Texas Aggie Football

Who Will Quarterback the 2022 Aggies?

Before I get going on this “analysis” I must fully disclose I’m a Max Johnson fan.  I remember watching him at Kyle Field in 2020 and thinking LSU had a chance to beat us if he started that game.  Thank goodness Coach O couldn’t figure that out.  Part of that was TJ Finley looked so bad but I thought Max Johnson had some quarterbacking chops about him.  We obviously saw what Max Johnson did to us in 2022.  I think the kid can quarterback.

I don’t know what’s going to happen at quarterback for the 2022 Aggies.  I don’t think Jimbo Fisher knows either.  He’s got too many unknowns to pin down how quarterback is going to play out for the 2022 Aggies.  Haynes King doesn’t have enough snaps.  Max Johnson doesn’t have enough snaps in Jimbo’s system.  Conner Weigman doesn’t have any snaps in any college.  Lots of unknowns and variables.

In addition, Jimbo isn’t sure how strong his offensive line is going to be.  He doesn’t know what capabilities his receiving corps has.  He also doesn’t know his full running back situation.  Lots of unknowns on the offense outside of just who’s taking the snaps.

I think it’s only between Haynes King and Max Johnson for the 2022 starter.  I know Conner Weigman is the next coming of Johnny Football.  I get that.  However, even Johnny Football didn’t start his true freshman year in Aggieland.  I know the promise of a backup quarterback is always the most exciting thing for a college football fan.  That means hope springs eternal with Weigman.

For 2022 I don’t necessarily want Conner Weigman taking snaps.  Sure, Trevor Lawrence won Clemson a title as a true freshman but I don’t think that’s what we’re looking at for the 2022 Aggies.  That Clemson team was much different than this Aggie team.  If Conner Weigman beats out of both King and Johnson then so be it.  I don’t have a problem with that. I just don’t think you can make any analysis where Weigman gets significant playing time in 2022. 

We’ve been hearing about Haynes King for 2 seasons.  The problem is we don’t have a body of work to truly know what he can or can’t do.  We know he’s extremely fast.  Devon Achane says he might be the second fastest guy on offense which is quite a statement.  Achane knows speed.

King is the son of a coach and won a state title in high school.  He looks the part and talks the part.  He just hasn’t played the part.  Not saying he can’t.  I think he can but we just haven’t seen it yet. 

Max Johnson is the son of an NFL quarterback.  He’s 6’5”/220.  He’s left-handed which is rare from a success standpoint but he’s the prototypical quarterback from a physical standpoint.  If he’s right-handed people are drooling over him.  He can throw the ball and is much more mobile than people realize.  He’s taken a lot of snaps in football games so we have a body of work we can get some information from.

Max Johnson’s biggest problem is he played 2 seasons for a crappy LSU football team.  Those 2 seasons were so crappy it got a coach fired who had won a national title less than 2 seasons before he got fired.  That’s crappy.  Max Johnson didn’t have a lot to work with.  LSU was tied for 111th in the country last year in sacks allowed.  They averaged 3 sacks a game so Johnson didn’t have much time to throw for the most part.  I don’t know what Max Johnson looks like with a better team but a quarterback is often the product of their surroundings.  You need time and targets.

There’s not a lot of disappointment from LSU fans that Max Johnson left.  They feel he didn’t do enough to win more games as the LSU quarterback.  Like I said, most college football fans always believe the backup quarterback is always the better quarterback.  Maybe Max Johnson is the LSU equivalent of Zach Calzada.  I don’t see that.  I think Johnson is everything Calzada was physically but with a much higher football IQ.

I also know getting Max Johnson also helped get his younger brother Jake Johnson.  He’s a five star tight end.  No doubt it helped but I don’t think that’s the only reason Max Johnson came to Aggieland.

Here’s What We Know From Games:

  • Haynes King has started 2 football games.  None of them in the SEC and only played one full game.
  • Haynes King’s one full game was against Kent State where he was a 64% passer with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
  • Max Johnson has started 14 games with 10 of those being SEC games.  He’s played in 3 other SEC games.
  • Max Johnson is a 60% career passer at LSU.  He’s 58% in the SEC.  57% in SEC starts.
  • Max Johnson has thrown 35 career touchdowns and 7 interceptions.  That’s an outstanding 5 to 1 ratio.  In career SEC games he’s thrown 22 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.  In SEC starts it’s 20 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.  That’s still an outstanding 4 to 1 ratio.
  • Max Johnson has played significant snaps in these stadiums – Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama.

What Else Do We Know:

  • For whatever reason Jimbo has never felt comfortable naming Haynes King the definitive starter.  After the loss of Kellen Mond, it was clear the next starting quarterback would be Haynes King or Zach Calzada.  It always seemed like Haynes King was the front runner, but Jimbo would never definitively say it.  After watching Calzada last season it’s a little concerning to me Jimbo never named Haynes King the definitive starter much sooner in the process.
  • Jimbo convinced Max Johnson to come to A&M.  This has lots of variables because Johnson didn’t know his future at LSU with the coaching change.  However, Jimbo likely convinced Max Johnson he has a legit chance to start at Texas A&M in 2022.  Johnson didn’t announce his transfer intentions until after Brian Kelly was hired.  Myles Brennan was already in the Transfer Portal.  Brennan was LSU’s other quarterback so Johnson’s competition was leaving.  Brennan decided to stay once Johnson left and Brian Kelly got there but before Johnson left it looked like Max Johnson would be the incumbent quarterback at LSU for Brian Kelly.  Max Johnson didn’t care.  He decided to transfer.  Max Johnson didn’t come to A&M to back up Haynes King.  He believed he could win the starting job.  Max Johnson may wind up never taking significant snaps at A&M but Jimbo convinced him he had a legit chance to take significant snaps at A&M.  Does that mean Jimbo doesn’t have full confidence in King?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I think it means Jimbo wants as much quarterback talent on his roster as he can get. Max Johnson is confident he can win the keys to the Aggie offense.
  • Coming out of Spring 2022 there’s still not a clear leader at quarterback.  Haynes King clearly has the most time in Jimbo’s system and took the first team snaps in the Spring.  However, Jimbo talks as if it’s an open competition.  I think he’s saying that because there’s no definitive leader.

What Does Jimbo Want To Do in 2022?:

There’s a bigger variable in all of this besides each quarterback’s ability.  I believe King and Johnson are different quarterbacks.  I believe King to be a decent passer with excellent speed.  Not sure how elusive King is as a runner but he has raw speed.  That brings a different element for attacking a defense.  A running quarterback can do real damage to a defense.  I think King can run every bit as good as Kellen Mond and likely much better.  We saw how Jimbo liked to use Mond’s legs to keep defenses honest.  Jimbo already has a blueprint of what he can do with a guy like King.

I believe Johnson to be a superior passer with better mobility than most people realize.  Johnson can make throws.  He did it against A&M in the 2021 game.  That last touchdown pass that beat us was as good as it gets.  That was the second great touchdown throw he had it in that game.  Couple that with the fact Michael Clemons was hammering on Johnson the whole game and that pass looks all that more impressive.  Johnson didn’t back down.

Does Jimbo believe he finally has the receivers to attack a defense downfield?  Does he have faith in Ainias Smith, Evan Stewart, and Moose Muhammed to repeatedly get open?  Does he think he has a deep threat?  Does he trust his offensive line to give his quarterback time to throw?

If the answer to those questions is “Yes” then I think Max Johnson wins the job.  He’s simply the better passer.  If the answer is “No” then I think Haynes King wins the job.  Jimbo will hopefully turn King into an improved 2020 version of Kellen Mond.  That’s not a bad thing, people.  2020 Kellen Mond lost one game all season to Alabama.  I think 2022 King will be better than 2020 Mond if that’s the route that Jimbo goes with.

I think we’re going to be fine at quarterback in 2022 but these two quarterbacks are different style players.  A lot is going to depend on what kind of offense Jimbo thinks he can and wants to run.

What To Watch For:

Jimbo has a saying – “Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying.”  That goes for how he handles playing time with his quarterbacks.

Zach Calzada played in zero games in 2020.  Haynes King took the backup snaps in 2020.  Zach Calzada didn’t get any significant snaps in the first game of 2021.  King was always well ahead of Calzada in the quarterback hierarchy the past two seasons.  JImbo said there was a close competition but his actions clearly indicated King was his quarterback all along.  Calzada’s play in 2021 showed us why.

In game snaps mean everything to Jimbo when it comes to quarterback snaps.

I do believe at this point Jimbo is giving King the job to lose.  He’s also telling Johnson he can win the starting job but his room for error is small.  Johnson must be perfect to take the job.  King knows the system and is a solid quarterback.  I don’t think either guy is going to let the other guy win it during the off season.  It’ll be decided on the field early in 2022.

The first two games of 2022 will give us a good indication of where things stand.  This is assuming Jimbo doesn’t declare a definitive starter at some point over the summer.  I don’t think he will as he’s not going to truly know what he has until there’s some game action against a non-Aggie opponent.  Even if it is Sam Houston and Appalachian State.

I expect Haynes King to start each of these games.  The big indicator will be when Johnson gets his snaps.  If Johnson gets snaps in the first half of those two games then he’s neck and neck with King.  If he doesn’t get snaps until the second half when the game has been decided then King is clearly the starter.  The timing of snaps for Johnson will tell us what’s going on in Jimbo’s head.

If Max Johnson takes the first snaps of the first game then he’s the definitive starter for 2022.  Jimbo will believe he’s the guy going forward and King is the clear backup.  In that scenario Johnson can still play himself out of that position but if Johnson takes the first snaps of the season then that’s the horse Jimbo would prefer to ride.

I think the first 3 games will decide who the starting quarterback is for the rest of the 2022 season.  We get a nice couple games at home and then a Miami team that’s in the first year of a new coach.  That gives Jimbo the perfect scenario to decide which guy to ride the remaining 9 games.

My Prediction:

I think we’re going to see King and Johnson share snaps in the first two games.  How that happens I’m not sure and that doesn’t really matter.  Maybe it’s 2 series and 2 series or 1st quarter and 2nd quarter.  I think you’ll see Johnson in the first half of both of those games though.  That means there is no definitive starter for Jimbo to start the season.

I think at some point in the Miami game Johnson goes in the first half and doesn’t come back out for the rest of the season.  At least as a starter.

I have nothing against Haynes King and hope he’s successful.  Jimbo didn’t just go get Max Johnson for the depth chart though.  Max Johnson didn’t come to College Station because he likes wearing maroon on the sidelines.  Jimbo and Max Johnson both believe he can be the starter.

I think Max Johnson will be the Aggie starter after the Miami game.

As long as whatever starter wins football games I don’t care who it is.  I just want Aggie wins.  My hunch tells me Jimbo thinks that’s Max Johnson for 2022.  Which obviously means Haynes King will be our starter for the whole season…

The Jimbo/Saban Comments:

My quick thoughts are I don’t have a problem with any of it. Both coaches made their comments to weaponize their fan bases. Saban did it to spur more money from his boosters and Jimbo was standing up for his. Nothing more or less.

It’ll all get settled on the field but this makes for some great theater. I’m a little nervous because Jimbo just wrote some big checks he and his team need to cash but let’s be real. Bama has always been the target. Might as well go at them with everything you got.

To be the man you have to beat the man. Dusty Rhodes wasn’t afraid of Ric Flair and Jimbo ain’t afraid of Nick Saban. It’s risky business but Jimbo’s clearly up for it.

Comparing the 2022 and 2021 Aggie Units

My last post talked about the Aggie position groups for 2022 in quite a bit of detail.  For this I’m going to take a “quick” look at the position groups and compare them to the 2021 team.  My initial thought was some of these groups won’t be as good.  After thinking more I believe my initial thought might be wrong.

With the NFL Draft done I think we can make a full analysis of the 2021 team.  The NFL Draft isn’t an end all be all on judging talent but it’s a damn good indicator.  Early rounders tend to fare better in the league than late rounders and undrafted free agents.  It’s an inexact science but it’s a pretty good indicator of talent.  The more players you have drafted and especially the earlier rounds is a good indicator of talent on a team.

There’s a reason teams that won the most games get the most players drafted.  Talent is a DEFINITE indicator of on field success.

The Aggies were 8-4 last year and wound up with 4 Aggies drafted.  That’s less than what we expected but it’s a great data point.  We had Kenyon Green (1st round), Demarvin Leal (3rd round), Michael Clemons (4th round), and Isiah Spiller (4th round) drafted.  That’s the same number of guys we had drafted in the 2021 draft.

I think I can say the 2021 Aggie football team wasn’t as talented as I thought it was.  I expected a couple more guys to get drafted.  It was still a damn good team and closer to 10-2 than people realize but they were an 8-4 football team.  That’s decent but not great.  Good enough to beat Bama so I’ll take it.

Will the 2022 Aggie football team be more talented than the 2021 Aggie football team?  Let’s look at the position groups.

Offense:

Quarterback – Much Improved:

I’m going to do a much deeper dive into the 2022 Aggie quarterbacks in my next post.

For now I’ll just say I think it’s safe to say/hope that one of Haynes King, Max Johnson, or Connor Weigman will be more productive than Zach Calzada in 2021.

If not, well, just get ready for the Aggie Football/Jimbo jokes from college football fans and the talking heads.  Much of it will be justified.

Running Back – TBD:

Initially I would have said the loss of Isiah Spiller would be a challenge to overcome.  Jimbo has recruited well but Spiller was a really damn productive back for 3 seasons.  Him leaving seems like a pretty big loss.  He was a very well rounded back in that he could run, catch, and block.  His blocking was probably the most underrated part of his game.

I’m putting TBD for two reasons – Devon Achane and the offensive line.  We all know about Achane’s talent.  We just don’t know about his durability.  If Achane is durable we’re gonna be just fine.  We might even be better.  If not, we’ve got some real inexperienced guys in the backfield.  Talented but inexperienced.

The other reason for TBD is because of the next group.  If they do what I think they’re going to do then our running game will be better than last season.

Offensive Line – Much Improved:

I’m really bullish on the 2022 Aggie offensive line.  We lose a first rounder in Kenyon Green but I think we’re going to be better.  Bryce Foster, Layden Robinson, and Deuce Fatheree all have All American talent.  All three of these guys are going to get drafted to play in the NFL.  Foster and Fatheree were true freshman last year and Robinson was starting his first season.  I don’t see how these guys won’t be much improved over last season.

Left tackle and left guard is a big of a crapshoot but I think we’re going to be fine.  We’ll step back a tad at left guard replacing Green but we’ve got talent in the wings.

I was never a fan of Jahmir Johnson at left tackle.  I’m not worried about improving from him at all.

This group could be better than 2020 offensive line which was a damn good unit.  If these guys gel early then the 2022 Aggie football team is going to be damn good.

Wide Receiver – Improved:

I’m marking this as improved for two reasons – It can’t be worse and there’s some young talent.

I’ve said repeatedly the wide receiver unit has been the most disappointing unit of Jimbo’s tenure in Aggieland.  We haven’t had a receiver drafted since Christian Kirk in 2018.  We’ve missed the days of Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, Mike Evans, and Ryan Swope.

We get Ainias Smith back which is a good base to start from.  We lose Demond Demas and Caleb Chapman.  I’m okay with this as they were long on talent but short on production.  Production matters.

I think Moose Muhammed is going to have a good year now that he’s a year older and getting regular snaps.  The early reports on Evan Stewart are REALLY positive.  Yulkeith Brown and Chris Marshall will hopefully provide that deep threat we’ve been missing.

I’d like to mark this unit as much improved but there’s just too much uncertainty.

Tight End – TBD:

I’m marking this as TBD just because it turns out Jaylen Wydermyer wasn’t as dominant as we thought.  It seems he just had a great rapport with Kellen Mond.  Don’t get me wrong in that Wydermyer was good but he wasn’t a special tight end.  Special tight ends get drafted.  That sounds harsh but it’s a reality.

This is TBD because there’s no one with experience but we’re long on talent and depth.  I personally think we’re going to see some combination of Jake Johnson and Donavan Green produce at this position.  At least from a receiving standpoint.

I think Baylor Cupp left because he wasn’t separating himself from the guys on the roster.  He knew he needed to find some place where could get snaps.

I believe we’ll have at minimum the same production we got in 2021 but likely more.

Defense:

Defensive Line – Improved:

I can’t believe I just said the 2022 defensive line will be an improvement over the 2021 defensive line.  The 2021 defensive line was the heart and soul of that team.  It was a damn good unit.

I just think there’s so much talent and depth on the defensive line that we’re going to see an improvement in 2022.  Not a drastic improvement but I think our defensive line is going to start doing what some Bama and Georgia defensive fronts have done in years past.

Like the offensive line I’m bullish here.

Linebacker – Improved:

Aaron Hansford was an outstanding linebacker for the Aggies in 2021.  I think Edge Cooper and Andre White are going to be better though.  In addition to the starters we’ve got some talented youngsters I think are going to add some nice depth.

This won’t be a massive improvement or a dominant unit but I do think the 2022 linebacker unit will be better than the 2021 unit.

Secondary – Improved:

I almost scored this much improved but I’m just going to say improved because of the inexperience.  We lose Leon O’Neal who I thought had turned into an outstanding safety.

There’s a lot of uncertainty of who plays where other than Demani Richardson but that’s not a bad thing.  The reality is we have a lot of talent to fill 4 spots.  This is a good problem to have.

I think when things shake out we’re going to have a really strong secondary with talent and depth.  Last year’s unit was pretty good but I’m comfortable saying the 2022 secondary will be better than the 2021 unit.

Summary:

Obviously I’m bullish on the 2022 Aggie units.  I think every unit could be better than the related 2021 unit.  Running back and tight end are in question but the talent is there to be better.  We just need health and early adapting to SEC play from the talented depth we have.

Every unit should be better than 2021.

I’m not exactly sure what that means for wins and losses but I definitely feel 8-4 is the floor.  I know that seems disappointing but that should really tell you how far Jimbo has brought this program in 4 seasons.  8-4 is now the absolute floor.

We’ve still got some developing to do but things are looking good. 

Thoughts on the 2022 Aggies

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged but I recently found some time.  I’m being cautiously optimistic on the 2022 Aggies.  2021 left a sour taste in my mouth.  If you look back there were a ton of factors.  More injuries than we realize and some coaching blunders along the way.

Calzada seemed to be the biggest factor but he’s just the most obvious.  Quarterback play is generally the biggest input into a team’s success or failure so that’s what people saw.  There were other issues leading to that 8-4 record though.

My biggest frustration in 2021 was Jimbo Fisher.  His inability to recognize what Arkansas and Ole Miss was doing with a 3 man front was really frustrating.  It also appeared some opposing defensive coordinators figured out how to make the Aggies one dimensional and Jimbo had no answer.

The entire offensive scheme simply got confused against certain defenses.  Jimbo has been pretty good at scripting plays and adjusting his offense in game but for much of 2022 he seemed like a willy nilly play caller.  He was just calling plays off a playsheet with no rhyme or reason.  Like a kid playing Madden.  Much of that was likely because he had no faith in Calzada but he didn’t do much to overcome Calzada’s issues.

Jimbo’s biggest issue in 2021 was sticking to what appeared to be a pre-determined running back rotation.  His greatest sin was not riding Devon Achane in the 4th quarter against Ole Miss.  He rides Achane late in that game and we likely end up 10-2 headed to the Sugar Bowl against Baylor.  I think a win over Ole Miss would have given us the momentum to beat LSU.  I could be wrong though.

Who knows what would have happened with our COVID mess in December so maybe it’s best we had to bow out of the Gator Bowl and not the Sugar Bowl.  The Lord works in mysterious ways…

Enough of 2021.  Let’s talk about the 2022 Fightin’ Texas Aggie football squad.

My biggest concern heading into 2022 is leadership.  More than experience. We’re a REALLY young team and lose our biggest leaders in Demarvin Leal and Kenyon Green.  These guys weren’t the most vocal of leaders but make no mistake they were the two guys everyone else looked up to.

The talent is there.  It’s still young but I think we’ll be a more talented team in 2022 than in 2021.  We just need some leaders to step up and guide this team. If we get leadership the experience will come a lot quicker.

Let’s get to the units on each side of the ball.

Offense:

Quarterback:

Seems like the new additions at quarterback leads to a lot of uncertainty with the new QB but I don’t think that’s the case.  Leading into the 2021 season there was talk of a quarterback competition between King and Calzada.  The reality is there never was one.  King was the guy all along.

I think that remains the same.  This is Haynes King’s team and Max Johnson and Connor Weigman don’t have the experience to overcome him in the off season.

I still have no idea what to make of King because he hasn’t played any meaningful minutes.  We all assume he can play at a solid level in the SEC.  We haven’t seen it though.

I’m not too worried about his injury because it was a bone break.  From what we can tell he’s been healthy his whole career except for that.  The guys you tend to worry about are the people that seem to have repeated tissue injuries.  Those seem to linger or manifest other injuries elsewhere.  Minor breaks don’t tend to be nagging.

Health wise he should be fine.  I just don’t know what to expect of him on the field.  I need to see SEC reps.  He seems to be extremely mobile.  I think that mobility in addition to experience in Jimbo’s system is what keeps him in from of Johnson and Weigman in the off season.

As for the other two I’m a big Max Johnson fan.  This dude is extremely talented from a throwing standpoint.  Those two touchdown throws against us weren’t his only great throws in his time at LSU.  The dude was good all things considered.  He was playing on a pretty crappy LSU team the last two season after their magical 2019 run.  It happens.  Just because his team didn’t win doesn’t mean he’s not a good quarterback. He’s pretty athletic and a lot more mobile than people realize. He doesn’t run nearly as well as King but he’s not a statue by any stretch.

I think of the three QBs on the roster Max Johnson will have the most productive NFL career.  He’s simply built like an NFL quarterback and has the mental aspect to go with it. If Max Johnson is your backup quarterback you’re in a good spot.  Actually, a great spot.

As for Weigman I know everyone thinks he’s Johnny Football 2.0 but let’s hold off on that a bit.  True freshman quarterbacks tend to struggle a bit.  Let’s let him simmer in Jimbo’s system for two offseasons and then see what happens.

I do think King will be on a semi-short leash.  He’ll have plenty of rope but I don’t think Jimbo will be afraid to roll Max Johnson out there if King just isn’t getting it done.  I hope it doesn’t happen but I could see a scenario where King doesn’t overly impress the first two games against much lesser opponents and then struggles the first half against Miami.  If that happens then I think you’ll see Johnson under center starting the second half.

I think we’ll be fine at quarterback but it’ll take a few games to figure out what we have and the true direction of the offense.

Running Back:

I can’t believe I’m about to write this but I am – I’m not sure how much the 2022 Aggies will miss Isiah Spiller.  That’s not a knock on Spiller at all.  The dude was a solid running back.  He ran hard for his 3 years in Aggieland and is a Top 10 all-time Aggie running back.  But, we may have something special on our hands in Devon Achane.

He’s had limited touches since Spiller took the brunt of the work the last two years but he’s been EXTREMELY productive in the work he’s received.  He has the highest yards per carry of any running back in Aggie history at 7.4 yards per touch.  That’s with 173 carries which is a pretty fair number to still have that average yard per carry.  No doubt that number is likely to go down as he gets more touches but that’s an impressive number for a running back in the SEC.

Achane doesn’t get a lot of attention because he’s not that imposing and he’s just so fluid of a runner.  He doesn’t get stuffed very often or take a big hit.  He just somehow churns out lots of yards in an unassuming fashion.  He reminds me a lot of Emmitt Smith and Mark Ingram but with a Tony Dorsett top gear.  He has legit Olympic sprinter speed with great vision and balance.  From a top end standpoint he’s probably the fastest player in college football.

If you need any reminding of his speed just watch his kick return in the 2021 Bama game. 

I contend this will go down as one of the most unheralded plays in Aggie history.  This kick return kept momentum on the Aggie side.  It was about to swing to Alabama but Achane kept it with the Aggies.  People want to talk about NIL money but there’s no doubt in my mind that win over Bama at Kyle Field got the recruiting momentum going.  That night was electric and the Achane kick return was the most electric moment of the night.  The recruiting momentum for the 2022 signing class started with this kick return.

With 55 yards to go Achane has cleared every bit of Alabama traffic and no one even comes close to him.  Not one Alabama player even comes close to Achane on this run.  Bama has the best athletes in college football and they’re all toast with 55 yards to go. It doesn’t even look like he’s running that fast but he’s flat out flying.  This is game changing speed.

It’s a big question mark who backs up Achane as it’ll be some combination of Amari Daniels, L.J. Johnson, Earnest Crownover, and Jacoby Mathews.  I think Daniels and Johnson will get most of the carries.  Daniels can flat out fly and Johnson is more of your between the tackles guy.

We certainly won’t have the experience we had with Spiller and Achane in 2021 but we’ve got some depth and talent so I think we’ll be fine.

I’m excited to see what Devon Achane does with a regular workload.  In limited experience he’s shown he can handle it.  He might even be on a level nobody sees coming.

Offensive Line:

Coming into the 2021 season this was my biggest question mark.  Turns out I wasn’t wrong.  Next to the obvious injury to Haynes King the lack of the offensive line ever turning into a cohesive unit was our biggest issue.  At least from a player standpoint.

They showed up in some games but in others they seemed to be overwhelmed.  Most notably the Arkansas and Ole Miss games where those defenses ran a three-man front.  For some reason this created utter confusion.

I do expect the 2022 offensive line to be much improved from 2021.  The loss of Kenyon Green isn’t easy to overcome but this line will be more talented and experienced compared to the 2021 unit.

The right side of the line will be as good as it gets in the SEC.  Duece Fatheree was by far the best freshman tackle we’ve seen since Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews.  Layden Robinson at right guard was second team All SEC.  We’re in good hands with these guys.

At center Bryce Foster returns.  He did outstanding as a true freshman in the SEC.  Like Fatheree, Foster was a Freshman All SEC and All American.  This kid is loaded with talent and I see no reason why he doesn’t take a major step forward with one season under his belt.

The left side has question marks mainly because we replace likely first round pick Kenyon Green at left guard.  Right now it looks like Blake Trainor will be replacing Kenyon Green.  That’s a tall order but this guy is coming into his fourth season in Aggieland.  He’s a little short on in game experience except for one game – He started at left tackle in the Bama game.  He more than held his own in that game.  I thought he actually should have started the rest of the season in place of Jhamir Johnson but Jimbo and Josh Henson didn’t see it that way.

At left tackle it looks like Trey Zuhn will get the nod.  He’s a redshirt freshman that saw limited experience last season.  I’m a little cautious about a freshman with limited experience starting at left tackle but I’ll defer to Jimbo and his new offensive line coach Steve Addazio.  I don’t think he can do worse than Jhamir Johnson from last season.  I wasn’t impressed with Jhamir Johnson at left tackle last season at all so I think improving from him will be pretty easy.

Speaking of Addazzio this seems like a great hire to replace Josh Henson.  This guy has a ton of coach experience and is an offensive line coach at his core.  We’ll find out soon enough but I do feel this could be addition by subtraction.  Nothing against Henson as he did a decent enough job but the resume of Addazzio for an offensive line coach is pretty amazing.

There may be shuffling along the left side of the line between now and SEC play but I think we’ll find a solid unit.  I’m not nearly as worried about this unit coming into 2022 as I was in 2021.

Wide Receiver:

It appears we lost the twin Bigfoots in Demond Demas and Baylor Cupp.  Heard all about them but never actually saw them.  I can’t recall a pair of guys that had more hype as legit game changers and we never saw a thing from them.  Demas had the one touchdown catch against New Mexico and that’s about it from them.  They’re gone and we’re moving on but man those two had some serious hype with a big bag of nothing on the field for the Aggies.

Ainias Smith is back for his fourth year.  I think it’s in everyone’s best interest.  He seemed to take a step back last season but that I think that’s probably due more to our quarterback and line play.  I have no issues with this guy and expect him to have a big 2022 as I think he’s going to be used all over the field creating matchup problems.  We need to get the ball in this guy’s hands and let him do his thing.  He’s probably going to see some time in the backfield which is fine by me.  He’s dynamic and needs to be used all over the field.

The practice reports on Evan Stewart sound positive.  This guy enrolled in December dripping with talent.  He was one of the best receivers in the country in the recent signing class.  Seems he’s got the work ethic to match his talent and he’s going to be seeing a lot of the field.  If you want a comparison think what Christian Kirk did his first year in Aggieland.  If that’s what we get I’ll take it.

As for the rest of the receivers we’ve got some names we know but none have separated themselves.  Caleb Chapman is hurt again so he’s a guy you can’t really rely on.  Plus, I contend he’s more of just a true deep threat than an all-around receiver.

Jalen Preston is back for his fifth season.  He hasn’t flashed yet but he’s a guy that has the talent if something could just click for him.  He’s had some solid moments in games but nothing super consistent.

My hope is that Moose Muhammad finally breaks out.  He showed up last year in some non SEC games with spectacular grabs.  Maybe the third year is the charm for him as he has the talent.

The rest of the receivers are names you’ve heard before and no clue if they’ll ever be major contributors.  Chase Lane, Devin Price, and Hezekiah Jones.

Two names that could break out are Yulkeith Brown and Chris Marshall.  Yulkeith saw limited action last year but could potentially be a deep threat.  Chris Marshall is still in high school but he too has the speed to be a deep threat.  We just won’t know until he’s on campus and playing in games.

I hope something finally happens with this group.  This has far and away been the worst unit under Jimbo.  It’s been a long time since we had a guy that was even of Josh Reynold’s caliber.  That was the 2016 season.

To the best of my knowledge Christian Kirk was the last wide receiver drafted in the NFL and that was after the 2017 season.  We’ve had 4 seasons where not one Aggie wide receiver has been drafted.  You can’t have that in today’s college game.

Let’s hope that changes this season where Ainias Smith starts another trend of Aggie receivers getting drafted.

Tight End:

Normally I lump these guys with the receivers but I’ll note them separate for this piece.

The loss of Baylor Cupp is definitely disappointing.  I was really hoping he was going to finally get healthy and live up to his talent.  By most reports from spring practice he was doing just that.  Then one day he appeared in the portal with nobody really knowing why.  Just another chapter in the Baylor Cupp mystery.

We should be just fine here.  We’ve got two of the best tight ends in the country coming to Aggieland.  Jake Johnson and Donavan Green were two of the highest rated recruits at their position last year.  Depending on the service they were the best.  Johnson is already on campus practicing and Green comes in this summer.

Don’t forget Jaylen Wydermyer came in as a true freshman and contributed right away.  No reason to think these guys don’t do the same.

We’ve got Max Wright back as the blocking tight end that will catch 5-10 passes.  He’s not the most dynamic receiving threat but he’s long on experience and willing to block.  He’ll serve his role.

We’ve also got Blake Smith and Fernando Garza who rated pretty highly as recruits.  We’ve also got the Norwegian kid coming in this summer but he’s going to need a couple seasons acclimating to American football.

Truthfully I’m hoping 2022 is the first season under Jimbo where a tight end isn’t the main receiving threat.  Nothing against these guys but it’s time for the receivers to carry the passing game and the tight ends to just add a dimension that makes the offense tough to defend.

Overall:

I feel good about the offense in 2022.  We need some positions to grow and stabilize but I think that will happen.

2021 had a quarterback and offensive line that Jimbo couldn’t trust and that really affected his play calling.  At least that’s what I hope happened.

We’ll find out in 2022 if Jimbo completely forgot how to call plays.

Defense:

New Coordinator:

Anyone that reads my blog knows what a fan I was of Mike Elko.  Despite some defensive lapses last year’s defense was really solid.  I hate to pick on one guy but Jaylon Jones didn’t make plays late in the Mississippi State and LSU games that could have really turned the outcome.  If he makes two plays we’re likely 10-2 with a totally different feeling for the season.  That didn’t happen and we move on.

I thought what Mike Elko did in 2021 was outstanding.  Sure, the record doesn’t show it but what I saw on the field was a defense that routinely held it’s own if not dominating.  They played their asses off while the offense was just out there sputtering around.

The best example of this was the Auburn game.  Auburn wound up not being a very good football team after us but our defense completely shut them down.  The defense scored the only touchdown that game.  You can’t ask for much more.

We were in a LOT of games last season thanks to our defense.  We might have been staring down a 6-6 season without this defense.

I hate to lose Elko but Jimbo went out and got one of the best defensive coordinators in the country.  What Durkin did with the Ole Miss defense down the stretch last season was remarkable.

They shut down Malik Willis who might be the first quarterback taken in this year’s draft.  We saw what Ole Miss did to us with a bunch of nobodies.  They kept Mike Leach’s offense in check in Starkville and then the Ole Miss defense was the only reason Ole Miss had any chance against Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.

That Ole Miss didn’t have much talent but Durkin did an outstanding job scheming and getting his guys to play within that scheme as the season wore on.   That’s usually the mark of a good coach.  In addition, he’s had highly ranked defenses in his time as defensive coordinator at Florida and Michigan.  I’m confident the dude can coach defense.

Durkin is definitely on par with Elko as a defensive coordinator in my mind.  I’ll miss Mike but I’m ready to change my adoration to Durkin.

Defensive Line:

We lose Demarvin Leal who’s been the heart and soul of this team for three seasons.  We also lose Michael Clemons, Jayden Peavy, and Tyree Johnson who started and played most of the games on the defensive line last year.

That’s usually a bad thing but Jimbo has recruited the defensive line better than any position on the team.  We’re a little short on experience but we’re loaded with talent here.

Looks like we’ll have Fadil Diggs, Shemar Turner, McKinnley Jackson, and Tunmise Adeleye starting for us.  All of these guys are legit football players.

This is McKinnley Jackson’s third season and he’s logged significant playing time.  He’s flashed at times and if he’s really committed he can be one of the best defensive tackles in the country.  The talent is there.

Shemar Turner is short on playing time but long on talent.  This guy could take right over from Leal playing up and down the line depending on the offense and situation.

Diggs should be able to bring some pressure off the edge and Adeleye will serve as the strong side defensive end in likely running scenarios.

Behind them is a cornucopia of talent.  Guys that have logged significant playing time like Adarious Jones and Isaiah Rakes.  Then there’s highly recruited guys like Jahzion Harris, Anthony Lucas, Braedon Mowry, Elijah Judy, Marcus Burris, and Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy who are on campus.  Some of these guys have been or are hurt and not practicing but the depth and talent on campus is pretty amazing.

Lucas and Brownlow-Dindy are part of the amazing 2022 recruiting class but we’re still waiting on Enai White, L.T. Overton, Shemar Stewart, and of course big Walter Nolen.  Those four guys alone would make up an amazing recruiting class.  We’re loaded before they’re even getting to campus.  Unreal.

2022 won’t be the year we completely dominate the defensive line of scrimmage but it’ll be the start.  Some of these guys won’t pan out but life is a numbers game and I LOVE our numbers along the defensive line right now.  

Linebacker:

We still need some serious talent and depth at linebacker but this isn’t the major issue it has been for some seasons.

Part of that is running a mostly 4-2-5 defense where we only use two linebackers.  That helps in only needing two linebackers.  We’ve got some decent talent and experience at those two starting spots.

Andre White returns as a starter along with Edgerrin Cooper.  Cooper got quite a bit of playing time last season and looks like he could be a stud.  He’s got speed and loves to hit.  He also tends to be in the right spot.  VERY important for a linebacker.  I wouldn’t classify White as a stud but sandwiched between the defensive line and secondary he’ll be just fine.

Looks like they’re going to try Donell Harris at linebacker.  He came in as a defensive end.  This makes sense due to his size and the numbers along the defensive line.  He only weighs around 220 but he’s got serious speed.  I think we’ll see him as a pass rushing outsider backer on obvious passing downs.  I’m good with this.

Tarian Lee and Chris Russell have seen the field so they have some experience.  Ish Harris is a true freshman and looks like he can play ball but he needs to put on some weight.  Hopefully he can put on the “Freshman 15” in straight muscle.  Martrell Harris will join in the summer and he has a lot of promise.

I’ll classify linebacker as the “weakest” link of this defense but that’s only because the line and secondary are so good.  Linebacker is not the liability it used to be which is a good thing.  We just need to continue adding some more talent and depth in future recruiting classes.

Secondary:

This unit used to be a MAJOR liability.  We’ve had a good run of safeties but prior to Jimbo’s arrival and early in his tenure we couldn’t find corners to save our lives.  Decent receivers would just torch our secondary.  Not even good receivers.  Decent receivers would have a field day against our corners.

That’s slowly changing thanks to Jimbo’s recruiting.

I’m going to start with our two studs in the secondary – Demani Richardson and Antonio Johnson.  Thankfully Demani returns for his fourth season in Aggieland.  This guy probably won’t ever start in the NFL but he’s a damn good college safety.  I fully expect him to take over Demarvin Leal’s role as leader of this defense.  If he does that’s going to be a great thing.

Antonio Johnson was second team All SEC in his first year to start.  This kid is a STUD.  It remains to be seen if he’ll continue to play the role of Nickel close to the line or if he’ll take over Leon O’Neal’s spot at the back of the secondary.  Wherever he plays he’s going to be fine and the Aggie defense will be better for it.

As for the rest of the secondary nobody knows how it’s going to shake out including the coaches.  They’ve got numbers and talent which is a good problem to have.  At the other safety it’ll be someone between Bryce Anderson, Jardin Gilbert, Deuce Harmon, and Jaylon Jones.  There’s also Jacob Mathews coming this summer.  Harmon and Jones have traditionally played corner but I think they’ll get looks at Nickel due to the amount of talent we now have at corner.

Seriously.  We have an amazing crop of defensive backs either on campus or coming in.  We used to clamor to have one or two of these guys on campus and now we don’t know who’s going to start and play.   It’s a damn good problem to have.

It appears Jaylon Jones and Myles Jones are working with the first team at corner this spring but I don’t think that’s going to last.  We’ve got a TON of young talent at corner that probably overtakes those two at some point next season.  The early returns on Denver Harris are he’s everything he was recruited to be.  Tyreek Chappell was freshman All SEC and All American.  I think these two guys are the most likely to take over from Jaylon and Myles.

We’ve got Brian George who’s been on campus for a couple of years.  I don’t think he’s as good as some of the younger guys and tends to get injured but he’s some nice depth.  Myles Jones goes all the way back to the Sumlin Administration (seriously) and he’s returning for his 6th season.  He really came on late in 2020 but spent all of 2021 hurt.  Similar to George I think he’ll eventually get beat out by the younger guys.  Crazy as 6-7 years ago we would have loved to have guys of their caliber starting for us even with their injury history.

I mentioned Denver Harris but we’ve got some other great corners in this signing class.  Marquis Groves-Killebrew is a four star out of Georgia.  Bobby Taylor is a four star out of Katy and the biggest reason for this recruiting class from a player standpoint.  Smoke Bouie is another four startout of Georgia.

We’ve got some older guys with solid experience and some younger guys with amazing talent.  Much like the defensive line it’s a good problem to have.  Enough guys will shake out where this unit will be really damn good.  It won’t be without hiccups as growing pains occur but I’ll take that over just not having the talent.

What Does All of this Mean?

I’ll get to my season prediction at some point this summer.  I’m really torn what all of this means for the 2022 season record wise.  There will be enough talent to win every game and a national championship.  I don’t think the experience will be there though and we’ll likely lose a game or two we shouldn’t.

More than anything I hope this 2022 signing class is similar to the Herschel Walker trade that will prove to be a springboard for a run of National Championships.  Hell, I don’t even need multiple.  I just want at least one to prove all the haters wrong the Aggies can’t win it all.

We absolutely can and the talent we have on campus or coming will be enough to do it.  We’ll just have to wait and see if it develops.

We. Beat. Bama.

We beat Bama.

Say it again – We.  Beat.  Bama.

One more time – WE.  BEAT.  BAMA!!!

Damn that feels good.  Before I go any further let me say this – That was an AWESOME win but it wasn’t a program defining win.  Not even close.  That was a win over the best team in the country and one step closer to getting on their level.  We still have two losses and don’t even control our own destiny in our division.  Program defining wins are the kind that launch you to a level of success you’ve never experienced before.  We did this 9 years ago.  This was not a program defining win.

Right now, this team is still behind the 2020 team.  Scary to think but it’s true.

Enjoy the win but let’s not get carried away on what it means for Aggie football.  As Jimbo said – We ain’t done yet.  Not even close.  We still need to get to a point where we control our own destiny for a national title.

I knew this win was possible.  However, I didn’t think it would happen after what I saw the last two weeks.  I’ve been consistent in saying this team is more talented than last season but lacking on experience.  I believed the lack of experience would continue to show against Bama. 

I’ve never been happier to be wrong.  The talent on this team showed up and showed out.  This team went toe to toe with the best team country simply because it had the talent.  It wasn’t even mistake free football.  They simply just executed for most of the night and had the talent to go toe to toe.  We swung first, they swung back, and when it mattered most we delivered the divisive blow.

The most impressive part of this game was we gave up 21 unanswered points late in the game to go down by a touchdown.  Bama was starting to exert their will and it sure felt like they were going to get the victory.  However, this Aggie team didn’t quit.  They kept swinging back.  We put together a solid drive to tie the game and then the Aggie defense made an amazing stand.  Even with that I thought we were headed to overtime.

The Aggie team had a few more punches and drove down into field goal range where Seth Small delivered the final blow as time expired.  The fans and stands exploded.

It’s one thing to go up on Alabama and hold a lead.  It’s something completely different to blow a lead only to claw back and take the lead at the last possible moment.  That takes grit and determination.  For 60 minutes against the best team in the country the Aggies not only never gave up but had enough confidence they could win.  We executed late like we did because of confidence.  It was an outstanding effort.

I’ve been to a lot of games at Kyle Field and that was an outstanding environment.  It’s going to sway some recruits without a doubt.  It showcased what Kyle can be and what this program is capable of.  While I’m not going to call this a program defining win it certainly was a program building boost.

After the last two games it sure seemed like something we’ve seen before.  We’ve routinely experienced a disappointing season after a good season and struggle to hold recruits.  2021 will likely turn out be a level of disappointment but we still might be able to salvage a good portion of this season.  While we don’t control our own destiny in the SEC West we can still be the third best team in the SEC and finish in the Top 10.  That’s a damn good season by most standards.

We beat Bama.

Let’s get to the game itself.

Offense:

Coaching:

I’ve been hard on Jimbo for not trying to win games we weren’t quite ready to win.  That’s how I felt about this game.  I knew we had the talent to win but I didn’t think we had the experience.  I thought Jimbo would lay up yet again.  Jimbo decided he wasn’t going to let experience get in the way of trying to win.

His play calling was tremendous.  It felt like we went a little stale in the second half but I feel that was a little more on execution than play calling.  Bama decided to sell out on the run and Calzada went cold for a little bit.  He missed on some passes and we just couldn’t get any momentum going.  Meanwhile when it mattered most we didn’t back down and went back on the attack.

I’m totally okay with the play calling as it’s hard to call a complete game.  Great staffs make adjustments and you have to adjust back.  When it mattered most we had the play calls and execution.

Statistically Bama won this game.  They won time of possession and outgained us by 150 yards.  What mattered most though was the score and we got that.  Jimbo and his staff deserve some MAJOR credit.  They called a game for a team short on experience but with enough talent to beat the best team in the country.  Just win, baby.  That’s exactly what we did.  Kudos to the coaching staff.

Quarterback:

Is it okay if I eat my crow with BBQ sauce?  I think BBQ sauce makes everything better.

Zach Calzada showed everyone why he was a four-star recruit and a ton of schools wanted him.  He showed why Jimbo Fisher said over the summer he’s got an NFL career ahead of him.  He proved every doubter wrong and I couldn’t be happier for him.

4th quarter Colorado game Zach Calzada showed up for three quarters.  The dude came out throwing perfect passes.  The line certainly gave him time but he was confident the whole game.  He knew the game plan and executed it wonderfully.

He made one mistake on the interception in the first half and was a little off in the third quarter.  When it mattered most in the 4th quarter he hit the passes he needed to.  It also helped that his receivers didn’t have any crucial drops.

I don’t know what the future holds for Zach Calzada but you sure hope this is the game that he can build on.  He certainly appears to have taken a major step.  I’m really hoping this is a Kellen Mond moment over Florida in 2020.  The other is a Trevor Knight leading OU over Bama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl and he ends up playing somewhere else.  That path is up to him because he’s got the keys to the kingdom right now.

For one night he showed everyone what he’s capable of.  I hope there’s more where that came from.

Running Backs:

I assumed coming into this game Bama would focus on shutting down our run.  They did.  Even despite that we had enough success on the ground.  Spiller had a pretty pedestrian 16 carries for 46 yards but his running helped set the tone early on and forced Bama into defending us a certain way.  His touchdown run was outstanding.  Because of Spiller’s efforts the Bama defense couldn’t quit focusing on the run which I think helped our middle receivers get open against their safeties.  Their safeties had to defend the run and the pass.

What these guys do through the air is outstanding.  Spiller and Achane are outstanding receivers either running a flare out or down the sidelines.  Achane and Spiller were a perfect 7 for 7 on targets for 87 yards.  These guys have a real knack for moving the chains and keeping the defense honest because there’s another element that must be defended.

In addition they’re also outstanding blockers when the blitz is coming.

Can’t say enough about these guys.

Offensive Line:

If I’m not mistaken this was the sixth combination of players we’ve used on the offensive line this season.  This was game six.  Six games and six different combinations.  Usually that’s not good.  It didn’t matter as this unit showed up in a big way.  These guys were outstanding.  Just flipping outstanding.

They created holes for the running backs in the first half and kept Calzada clean all night long.  They went up against NFL caliber defensive linemen and linebackers and imposed their will at times.  They seemed to get a bit stalemated in the second half but Bama was selling out for to the run.  They held their own all night long against one of the best defenses in the country.

They did an excellent job picking up the blitz which they’ve struggled with this season.  They seem to be figuring out playing with one another.

Just in case you don’t know their names and positions here they are:

Kenyon Green – Left Tackle
Blake Trainor – Left Guard
Bryce Foster – Center
Layden Robinson – Right Guard
Reuben Fatheree, Jr. – Right Tackle

What a game for those five guys.

I don’t now what combination we go back to once Jhamir Johnson is back from his suspension.  At this point I’d roll with these guys.  The five of these guys earned it so let’s just keep rolling with them.  You’re not supposed to lose your job over an injury but I have no problem losing your job to a suspension.  Blake Trainor deserves to stay in the starting lineup.

I would make one switch in moving Fatheree to left tackle and Kenyon Green back to right tackle.  I think Fatheree is a better pass blocker at left tackle and Green the better blocking tackle.  Having Green and Layden Robinson on the same side seems like a great way to open holes for the running backs.  I get paid zero dollars for this blog and Jimbo gets $9 million so I suppose we can defer to him.

Either way, kudos to the five guys on the offensive line on Saturday night.  They went toe to toe against Bama and imposed their will at times.  It was an impressive effort and I hope they can keep it up.

Wide Receivers:

I thought the receivers were outstanding on Saturday night.  Not dominant by any stretch but they were solid.  Ainias Smith lead the way followed by Jalen Wydermyer.  Smith caught 6 balls for 85 yards and two scores.  Wydermyer caught 3 balls for 73 yards and one score.  Calzada actually missed each of these guys for what could have been another touchdown.

On our first possession of the fourth quarter Calzada was forced out of the pocket.  As he was rolling right he spotted Smith who had burned the secondary.  Calzada let a bomb fly and missed Smith by a foot or two.  It was an unbelievably tough pass but had they connected it might have put the game away.  We wound up punting on that possession.

On our last offensive possession Bama sold out for the blitz to try and get us out of field goal range.  Jimbo smartly knew it was coming and sent Wydermyer down the field.  Wydermyer slipped by the defender but Calzada couldn’t get enough on the ball in the face of the blitz for Wydermyer to go get it and score.  We got a pass interference so the result was fine but if Calzada could have connected on that pass it could have been a 7-point win rather than a last second field goal.

I’m not blaming Calzada for that.  I’m just pointing out Smith and Wydermyer had two possible touchdowns we just couldn’t quite connect on due to pressure in the backfield from Bama.  We were close to blowing that game open.

I’ve talked about the running backs as key receivers as well.  They are key contributors to this receiving unit.

As for the rest of the receivers Demas, Preston, and Lane caught five balls.  I’m fine with them not doing more.  Bama has an outstanding secondary.  Jimbo decided to attack it with his two best guys just running down the field.  It was a smart move.  Let the guys that have produced in the past carry the receiving load.  Let other guys essentially be decoys that Bama had to cover.

One thing I’ve also noticed with Calzada as it relates to the receivers is he’s much better throwing balls down the field.  It forces him to put touch on the ball rather than gunning fastballs on a crossing or stop route.  I’ll be curious to see if Jimbo and the receivers figure out a way to run more routes down the field since that’s what Calzada seems to do best.

Great job by this whole unit.

Defense:

Coaching:

Just when I was totally down on Mike Elko for his decisions against Mississippi State he totally went and redeemed himself against the best team in the country.  I’m still a little frustrated though.  If he calls the game he did against Bama against Mississippi State we have one loss and control our destiny to the national championship.  We’re that close.

Maybe he needed the Mississippi State game to wake himself up.  Whatever it was it worked.

I know lots of people still think of Bama as a dominant defense with an evolved offense.  It’s actually the other way around.  Bama is now a dominant offense with an evolved defense.  Don’t get me wrong as they’re still loaded with NFL guys on defense but this whole team has evolved.  For the last few years Bama has had one of the best offenses in the country.

This current version of the Bama offense is loaded with elite receiver speed and an outstanding quarterback.  Of course they still have an outstanding offensive and running game.  I really feel this Bama offense is the best in the country.  I do think they’re still feeling their way a bit and I think we got them at a great time.  This offense is going to torch a lot of teams the rest of this season.

The receivers were turning passes at the line of scrimmage into 4-8 yard gains because they’re so fast.  It’s basically a long hand off.  They are excellent at blocking, catching, and running.  They don’t have the names at receiver they had last season but these guys are still damn good.  It’s probably the best wide receiver unit in the country.  Saban’s just re-loading at receiver these days.

What Mike Elko did to Bryce Young (Bama QB) was the difference in the game.  We got to Young early and that changed the complexion of the game.  He was never truly settled and ready to let the ball fly.  Because of that he forced some passes he couldn’t quite connect on. 

The Bama offense finally synced up and came charging back scoring 21 unanswered points.  As part of that the Aggie defense did an outstanding job converting two 1st and goals to field goals.  That was part of the difference in the game.  That’s a potential 8-point swing if those two possessions result in touchdowns over field goals.

There’s some armchair quarterbacking over if Bama should have run more in those situations but the Aggie defense has been good at stopping short yardage plays.  We did it against Colorado, Arkansas, and even Mississippi State.  I know they’re Bama but I agree with what Bama was trying to do.  They had superior matchups outside but the players just didn’t execute.  It worked on their last touchdown where we didn’t get lined up correctly.  We were clearly focused on the inside.

It’s fun and easy to make fun of Bill O’Brien who’s the former Texans head coach and now Bama offensive coordinator.  I don’t have an issue with his play calling in those situations.  I think he learned in the Florida game to keep his foot down on the gas and it almost worked.

Either way I thought Mike Elko had an amazing game plan despite the points we gave up.  In the end we made the stop we had to and our offense did enough to get the win as time expired.  I have no idea what happens if that game goes to overtime but I’m glad we didn’t find out.  Take the win and storm the field with the $100,000 fine.

By the way – I’m back on paying Mike Elko $5 million a season to stay and coach our defense.  We all make mistakes from time to time…

Defensive Line:

As expected, these guys were the heart and soul of the defense.  Tyree Johnson had a breakout game recording two sacks and being in the backfield pretty much all night long.  Michael Clemons was his usual self on the outside tying up the Bama tackles and getting a sack.  Demarvin Leal spent most of his night lined up inside just wreaking havoc.  Jayden Peevy was solid lined up next to Leal most of the night.  McKinnley Jackson and Isaiah Raikes did a good job rotating in an out.

I know we gave up 38 points but this unit set the tone for the whole night letting Bryce Young know he couldn’t get comfortable.  They also dictated to Bill O’Brien Bama was going to battle for running yards and weren’t going to have time to go deep.

Alabama won’t face a better defensive line until they play Georgia.  This unit is elite SEC caliber.  Jimbo and his assistants have just done an outstanding job recruiting and developing SEC caliber defensive linemen.

Without these guys we’re not knocking on the door of being able to challenge Alabama every season.  Elite SEC teams win in the trenches.  These guys are a major reason why we’re able to do so.

Linebackers:

Our linebackers are still the weakest link of this defense but they’re not bad.  They’re simply out of position from time to time.  I wouldn’t say we truly miss Buddy Johnson but I do think this defense would be much improved with him in the middle.

The good thing about our linebackers is they’re physically talented.  They’re not getting beat physically.  They’re just not in the correct position at times due to not diagnosing the play properly.

They did fine on Saturday night considering who they are.  They missed a few assignments here and there which really allowed Bama to roll up some yards on the ground.

However, they were REALLY solid on pass pressure and helped change the complexion of the game in that regard.  This is their strength because our defensive line is so good at consuming the offensive line.  These guys get to benefit from one of the best defensive lines in the SEC getting turned loose to chase the quarterback.

I hold out hope they continue to develop overall but I think Elko learned a valuable lesson in the Mississippi State game.  These guys are best when they’re allowed to be disruptive.  They’re going to make mistakes from time to time but it’s also best if Elko puts them in a position to be disruptive.  Even just the threat of being disruptive helps this unit in a big way.

Hopefully we continue to see these guys inched up on the line of scrimmage as it’s their best element.

Secondary:

These guys are the second-best unit on the defense and it showed on Saturday night.  They gave up 369 yards of receiving but they didn’t break.  Bama had two completions over 30 yards on Saturday night.  If you remember Bama games in the past couple of years they’d have a couple long touchdown passes over 50 yards.  That didn’t happen on Saturday night.  Most of that was thanks to the guys up front but this secondary played bend but don’t break defense remarkably well.

They did a really solid job of harassing the Bama receivers all night long which lead to some timely incompletions.  You’re not going to shut down the Bama receivers so at minimum they need to know they’re going to work for completions and there’s going to be contact when they catch the ball.

Individually I thought Jaylon Jones looked good.  He’s by far our best cover corner.  He’s physical enough though to make receivers work for completions.

Antonio Johnson looked great.  Demani Richardson had one of the plays of the game with his interception in the end zone.  That interception was all him.  He was in great position to defend the receiver but most importantly he recognized the route and was able to cut underneath to make a play on the ball.  That’s being prepared.

I don’t know if Leon O’Neal played the best game of his life but it was up there.  I don’t recall him making any major mistakes.  He did an outstanding job tackling all night and blitzed beautifully sacking Bryce Young once.  He was also in a great spot to pick up the ball on a 3rd and 1 when Bama’s running back didn’t get the hand off.  He seemed to have himself in the right spot all night long and executed well.  This guy has really matured and I’m very proud of him.

This unit is going to make mistakes from time to time and give up plays.  They’re also a unit that’s going to make big plays.  I think Elko also learned from the Mississippi State game this unit is better off attempting to make some plays here and there.  These guys can play football.  It’s okay to take some chances rather than sit on our heels.

Special Teams:

Fortunately and unfortunately I have to write about special teams.

The Punt Block:

This was 100% on coaching.  We completely screwed up because we gave this to Bama.  I haven’t been paying attention all season but in this game we used two “personal protectors.”  Those are the guys lined up between the line and punter.  They’re supposed to be a secondary/last line of defense for the punter.  I’ve seen most teams use three guys but we used two on Saturday night.  I don’t know if that’s how we’ve been doing it all year but Bama created an opportunity because of it.

Bama set this up in classic Nick Saban fashion.  On the previous punt they overloaded one side but didn’t send everyone.  They were just checking numbers.  On the next punt they overloaded the same side.  When A&M didn’t react like the previous punt they sent everyone and overwhelmed the “personal protectors.”  Nice job by Saban and his crew but a TERRIBLE job by Jimbo and his crew.  Someone should have noticed it on the previous punt and reacted accordingly.

That could have been in a HUGE momentum swing but it wasn’t because…

The Kickoff Return:

I personally think this was the play of the game.  Bama had just swung some momentum their way.  They were still down a touchdown but the Aggie offense was not doing much.  That punt block sure felt like one of those plays where the momentum was about to swing big time.  Some people believe a blocked punt is the most demoralizing play in football.  I don’t know if I’d say that but it’s up there.

However, Devon Achane made that play moot for the most part.  He hadn’t returned a kick all night long but the ensuing kick off fell a little short of the goal line so he decided to take it.  He caught it in stride, took a few more strides, saw a hole, hit the hole, and was gone.  It was beautiful.

The dude is so damn fast.  25 yards after the catch he still had some traffic to get out of but everyone in the stadium knew he was gone.  Nobody could catch him.  This is Alabama who’s special teams players can start at pretty much every program in the country.  They have plenty of speed.

The don’t have Devon Achane speed though.  Before he got to midfield this dude had run away from the Bama kick off team.  All he did was field the ball cleanly and head up field.  It’s not like he did a bunch of cuts and jukes to suck everyone in.  He simply ran straight and before midfield he cleared everyone coasting the last 10 yards into the end zone.  He’s so fast he let up the last 10 yards because nobody could catch him.  That’s unreal.

He’s got really great vision which helps a ton but damn the dude can fly.  He’s a true homerun threat.  Having to defend guys like Devon Achane is demoralizing because sometimes you just can’t do it.

Looking Forward:

Is this the Florida game from last season?  Do the Aggies rip off 7 straight wins and finish in the Top 10?  I have no idea but it sure feels like it.  The Aggies that played on Saturday night can beat every team left on their schedule.  That’s pretty obvious considering Bama is the best team in the country.  That doesn’t mean it’ll happen though.

We need to see if this offensive line and quarterback that showed up for 3 quarters can do the same the rest of the way.  I think they can.  I think we’re going to see a lot of what we saw after the Florida game last year.  Establish the run and hit some passes from time to time.  I think that will do wonders for Calzada or King if/when he comes back.  I’m not talking about a quarterback controversy.  Just acknowledging King may still come back this season as no one seems to really know. 

It was originally expected Kind would be out 4-6 weeks but Jimbo mentioned before the game he may not be back this season.  At this point I hope it doesn’t matter.  We can win 7 in a row no matter who’s under center.

We have two of the best running backs in the country and they need to be the focus of this offense.  I think Jimbo will go back to this without question.  Especially if we can get some consistency in who’s playing on the offensive line.

We need to get through Missouri and South Carolina first before worrying about November.  Strangely Auburn worries me more than Ole Miss or LSU right now.  That’s not to say Ole Miss or LSU will be easy games but I think we match up with those teams really well right now.

I do think we’re going to look back at the Mississippi State game and wonder what could have been.  Oh well.  Welcome to Aggie Football.  Give me 11 wins and a Top 10 finish so we can focus on next year.  There’s always next year…

We.  Beat.  Bama.

In other news I have a batch of Make Aggie Football Great Again hats in stock.  They’re $25 including shipping.  I believe this is going to be the last batch.  I truly think we’re going 7-0 with a Top 10 finish.  When that happens there we won’t be any need or hope to Make Aggie Football Great Again.  Jimbo will have us on solid footing and we’ll be where we need to be.  We’ll remember 2020 and 2021 as the early foundation of a great run in Aggie Football.

If you want one shoot me an email at chewyredding@yahoo.com.

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Thoughts from the Mississippi State Game

I’d like to congratulate Jimbo Fisher on his first “Kevin Sumlin Loss” where he completely botched a win into a loss.  There was no reason to lose to Mississippi State at Kyle Field on Saturday night.  In my last piece I analyzed Jimbo’s losses in his time at A&M.  Prior to this game I really felt the 2019 Auburn loss and the 2021 Arkansas loss were the only two losses that were solely on coaching.  I am okay with those losses to a degree because Gus Malzahn is a gambler and Sam Pittman and Arkansas simply wanted that game more than the Aggies and staff.  Jimbo has done a really good job winning the games he should have.

Mississippi State was COMPLETELY different.  Mike Leach has Mississippi State in a decent place but they’re still a long way behind where Texas A&M is right now.  Jimbo wasn’t prepared for what Mississippi State could do.  We trailed pretty much the whole game.  Jimbo and his staff couldn’t figure out how to get the lead so we basically played from behind the whole game.  That hasn’t been a good recipe so far this season.

Jimbo thought he could come out and grind Mississippi State into the ground and sneak out with a win.  There was a point I thought it was going to happen.  Kyle Field was ABSOLUTELY rocking and the team couldn’t take advantage.  The atmosphere was electric so you certainly can’t blame it on the fans.

In the end Jimbo couldn’t pull off another one of his patented wins where we sneak it out by the smallest of margins.  In this business all that matters is wins and losses.  We’ve lost some games we could have won.  That hurts.

I think the biggest issue is A&M can’t build a lead and do what Jimbo wants to do.  Jimbo isn’t doing well playing from behind.  Sure, he’s got a quarterback who has deer in the headlights but great coaches figure out a way to get these wins.  Jimbo keeps hoping his offense will break a big score and his defense will hold.  It did almost happen on Saturday night but almost doesn’t count.  We lost.  We didn’t run out of time.  We lost.

In my mind we lost the worst game of Jimbo’s career.  A very winnable game at Kyle Field we figured out how to lose.  That’s what Kevin Sumlin did here.  I’m not saying Jimbo is Kevin Sumlin but every good coach figures out a way to win the winnable games at Kyle Field.  Those should be gimme games in a very tough SEC West.  You must have those wins.  Kyle Field against less talented opponents has to mean something.  You can’t give those games away.  That’s what Jimbo did on Saturday night and he’s put a disappointing season further down the rails.

I have no idea if this is a trend we need to be worried about or Jimbo and his crew are going to get it corrected.  It’s all certainly fixable.  We just have to wait and see.

Let’s get to a quick analysis for the play on the field.

Offense:

Quarterback:

I’ll start with the most obvious issue.  I hate to bag on a college kid but the fact is Calzada is in his 3rd season at A&M.  I get he’s the backup but even capable backups progress when they finally get snaps.  They may have a little rust but that gets knocked off quickly and they start progressing.

That’s not happening with Calzada at all.  I had some hope coming out of the Colorado game that 4th quarter Calzada would be what we’d get going forward.  8 quarters into SEC play and 4th quarter Colorado Calzada is nowhere to be found.  Nowhere at all.

The moment looks to big for him and he’s wildly erratic.  Something that struck me in this game were his slides.  On a couple scrambles he slid WAY before any contact and basically gave up getting any yards.  He was clearly shying away from contact.

There’s a theory Jimbo told him to do that to make sure he didn’t get hurt.  We don’t have a backup.  If true Jimbo should be fired.  I get being cautious but if Jimbo told him to make sure he doesn’t get hurt it’s the stupidest thing ever.  You have a quarterback who is obviously unsure of himself and you just introduced another element to his brain in avoiding injury.

I have no idea why he slid like he did.  All I know is his slides are further proof this is a kid that’s really uncertain of what he needs to be doing on the field.  If he’s completing passes and doing those slides that’s fine but he’s not.  He’s all over the place on the field.  He’s got the physical talent but maybe the mental football ability is just not there.

A couple of other things as we see more of Calzada.  It’s clear there was never a quarterback competition between King and Calzada.  If there was we’re in bigger trouble than we think.  I said in my pre-season blog King was the obvious choice for the starting position based on Jimbo’s actions last season.  Think about this – In our second game of the season against the best team in the country a true freshman took the second team snaps over the guy who is supposed to be just as talented with an extra season on the team.  For the rest of the season that true freshman continued getting the second team snaps over the kid with one more season under his belt. 

At this point I think that says more about Calzada than King.  Calzada just isn’t developing to his talent.  He’s had more opportunity to grab the starting job from King but it’s clear he hasn’t.

Here’s the other thing – There’s not an Aggie fan alive that wouldn’t take Kellen Mond over Zach Calzada right now.  Ouch.

Let’s just hope he can get us two more wins before King comes back.  Make no mistake this is King’s team the second he’s able to take a live snap with contact.

Offensive Line:

We had a new combination of people on the offensive line on Saturday.  We had Jahmir Johnson at left tackle, Kenyon Green at left guard, Bryce Foster at center, Layden Robinson at right guard, and Rueben Fatheree at right tackle.  I think it’s our best collection of talent even if two guys are true freshman.  Personally, I hope this is the unit we use going forward.  If this unit can stay healthy and get some time together I think we can finally get the offensive line to gel.  The talent is definitely there.

I thought these guys did okay on Saturday night.  Maybe the best we’ve seen so far this season.  We ripped off some decent runs and Calzada had time to throw most of the night.

Mississippi State isn’t a vaunted defense but they’re not terrible.

Let’s hope these five guys stick and get some cohesion.  Beyond getting King back this will be the biggest difference maker once we get past Bama for salvaging the season.  These five guys will be the most crucial for salvaging the season.

Running Backs:

Spiller ran 16 times for 107 yards and Achane ran 8 times for 76 yards.  That’s an average per carry of 6.3 yards and 8.6 yards respectively.  That’s with the defense keying on them.  That’s damn good and highly underrated since we’re losing games.  These two guys are flat out producing with Spiller leading the way.  He’s really the best back in the country nobody is talking about.

I get you can’t run the ball every down but I really do think we need to use the run even more to set up the pass rather than just try and be balanced.  Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

The running backs are the only saving grace of this offense right now.

Wide Receiver:

We attempted 20 passes and completed 12 of them for 135 yards.  That’s a 60% completion rate and over 10 yards a pass.  Statistically that’s not terrible.

Eyeball wise it’s terrible.  This whole unit looks out of sorts.  These guys just aren’t a threat.  Wydermyer sure looks like he misses Mond in a major way.  Ainias can’t quite break anything open.  The other guys just kind of catch some passes here and there.  Nobody you can consistently count on.

I know we’ve got some guys hurt but I’m not sure they’d make a difference.  This unit just has some bad mojo right now and I’m not sure why.

Baylor Cupp has been suited up since Kent State but we haven’t seen him in a game.  He’s supposed to be a matchup nightmare.  He’s simply Bigfoot at his point.  A lot of talk but nobody’s seen him.

I don’t know what else to say about these guys.  I know the quarterbacking isn’t great but these guys don’t appear to be helping the quarterback at all.

Defense:

I can’t believe I have to write this but in my mind Mike Elko and his crew cost us the game on Saturday night.  Mainly more Mike Elko than the players.  I love Mike Elko but he botched the game on Saturday night.  I’m devastated.

I was okay with the 3 man defensive line if we’d brought more pressure with our linebackers and secondary via disguised blitzes.  We didn’t do that.  We simply tried to get to the QB with a 3 man front and it didn’t work.

I don’t know why Elko continued to sit back and let Mike Leach pick apart our guys in space where they busted off a few long passes here and there.  He should have been disguising pressure bringing at least one person on every play from the second level and occasionally two or even three just to keep the quarterback from getting comfortable.  We didn’t and Will Rogers got comfortable and completely picked us apart.

We got 3 sacks but we never got consistent pressure at all.  Mike Leach’s QB doesn’t need much time in the pocket and he got all the time he needed pretty much all night.

Will Rogers completed 46 of 59 passes.  That’s a 78% completion rate.  That’s basically completing 4 out of every 5 passes against our supposed elite level defense.  They threw just shy of 60 passes.  Major league starters don’t even throw that may times in some games anymore.  That’s a lot of damn passes.

Mississippi State passed for 408 yards on us.  408.  They had 5 different receivers catch passes over 20 yards on us.  You know how you catch passes over 20 yards?  One of two ways – 1) No pressure on the QB or 2) busted tackles.  Both occurred on Saturday night.

Makai Polk destroyed us all night catching 13 balls for 126 yards.  You ever heard the name Makai Polk before Saturday night?  I hadn’t.  How we couldn’t shut that guy down is beyond me.  He had twice as many receptions as any other Mississippi State receiver.  Mississippi State was either keying on him all night or we completely forgot about him.  At some point you must shut down the hot receiver.  We didn’t do that.

I’m not doing a unit analysis because the whole defense had issues thanks mainly to the scheme. The strength of this team is our defensive line.  I get we don’t have a perceived pass rushing threat like a Von Miller or Myles Garrett.  We’ve got a pretty good corps of people though that can destroy an offensive line with 4 people.

When it was apparent Will Rogers was comfortable making completion after completion changes were warranted and necessary.  Elko didn’t do that.  He’s been so good in his four seasons at A&M of making in game adjustments and he didn’t do that in this game.  I just don’t understand it.  He dominated Mississippi State last season and apparently completely forgot how he did it.  He brought pressure so their quarterback couldn’t get comfortable last season.  How did he forget how to do that?

Our weakest unit is our linebacking crew and Elko left them all alone to get picked apart.  Leach just flooded the mid-level and Rogers had time to find the open man.  That’s the Mike Leach system so you can’t let him do that.

I just don’t understand why someone with a headset didn’t ask why we weren’t trying to apply more pressure.  This wasn’t the 2019 LSU team with Joe Burrow and that receiving group.  This was Will Rogers and a host of receivers that likely never see the NFL.  Apply some damn pressure.  Elko had a complete vapor lock in his brain.

Credit to Leach and the Mississippi State team.  They took what A&M gave them and executed it flawlessly.  I just tend to think we’re a MUCH better defense than what happened on Saturday night.  Especially with the atmosphere at Kyle Field for a night game.

Maybe we’re not that good of a defense.  Maybe Mississippi State just exposed us completely for who we are on defense.  If so, oh boy…

Looking Forward:

I personally still hold out hope for this season.  I say that simply because we could be 5-0 right now.  I’m not saying should be.  We got beat by teams that wanted it more and executed it better than we did.  We got beat in these last two games plain and simple.  Tip our hat because they beat us.  I’m not denying that.

However, different decisions by the coaching staff and a little better execution by the players and we’re 5-0 ranked number 3 in the country with Bama coming to town.  We’re not nearly as far from that as it seems.  I’ll fully admit we’re also not far from 2-3 with zero wins over FBS programs.  That’s the part of football most people forget.  It’s always a few plays that swing most games.  All about coaching and execution.

Our mistakes are completely fixable.  They really are.  It’s not a team devoid of talent.  Well, not everywhere…

We’re 3-2 and no longer ranked in the Top 25 with Bama coming to town.  There is exactly ZERO chance of us beating Bama.  It’s not in Jimbo Fisher to figure out a game plan to beat Bama.  We simply don’t have the talent at quarterback, receiver, and linebacker to beat a team like Bama right now.  The offensive line is in question but I think we’re finally on the right path.

My hope is this season winds up turning out like the 2010 season where we hit a first half snag going 3-3 and then go on a tear ripping off 6 wins to get to 9-3 on the season.  I honestly believe that to be possible.  There’s enough talent on this team and every game after Bama is winnable.

I’m not saying we win those games as it’ll be up to the coaches and players.  I don’t look at our schedule post Bama like in 2019 where you saw games we just couldn’t compete in.  We can absolutely compete and win the remaining games on our schedule after Lord Saban goes 25-0 against his assistants this coming weekend.  Hopefully there’s a run like we had in 2020 that just comes a few games later than we ever imagined it needed to.

I think what’s going to happen against Bama is Jimbo is going to try and establish the run which I’m okay with.  It’s going to be an ugly game as our offense will look anemic.  Well, it is anemic. However, if our offensive line can do some good against the Bama defense at times then every defense the rest of the way won’t old a candle to the Bama defense.  I’m hoping we can use this game as the point where our offensive line finally learned to play together even if it doesn’t exactly show up on the field.

At this point I don’t want Jimbo to even try and beat Bama.  No crazy wrinkles or anything like that.  Let’s just go out and play fundamental mistake free football our normal way.  Even if it’s against the best team in the country we should treat it like a glorified scrimmage where your single goal is to execute assignments and not worry about the score.  For once this season play a complete game of football even if it means getting beat.

Learning to play mistake free football against the best team in the country could pay major dividends the rest of the season.  It sucks this is our reality but we’re here.  Let’s not let the season slip away as there’s still a lot to salvage.

To the Fightin’ Texas Aggie football team I say this – The spread is 17.5 at some books, fellas.  Let’s go out there and show the country we can cover it!  I’ll take a damn moral victory this week!  BTHO 17.5!

Someone tell the Yell Leaders we’re making a slight modification to one of the yells on Saturday.  BTHO 17.5!

If you’re going to the game make sure you tailgate appropriately.  If you’re watching at a bar make sure you have a designated driver or an Uber account.  If you’re watching at home make sure you’re somewhere comfortable so you can just pass out and get some good rest.

Copious amounts of alcohol are going to be needed for this game.  Don’t say I didn’t warn ya’…

BTHO 17.5!

How Bad Are Jimbo’s Losses?

After 40 games Jimbo Fisher is 29-11.  That’s a 72.5% winning percentage which is pretty damn good. Especially when you consider the team he took over and the schedule he inherited.  That 2019 schedule was just brutal with Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, and LSU who were all ranked #1 at one point in the season.  All but Alabama was on the road that season.  Brutal.

I went back and looked at Jimbo’s 11 losses.  In my mind there’s only 2 losses that are completely on the coaching staff.  That was the 2019 Auburn game at Kyle and the 2021 Arkansas game.  Jimbo and his staff got completely jumped by Gus Malzahn and Sam Pittman in those games.  Both coaches had wrinkles and a game plan that identified A&M weaknesses.  They got really early leads and the Aggies could never claw back.  The Aggie coaching staff was just completely overwhelmed from the start.  Without a doubt those 2 losses were coaching failures.

Of the other 11 losses, 7 of those were against teams that won the national championship that season or was ranked at #1 at some point in the season.  I would have loved to have won those games but A&M really didn’t have the team to compete.  I’m not going to say Jimbo should be 29-4 but let’s be real no coach in America other than maybe Nick Saban is winning those games with the talent A&M had at the time.  Just completely overmatched.  Jimbo actually almost pulled off a win against Clemson in 2018 and Georgia in 2019.

The other 2 losses I’m putting on the players and coaching staff.  The 2018 Mississippi State game was on the road against a quarterback that simply had our number.  Nick Fitzgerald had A&M’s number for whatever reason. Their defense had 3 or 4 guys that went in the first few rounds of the NFL draft.  They were a good team and our guys simply didn’t make the plays they needed to. 

The 2018 Auburn game was a complete meltdown by the players.  Cullen Gilaspia botched an assignment that created a fumble by Kellen Mond early in the game.  That gave Auburn a short field where they scored a touchdown.  A&M would claw back to have a 24-14 lead with 7:00 left in the game.  Auburn would score two touchdowns their final two drives were Aggie defenders had an Auburn player stopped but simply didn’t tackle him.  It was a comedy of errors by the defensive personnel on those final two drives.  That should have easily been a win but the players didn’t execute.  This game certainly wasn’t on the coaching staff.

Jimbo has proven to be a stubborn coach in wanting to play a certain way every week but his method has worked as we could have easily lost the following games:

  • 2018 Kentucky
  • 2018 Ole Miss
  • 2018 LSU
  • 2019 Arkansas
  • 2019 @Ole Miss
  • 2019 Oklahoma State (Bowl Game)
  • 2020 Florida
  • 2020 North Carolina (Bowl Game)
  • 2021 Colorado

A bunch of 2020 games could have been lost but Jimbo somehow turned Kellen Mond and an offensive line devoid of real talent into the number 4 team in the country by season’s end.  That was a great team last season.  Maybe it was lightening in a bottle but Jimbo’s stubbornness certainly paid off in a big way last season.  That team definitely played above it’s talent level and won all but 1 game. That’s an outstanding season.

I have no idea what the rest of 2021 holds for the Aggies but Jimbo’s previous 3 seasons say we’re still going to win a lot more games than we lose.  This is still really a talented team that needs to correct some mental errors and get a couple of key players healthy. Mainly Layden Robinson and Haynes King.  It’s usually easier to correct mental errors than overcome talent. The talent is there.

I HATE the Arkansas loss.  I can’t tell you how much I hate losing games we should win simply because we weren’t prepared.  That’s not the mark of a championship program.  However, other than Alabama it happens to most programs in the country.

2021 is likely going to go down as a season of disappointment as we all wanted more in Jimbo’s 4th season.  However, if Jimbo can manage 10 wins including the bowl game this is still a pretty good season and better than most in college football.  We’ll probably still be a Top 10-15 team when it’s all said and done.

Even better if we just lose to Bama the rest of the season and I do think that’s still possible. I don’t see us beating Bama with Calzada under center. No way he goes from deer in the headlights against Arkansas to beating the #1 team in the country in two weeks. Hope I’m wrong.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens for the rest of the season.  I personally don’t think it’s time to panic just yet. Let’s give Jimbo the benefit of the doubt because I think he’s earned it.

Here’s a spreadsheet summary of Jimbo’s 11 losses for quick reference:

Thoughts from the Arkansas Game

What you saw on Saturday was a coaching staff and team that wanted it more than the other team.  Unfortunately, that team was Arkansas and not the Aggies.  Arkansas came out ready to punch and when they punched the Aggies just staggered back rather than respond.  Jimbo certainly bears some blame here but I think I was most disappointed by the lack of responding by the players.

The defense finally settled in but it was really too little and too late.  Before that they just let Arkansas punch them for almost a half of football.  The second touchdown was the perfect example.  Multiple guys had a chance to tackle the ballcarrier but just didn’t do it.  That drive should have been a field goal attempt but instead it was a touchdown that really put the game away way too early in the game.

Coaching wise Arkansas did a masterful job on the Aggies.  The long touchdown pass was perfect.  They sucked in all the safeties and put possibly the best receiver in the SEC one on one with our injured corner back.  Jefferson threw the perfect pass which is rare for him but that’s how you win football games.  You identify matchup advantages and when you get it you take advantage.  That’s exactly what Arkansas did.

Meanwhile on the other side of the field the Aggie coaching staff had ONE wrinkle and it was a tight end screen to Max Wright.  Nothing against Max Wright as I love his heart but he’s not going to exploit a defense.  Arkansas created a matchup advantage for the top receiver in the SEC.  A&M created a tight end screen to their back up blocking tight end.  That’s the coaching difference.

11 penalties for 75 yards was also really bad.  That just reeks of a team that’s not fully prepared or focused.  The Aggie team was by far the more talented team.  That’s not a knock on Arkansas.  They played a tremendous game and deserved to win.  It’s just that when you’re the more talented team you don’t commit penalties if you’re prepared and focused.  It’s also an indication of there being minimal team leadership to get everyone focused and hold players accountable.

Coaches and players need to realize we’re playing SEC games and if you don’t have wrinkles or aren’t ready from the whistle you’re going to struggle.

Let’s get to the game.

Offense:

Coaching:

Jimbo is THOROUGHLY confused on calling plays right now.  He has no sequencing of plays.  He has no idea what his offense is capable of.  He just calls plays willy nilly.  We had some really key injuries especially with the loss of Layden Robinson and obviously Haynes King.  However, Jimbo has to scheme and call plays on the talent that’s playing.  We didn’t do anything new on Saturday.  I know that’s how Jimbo tends to roll but when your talent is down you better figure out your strengths and weaknesses real quick.

On the Arkansas side of the ball they DARED A&M to run and we wouldn’t do it.  They had 3 defensive lineman on the line and 3 linebackers with 5 defensive backs for most of the game.  They were bringing up linebackers from time to time but for the most part those linebackers were just dropping back clogging up passing lanes.  Arkansas wasn’t worried about the run and was all about defending the pass.  Jimbo played into their hand perfectly.

They were even putting two guys on Demas running deep routes to make sure he didn’t get open.  Barry Odom, the Arkansas Defensive Coordinator, simply defended where Jimbo kept trying to go.  It was a masterful job of coaching simply because Jimbo was being stubborn.

After Spiller’s touchdown run the Aggies were back in the game.  The defense was stopping the Arkansas offense.  I really thought we should have just kept the ball on the ground but Jimbo kept trying to pass the ball.  I’m sure the Arkansas coaching staff was shocked Jimbo was playing into their hand.

I know the offensive line was struggling in a big way but we couldn’t get guys open, our quarterback had dancing feet, and our backs are the biggest asset of the team.  Spiller didn’t see one single carry after that touchdown run.  Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

Establish some identity as an offense because right now there isn’t one.  It’s a confusing mess of plays that make no sense and most importantly simply aren’t working.

Quarterback:

If you wondered why Kellen Mond was our quarterback for the last two season you got your answer on Saturday.  I had some hope for Calzada getting the keys.  He can still turn it around but he sure doesn’t look like the guy.

Calzada got handed the thing he’s coveted the most and hasn’t done anything with it.  In my book winners win.  Not calling Calzada a loser but he certainly hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunity he’s been given.  If he truly wants to be the Aggie starting quarterback he’s showing he’s either not capable or doesn’t really want it.

He was confused the entire game.  The other parts of the offense weren’t hitting on all cylinders but Calzada wasn’t leading at all.  He had no answer for what Arkansas was throwing at him and it wasn’t even that complicated.  He had NO confidence.

He couldn’t anticipate any pressure or guys getting open.  The line struggled to block but he had some time and all he did was dance in the pocket.  He was simply overwhelmed for the entire game.

He’s likely got 4 more starts at the most.  I hope he develops but after almost 3 full games it’s pretty clear he’s pretty lost as the starting quarterback.  I really hoped for more with the kid but he backed down against a defense that is solid but not spectacular.  That’s not good.

Offensive Line:

I think the loss of Layden Robinson is bigger than the injury to Haynes King.  Robinson might be our best lineman.  Without him we have a major hole.  Kenyon Green filled in at right guard with Rueben Fatheree at right tackle.  At some point in the second half Jhamir Johnson got hurt.  That moved Green to left tackle and Blake Trainor at right guard.

Last week Fatheree filled in at left tackle when Johnson went out.  Green was at right guard and Trainor at right tackle.  See the issue?  We’re continually moving guys around and they’re not getting comfortable at one spot.  Green’s versatility is great but he’d be better off settling in at one position.

Fourth game of the season and we can’t figure out our offensive line.

At this point I’d give the starting left tackle to Fatheree and put Green back at right tackle.  Johnson and Trainor can fight out the right guard spot until Robinson gets back.  I get trying to find the best 5 in various spots but you can’t gel as an offensive line with guys continually moving around.

When Robinson comes back we should be able to run on the right side with Green and Robinson.

Bryce Foster continues to look like a true freshman being overwhelmed at times.  He had some snap issues so those need to get cleaned up.

Let’s get Robinson back and maybe we can get this line to gel.  Until then it’s really hopeless.

Wide Receiver:

Chase Lane was out but I don’t think that really mattered.  Arkansas took notice of Demond Demas being able to get deep last week and took that away.  For much of the game when Demas went deep Arkansas dropped a safety to help the corner back.  Even with a safety dropping back we couldn’t get any of the other receivers open.

Jalen Preston took over Lane’s role which utterly confused me.  This is his fourth season in the program and he hasn’t produced anything.  Surely he wasn’t the best option behind Lane.  I was really hoping to see something out of Moose Muhammed this game but we didn’t.

Baylor Cupp was suited up but I never saw him.  I thought he was supposed to be a matchup nightmare for defenses.

I don’t know what to say on receiver.  These guys simply struggle to get open for the most part.

You saw what a dominant receiver can do for an offense with Treylon Burks for Arkansas.  Until A&M gets that this offense is going to continue to struggle through the air.

Running Backs:

Isiah Spiller was the only person on offense who produced anything of real value this game.  He did a nice job of making something out of nothing on quite a few runs.  His cutting ability is outstanding.

Achane did bust anything but he’s a great change of pace.  The fact that he’s a homerun threat out of the backfield is a huge asset.

You know how I feel about these two guys – Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

Defense:

Kendall Briles is a heck of a college offensive coordinator.  He landed his big punch with the Treylon Burks touchdown pass.  Then he got a gift on the second touchdown when no Aggie defender wanted to tackle the guy with the ball.  Other than that they didn’t do much on offense.  They didn’t need to.  They just kept running their Run Pass Option (RPO) getting a few yards and burning clock while not creating a turnover or big play for the Aggie defense.  Kevin Sumlin could have learned a thing or two from Sam Pittman when it comes to protecting a lead.

For whatever reason the defense had issues tackling this game.  I think that’s because they were confused and just not fired up early on.  The defense came out flat but did get going and controlled the Arkansas offense in the second half.

This unit played well enough to win but with the current state of the offense they must be perfect.  I think I’m most shocked how flat they came out.  I expected Demarvin Leal or someone to step up and fire these guys up from the start.  I don’t like the long touchdown pass but I’ll give credit to Arkansas in that it was an outstanding play call and execution.  The second touchdown pass was the result of a defense that wasn’t focused.

I’m hoping this game is a wake up call they can’t go into a game sleepwalking.  They must bring the pain from the first snap.

Defensive Line:

These guys weren’t spectacular but they were solid.  The RPO confused them at times but for the most part they did a good job defending it to limit Arkansas breaking off big runs.  Peevy had another outstanding game and I thought Michael Clemons was solid.  Leal was his usual self.

Linebacker:

These guys cost us the game from a defensive standpoint.  I thought they had turned into a pretty solid unit but I was wrong.  They were routinely out of position letting the Arkansas running backs gash them on longer runs.

On the second touchdown play we all saw the push by Hansford rather than tackle.  Edgerrin Cooper actually busted the assignment which is frustrating.  The running back was lined up as the wide receiver.  Cooper correctly moved the corner inside to the slot receiver.  The running back then motioned into the backfield and Cooper followed him which means Cooper had him in man coverage.  When the running back flared out Cooper was a step slow which left the running back open and Cooper out of position to tackle him upon the reception.  Just a completely botched play by the linebackers.

Hansford did blow up the 4th and 1 stop so he wasn’t terrible.

Opposing offenses are going to see you can get these guys out of position on running plays.  They’ve got to develop more discipline and execute their assignments.  This can be an elite level defense if these guys can improve.

Secondary:

We all know Myles Jones got burned on the long touchdown pass.  That seemed to be his only play as I don’t recall seeing him again.  Maybe he’s still hurt or maybe Elko just replaced him.  I don’t know.

Why we didn’t have Jaylon Jones on Burks the whole game I don’t know.  Jaylon played a great game as usual.  If Jaylon is on Burks on that play I bet it doesn’t happen.  Jaylon is damn good.

The safeties did fine.  They seemed out of position quite a bit early on but they got settled in as the game went on.

Looking Forward:

Am I worried about this Aggie team?  Not really.  Am I concerned?  I absolutely am.

Turns out we miss four senior offensive lineman and quarterback more than I thought we would.

I had big hopes for this team.  I really thought we had a shot to be a special team and make the College Football Playoff.  I don’t see that happening right now but it’s still technically possible.  This is still a football team that’s going to win a good amount of games.  I truly believe that.

We’ve just made too many mental mistakes up until this point to be a great team.  The good news is those can get cleaned up.

I said coming into this season we needed get through September and see what kind of team we have.  Well, we’re there.  The loss of Haynes King and especially Layden Robinson has been big.  We’re still 3-1 and played Arkansas tough despite making a ton of mental mistakes.

I’m going to assume King is out through the bye week.  It just makes the most sense to make sure he’s fully healthy.  We have four more games until that break.  We should beat Mississippi State and South Carolina.  We don’t stand a prayer against Bama unless Jimbo really gets creative.  I think Mizzou is a 50/50 game right now.

If we can somehow go 3-1 over those three games we’ll be 6-2 which isn’t bad.  We’d then get King back for Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU.  I’m not worried about Prairie View.  Assuming Robinson is back and the line is finally settled in and gelling with King under center we could still go 10-2.  More than likely we’ll lose one of those games and go 9-3.  It’s disappointing but that’s still a solid season when you factor in losing your starting quarterback for a spell.

After the Bama loss last year we thought the season was over.  We assumed it would be another shitty Aggie football season.  I get that feeling.  However, that Bama loss did something to the team and everything started clicking. 

I’m really hoping this loss wakes Jimbo up as much as the players.  There’s no reason why we shouldn’t run the ball more.  I don’t really want to be one dimensional but we can go 3-1 over the next three games by running the ball.  Let’s get 3 wins over the next 4 games and get King back under center for the tougher part of our schedule outside of Bama.  Let’s go into limp mode and beat the teams we can beat.

Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

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: