played last season.  He’s got All SEC caliber talent.

Peevy is a super senior and it’s great that he came back.  I’m not sure he’ll play in the NFL but he’s an outstanding defensive tackle for the Aggies.  What he may lack in talent he’ll make up for in experience.

Michael Clemons will start opposite Leal as defensive end.  I really feel this guy is the key to A&M’s national title hopes.  Clemons graduated high school in 2016.  This will be his sixth year on a college campus.  He goes 6’5” and 270 pounds.  He’s 24 years old.  He’s a grown ass man playing college football.

Beyond his numbers the dude is talented.  I think he can really have a Demontre Moore like 2012 season.  A&M has been missing a pass rushing threat since Myles Garrett.  I think Clemons can finally bring that element to an Aggie defense.  Last season he had 4 sacks in 5 games.  If he’s healthy he can bring pressure off the edge that will be disruptive to any offense.  He won’t be Myles but if he can be like Demontre in 2012 that’ll be good enough for me.

Beyond the starting four we’ve got a good group of guys that’s short on experience but plenty talented.  Guys like Tyree Johnson, Donell Harris, Fadill Diggs, Isaiah Rakes, and Adarious Jones.  Jimbo has recruited the defensive line really well in his time in Aggieland.  You need talent and depth at the defensive line in the SEC and the Aggies have that.

Linebackers:

As mentioned the loss of Buddy Johnson is big.  The dude had a nose for the football and made plays as a linebacker.  I don’t think we’ll have anyone be as productive as him but we have some guys that are serviceable.

Aaron Hansford returns for his 6th season on a college campus.  I don’t think he’s as talented as Buddy Johnson but he’s got plenty of experience.  He’s been solid the last two seasons.  I don’t think he’ll make a massive leap but he’ll be a very serviceable linebacker.

Andre White, Jr. takes over for Buddy Johnson in his third year in the program.  He started in the Orange Bowl where he played great.  He had 8 tackles, half a sack, and an interception.  He’s not started a full season but I feel good he’ll be solid.

Linebacker is the unit with the least amount of depth but we have Chris Russell and Edgerrin Cooper backing them up.  They’ve mainly been special teams guys the last few seasons.

All in all I don’t think this will be an outstanding unit but I do think it’ll be a unit that can hold it’s own with the rest of the talent on the defense and Mike Elko’s coaching.

Secondary:

I’m a little torn on this secondary.  I’m not sure if it’ll be serviceable or it will be excellent.  The talent is there to be excellent.

Demani Richardson and Leon O’Neal are the starters at safety just like they’ve been the past two seasons.  Richardson is solid and will likely play on Sundays.  O’Neal has all the talent in the world and seems to be maturing.  He has some brain farts from time to time in coverage and emotion but for the most part he’s damn good.

Myles Jones returns for a fifth season and while I’ve been hard on him I thought he played really solid at corner last season.  He’s not spectacular but if he continues to improve from last season he’ll be fine.

Jaylon Jones returns as a true sophomore at the other corner.  He’s a little short on experience but he’s loaded with talent.  He’s got the ability to be a star but he needs to take that step this season.  I’m hopeful he will.

Antonio Johnson will start at the nickel back and is similar to Jaylon Jones.  A little short on experience but loaded with talent.  I too think he makes a big leap this season.  Erick Young will back up Jonson and he’s loaded with talent as well.  He’s struggled from an assignment standpoint but he adds outstanding depth.

Beyond those guys as key contributors you have guys like Brian George, Tyreek Chappell, Deuce Harmon, Josh Moten, Brian Williams, and Keldrick Carper.  Lots of inexperienced depth but hopefully it’s not needed this season.

We go up against some great receivers this season like Treylon Burks at Arkansas, John Metchie at Alabama, and Kayshon Boutte at LSU.  We also go up against Lane Kiffin’s pass happy offense at Ole Miss and who knows if Mike Leach will get things going at Mississippi State.

This unit is going to get tested.  The talent is there and the limited experience says they should be okay.  We just need them to continually get better.  If the secondary really takes that leap we’re talking about one of the Top 5 defenses in college football.

If the talent and coaching come together this season we’re going to be just fine on this side of the ball.

Season Prediction:

I’m not doing my usual record prediction this season.  The sole reason is this – I feel this Aggie team is good enough to win every game on their schedule.  That’s right, I feel this Aggie team can win the national title.  I doubt they do but for the first time in forever I believe it’s possible.

They still play in the SEC West which is the toughest division in college football.  Arkansas will be better, Ole Miss puts up a ton of points, Mike Leach always snake bites someone that wasn’t expecting it, LSU is still extremely talented, and there’s some guy named Saban who coaches in Tuscaloosa.  If I truly had to wager I’d say this team goes 11-1 this season.  I feel like they’ll get past Bama because Saban seems to struggle against first time athletic quarterbacks.  The Aggies will probably then wind up losing to Ole Miss or LSU.  Most likely LSU because Ole Miss is at home and we’ll just run down their throats to keep their offense off the field.

I want to get past September to see where this team is before I start predicting wins and losses.  I want to see the inexperienced talent develop and execute what the coaching staff wants.  I want to see them put teams away in the 4th quarter.  I want to see running backs churning out yards, a quarterback have time in the pocket, and limited busted plays on defense.  If I see those things I’ll hold true to my 11-1 prediction right now.

As for the national championship here’s an interesting nugget – In 2013 Jimbo Fisher was in his fourth season at Florida State and coming off an Orange Bowl championship.  He had a redshirt freshman quarterback under center and went undefeated winning a national championship.  Can history repeat itself?  It happened once so why not again? 

Interesting Nugget #2 – Did you know every team that won the national championship since 2008 has had to beat Alabama with one exception?  That exception was 2013 when Auburn beat Alabama on the Kick 6 to go to the SEC Championship.  They would beat Missouri and go on to lose to Jimbo’s Florida State team for the national title.  In a way Bama was still a factor as if Auburn didn’t beat them then Bama would have likely played that Florida State team.  For 13 seasons Nick Saban and Alabama have had a direct influence on who won the national championship.  They’ve won 6 of those seasons.  That’s complete dominance of college football.

October 9th can really be a pivotable moment for Aggie football.  If the Aggies can get by Bama then they have a chance to win it all.  No small task but if they can get by Bama the road is paved.

For fun I went back and looked at the national championship winners since 2008.  In 6 of those 13 seasons a team with a pre-season ranking of 5 or worse won the national title.  The most recent team to win a national title with a pre-season ranking of 5 or worse?  The 2019 LSU football team who had a pre-season rank of 6. 

What’s the pre-season ranking of the 2021 Aggies?  6.  Can history repeat itself?  We’ll find out…

Here’s the chart:

Thoughts from the Arkansas Game

On a picturesque Halloween evening at Kyle Field the Aggies played a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks which help test which kind of Aggie fan you are.  If you’re a glass half full Aggie fan you saw an offense absolutely click and a defense that did plenty to beat Arkansas without worry.  If you’re a glass half empty Aggie fan you saw an offense with no explosive plays and a defense that appeared to struggle for most of the game.

I saw an Aggie team beat an opponent without worry that’s given us fits the last few seasons.  This is an Aggie team that can certainly improve but we’re beating teams in convincing fashion and not even playing a perfect game.  This is a damn good football team.  If you’re not happy with how this team played on Saturday night I can’t help you.  You really should quit watching.

Arkansas came into the game with a great game plan.  They wanted to take away Isaiah Spiller and run an offense that had some surprises hoping to pop a few plays for scores.  It’s exactly what I would have done if I was the Arkansas coaching staff.

It looked like it might work.  The Aggies stumbled after a nice run to start the game by Spiller.  Spiller got stuffed on the following play and the next thing you know the Aggies are punting after 4 plays.  Arkansas then gets the ball and drives 87 yards to go up 7-0.  At that point it was a little concerning the Aggies might not be ready for Arkansas.  The Aggies took the next possession and score tying the game.  The Aggies scored two more times to go up 21-7 and there was never really a concern the rest of the game.  The Aggies would lead 28-14 at half and then 42-17 after the third quarter.

I don’t like the final score of 42-31 as the defense allowed two scores while the offense scored none but the entire fourth quarter was spent making sure that lead didn’t get squandered.  You can complain all you want about the Aggies not putting Arkansas away but the reality is Arkansas was put away after 3 quarters.  Other than the first two possessions of the game the Aggies controlled everything after that.  Don’t let the score fool you the Aggies didn’t put Arkansas away.

This is the type of game that Jimbo loves to play.  Get the offense out in front and let the defense keep the opponent in check never giving up big plays.  There’s nothing wrong with that in the SEC.  Jimbo could have taken a chance to completely bury Arkansas but as it was he took the winning without much worry.  I’m okay with that.

Let’s talk about the units.

Offense:

Offensive Line:

I’m starting with what is now the heart and soul of this offense.  These guys are playing outstanding football right now.  I couldn’t be happier with what they’re doing.

It was clear Arkansas wasn’t going to let the Aggies run over them with Isaiah Spiller.  It didn’t matter.  The offensive did their job and did it well.  The running game wasn’t quite as dominant as it was against Florida and Mississippi State.  It was still REALLY good though.  The Aggies racked up 182 yards on the ground averaging 5.1 yards per carry.  In addition, Kellen Mond had time to throw and wasn’t sacked once.

I don’t know what else I can see about this group.  They’re just outstanding.  If they can keep this up the Aggies are going to run the table and likely find themselves in the College Football Playoff.  I’m dead serious about that.  When you have holes to run through and time to throw your offense will score points against anyone.  The offensive line is just doing outstanding work.

Kellen Mond:

This was Kellen Mond’s best game as an Aggie by far.  He was pretty solid against Florida but he was virtually perfect against Arkansas.  He was 21 of 26 for 260 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.  That’s a completion percentage of 81% and no interceptions.  That’s against a team that had 10 interceptions in 4 games prior to this contest.  They came into Kyle averaging 2.5 interceptions a game and left averaging 2 interceptions a game because Kellen Mond didn’t throw one.

Kellen was just outstanding all night putting balls where they needed to be.  Guys weren’t running wide open either.  There was certainly an element of guys getting separation but Kellen threw some beautiful balls.  His touchdown to Wydermyer was perfect.  Wydermyer certainly had the athletic ability over the Arkansas defender but Mond put the ball where only Wydermyer could get it.  He and Wydermyer are really developing a trust with each other.

In addition to being perfect through the air this was probably Kellen’s best game running the ball.  He only had 6 rushes for 32 yards but he didn’t hesitate when he saw opportunity.  He was just decisive all night through the air and on the ground.  It was refreshing to see him finally play like this the whole game.

While the offensive line is giving him time to throw Kellen appears to have a good timer in his head.  He understands at some point pressure will come so he’s not holding the ball too long waiting for the perfect pass.  He’s trusting the system and play design.  He and the offensive line appear to be working well together.  They understand the amount of time needed to get the ball off.  The offensive line deserves most of the credit for the lack of sacks this season but Kellen does deserve some credit as well.  He’s trusting the pocket and making decisions before pressure finds him.

I’ve seen too much of Kellen to believe this is the Kellen we’ll get the rest of the season.  I’m hoping he won’t fall too far from this place though.  Without a doubt based on five games it does look like Kellen has progressed.  We’ll just have to see where his valley is from here.

Running Backs:

Despite Arkansas committing to slowing him down, Isaiah Spiller had another solid game.  He rushed 21 times for 82 yards but they were hard earned.  He averaged 3.9 yards per carry.  His vision and cutting ability is really outstanding.  His ability to plant and cut makes defenders look silly. 

He’s a true sophomore who looks like a fourth-year senior carrying the ball in the SEC.  He’s just outstanding.  When you can grind out yards despite a defense keying on you it’s really impressive. 

I don’t know what else to say about this guy.  He’s doing for this team what Trayveon Williams did for the 2018 team.  With help from the offensive line he’s just putting this team on his back.

Ainias Smith doesn’t touch the ball much as a running back but he’s the perfect compliment to Spiller.  To use a boxing analogy Spiller is the big right punch the defense keeps looking for.  Smith is that little left-handed jab that doesn’t get thrown very often.  However, when it does it’s effective in surprising the defense.  Smith ran 3 times for 31 yards including a touchdown.  The way Jimbo has been using Spiller and Smith is perfect.

Devon Achane saw his first snaps against Mississippi State.  Against Arkansas he saw 4 carries and made the most of them.  He ripped off a 30-yard touchdown run that didn’t look all that spectacular but it was.  He just hit a hole and then ran straight ahead not letting a defender take him down.  He didn’t throw any major jukes or outrun anyone with his elite speed.  He just hit the hole and ran for paydirt.  Plain, simple, and effective. 

He’s looked good in two brief appearances.  He now has 60 yards on 8 carries for 7.5 yards a carry.  No need to rush him along but he’s offering some good depth.  Let’s hope we just give him 4 rushes a game as that’ll mean Spiller and Smith are healthy.  His time will come.

Wide Receivers:

I wouldn’t define the receiving corps on Saturday night as spectacular but they were certainly REALLY solid.  Wydermyer, Ainias, Chase Lane, and Hezekiah Jones all got fairly equal touches.  Wydermyer was the most dominant catching 6 balls for 92 yards and two touchdowns.  Ainias caught 6 balls for 67 yards and a score.  Chase Lane hauled in 3 balls for 50 yards while Hezekiah Jones caught 5 passes for 47 yards.  Hezekiah should have had 6 catches and at least 60 yards but he dropped an easy ball.  Hopefully he’s just working back from his injury and gets more comfortable catching the ball.

There’s no doubt we all want a dominant go to receiver but Jimbo’s system is working.  We averaged 10 yards per passing attempt on Saturday night.  That’s not 10 yards per completion but 10 yards per passing attempt.  I know we all want the deep ball/big play but if you can average 10 yards every time you throw the ball you don’t need the deep ball.  The defense was focused on shutting down the run and we made them pay through short and immediate routes.

We all want to see what Demond Demas can do but wins are more important.  Let’s not mess with a good thing.  What we have appears to be working.  No need to disrupt it to force the ball to someone who might not be ready.

Overall:

Jimbo seems to have a good feel for what his offense can do.  He also seems to be doing a good job of reading the opponent’s defense.  Against Florida and Mississippi State he just ground them down with the running game.  Against Arkansas he used a balanced attack against someone who was not going to let Spiller beat them.  That’s smart coaching.

He’s not going away from Spiller as he still got 21 carries.  He made sure Arkansas continued to key on him all night by giving him the ball just enough.

The offense appears to be playing with enough understanding and confidence to stay on track.  I don’t see any reason why they won’t.  I’m hoping this offense is like 2018 where they seemed to get a little bit better as the season wore on.

Defense:

I know some people are frustrated with what the defense did on Saturday night.  While there’s some things this defense needs to improve on I think what they’re doing is part of an overall strategy Jimbo has based on their talent.  This defense has two main areas of weakness – 1) Lack of a dominant pass rusher and 2) Inexperienced secondary.

I really think Jimbo and Elko are doing a really good job of understanding the opponent on both sides of the ball and developing a comprehensive game plan. 

Against Florida they ran a lot of base defense not looking to get burned.  Trask carved them up pretty good but they did just enough to win the game.  Against Mississippi state they dropped a lot of guys in coverage but used blitzes at the right time to make Mike Leach’s offense pretty much inept.

Against Arkansas they went back to mainly base defense to make sure they slowed Arkansas down while not giving up the big play.  Arkansas was coming off a bye week and have a pretty solid offensive coordinator in Kendall Briles.  Arkansas gave this defense a bunch of looks they hadn’t seen and tried to attack to some weak points.  Mainly attacking the perimeter with quick pitches. 

Feleipe Franks ran 12 times for 91 yards.  Some of those were designed runs but quite a few were runs were nobody was really open and he had space to run.  He never really burned us on the run despite picking up really good yardage.

I know some people don’t like bend but don’t break defenses but in today’s game of football it’s not a bad strategy at all.  LOTS of defenses are struggling against decent offenses across college football.

The two main statistics I look at by a defense are third down conversions and points surrendered. 

The Aggies were OUTSTANDING on third down conversions as Arkansas only converted 3 of 11 attempts.  That’s 27%.  For 3 quarters the defense only gave up 17 points.  That’s damn good work.

I don’t like the 14 points in the 4th quarter but the defense didn’t want to give up any quick scores where Arkansas felt they had a chance to get back in the game.  Thanks to their efforts through three quarters Arkansas never had a chance to win the game.  The defense deserves a lot of credit for keeping Arkansas out of this game.

There’s area this defense can get better but it’s pretty solid where it is right now.  It seems to be working really well with the offense.

A quick look at the units.

Defensive Line:

Much of the same here but I do want to point out two things:

  1. While they’re missing a true rush specialist they’re doing a pretty good job of applying pressure as a whole unit.  They’re not going to bring immediate pressure but they’re collapsing the pocket so the quarterback doesn’t have forever to throw.  Both Tyree Johnson and Michael Clemons are doing better of getting pressure in passing situations from the outside.  They’re no Myles Garrett but they’re doing a pretty solid job with the lack of blitzes Elko is shying away from.  The only downside is they’re creating running lanes for the quarterback but that’s for the linebackers and safeties to fill and clean up.
  2. DeMarvin Leal is a true leader.  At one point Jayden Peevy was in someone’s face after a play.  Leal coming back into the game from the sideline grabbed Peevy to get him out of the altercation.  The guy is a true sophomore telling a senior to clear his head and not do anything stupid.  It’s little things like this that help a team.  Leal’s physical play is outstanding but his mental game is really impressive for a guy that was playing high school ball two years ago.

Linebacker:

Kind of like the defensive line not much else to say other than Aaron Hansford has been impressive this year.  We don’t miss Anthony Hines one bit.  I think we improved with Hansford on the field.  Hansford is an amazing story of perseverance that every Aggie fan needs to appreciate.  He’s been big for this team.

Secondary:

Like the others where there’s not much to say other than a few items:

  1. Leon O’Neal is so frustrating to watch at times because he pulls some boneheaded moves.  For the most part his play is damn good.  It frustrates me he lets his head get to him at times but he’s playing good ball.  I assume his orange gloves were for Halloween but who knows.
  2. Demani Richardson is the unsung hero of this unit.  We’re in major trouble without him.
  3. Poor Myles Jones had to watch film on Sunday of him missing a Pick Six.  He had the perfect jump and the ball went through his hands.  Great read but you still must make the play.
  4. The targeting call on Antonio Johnson was total BS.  I’m one that is okay with a lot of targeting calls but Antonio didn’t drop his helmet or lower his shoulder.  The flag should have been picked up.  While I’m talking about Antonio it’s clear he’s going to get picked on since he’s a true freshman.  He’s going to have some growing pains but he’s showing some promise.

I think you’re going to see more teams pick on this unit.  It’s a smart play because it’s young and the weakest link of this defense.  We don’t have lock down corners, our safeties get confused in coverage, and we have no dominant pass rush.  However, this unit is light years better than the last two seasons under Jimbo.  It’s got some holes but they’re not nearly as big as they used to be.

Overall:

Until we find a true edge rusher and the young guys in the secondary get healthy and experience this defense isn’t going to be dominant.  I think Jimbo and Elko know that.  With the way the offense is working right now they need to keep doing what they’re doing.  We can win every game left on the schedule with this strategy.  Limit the big plays and get off on third downs.  This defense has shown they can do that under Elko and what they should continue to do.

I still like Elko and this unit all things considered.

Can the Aggies Run the Table:

As of right now the Aggies are playing better than anyone left on their schedule.  The games won’t be easy as there’s some talented teams as well as some road games.  Mond seems to struggle more on the road than at Kyle Field. 

Teams seem to just have bad games so I fully expect the Aggies to go 4-1 over the last five games.  They can absolutely go 5-0 but it’s going to take serious focus.

LSU and especially Auburn scare me the most.  LSU is still talented but they might be throwing in the towel on the season.  We get Auburn after they play Bama so that might work in our favor as well.  We need to get through the next 3 games before we worry about them.

I have no idea what to think on Ole Miss.  I feel like we’ll be able to pound them on the ground and limit their offense enough especially since it’s at Kyle Field.  We could blow them out.

Tennessee is sort of a toss up as they’re not a terrible team but they seem to be exposed. The Aggies are certainly the better team.  Luckily there won’t be 100,000 people in Neyland so that should help Mond.

South Carolina seems like the ultimate trap game to me.  The Aggies are coming off a convincing win, Muschamp isn’t a horrible coach, and they’re coming off a bye week.  The beat Auburn at home thanks to 3 interceptions by Bo Nix and Shi Smith is a pretty good receiver.  If we turn the ball over and Smith gets deep on us they can beat us.  The big issue with South Carolina is they gave up 225 rushing yards to Auburn and 283 rushing yards to LSU.

I think we’ll be fine against South Carolina.  I think Jimbo just leans on the rushing game not giving Mond a chance to turn the ball over through the air.  We can beat South Carolina if we’re focused and play like Jimbo has this team playing. We really just have to worry about getting by the next opponent above anything else. 

There’s no need to worry about what happens if the Aggies go 9-1.  Beat the next opponent and then the opponent after that.  If we get to 9-1 I like our chances to sneak into the College Football Playoff.  At  worst we’ll be the clear second best team in the SEC West if not the entire SEC looking at a major bowl game in Jimbo’s third season.

That indeed will be one of the last steps to Make Aggie Football Great Again.

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

Thoughts From the Florida Game

What a win for the Fightin’ Texas Aggies on Saturday.  What.  A. Win. 

I won’t say that’s a statement win just yet.  There are still 7 games left and the wheels could fall off of this season.  It’s certainly a game that will shut the Jimbo detractors up for at least a month.  Hopefully it does it for eternity where we look back at this game as the day Jimbo made the definitive statement the Aggies have officially arrived.

I’ve been saying this for a while – one of the most important things Jimbo can do to Make Aggie Football Great Again is make Kyle Field a true home field advantage.  Kevin Sumlin was terrible at it.  For whatever reason Sumlin seemed to win his big games on the road and completely spit the bit at Kyle Field.  If the Aggies are truly going to return to a perennial Top 10 team they must win at Kyle Field way more than they lose.  Kyle Field must be a definitive home field advantage.

Jimbo Fisher is now 7-2 in SEC games at Kyle Field.  The two losses are against Alabama and Auburn last season so they’re not terrible losses.  I like the trend so far and hope he can keep it up.  If I had to choose one of beating Bama in Tuscaloosa or Florida at Kyle I’d take beating Florida at Kyle all day long this season. 

I don’t think people understand the importance of making Kyle Field a true home field advantage.  Other than recruiting and developing talent it’s the most important thing Jimbo Fisher can do to sustain long term success as the Aggie head coach.

On Saturday it was a home field advantage without doubt.  Dan Mullen commented on it but it’s impressive in the era of COVID for Kyle Field to help decide the outcome of the game.  That’s a testament to not only the students but the way the team fought back.  The students feed off the team and vice versa.  If the team didn’t kept fighting against the Florida Gators then the students aren’t yelling as loud.  If the students aren’t yelling, the defense might not have a found the will to make a much needed stop on Florida’s final drive.  It’s a beneficial relationship that needs both giving it their all.  That was certainly on display Saturday.

Before I get to the specific units everyone needs to remember the Aggies weren’t even close to playing a perfect game.  They had some stupid penalties which could have ended Florida scoring drives.  Jimbo and his staff had coaching brain farts.  Our running backs put the ball on the ground a couple of times with one of those almost costing us the game.  We also got burned repeatedly through the air. 

Other than the late fumble I think Florida played almost a perfect game yet still lost.  That is thanks to the 12th Man, the talent on this team, and the resiliency by the coaching staff to keep pushing forward to a win.

This whole team can still improve which is a good sign.  They have yet to play their best game where the defense and offense are taking care of the opposition. 

Hopefully they’re still developing to that point.  There’s not a game on this schedule they can’t win.  They can also lose 2 to 3 games if they don’t stay focused.  Hopefully this team understands there’s still work to do and they haven’t yet arrived.

They’re close but they’re not there yet.

Let’s get to the units:

Offense:

I’m starting with the side that played almost a perfect game.  Take away the two fumbles and there’s not much more you can ask of this unit.  This is the offense Jimbo has been working towards and it finally clicked.  Hopefully it keeps clicking.

Offensive Line:

I’ve been the most critical of these guys over the last two seasons.  What they did on Saturday was nothing short of remarkable.  They ground down the Florida defense and imposed their will when it mattered most.  Florida might not be as talented as Alabama or Georgia defensively but they’re damn good.  They’ve got some legit talent in their Front 7 and the Aggie offensive line imposed their will.

I can’t say enough good things about these guys from Saturday.  They weren’t perfect but they were the key to this victory.  If we didn’t run the ball like we did on Saturday we never have a chance to win this game.  We ran the ball because the offensive line took care of the Florida front 7.  It was impressive.

From a pass blocking standpoint they gave Kellen enough time to throw.  They’re not dominant like the 2012 offensive line who gave Johnny time to make sammiches in the pocket but they gave Kellen a pocket he could step up in.  Kellen and this line were pretty in sync where he had a pocket and knew when he needed to step up to buy a little more time.  They worked well together on Saturday.

The unsung heroes of this line are the running backs and tight ends.  They’ve done a tremendous job in either picking up blitzes or chipping at the line of scrimmage before going into their routes.  They do a tremendous job of helping slow down the defensive pressure so the offensive line is not overwhelmed.  Everyone seems to know their assignments and can read the defense.  This has changed drastically how this unit is performing from last season.  Last season they were often lost on who and how to block.

I sure hope these guys can keep this up because I’d love nothing more than to eat a big plate of crow at the end of this season.  I’ll happily eat a little bit right now as I didn’t think they had Saturday’s game in them.  I’m very happy to be wrong about these guys so far.  Keep it up, fellas.

Kellen Mond:

This was the Kellen Mond Jimbo has been building.  Like the offensive line I’m shocked to see it and glad I’m wrong.  He played his best game in an Aggie uniform by far.  I don’t know if he can keep this up but maybe this is the confidence boost he’s been needing.

He was 25 for 35 for 338 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.  That’s not perfect but it’s DAMN good.  We’ll take that stat line from Kellen Mond every damn game.  I don’t know if he can repeat this the rest of the season but I don’t know why he can’t either.

We’ll just have to see.

If I have one complaint it’s his lack of running ability.  He took off on a couple runs but didn’t gain many yards because he doesn’t have enough shake.  He’s got good straight line speed but he needs some space to get a couple strides going.  He’s certainly not an elusive runner which may explain his desire to stay in the pocket rather than take off.

If he can keep passing like he did on Saturday we won’t need his running ability.

Running Back:

Isaiah Spiller was a complete stud on Saturday.  You can’t say enough about this guy.  He rushed for 174 yards on 27 carries to average 6.4 yards per carry.  His longest run was for 23 yards so that means he was just grinding out yards finding holes and getting yards after contact.  He didn’t get most of his yards on a few long carries.  The dude was taking the rock and finding space and making defenders pay for contact.  He put the ball on the ground once early in the game but he tightened up when it mattered most.  It was a remarkable effort.

He didn’t have a signature run so his performance might not seem that impressive.  It was impressive.  He had a will and he just kept moving the ball forward.  I’m not sure how good he can be but we’re talking about a guy playing in his 16th game as a true sophomore.  He’s still young and seems to get better every game.  Keep on keeping on, Isaiah.

Early in the game I was a little frustrated at Jimbo for not using Ainias Smith more from a running standpoint.  Jimbo was right and I was wrong.  He leaned on Isaiah and it paid off.  There’s a reason I get paid nothing to write this blog and Jimbo pulls in a cool $7.5 million a year.  I’m fine with it.

If Spiller and the offensive line can repeat Saturday it’s going to do wonders for this team.

Wide Receiver:

Holy hell.  We finally completed not one but TWO deep balls to a wide receiver in SEC play.  For one game Jimbo showed us he knows how to use a receiver on a deep route. 

Caleb Chapman had the game of his young Aggie career catching 9 balls for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He saved the best for last catching a beautiful 51-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 38 late in the fourth quarter.  Unfortunately, he tore is ACL on that play and is out for the rest of the season.  Hopefully there’s some guys on the roster that can pick up where Caleb left off. 

I don’t think it’s coincidence we had our best game on the ground in the same game we hit two deep balls.  Those two things work together causing a defense to defend the entire field.  It’s all a balancing act.

As for the other receivers they were pretty productive as well.  Jimbo really stuck with Chapman, Ainias, Wydermyer, and Chase Lane for the whole game.  There weren’t a lot of substitutions at receiver.

Each of those guys caught 4-5 balls for around 50 yards each.  That’s solid when you can equally spread out 3 guys for ~15 completions and 150 yards between them.  That keeps the defense having to defend the whole field and can’t key in on any single person.  It’s also a strong statement to Mond he was either reading the defense well or he was just spreading the ball around making plays to keep the defense honest.

I like what I’ve seen out of these guys.  I certainly like this unit better than last season’s unit but we need to keep developing.  We need someone to step up for Chapman in a big way.  Hopefully it’s time for Demas to finally step in and live up to his promise.  If it’s not Demas I hope it’s someone else.  We need the deep threat.

Overall:

I don’t see a reason why this offense can’t come close to replicating this performance every game.  They’ve actually done it all three games this season.  Against Florida they just didn’t make the mistakes they did against Vandy and Bama as it relates to turnovers and dropped passes.  It’s that simple.  Don’t make mistakes and this offense can win games for this team.

Defense:

This defense is much better than they showed on Saturday which gives me some hope.  Dan Mullen is an outstanding coach with an outstanding quarterback.  They had a great game plan for our defense.  They were really balanced and used a lot of mid level crossing routes and running backs out of the backfield to sustain drives.

It seemed we were pretty committed to shutting down the running game along with not letting Kyle Pitts beat us.  It was a sound strategy by Mike Elko but Dan Mullen utilized other weapons to keep drives going down the field.  I’m not sure we’ll see an offense better prepared for this defense for the rest of the season except when we play Ole Miss and Auburn.

We missed a lot of tackles on Saturday which his really unlike this defense.  I’m really hoping it was related to Dan Mullen’s scheme where our guys were just a tick slow diagnosing plays.  Tackling is physical but it’s also a little mental.  When you’ve diagnosed the play and in the right position it’s a lot easier to make tackles.

My biggest concern for this defense is not having a repeat of when we beat Tennessee at home in 2016.  They missed a ton of tackles in that game and had to be bailed out by the offense.  The John Chavis lead defenses never seemed to be the same after that game.  It’s not a big concern I have with Elko but it is something to be mindful of.  This team is capable of tackling better and they need to get back to it in coming games.

Defensive Line:

This unit is a little boring but I still believe they’re as solid as they come.  They’re still looking for that dominant playmaker but the way Leal and Clemons flash at times I have some hope.  Tyree Johnson is getting more playing time which I think is a good thing to keep guys fresher so they can flash

It would be nice for one of these guys to break out and start playing like Daylon Mack, Demontre Moore, Justin Madibuike, or even half of what Myles Garrett was.  We need someone who on a play can just decimate the offensive line and get a sack or big tackle for a loss.  I’m thinking DeMarvin Leal is the most likely as he’s still a true sophomore learning his role on this defense.  He’s just so versatile right now playing all over the defensive line.  Once the positions become second nature to him I think you’re going to start seeing this guy dominate offensive lines like those names I mentioned.

Now that we’re beyond Alabama and Florida I’m wondering if Donnell Harris starts getting some snaps to see if he has the raw pass rush talent most people seem to think he has.  If we can add true edge pressure in passing situations it’ll be a major boost for this defense and their struggles to get off the field on third downs.

This unit plays a little boring but make no mistake they’re the core of this defensive unit.  This unit allows Elko to focus on the other areas that need help.

Linebacker:

These guys are much like the defensive line.  They’re solid without being flashy and dominant.  Buddy Johnson lead the team in tackles which shouldn’t be a surprise.  Aaron Hansford has looked good as has Andre White Jr.  We certainly need to upgrade the overall talent with this unit but these guys are really serviceable for now.

If there’s one complaint it’s Buddy Johnson really struggles covering running backs out of the backfield.  Alabama was successful doing it and Florida continued it.  He’s not terrible at recognizing it but he’s just a step behind covering it because he’s built to be a run stopper and not cover running backs.  I think getting Erick Young back and not having a defense focused on defending Alabama’s receivers or a guy like Kyle Pitts will help Buddy.  If not, Buddy is going to continue to see situations where he’s responsible for a running back flaring out of the backfield which is a bad mis-match for us.

I’m curious if Antonio Doyle will start getting snaps like Donnell Harris.  He’s a true freshman as well with All SEC talent.  Hopefully he can add some depth and talent to the team this year as it’s still needed.

Secondary:

Dan Mullen doesn’t have the same weapons as Alabama but he does have an accurate quarterback who makes smart decisions.  Florida had 8 receivers catch 23 passes for 312 yards and 4 touchdowns.  We did a really good job limiting Kyle Pitts but I think it opened up Trask to just find the open guy which he did most of the game.

The worst performer of the day for this unit was Leon O’Neal.  For all the good things he did in the first two games he didn’t do it in this game.  He had two REALLY stupid personal fouls.  He also got picked on for three touchdowns.  One was to Kyle Pitts which isn’t a terrible thing to have happen but the other two it seemed like Florida knew they could fool O’Neal in coverage and took advantage.  He let his emotions get the best of him and that can’t happen.  Hopefully Jimbo and Elko can get him settled down and let him play to his talent.  We don’t need this guy regressing as he’s a key component of this defense if his head is screwed on correctly.

As for the rest of the secondary they were all equal offenders it seems.  Florida simply did a good job of flooding the secondary with a lot of crossing routes.  Since we can’t generate a pass rush Kyle Trask simply had time to find the guy our secondary wasn’t covering.  It’s not a huge knock on our defense but just more of a masterful job by Mullen and Trask attacking our secondary in a smart way.

Demani Richardson is still the heart and soul of this unit.  Jaylon Jones does seem to be getting better every game.  It’ll be nice to get Erick Young back at some point this season.  The talent is there to improve.

Overall:

I still believe in Mike Elko and this defensive unit.  I think we simply have seen them against a REALLY good offensive team in Alabama and a very good offensive mind and quarterback in Mullen and Trask.  This unit is going to get tested on Saturday against Mike Leach but I think they’ll be fine.  Leach got his surprise game against LSU and defenses have an idea of how to defend his Air Raid.  The team that scares me the most right now is Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss team as they’re putting up points against everyone they’ve played.

Let’s get past Mississippi State first and then we’ll let the rest of the season play out.  There’s still plenty of time to improve the young talent on this defense.

Looking Forward:

At this point I think this is a 7-3 football team at worst.  That’s a HUGE improvement from the first two games.

I don’t expect us to win out even though it’s possible.  We still play in the SEC and this is a pretty inexperienced team with a very inconsistent quarterback.  I really expect us to go 6-1 finishing up at 8-2.  That will likely put as the second-best team in the SEC West.  While I’d love to go 9-1, if you’d told me after the first two games we’d wind up 8-2 I would have asked how to nail that record down. I’m not going to get greedy from a record standpoint just yet.

This is a good football team.  We saw that on Saturday and have seen glimpses against Vandy and Bama.  We just don’t know how consistent they can be. 

We’ll just have to see how the season plays out.  It sure looks a lot different this week than it did this time last week.  Fine by me.

Make Aggie Football Great Again.

#MAFGA

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Thoughts on the Alabama Game

This week’s write up won’t be as long as normal.  This Texas A&M team was never beating Alabama.  Sure, there was technically a chance but Alabama is still immensely talented coming off a 2 loss season.  All Nick Saban does after a 2 loss season is win a national championship.  There’s a good chance this Alabama team doesn’t lose a game all year.  Texas A&M losing to Bama on Saturday will be like 13 other teams this season.

Still, you wish the Aggies could have been more competitive.  There was a fleeting moment when the score was 14-14 and it looked like the Aggies might compete.  Saban quickly squashed that.  Going into halftime the game was pretty much done.

Defense:

Normally I start with the offense but I’m going to start with the defense this week.  I’m not going to do unit breakdowns like I normally do either.

Nick Saban and his staff did an outstanding job of understating the strength and weakness of the Aggie defense.  As we know it’s a strong unit up front but suspect to the pass.  It’s better against the pass than in years past but it’s still got a ways to go.  There are still holes in this secondary. 

Alabama basically used the run to not only set up the pass but set up deep balls.  It was a marvelous job of coaching.  For the most part the Aggie defense bottled up the run.  Bama rushed 28 times for 109 yards and two scores.  That’s a little under 3.9 yards per carry.  That’s not a dominant effort for the Aggies but Alabama has a solid offensive line and an NFL caliber running back in Najee Harris.  Their longest run was 16 yards and Harris himself never ran for more than 6 yards on a single carry.  That’s a decent enough job by our defense up front.

The Bama offense annihilated the Aggie team with deep balls.  Bama did a tremendous job of attacking the weakest people in the secondary.  They went after Myles Jones, Devin Morris, Jaylen Jones, and Keldrick Carper.  Jaylen Jones has plenty of talent but he’s a true freshman playing in his second game.  He wasn’t ready for the talent Alabama has.

Bama had three touchdown passes of 78, 87, and 63 yards.  Each time they just isolated one of their speed burners on a vulnerable Aggie secondary member and Mac Jones hit them in stride.  Credit to Bama for a great game plan and executing.

I thought the defensive line and linebackers did a pretty good job.  They gave the Bama offensive line a lot of trouble for much of the game.  The defensive line had a nice tip and catch interception that could have swayed the game but it didn’t matter in the end.  The linebackers executed most of their assignments but were just playing more talented guys.  Individually, Michael Clemons continues to look like a guy that can create pressure by himself.  There’s certainly some positives for the defense other than the deep touchdowns.

If there’s one gripe I have about this game it’s the lack of blitzes.  I think we blitzed once and that resulted in one of the long touchdown passes.  Maybe Elko was afraid they would get burned again.  Maybe he felt his defensive line was doing a decent enough job getting pressure.  Maybe he though it wouldn’t matter.  He was probably right.  More blitzes wouldn’t have mattered but it would have been nice to see the attempt jus to see what could happen.

While the defense wasn’t without fault in this game the reality is A&M was never winning this game. Bama is just too talented from a team standpoint as a whole and didn’t make mistakes.  You can’t do anything defensively if you can’t force Bama into making mistakes.  Lick your wounds and move on to Florida.

Offense:

Offensive Line:

I must give these guys credit as they seem to have developed beyond last season.  They’re still not that great but they’re a little more serviceable than last year.  Since A&M played from behind most of the game we really couldn’t focus on the running game to see if we could truly get it going.

When it comes to pass blocking they’re doing a better job of engaging defenders.  In years past they would flat out miss defenders.  These guys are getting pushed back but at least they’re slowing the opposing defense down just a little bit.  They still struggle with blitzes though.

This unit still has issues but for now I’m going to leave them alone.  They’ve improved to a degree.  They are who they are.  They’re not going to establish the run against strong SEC defenses.  All you can hope for is for them to give the quarterback some time to throw by engaging the defender while getting pushed back.

I’m dead serious.  Simply engaging the defender rather than miss the defender straight up is an improvement for this unit.  It’s the little things.

Running Backs:

Spiller couldn’t really get going despite 11 attempts for 25 yards.  Really not much to write about here.  The running game was just never going to be in a factor with the way this game played out.  It takes a while to establish the run against a team like Bama and you can’t do that playing behind the whole game.

Hopefully the run game materializes the rest of the season.  I do see some positives with Spiller and Smith getting hand offs.

Wide Receivers:

Ainias Smith became the first non-tight end to have a touchdown reception over 40 yards in SEC play during Jimbo’s tenure.  That was done solely on his athleticism.  He’s a hybrid receiver/running back so we still have no true wide receiver score a touchdown over 40 yards in the SEC over the past three seasons.  Meanwhile Bama had three long touchdown passes in one game.

Just once I’d love to see an Aggie receiver running deep due to busted coverage and get hit it in stride for a touchdown.  I’d be even happier if it was because the receiver is just so talented they can blow by coverage by themselves.  It still hasn’t happened under Jimbo’s watch.  Deep balls remain elusive for this offensive unit when another SEC team is on the schedule.

Ainias Smith was our best receiver on the day catching six balls for 123 yards and two touchdowns.  The dude is a baller.  Wydermyer was our next best pass catcher with 8 receptions for 82 yards. He almost added an amazing catch on the sidelines but couldn’t hold on.  It was good to see him come back after a bad performance against Vandy.

Chase Lane was targeted 11 times but only caught 6 balls for 62 yards.  Some of the passes were uncatchable but at the same time he’s not regularly getting open.  The rest of the unit was basically the same.  Jalen Preston was targeted 5 times and only caught two balls for 27 yards.  He was the target of the interception returned for a touchdown and did nothing to fight for the ball or chase the defender down.

My biggest gripe with this unit for guys not named Smith and Wydermyer is they don’t fight for the ball.  They just don’t adjust and go after balls.  They basically only catch balls if they’re open and it’s a catchable ball.  Other than that, they’re not making much effort.

Demas saw some snaps and the stat sheet shows he was targeted once.  I guess Jimbo is bringing him along slowly but this dude needs to see snaps.  The other true freshman in Price and Muhammed ought to start seeing snaps as well.  I like this unit better than last year’s unit but it’s not by much at this point.  We need to find some guys that will fight for the football.

We’ve got issues with the offensive line and quarterback but these guys aren’t helping either.  At some point we need a true receiver to step up and be a threat the defense must worry about.  It’s not there right now.

Quarterback:

For the first time in Jimbo’s time at A&M I get to talk about two quarterbacks in a game. I feel like Lawrence in Office Space with a million dollars.

Kellen Mond did what Kellen Mond does.  He made some decent passes but he also missed a bunch of passes.  His receivers dropped a couple balls they should have caught.  Statistically he didn’t look bad.  He was 25 of 44 for 318 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.  The interception was a back breaker as it was a Pick 6 that took the score from 21-14 to 28-14 midway through the second half.  The Aggies would never stand a chance after that play.

A completion percentage of 56% isn’t terrible against Bama but it’s the way Mond does it.  He’ll throw a beautiful ball at times and an ugly pass the next.  He’s terribly inconsistent.  The offense never gained any true momentum.  He simply failed to make plays in the game much like he did all last season against better opponents.  He did nothing to put the team on his shoulders.  He’s a senior and it’s disappointing to watch.

If you stuck around for the whole game you saw Haynes King take the reins for the final offensive drive.  I wasn’t totally surprised to see King take the field over Calzada.  He’s a true freshman but I think his skill set is better served for what this team needs.  Calzada has a cannon but that doesn’t really help if the offensive line can’t block and receivers can’t get open.  King offers mobility.

King didn’t look that great passing but his running was outstanding.  I understand the game was out of reach and Bama was playing a couple backups but King was decisive in running the ball.  That’s what this offense needs.  A quarterback that WILL run.  Mond has the ability but just chooses not to.

King’s final play was an interception in the end zone but I don’t have a problem with it.  He had single coverage with Chase Lane and put the ball where Chase Lane could make a play on it.  Lane didn’t and the Bama defender did.  At some point you must take chances as a quarterback.  Especially with this team.

King doesn’t appear to have the arm that Mond or Calzada has but if he’s smart and accurate it’s more valuable.  Completions matter more than style.

It was a small sample set but I like what I saw out of King.  He appears to have some moxie and you need moxie at quarterback.  You need someone who’s willing to show the team he’s willing to take chances to make plays.  Mond should have developed that by now.

Special Teams:

Seth Small missed what should have been an easy field goal.  Our kick and punt returners fair caught everything.  None of it mattered.

Looking Forward:

I was shocked Jimbo put in King.  That was a HUGE sign he’s looking for something different.  Even if he didn’t want Mond in on that last series he could have put in Calzada.  That’s the safe play and minimizes controversy.

Calzada has been in this program since January of 2019.  That’s almost two seasons.  Jimbo decided to put in the guy who was playing at Longview High School this time last season.  No offense to Longview but it’s a far cry from Longview High School to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in less than 12 months. 

I think it’s pretty telling for what Jimbo sees playing out at quarterback the rest of the season.  I still believe Mond was the best option at quarterback for the last two seasons.  Starkel wasn’t the guy two seasons ago and Calzada didn’t get the back up reps against Bama on Saturday he wasn’t ready last season.

I do think it’s obvious Jimbo put Kellen Mond on notice.  If you’re going to continue to do the same things you’re not going to take snaps.  I’m totally good with that.

I also think by going with King that Jimbo has a better grasp of the offensive issues than we give him credit for. 

My personal belief is that Mond will start against Florida and struggle.  Florida will be up by two touchdowns at half.  King will start the second half and we’ll never look back.  We won’t beat Florida but I think King will do enough to hold on to the starting job.  King won’t be without his struggles as he’ll make plenty of mistakes but it’s time for a youth movement with Aggie football.

I’m just a little shocked Jimbo is willing to go to it so soon.  It’s good to see though as it’s warranted.

It’s time for a youth movement on the offensive side of Aggie football.  Jimbo’s recruited the talent so it’s time for them to all grow up together.  I’d much rather go 5-5 with the younger more talented guys gaining real experience.  I think we could pull off 7 wins if we do it sooner than later.

It’ll be a sacrifice worth making.  Let’s Make Aggie Football Great Again.

#MAFGA

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Thoughts from the Vandy Game

The third year of the Jimbo Fisher era at Texas A&M got off to frustrating start.  While most of us don’t expect the Aggies to contend for the SEC West this season we are hoping this is they year where make a clear step towards that goal.  We certainly didn’t see that on Saturday night at Kyle.

This was basically an extension of the 2019 season.  If you put this game in the collection of game film from 2019 it would have fit in perfectly.

Let’s count the ways:

  • Kellen Mond not taking over a game
  • Kellen Mond being loose with the football putting it on the ground multiple times
  • Kellen Mond not knowing when to run
  • Kellen Mond being inconsistent with his passing
  • Receivers dropping easy passes
  • No downfield passing threats
  • No play calling creativity
  • Delay of game calls
  • Bone headed special teams play
  • No pass rush
  • Strong defensive effort despite that
  • Jimbo and Kellen saying they’ve got some problems to fix

I can keep going but you get the idea.  While Kellen Mond is a good portion of this list he’s not the only issue this team is facing.  Maybe it was rust by the players or maybe it was Jimbo trying to figure out what he has with this team.  Whatever it is, the team on the field Saturday night will be lucky to win 5 games.  It really has the talent to win 10 games.

Speaking of talent, it needs to be pointed out the ONLY reason the Aggies won the game was because they’re more talented.  It wasn’t coaching and execution.  The Aggies are simply more talented than the Commodores and that’s why the Aggies won.  While Jimbo has major question marks on his coaching and development his recruiting is showing promising results.  He’s got talent to work with.

Before I get into specifics about the game I have to say Kyle Field was really impressive all things considered.  It certainly wasn’t the environment of a packed Kyle but it was damn good.  The students were yelling, the band was playing, and the DJ was rocking.  You knew who was the home team and there were moments when the team fed off the crowd that was there.  Kudos to the Aggie gameday operation crew and the students.  Despite the COVID limitations they made it a pretty solid experience.

On to the game in my usual format where I look at the specific units.

Offense:

Kellen Mond:

I think I’ve been consistent in my assessment of Kellen Mond.  He’s not as bad as some people make him out to be but he’s not someone that’s going to take a game over either.  In his first game of 2020 he showed exactly ZERO development.  I mean not one step of development from a nine month off season.  He was the exact same quarterback he’s been under Jimbo Fisher.  Not one positive deviation from who’s been for two full seasons.

All of this talk about looking at every play from last season to correct errors did absolutely nothing.  He did all the same things he’s done in 2 seasons with Jimbo.  He was inconsistent passing the ball.  He was unaware when to run and when to sit in the pocket.  He was lazy with the ball and put it on the ground multiple times.  If he really did watch every play from last season to correct errors he wasted a bunch of time.  The test on the field showed he learned NOTHING.

The fumbles bother me the most because that’s the sign of quarterback who’s thinking too much.  He’s still trying to figure out plays and not being careful with the ball.  He’s now put the ball on the ground 5 times in the last two games against lesser talented teams.  That’s inexcusable.  Running backs lose their jobs for doing the same thing.  Jimbo has a ton invested in Mond’s development but if Mond keeps up this fumbling he won’t be under center much longer.  That’s too big of a liability.

I was hopeful we’d see a senior quarterback take command of the game against an inferior opponent.  Kellen didn’t do that.  He’s not a natural leader and it’s painfully obvious at this point.  He’s really damn talented but he doesn’t have the mental makeup to be any better than he is.  He pays a lot of lip service to being a better quarterback but his play doesn’t show it.

Kellen is still in the top half of SEC quarterbacks in my mind simply because he has talent.  I no longer have any hope he’ll be the dominant player he could be because of his talent.  It’s simply not in him and he really doesn’t want it.

It’ll be interesting to see how Jimbo handles Kellen.  He must be frustrated he has the same guy he’s had going into this third season.  I don’t think Jimbo changes quarterbacks anytime soon but if this offense plays like it did on Saturday night I think he’ll have to seriously consider a change at some point in the season.

Let me be clear – I don’t think there’s a quarterback controversy right now.  I’m simply saying if this Aggie team winds up 1-3 with losses to Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi State due to offensive ineptitude Jimbo is going to be questioning if it’s time for a change.  The fans will already be there but at the end of the day wins and losses are what matters.  Kellen Mond has a tough three game stretch to prove he still belongs under center.

After the Mississippi State game we have a bye and then two games against Arkansas and South Carolina.  That’s the perfect time to make a change under center if the offense is struggling.  I’m not saying it will but the schedule is set up to make a change if we’re 1-3 with a puttering offense.  Just something to be mindful of if Mond doesn’t step up his play over the next 3 games.

Mond can still win the Aggies a lot more games than they lose but I do believe the clock is ticking for Jimbo.

I watched a lot of the Florida game on Saturday and what I saw from Kyle Trask is what I was hoping to see from Kellen on Saturday.  Trask stood comfortable in the pocket and made some nice throws.  Trask had complete control of the Florida offense.  Mond is more athletic than Trask but on Saturday Trask stood head and shoulders above Mond.  Trask appears to have developed while Mond continues to be who he is.  It’s extremely frustrating.

Wide Receiver:

A lot of new names at receiver but it looked more of the same.  Decent on some plays but also dropped some very easy passes.  Jalen Preston appears to have taken over the role of Jhamon Ausbon as the possession receiver.  Preston has plenty of talent so good to see him out there.  Didn’t like his fumble but hopefully he can correct that.

Caleb Chapman was targeted 7 times and caught 4 balls including a nice touchdown.  Chapman looked okay but he wasn’t spectacular.  Chase Lane had a couple nice catches along with Kam Brown but nothing impressive.

I love Ainias Smith and he had some nice catches and most importantly yards after the catch.  We’ve been missing a guy that can make defenders miss after the catch since Christian Kirk went to the NFL.  In my mind Smith needs to see the ball more.

What I’m most shocked by is Demond Demas had ZERO snaps.  He was suited up and on the sideline but he didn’t see a single snap.  This is mind boggling to me.  By all reports he’s far and away the most athletic receiver we have.  I get he’s a true freshman but he needs to be out there to see what he can do.

We don’t do true deep balls.  We don’t throw passes downfield in one on one situations to see if we can win contested balls.  We don’t turn short passes into super long gains.  Our longest three catches on the night were of 26, 23, and 21 yards.  Against a team like Vanderbilt that’s terrible.  Elite level teams have receivers that can either get down the field or turn a short pass into a long catch and run.  This has been amazingly missing in the Jimbo Fisher era.

At some point we need a legit downfield threat.  We still haven’t had a receiver catch a touchdown ball over 40 yards in the SEC since Jimbo took over.  A deep threat would do wonders for this offense.  Somebody needs to step up to fill that role and Jimbo needs to work that into the playbook.

Let me put it this way – In 17 SEC games we have never snapped the ball on our side of the field and completed a touchdown pass to a wide receiver under Jimbo Fisher.  Think about that for a moment. 

Jace Sternberger had a touchdown catch of 46 yards against Kentucky in 2018.  Wydermyer had one for 52 yards against Mississippi State last season.  Those are tight ends and those are our longest touchdown passes in 17 SEC games under Jimbo Fisher.  That’s it.  46 and 52 yard scores to really gifted tight ends who did most of the work after the catch thanks to their athleticism.

I’m quite certain defensive coaches are aware of this and it’s a major factor into how they defend us.  We have to develop a downfield threat if this offense is really going to start doing something.

Running Back:

In addition to the defense, Isaiah Spiller is why we won this game.  He only carried the ball 8 times but he had 117 yards ripping off two really nice runs in the second half.  Spiller should have gotten 20 carries in this game.  Maybe Jimbo wanted Mond and his receivers to get some reps but Jimbo should have leaned on Spiller a lot more in the second half.

Spiller is starting his second season but he’s impressed me.  I’m not sure how great he can be but the dude produces.  He was the only offensive player against LSU last season that showed any fire.  On Saturday night he took what touches he got and made the most of them.  This dude needs more touches in my mind.

Here’s Isiah Spiller’s last three games:

LSU – 11 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown.  That’s 6 yards a carry against a tough LSU team.
Oklahoma State – 19 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown.  That’s 4.1 yards a carry.
Vanderbilt – 8 carries for 117 yards with no touchdowns.  That’s 14.6 yards a carry with a long of 57 yards.

Isiah Spiller is producing at running back with a spotty offensive line.  Give him the damn ball more.

I love Ainias Smith as a receiver but I also love what he’s doing at running back.  He’s a nice change of pace to Spiller and knows how to make defenders miss.  His touchdown run was proof positive of that.

Jimbo really needs to figure out how to confuse defenses with Spiller and Smith in the backfield.  They’re clearly the most dynamic offensive players we have and they need to touch the ball more.  If you’re not going to thrown the ball downfield at least stretch the defense at the line of scrimmage with two running backs capable of two different things.  Give the defense something to worry about.

Offensive Line:

Obviously this has been my biggest concern coming into the 2020 season.  On Saturday night they looked solid enough.  They weren’t really tested but they did just fine.  We had 183 yards on the ground and Kellen only got sacked once.  For the most part Kellen had time to make passes.

I’m still concerned with this unit but they were fine on Saturday night.  Had the quarterback and receivers did more to catch and protect the ball their work might have looked a lot better.

We’ll find out more about this unit over the next three games.  For their first game they actually looked serviceable.  No complaints from me right now.

Mark me worried about what they’re going to do against Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi State though.

Defense:

Defensive Line:

We all knew this is the best unit on the team and on Saturday night they did what they do.  Michael Clemons, Bobby Brown, Jayden Peevy, and DeMarvin Leal were solid.  DeMarvin Leal is a beast.

This unit is the heart and soul of this team.  I really can’t say anything more about these guys.  They show up every game and play as a really strong unit.

The lack of pass rush is a bit concerning but Michael Clemons got a key sack late in the game.  I’m hoping he’s the guy that gets more comfortable and starts to develop into a guy that can bring pressure.  He has the potential so I hope he realizes it.  If it’s not these guys bringing the pressure directly I think you might see Elko get a little creative and bring disguised blitzes.

The most impressive thing from this game was McKinnley Jackson.  He’s a true freshman and got some snaps in the second half.  He looked outstanding.  I’m excited about this guy.  He was the best player in Mississippi last year.  He was a late addition to the recruiting class and he chose A&M over Bama.  It was a major get for Jimbo and his staff.  If his first game is any indication he’s going be a total beast as well.

I was excited about this unit coming into the season and nothing about Saturday night changes that.  If anything I’m thinking it might be better than we thought.  If Clemons can develop a pass rush and Jackson adds serious athleticism and depth then this unit will be one of the best in the country.

Linebacker:

While this unit isn’t as talented as the defensive line it’s a strength of this team.  Buddy Johnson and Aaron Hansford lead the defense in tackles which is what they’re supposed to do.  Buddy Johnson is a football player.  He’s probably not going to make first team All SEC because he doesn’t have the raw talent and make highlight plays but the dude can play football.

I think Anthony Hines was getting passed up by Hansford which is why Hines decided to opt out.  Hansford is a heck of a story coming back from a serious knee injury and switching from offense to defense.

Andrew White saw a few snaps and looked solid.

While this unit is not as talented or deep as the defensive line it’s a solid unit.  I wasn’t worried about this unit coming into the season and I still feel the same way.

Secondary:

Welcome back, Leon O’Neal, Jr.  This kid had a less than stellar 2019 season.  In the off season it looked like he was going to transfer.  On Saturday night he was starting for the Aggies and played outstanding football.  He got a key interception late in the game with a nice return.  I hoping O’Neal has his head screwed on straight because he’s a heck of a talent and can be big for this team.

Demani Richardson was his normal self.  He picked of a pass and was all over the field.  He’s certainly the heart and soul of this secondary.  Jaylon Jones started at corner and he looked pretty solid as a true freshman.  Myles Jones started at the other corner and was decent enough.  I must give him credit as Myles has really developed.  He’s not as talented as the other guys he plays with but he’s playing much better than he used to.  Erick Young also played much of the game as the nickel and was strong.

This unit is going to have it’s hiccups but I feel pretty good about them right now.  I’m wondering if Elko starts trying to figure out how to bring pressure with these five guys.  They’re all pretty talented and flexible in what they can do between covering and tackling.  Sneaking one of these guys on a blitz a few times a guy will do wonders for this defense.

Special Teams:

I love Ainias Smith but I have no clue what he was doing fielding a punt in the endzone.  Even worse I don’t know what Brian George was thinking illegally blocking someone in the endzone.  No punt return personal should ever be in the end zone.  Just take the ball at the 20.  That resulted in 2 points for Vandy and even worse a loss of possession.  That’s bad coaching and execution.

Constantinou had one bad punt and one good punt of 53 yards averaging 45 yards on the day.  Seth Small hit his one field goal attempt and his two extra points.  Return wise we don’t have much going for us other than some head scratchers on returning balls in the end zone.

This unit appears more of the same under Jimbo.  It’s not going to win us any games so you just hope it doesn’t lose us any games.

Coaching:

As most of you know I love Jimbo Fisher.  His offensive plan and the player’s execution on Saturday night was terrible.  Spiller and Ainias Smith get a pass.  His play calling made no sense.  He looked like a 12 year old playing Madden just randomly selecting plays.  I hope he was just trying to call as many different plays as possible to see if Mond had truly developed in the off season.  If so, he couldn’t have liked what he saw.

At some point Jimbo must add some wrinkles to this offense.  I get what he’s doing because his defense is so good coupled with a questionable offensive line and quarterback.  He wants to win time of possession and limit turnovers so he limits plays for his defense wile minimizing his offensive weakness.  I get it because not many people have a defense like he does.  No reason to gamble and put those guys in a bind.

However, he must develop a downfield threat.  If defenses only need to worry about 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage it’s only going to make this offense’s job even harder.  Better defenses will flat out expose this offensive line and Kellen Mond.  We saw it in 2019 and we’re about to see if over the next three games.  We’ll still have LSU and Auburn at the end of this season.

Jimbo has to evolve and develop as much as his players need to.  Right now everyone is kind of holding each other back so it’s time to try some different stuff.  This is not a tough offense to defend if you’ve watched any film on it.

Jimbo needs to coach in 2020 a little differently than he did in 2019.  He certainly didn’t do that on Saturday night.

Speaking of coaching, here’s the list of current SEC West head coaches:

Alabama – Nick Saban
LSU – Coach O
Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher
Auburn – Gus Malzahn
Mississippi State – Mike Leach
Ole Miss – Lane Kiffin
Arkansas – Sam Pittman

Three of those guys have national championship rings.  One of those guys took his team to a national championship game and won a ring as an offensive coordinator.  One of those guys has multiple national championship rings as an offensive coordinator.  One of those guys is Mike Leach.

One of those is not like the others.  How do you feel if you’re an Arkansas fan knowing you could have hired Mike Leach?  What a failed job by the Arkansas administration to miss on Leach not once but twice.

Looking Forward:

I obviously don’t feel good about my 10-2 season prediction right now.  Football is a funny game so you never know.  The talent is still there to win 10 games this season.  Jimbo and some key offensive players need to take a different step forward. No more one step forward and two steps back they’ve taken for two seasons.  \

We’re going to learn a lot about this team in the next three games.  Based on this past weekend there’s a strong chance we go 1-3.  More than likely I think we still wind up going 2-2 as Elko will find a way to keep Leach from repeating what he did in Baton Rouge.  I just don’t see us beating Florida based on how the two teams played on Saturday.

I put our chances of beating Bama at exactly zero.  That’s not battered Aggie syndrome and just reality.  The only way we can beat Bama is if they turn the ball over and/or we really open our offense to try and score lots of points.  I don’t see either of those happening.

Saban will play into Jimbo’s hand of wanting to play a slow and methodical game just like Jimbo.  Saban will make sure his guys don’t turn the ball over and Jimbo will take exactly zero chances on offense.  Bama will break more offensive plays and Jimbo will be yelling at Mond over multiple bad decisions.  I won’t be shocked to see us get the back door cover of 17 points late in the game.  The final score won’t mean we were ever in the game though.

I hope I’m wrong but 17 SEC games with Jimbo and Mond give me a pretty good idea of how things are going to play out in Tuscaloosa this weekend.

We’re still 1-0 with a ton of talent but Jimbo needs to get coaching if he wants to earn that $7.5 million.

Make Aggie Football Great Again

#MAFGA

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2019 Aggie Season Prediction

As we enter the 2019 Aggie Football season we all know about the difficult schedule.  Four games against teams ranked in the Top 6 of the Pre-Season Coach’s Poll.  This includes the Top 3.  Three of those four games are on the road.  The craziest thing about this schedule is it makes games against Auburn, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and even Ole Miss and Arkansas seem like after thoughts.  Nobody is even talking about the other 5 SEC games on the schedule.  We’re all focused on those four games.  It’s a daunting task but welcome to the SEC.

For the most part everyone would consider 8-4 a successful season.  That would be a solid season beating everyone else except for the teams ranked ahead of you.  I think 8-4 is a good barometer for this team in 2019.  However, it doesn’t mean this team can’t go 10-2 like the 2012 team.  The talent is certainly there but it’s young and inexperienced.  It’s even possible this team could catch lightening in a bottle and go 11-1 like the 2013 Auburn football team.  They lost to LSU early and then beat Georgia and Alabama in back to back games to get into the SEC Championship game where they won that game too.  They then went on to the national title game losing to Jimbo Fisher and FSU.  I don’t see A&M making the College Football Playoff but it’s not impossible if a few breaks go their way in close games.  College football can be funny sometimes.

It’s also possible this Aggie team loses those 4 games and then loses a couple other games going 6-6.  That would be an extremely disappointing season but depending on how those 6 losses played out it wouldn’t mean it’s a terrible team.  It would just mean they lost to some really talented teams and then didn’t get some breaks against teams as talented as them.

I did a preview on how I think the position groups look going into 2019 which you can read here:

https://rcwouldhavegonefor2.com/2019/07/10/2019-aggie-position-group-thoughts

I think these position groups in this order have the most influence on the final wins and losses for the Aggies in 2019:

  • Offensive Line
  • Linebackers
  • Wide Receivers
  • Quarterback
  • Secondary

The Secondary was our worst unit last year but I think we have enough influx of young talent that it will be markedly better.  I believe Armani Watts would have been worth at least one if not two wins more last season.  I think the addition of Leon O’Neal and Elijah Blades if they play to their talent and potential will make the Secondary much better.  I won’t get into details on the other groups as you can click the link but just wanted to clarify why I think our worst unit last year isn’t a higher question mark heading into 2019.

My last two season predictions have been spot on record wise.  I predicted 7-5 in 2017 and 8-4 in 2018.  I flipped the Florida and Mississippi State games in 2017.  In 2018 I was wrong on the Mississippi State and LSU games.

Here’s my game by game breakdown for 2019:

Texas State Bobcats:

Jake Spavital and his index card-based offense return to Kyle Field for his debut as a head coach.  Perfectly ironic.  You know I’m no fan of Jake Spavital as a coach.  I think he’s HIGHLY overrated.  I don’t think he’ll be any better as a head coach than he was an offensive coordinator.  I just wonder if he’ll have color coded index cards for offensive and defensive items so he doesn’t get confused.

The last time these two historic teams met on a Thursday night Hurricane Rita was barreling towards the coast.  That game wound up being closer than expected at 44-31 but I don’t see the same thing happening in this game.  That was Fran against David Bailiff and this is Jimbo against Spav.  Major advantage to the Aggies.

What I’d like to see in this game is a flawless first half with a score of 35-3 at half.  Have the starters play 2-3 series in the second half scoring another touchdown so it’s 42-6 at worst by the time the second units find their way in full time.

More than anything I want to see a healthy game with an offense and defense that control their side of the ball for most of the game.  Scores are hard to predict but just give me a healthy Aggie team that executes their game plan and controls the entire game.  I think we’ll see that.

WIN (1-0)

Clemson:

Of all the “Big 4” games I believe this is the most daunting game of them all.  This will be the first big start for a lot of our younger guys and we’re going on the road to Clemson.

There’s also these factors:

  • We’re not sneaking up on Clemson
  • This is a different team than we played within 2 points at Kyle Field
  • This is the biggest game on their schedule

We’re the highest ranked team on Clemson’s schedule by a large margin.  We’ll likely be coming in as the 11th ranked team in the country.  They have one other opponent ranked in the Top 25 on the rest of their schedule.  That team is Syracuse and they’re ranked at 22 headed into the season and play Clemson the week after us.

Clemson has their toughest two games in back to back weeks early in the season so there will be no surprising them.  They know if they can get through weeks 2 and 3 then they’re headed for the playoffs more than likely.  We’re their biggest game because if they can beat an SEC team that affords them a loss on their schedule and still easily make the playoffs if they win the ACC.  If they lose to A&M then their margin of error for the rest of the season becomes much smaller to make the playoffs.

In addition to motivation this is a different team than played at Kyle Field.  Their defensive line might not be as good but their defense will still be really damn good.  The big change will be on offense as Trevor Lawrence might be the best quarterback in college football.  He only played about 33% of the snaps against us last season.  In addition, Justyn Ross barely saw the field against us.  He was a true freshman but all he did was go on to lead Clemson in receiving last season.  In the national championship game he caught 6 balls for 153 yards including a 74-yard touchdown against the Bama secondary.  Against Notre Dame Ross caught 6 passes for 148 yards and two scores.  Needless to say we didn’t see what Ross had to offer in our game last season.  Lawrence and Ross might be the best QB/WR combo in the country so they’re going to test our young secondary.

This doesn’t even account for the rest of their roster which is loaded with talent.

I’ll likely do a more in-depth piece closer to the game.  It’s not an impossible win but it will take everything A&M has to pull off a victory in Clemson.  On paper right now I just don’t see it happening.  They’re the defending national champions for a reason.

Loss (1-1)

Lamar:

After taking on Clemson the Aggies get to come back to Kyle Field to take on Lamar.  This might be a minor let down game where the score is closer than it should be but I don’t see us losing this one.

We’ve got Auburn the week after so I think Jimbo can keep their focus.

Win (2-1)

Auburn:

I’m not sure what to make of this Auburn team.  They were under-achievers last season going 7-5 but they beat us.  They should have been 6-6 as we gave that game away.

They lose Jarret Stidham who didn’t quite achieve what he should have at quarterback under Gus Malzahn but he wasn’t terrible.  They look to start either Bo Nix who’s a true freshman or Tyler Gatewood who redshirted last season and didn’t take any significant snaps.  Gus is calling the plays again which will make things interesting.  It usually takes Gus a few games to get his quarterbacks in sync so I don’t think he’ll have his offense humming quite yet.  They’ll still be talented and will move the ball but I just question how much they’ll be able to score.

Defensively Auburn has one of the best defensive lines in the country.  The rest of their defense is solid as well.  Points won’t come easy for the Aggie offense.

This feels a lot like the Mississippi State game of last year with these two exceptions:

  • It’s at Kyle Field
  • There’s no Nick Fitzgerald

Jimbo appears to be making Kyle Field a home field advantage again and Nick Fitzgerald had our number so it’s good Auburn doesn’t have a guy like him.  This will be a game likely dominated by defensive line play shutting down the other offense for most of the game.  Welcome to old school SEC football.

I think the Aggies will scratch out just enough points to come out on top of this one but it won’t be easy.

Win (3-1)

Arkansas:

At some point we have to lose to Arkansas.  I just hope it’s not 2019 and I don’t think it will be.  2018 should have been the year they beat us but Chad Morris screwed up that one.  I’ll never understand why he chose to not attack our secondary from the get go.  If Arkansas comes out passing last season we probably lose that game.  I’m glad he didn’t as I like beating Arkansas.

Bret Bielema pretty much ran the Arkansas program into the ground from a talent standpoint.  Chad Morris has a daunting task in front of him and I don’t think he’s quite there yet.  I like Chad Morris and John Chavis as coaches but I don’t think they have the talent they really need to compete in the SEC.

This Arkansas team was 2-10 last season not winning a single SEC game along with losing to the likes of Colorado State and North Texas.  The lost to both Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in Fayetteville and then were shut out 38-0 at Missouri to close the season.  That’s a really bad season for a program like Arkansas.

Despite that Morris recruited surprisingly well and obviously got Nick Starkel to transfer.  I know he’s an Aggie fan favorite and everyone thinks we’d win a national championship with him but I don’t think he’ll make a difference at Arkansas.  Aggies keep the winning streak alive.

Win (4-1)

Alabama:

My heart wants to say the Aggie win this game but my head says they’re not quite ready yet.  The Aggies will be coming off a bye week before this game but not sure it will matter.  Alabama will be too.

I think the most underrated thing Jimbo Fisher did in 2018 was not lose a conference game at Kyle Field.  You must go back to 1999 to find a season where the Aggies didn’t lose a conference game at home.  Dennis Franchione, Mike Sherman, and Kevin Sumlin never did that.  Jimbo did it in his first season.

I want to believe this trend continues in 2019 but Alabama is going to be a sticking point.  All Alabama did in 2018 was go undefeated until they lost to Clemson in the national championship game.  What a terrible coaching job by Nick Saban.  The dude won 14 games in a row but couldn’t win the 15th for the title.  He’s terrible.  Bama should just go ahead and fire him.

Tua is back at quarterback along with his fleet of receivers.  They’ll be salty through the air.  They lost some defenders to the NFL Draft but like a AAA baseball team they’ll have some new ones for the NFL to scout in 2019 for the 2020 NFL Draft.

It’s simply amazing what Saban has done at Bama.  I want to believe it’ll change and there’s a slide coming but I must see it with my own eyes first.  Until then Bama is Bama under Nick Saban and I think he hands Jimbo his first conference loss at Kyle Field.

I hope I’m wrong and some 2012 magic finds it’s way to Kyle Field.

Loss (4-2)

Ole Miss:

After Bama the Aggies head to Oxford to take on Ole Miss.  Oxford has been a weird place for us and this is a different Ole Miss team than we’ve played in the past.  They lost a lot of skill position talent on offense.  Even with that talent they were still bad though.

They were 5-7 last season and lost their last 5 SEC games.  I don’t think they’ll be any better in 2019 and will probably be worse.  I think they’ll battle Arkansas for the worst team in the SEC West.

Even with a potential Alabama hangover I think the Aggies will be fine and win this game.

Win (5-2)

Mississippi State:

Much like the Aggies have had Arkansas’ number the Mississippi State Bulldogs have had the Aggies’ number.  Since Johnny Football left for the NFL the Aggies have only beat Mississippi State once in five tries.

Outside of the Auburn game last season this loss was the most frustrating.  Mississippi State had two things going for them the Aggies simply couldn’t overcome:

  • Nick Fitzgerald
  • Three first round defensive starters

Nick Fitzgerald simply had the Aggies’ number.  In three starts he never lost to A&M.  He’s gone.  Thank goodness.

To compound matters last season the Bulldog’s had two defensive lineman that gave our offensive line problems all night.  Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat.  They’re gone along with Jonathan Abrams who was a solid safety.

Mississippi State was 8-4 last year but I think they take a decent step back this year.  I think they’ll struggle to make a bowl game as they lose a lot from last year’s team and I don’t think Joe Moorhead re-stocked it or Dan Mullen on his way out of town.

Couple all of that with it being at Kyle Field and I think the Aggies win this one pretty easily.

Win (6-2) BOWL ELIGIBLE

UTSA:

The final crappy game of the season at Kyle Field.  Those in charge of college football keep wondering why attendance keeps dropping but they keep putting crappy opponents at home.  Nobody wants to see these crappy teams past the first two weeks in September.  They really don’t even want to see them then.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – If A&M wins the SEC West they’ll have one game to prove their worth for the college football playoff.  You win the SEC championship game and you’re a lock for the college football playoff.  It’s as simple as that.

I’m not saying we have to play Texas but we shouldn’t be playing more than two crappy games a year at Kyle Field.  I think playing two is even a stretch.

You want attendance to improve?  Put some damn home games the fans care about going to.  UTSA ain’t one of them.

I know nothing about the Roadrunners but I know we win this game.

Win (7-2)

South Carolina:

I personally think South Carolina is the most underrated program in the SEC since Dan Mullen took off to Gainesville.  Will Muschamp has matured a lot since his Florida days and has built a solid program after Steve Spurrier.  That doesn’t mean they’ll win a lot of games but they won’t be easy to beat.  At best they’re shooting for third in the SEC East every season but they’re not a terrible football program like some others in the conference.

Jake Bentley returns for his 4th season as starting quarterback.  He’s a scrappy quarterback but he lost his best offensive weapon in Deebo Samuel.  Defensively they’ll be like they usually are where they’re fundamentally sound but just don’t have the talent to beat the more talented teams on their schedule.  Sleep on them and they’ll beat you though.

Like Arkansas we’ve never lost to South Carolina in the SEC.  That’s right, the illustrious Bonham Trophy has never seen the East side of the Mississippi River.  I don’t think it changes in 2019 either.

Win (8-2)

Georgia:

This Georgia game confuses me because I’m not sure who Georgia is right now.  Kirby Smart seems to have that program on a great foundation but they experience hiccups from time to time.  They lost some key offensive talent but they’ve recruited well and their recent history says they’ll still be one of the best teams in college football.

Two years ago, they were a half away from a national championship before they choked it away.  Last season they were a quarter away from the SEC Championship and headed to the playoffs before choking it away.  They then went on to get outplayed by Texas in the Sugar Bowl for the entire game.  Georgia had a couple of costly turnovers but if you watched the game you saw a Texas team whip Georgia at the line of scrimmage.  It wasn’t a good look.

At the end of 2018 there were plenty of question for if this Georgia team is really all that good.  There’s the 36-16 loss at LSU but that game was in Tiger Stadium and Georgia had 4 turnovers.  I’m chalking that game up to an anomaly during the Kirby Smart era.  Tiger Stadium can get the best of you.  Kirby Smart is 24-5 over the last two seasons.  Make no mistake Kirby Smart has an elite program in college football.  I don’t think that changes in 2019.

I went back and looked at the SEC teams that have lost the Sugar Bowl to a Big 12 team and what happened the following season.  That’s happened twice in the last decade with Alabama losing to Oklahoma after the 2013 season and then Auburn after the 2017 season.  Each team then went on to play in the SEC Championship game the following season.  It’s a small sample set for sure but losing to a Big 12 team in the Sugar Bowl doesn’t appear to have a detrimental effect on a program.  Sorry Big 12 fans.

Before I can really predict this game I want to see what Georgia does against Florida and even Notre Dame.  If Dan Mullen can compete and even beat Kirby Smart with Feleipe Franks then I’ll have confidence Jimbo can do the same with Kellen Mond.

Until I see Georgia truly falter in 2019 I must predict this as a loss for the Aggies.  They’re just a better program right now.  The short sample set of losing the Sugar Bowl doesn’t lead me to believe there’s any detrimental effect.   Georgia will continue to be an elite team and a force to be reckoned with.

Loss (8-3)

LSU:

Do you know we close the season at LSU?  Do you know we beat LSU in a 7 OT thriller last season?  Do you know that Coach O has circled this game on his calendar?

I believe this is the most important of the Big 4 games this season.  I know other wins will be more lustrous but if there’s only one to win of the Big 4 this is the game.  I said this when Jimbo came to Aggieland – As long as Nick Saban is at Alabama Jimbo’s most important task will be establishing Texas A&M as the second-best program in the SEC West above LSU and Auburn.  Beating LSU in back to back seasons will be a MAJOR feather in Jimbo’s cap.

Closing the season with another win over LSU does so much for the program when it comes to perception.  This will help with the media, recruits, and casual fans of Texas A&M.  To get to Alabama you must establish yourself above LSU first.  This win of the Big 4 will matter the most if you can only have one.  If we beat 2 of the 3 before this I don’t mind losing to LSU nearly as much but this is the biggest game on our schedule in my mind.

As for the game itself I have no idea what to expect right now.  There are just too many variables.  LSU loses a couple key guys on defense in Greedy Williams and Devin White.  Don’t be mistaken though as they’ll just re-load with talent that’s not far off from those guys.  Offensively Joe Burrows is back and while he’s not electric he’s as gritty as they come.  This will be a tough LSU team.

The biggest variable will be LSU’s record coming into the game.  If they lose to Texas, Florida, and Alabama then they might not be as motivated to beat us.  Coach O’s team is loaded with talent but he just seems to have games he loses when he should have won.  Those three stick out to me before we play them.

That Texas game seems like one of those games because it’s in Austin early in the season and Tom Herman has shown to be nails against higher ranked opponents.  I want to see LSU win that game but I think Texas knows they need it more.  Coach O might not have his charges ready.  If LSU loses that game they could be set up to lose a couple more before playing the Aggies.  The more they lose the less motivated they’ll be to beat A&M despite having it circled on their calendar.  That will help A&M’s chances of winning this game.

Even if LSU comes into the game with only a loss or two I don’t think it really changes A&M’s chances of winning this game.  Winning last year’s game got the proverbial monkey off their back.  The Aggies now know they can beat LSU.  The Aggies know LSU wants payback for an early Powerade celebration gone awry.  The Aggies don’t want to give it to them.  The Aggies will be plenty motivated to beat LSU regardless of how motivated LSU is.

I also believe that if 2020 is the year for the Aggies then this LSU game must be the launch point.  If this group is truly talented enough and motivated enough to win it all in 2002 they’ll beat LSU in 2019.  It won’t be easy but if Jimbo and his team are truly building something special for 2020 this is a moment we’ll look back to as a major phase in the building process.

I believe in Jimbo.  By the end of the season I believe this team will walk into Baton Rouge and make one more statement against LSU.  I believe the Aggies will take that step to 2020.

Win (9-3)

 

There you have it.  The Aggies will finish 9-3 and be the second-best team in the SEC West yet again.  They’ll make a New Years 6 Bowl game and be set for a 10-win season looking to 2020 for a solid chance to make the playoffs and the national championship.

I still believe there’s a chance this team does what the 2012 team did and go 10-2.  It’s not a far reach if the talent develops as the season wears on.  For now, I’m putting it at 9-3.  Even 9-3 is a daunting task when you look at the schedule and the youth on this team.  But as Jimbo says – Even you don’t bite as a puppy you won’t bite as a dog.  This Aggie team is gonna get some bites this season.

We just need Jake Spavital and his collection of index cards to get here sooner than later so we can start taking those bites.

Make Aggie Football Great Again
#MAFGA

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

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

The Ultimate Aggie Grill:

Aggie Grill small

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

Here’s a link to his website:

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

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

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

Will the Aggies Be More Talented in 2019?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With that, let’s get going…

Offense:

Offensive Line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running Back:

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

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

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

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

Tight End:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wide Receiver:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quarterback:

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Offense:

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

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

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

Defense:

Defensive Line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linebacker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secondary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall:

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

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

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

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

Special Teams:

Punter:

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

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

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

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

Kicker:

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

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

Let’s just hope Seth Small improves his consistency.

Returners:

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

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

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

Summary:

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

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

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

 

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The Ultimate Aggie Grill:

Aggie Grill small

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

Here’s a link to his website:

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

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

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

Thoughts from the Gator Bowl

trayveon gator bowl

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

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

Let’s get to what happened.

Offense:

The Key Decision:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running Backs:

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

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

Offensive Line:

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

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

Wide Receiver:

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

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

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

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

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

Kellen Mond:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Teams:

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

 

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

 

Georgia vs Texas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll just have to see what happens.

 

Early Departures:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Future of Aggie Football:

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

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

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

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

#MAFGA

 

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