Texas A&M

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:

2019 Aggie Season Prediction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my game by game breakdown for 2019:

Texas State Bobcats:

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

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

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

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

WIN (1-0)

Clemson:

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

There’s also these factors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loss (1-1)

Lamar:

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

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

Win (2-1)

Auburn:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Win (3-1)

Arkansas:

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

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

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

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

Win (4-1)

Alabama:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loss (4-2)

Ole Miss:

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

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

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

Win (5-2)

Mississippi State:

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

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

  • Nick Fitzgerald
  • Three first round defensive starters

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

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

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

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

Win (6-2) BOWL ELIGIBLE

UTSA:

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

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

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

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

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

Win (7-2)

South Carolina:

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

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

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

Win (8-2)

Georgia:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loss (8-3)

LSU:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Win (9-3)

 

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

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

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

Make Aggie Football Great Again
#MAFGA

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

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

The Ultimate Aggie Grill:

Aggie Grill small

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

Here’s a link to his website:

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

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

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

What Jimbo Fisher Means for Texas A&M

Jimbo Landing in Aggieland

A Change in Perception:

When Texas A&M made the hire of Jimbo Fisher official it sent a clear message.  Underestimate Texas A&M all you want but Texas A&M doesn’t hold the same belief.  Many national and regional “experts” believe Texas A&M is a second tier program in college football.  They don’t think A&M can compete with the “bluebloods” of college football.  They haven’t been to College Station in 10 years and they still hold their stock in IBM having never invested in Apple, Amazon, or Microsoft.  You know, because nothing ever changes.

7 years ago these “experts” that make a living talking college football said Texas A&M wouldn’t get an invite to the SEC.  Well, Texas A&M got the invite to the SEC and made the move in 2012.  They said it was a stupid move.  The first season in the SEC Texas A&M won 11 games and finished in the Top 5 while Johnny Manziel won a Heisman.  That was only six seasons ago where Texas A&M competed at the highest level.  Sure, it turned out to be a blip but the reality is Texas A&M competed at the highest level and built the most expensive stadium in college football over the last six seasons.  Texas A&M can compete at the highest level.

When chatter of Jimbo Fisher getting hired by A&M recently surfaced these “experts” said there was no way Jimbo Fisher would leave FSU.  They said it was a second tier program under Florida State.  They’re talking about the school that finished in the Top 5 only six seasons previously and had the most expensive college football stadium ever built.  No stadium even comes close to the amenities of modern day Kyle Field.  These “experts” couldn’t think past the last 12 months.  They were convinced Texas A&M despite the 2012 season, it’s location, it’s facilities, and it’s resources couldn’t attract a coach of Jimbo Fisher’s caliber because it was a second tier program.  On December 1, 2017, Jimbo Fisher made it official he was leaving Florida State for Texas A&M.

Sadly for these “experts” if they have any historical context their historical context is that of Dennis Franchione, Mike Sherman, and recently Kevin Sumlin.  They forget Texas is a hotbed of football recruits and economic development.  And I mean a hotbed of football recruits and money.  They forget the years from 1985 to 1995 when Texas A&M finished in the final Top 20 for 10 of those 11 seasons.  The overall record over those 11 seasons was 104-27-2.  That’s a winning percentage of 78 percent.  The record at Kyle Field was 63-5-1.  That’s a winning percentage of 91 percent.  That’s a flat out decade of dominance at home.  1985 was 32 years ago which seems like a long time but it’s not forever ago.  For whatever reason these “experts” assumed Texas A&M was just a second tier football program that didn’t belong in the discussions of the upper tier programs.

They believe despite the brand new $450 million stadium and facilities that rival anybody in the country along with a hotbed of recruiting Texas A&M can never compete at the highest level of college football.  These people get paid to be “experts” about college football.  The truth is these people are idiots and lazy.  They sit in their studios watching the games never visiting any campus.  Their sole basis for being an “expert” is the most recent decade of success.  They’re judging Texas A&M based solely on the jobs done by Mike Sherman and Kevin Sumlin.  Mike Sherman and Kevin Sumlin are outstanding people but they didn’t prove to be great college football coaches.  College football more than any other sport is about the head coach.  In college football the head coach has the highest input of 85 scholarship players including their recruiting, the walk-ons, and the largest staff of any college sport.  The sport requires 22 different starters with 11 of those having to work in perfect unison on every play.  No other sport comes close to the overall volume and detail the head coach must think about.  Because of that the head coach has to be something special.  The greats are few and far between.  A&M has simply failed on having a great head coach since R.C. Slocum around 1995 with a couple blips in 1998 and 2012.  We’ve been in a coach drought.  Simple as that.  It hasn’t been a resource problem.

The hire of Jimbo Fisher changes that perception.  At least it should.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher makes these “experts” wake up and pay attention.  They can deny it but they’re paying attention.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher changes the national perception of Texas A&M’s willingness and ability to compete at the highest level in college football.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher says A&M is capable of things people have forgotten about.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher tells the “experts” you can think what you want about Texas A&M but Texas A&M thinks differently about itself.

A lot of these “experts” will continue questioning if A&M is a better job than FSU when a man just staked his career to it.  Sure, Jimbo Fisher left for more money but he was already a Top 5 paid coach in college football.  The dude is as driven by anyone to win college football games.  It’s not like he’s coming to College Station for more money and ride out his career for a decade.  That makes no sense at all if you think about it logically.  A man who seemingly had it all at FSU left for another program.  Why would that be?  The only real logical explanation is the person himself who has more vested than anyone feels that Texas A&M offers a better chance to win a national championship than Florida State.  It really is as simple as that.  Sadly the “experts” will go on and on this is about money and Jimbo Fisher is an idiot.  I don’t think it’s about money as Jimbo already has plenty and FSU wasn’t firing him anytime soon.  Jimbo Fisher may be wrong in the end but the reason he made the move is he feels Texas A&M offers a better chance to win a national championship.  It’s the only reason an established coach at a proven Power 5 program would leave for another one.  It doesn’t happen very often.  I don’t think Jimbo left because of the FSU fans being critical over this season.  That seems awful petty.  Jimbo seems to have more confidence and pride to let a few fans piss him off and leave.  Jimbo left because he thinks Texas A&M offers more resources to win a national championship than Florida State.

Some of the “experts” will also say Dennis Franchione left Alabama for Texas A&M and look how that turned out.  They won’t look under the hood and realize Dennis Franchione was a fraud because he was built up by Gary Patterson much the same way Dan Hawkins was at Boise St.  Dennis Franchione jumped because of the pending scholarship restrictions coming Alabama’s way.  He too at the time believed Texas A&M offered a better chance to win a national championship than his current situation like any coach that decides to move.  Alabama was pretty bad after Fran left until Saban showed up.  The problem with Fran was he wasn’t actually a good football coach.  This is why he struggled at Texas State when he did get another job.  Winners win at any level they coach if given enough time.  Comparing Jimbo Fisher and Dennis Franchione is an exercise in being lazy.  Much different circumstances.  Still, those with the inability to have logical thoughts will use that as an argument because they sit in a studio having never been to the campus and regions around Texas A&M and Florida State football.  Just because the wins and losses over the last two decades are different doesn’t mean the resources and potential are different.

Ironically enough I’ve been saying for two decades if Florida State, Miami, and Florida can all be seen as equals on the football field why can’t Texas and Texas A&M?  Texas has access to great football talent just like Florida does.  How is Florida allowed/able to have three marquee programs in their state but Texas which is a bigger state than Florida can only have one?  Spare me the argument there’s more bigger schools in Texas because Florida has a boat load of schools as well.  Also spare me the argument Oklahoma steals recruits out of Texas.  There are PLENTY of great Texas high school football players to build a championship team at A&M.  The problem has been and always will be coaching.  Texas A&M since R.C. Slocum started declining in the late 90s has failed to hire a competent coach.  Dennis Franchione, Mike Sherman, and Kevin Sumlin were simply not great football coaches.  Texas A&M for two decades had the wrong person under the headset.

For most, the perception of Texas A&M football will change but some people will keep their head in the sand even though a man staked his career to the move.  He burned his legacy on the way out of Tallahassee so he obviously sees something beyond the money.  At least I think he does.  Most will understand and watch with curiosity if he’s right while the truly moronic people will continue to question why he’d make the move.  Those people need to shut up and save the world’s oxygen for something else.

The ultimate perception shift will only occur if Jimbo actually wins and competes with the team in Tuscaloosa.  If he mimics Sumlin’s regular 8-4 record and third to fourth place in the SEC West the “experts” will be proven right.  If at minimum Jimbo replaces LSU as the second best program in the SEC West while Saban is at Alabama then he’ll prove it was the right move.  If Jimbo actually wins a national championship at Texas A&M I’ll start a Go Fund Me page to send every person that questioned why Jimbo would leave FSU for A&M an actual plate of crow.  I’m dead serious.  Keep those Tweets.  I’ve got two from Mike Greenberg and Richard Justice even though Richard Justice deleted his.

Will Jimbo prove the critics right or wrong?  Nobody has any idea.  That includes Jimbo and the people that made the decision to bring him in.  Only time will tell but Texas A&M on December 1, 2017 put their proverbial nuts on the table.  Those in charge of hiring a football coach for Texas A&M believe completely different than the “experts” that say Jimbo Fisher is an idiot.  Jimbo Fisher has to win to fully change the perception.  If that happens those “experts” that questioned the move will be proven the idiots.  I can’t wait.

The Mechanics of the Hire and the Contract:

Kudos to Scott Woodward on this hire.  Much like when Dr. Loftin took us to the SEC he spoke very minimally and executed like an assassin.  With assassins you never know what’s going on but the results are crystal clear.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher is crystal clear.  Scott Woodward is an assassin and that’s a good thing.  While everyone else was out creating wasted noise Woodward was doing his work and when it mattered most pulled the trigger with clear results.  No fanfare and no hype.  Just the clear result for the main target all along.  You love an assassin when they’re on your side.

In the end it sort of seems like a simple hire because there was no fanfare.  It wasn’t.  LSU tried to do it the previous two seasons and failed.  There’s speculation of how long Woodward has been working on this but it doesn’t matter.  He got the best coach that would come to Texas A&M.  Texas A&M was not getting Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Dabo Swinney, or Jim Harbaugh.  I suppose there’s a possibility of getting Chris Petersen but I like the Jimbo Fisher hire more than Chris Petersen which I’ll get to in a little bit.  I don’t know the full mechanics of this hire but Woodward executed them perfectly.  He zeroed in on Fisher as the biggest attainable fish and reeled him in with flawless execution.

Despite what the “experts” say this wasn’t simply a money whip either.  Like I referenced above Jimbo didn’t leave just for money.  His situation at Florida State wasn’t bad at all.  It took Woodward convincing Jimbo he would be better served at Texas A&M.  That’s one hell of a sales job and Woodward should get more credit by the “experts” for pulling this off.  LSU has been perceived as the better program but yet Texas A&M is the one that could pull off the hire in one try.  Give credit where credit is due and that appears to be the work of Scott Woodward and those at Texas A&M that supported Woodward.  Thank goodness we’re not Tennessee.  Plus, we’re about to find out what’s going on at FSU as it seems Willie Taggart has turned them down.  Scott Frost is also going to Nebraska so he’s not a candidate.  This hire couldn’t have been cleaner.  Great job by Woodward.

As for the magnitude of the reported $75 million contract over 10 years let’s break it down a bit.  Had Sumlin stayed at A&M for 10 years we would have paid him $50 million.  That’s assuming he never got a raise.  That’s $2.5 million a year difference.  If Sumlin had more repeated success there’s no doubt we would have paid Sumlin more than $5 million a year through a raise.  On a per year basis it’s really not that much difference because in big time college football $2.5 million isn’t much.  We’ll make it up in Double Dave’s pizza rolls sales each season.  That is if Double Dave’s can get their act together and have enough on hand where there’s no line and they never run out.  Double Dave’s with better execution can make up the difference if they’ll execute like Woodward.  There’s always a line for pizza rolls and they always run out.  Talk about missed opportunity.  Although I’m more of a Gumby’s pizza roll guy because they add garlic or something giving it more flavor.  Never understood why Double Dave’s got all the pizza roll love when Gumby’s pizza rolls are better.  All marketing and not product in my mind but that’s a blog post for another day.

As for the length of the contract these “experts” and “critics” are some of the same people that said we didn’t give Kevin Sumlin enough time with 6 years.  We’re committing to Fisher for a decade so that’s only 4 years more than what Sumlin got.  That should be a positive.  Fisher is only 52 which at the end of his contract he’ll be younger than Nick Saban is now.  Arizona State just hired a 62 year old to run their football program.  It’s not unexpected that Fisher can coach 10 more years.  Maybe he doesn’t win a national championship but his track record says A&M will be better off than the previous three coaches we hired.  Winners win and history indicates Jimbo Fisher is a winner.

Winners don’t come cheap so committing $75 million over 10 years for a coach with Jimbo’s track record seems reasonable to me.  It’s steep but it’s a cost of doing business.  Attempting to win a national championship requires money or luck.  We’ve run out of luck at Texas A&M so time to throw money at winning it all.  Mike Gundy was offered 6 years at $7 million by Tennessee and Gus Malzahn has apparently received a raise to $7 million by Auburn.  Jimbo at $7.5 million doesn’t seem out of line at all compared to the numbers that have come out this past week.

If in 10 years Jimbo Fisher has not won more than the coaches that came before him then Texas A&M needs to do a serious internal analysis.  Stop wasting money on football and turn Kyle Field into a bullfighting arena or something.  If Jimbo is worse than or even equal to Kevin Sumlin then we need to stop wasting money on football all together at Texas A&M.  This is an experiment at the highest level to see where Aggie Football can go.  It’s time to step up to find the ceiling.  Finding that ceiling costs money.

I’ve seen Mike Leach’s name get thrown out there for saving money and getting similar results.  Nobody loves Mike Leach more than me since he’s no longer at Tech clowning Franchione and Sherman.  I don’t really get it though.  Mike Leach is a fine coach but he’s never won a division.  Sure, he tied for it once at Tech but after beating Texas to have the inside track to win the division his team got clowned by OU.  He had the division in front of him and he couldn’t get it done.  Then he lost the Cotton Bowl to Ole Miss that season.  That’s the closest he’s ever come to winning a division and a major bowl.  Mike Leach will do more with less but he has a ceiling in my mind.  Mike Leach has won 10 games in ONE season of 16 seasons as head coach.  I know Texas Tech and Washington State aren’t perennial winners but you would think he’d have at least one more season where he won at least 10 games.  He’s only had one.

I don’t think rolling the dice and saving money would have been a good move with Leach.  I don’t see the “great” switch going off for Mike Leach at Texas A&M or any major program.  He’ll be a thorn to opponents but he’ll never win it all.  It’s not worth saving money to not have a chance to win it all.  That goes for any other similar unproven coach.  It wouldn’t have been worth it to save some money and “hope” that coach becomes great at Texas A&M.  We tried it with Franchione and Sumlin and it didn’t work.  Like I said earlier we’re out of time for “hope” so it’s time to spend money.

$75 million for ten years seems like a risky investment but let’s take a look at Jimbo the coach and see how risky it is.  Everybody said the Red Sox and Cubs couldn’t win it all until they finally hired someone competent enough to lead the team.  It’s always about leadership and that costs money.

Jimbo the Head Coach:

I believe a coach’s record matters more than anything else.  You can play ifs and buts all you want but over a period of time a coach’s record no matter where they coach will reflect their ability.  If he’s at a horrible program he’ll improve the record he took over if he’s a good coach.  Let’s look at Jimbo’s record and the four seasons at Florida State before he took over from Bowden.

The first four years are Bobby Bowden and the final eight years that are bolded are Jimbo Fisher.

Year Record Conference Bowl (W/L) Final Rank Title
Bowden – 2006 7-6 3-5 Emerald – W NR
2007 7-6 4-4 Music City – L NR
2008 9-4 5-3 Champs Sports – W 23 Division
2009 7-6 4-4 Gator – W NR
Jimbo- 2010 10-4 6-3 ChickFilA – W 16 Division
2011 9-4 5-3 Champs Sports – W 23
2012 12-2 7-1 Orange – W 8 Conference
2013 14-0 8-0 BCS NCG – W 1 National Champ
2014 13-1 8-0 Rose – L 6 Conference
2015 10-3 6-2 Peach – L 14
2016 10-3 5-3 Orange -W 8
2017 5-5 3-5

 

As you can see, the four seasons before Jimbo took over Florida State was not exactly a dominant program.  Florida State only finished once in the Top 25 those four seasons.  Their best record was 9-4 with an ACC division championship.  Other than that Florida State had a 7-6 record each season prior to Jimbo Fisher taking over.

The first season Jimbo took over he lead Florida State to a 9-3 regular season record winning the Atlantic Division.  They lost to Va. Tech in the ACC Title game but beat South Carolina in the ChickFilA Bowl.  That’s a pretty quick turnaround from the previous season at Florida State where they went 7-6.

Overall, including bowl games, Jimbo Fisher won 10 games or more in 6 of 8 seasons.  He was 6-2 in bowl games including 2 Orange Bowl wins and a national championship in the Rose Bowl.  That’s three marquee bowl game wins which is damn impressive in 8 seasons.  He went to 5 marquee bowl games from 2012 to 2016.

He lost the Rose Bowl in 2014 in the first year of the College Football Playoff to Oregon and Marcus Mariota.  In 2015 FSU lost to UH in the ChickFilA Peach Bowl.  I believe FSU was on their third string quarterback that game.  That can be considered a bad loss but that UH team was hitting on all cylinders and Tom Herman at UH was 5-0 against Top 25 teams at UH.  I’m not going to completely ding Jimbo for that loss even though it looks pretty bad.  In 2016 Jimbo beat Jim Harbaugh’s vaunted Michigan team in the Orange Bowl.  He’s played in big bowl games and done pretty well.

A lot of people like to point out Jimbo’s greatest success came with Jameis Winston under center.  That can be considered true but the fact of the matter is Florida State went 27-1 those two seasons.  Say what you want to about Jameis but Jimbo harnessed his talent to only lose 1 game in 2 seasons. That’s remarkable.  Jameis was a great college quarterback but Jimbo deserves credit for going 27-1 in those two seasons.  How many coaches have gone 27-1 over two seasons?  Not many at all.  It still takes coaching to win like that even if you have talent.  Ask Mack Brown, Les Miles, and Ron Zook.

Outside of Jameis, Jimbo has lead Florida State to a 56-21 record which is a 73 percent winning rate.  That includes the 5-5 record this season which has brought it down some.  Even without Jameis Winston and a .500 season he’s basically winning every 3 of 4 games.  Add in the Jameis Winston years and Jimbo has an overall record of 83-22 which is an almost 80 percent winning rate.  That’s winning every 4 of 5 games over 8 years as the head man at Florida State.  That’s damn good no matter how you want to spin his time there.  I firmly believe winners win and there’s no denying Jimbo Fisher won a lot of football games at FSU.

Based on the last 12 years of Florida State football there’s no reason to think Jimbo Fisher won’t improve the number of wins the Aggies have going forward.  His 8 seasons of football at Florida State speak for themselves compared to the previous 4 seasons.  He wins football games plain and simple.  There’s plenty of talent on the A&M football roster to win more games in 2018 than in 2017.  His biggest issue is going to be improving the A&M offensive line along with deciding pretty early if he wants to have a dual threat attack with Kellen Mond or a straight passing attack with Nick Starkel.  He may also bring in another quarterback but my guess is he’ll roll with either Mond or Starkel.

The schedule is pretty tough playing Clemson and Alabama in 2 of the first 4 games so we’ll find out pretty quickly if Jimbo can make improvements to Aggie football.  I don’t expect A&M to win those games but I do expect them to be competitive in those games.  The rest of the schedule should be pretty manageable with Auburn and LSU posing the toughest tests for the remaining 8 games.  I don’t think it’s out of the question for A&M to go 8-4 next season at minimum but if Jimbo is worth his $7.5 million a year we should win at least 9 games and potentially 10.  I do expect to see immediate improvement when it comes to wins and losses next season.  We didn’t hire Jimbo to “build” a program.  We hired him to come in and start winning more games right away.  He’s got a 10 year contract but he’s being paid to win more in Year 1.  No excuses.  There’s no “building” with his pedigree and what he’s being paid.

In addition to his coaching record Jimbo is known as an elite recruiter.  He had a head start on Kevin Sumlin’s time in Aggieland having already been at Florida State for 2 seasons but Florida State out-recruited Texas A&M in each of Sumlin’s six seasons.  Sumlin was seen as a strong recruiter but Jimbo proved better.  In 8 seasons of signing recruits Florida State was ranked in the Top 10 every season except for one where they came in at number 11 so almost in the Top 10.  In those 8 seasons Florida State was ranked in the Top 5 for 5 of those signing classes.  That’s an elite level of recruiting for sure.  There’s no reason to think Jimbo Fisher can’t do the same at Texas A&M.  He’ll be leading the only SEC team in the state of Texas and the other flagship school struggling right now so he shouldn’t have issues recruiting.  He’s an offensive coach but Jimbo recruited elite talent on both sides of the ball at Florida State.

Jimbo and his staff appear to do a pretty good job developing that talent.  Florida State has had 35 players drafted in the last 5 years.  That’s averaging 7 players each year of the last 5 NFL drafts.  There’s been 35 rounds in the last 5 NFL drafts so Florida State basically had a player for every round.  It didn’t break down that way but you get the point.  It certainly appears that Jimbo can not only recruit elite level talent but he and his staff can also develop it.  There are lots of coaches that can recruit but can’t develop talent and Jimbo seems to develop talent.

The data basically speak for itself in Jimbo’s time at Florida State.  If you look at record, recruiting, and drafting Jimbo Fisher is a Top 5 coach in the country.  That’s pretty hard to argue.  There’s no guarantee those things will carry over at Texas A&M but at least he’s proven he can do it.  I don’t think he would have taken the job if he didn’t feel he can replicate his success.  Maybe he just cashed a huge lottery check but I really think he believes he can do at Texas A&M what he did at Florida State.  He wouldn’t have made the move if he didn’t because his situation at Florida State was really damn good.  I mean the “experts” say that Florida State is the better job.  Jimbo Fisher made a calculated decision he can do at Texas A&M what he did at Florida State.  I’ll trust the man with the skins on the wall over the “experts” that sit in a studio or behind a keyboard.  One man has done it.  The others haven’t.

Make no mistake Jimbo Fisher was hired to Make Aggie Football Great Again.  Only time will tell if he actually can.  Based on his time at Florida State there’s no reason think in 5 years he won’t change the phrase Make Aggie Football Great Again to Made Aggie Football Great Again.  For $7.5 million a year he better change the “k” in Make to a “d” for Made.  When that happens it will prove every single dollar we signed Jimbo for was worth it and the “experts” are idiots.  We’ll be shipping plates of crow all over the country.

#MAFGA

Gig ‘Em Aggies!

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Is Jimbo Fisher a Good Hire for Texas A&M?

Jimbo Fisher

There’s some chatter out there that Jimbo Fisher is a primary target of Texas A&M to replace Kevin Sumlin.  I don’t know if he’s an achievable target or not but the chatter is out there.  He has a history with A&M’s Athletic Director as they were both together at LSU back in the day.  They know each other which always helps in the hiring process.  Would he be a good hire for Texas A&M?  I’m not sure but let’s take a look.

Before I look at anything coaching related let’s be clear Jimbo Fisher is an asshole.  He’s got a temper and it gets the best of him sometimes.  Earlier this season he told a fan to come down and fight him after the fan told Jimbo he needed to fire some of his coaches.  A lot of coaches are assholes so that’s not a big deal but you can’t engage fans and invite them to come out of the stands and fight you.  If they jump out of the stands and confront you that’s one thing.  If there’s a fan in the stands saying bad things as you run back to the locker room you have to keep going.  You can’t engage any negative behavior from anyone in the stands ever.  Words from a distance are just that and nothing more.  Be bigger than that and move on.

Beyond that the thing that bothers me the most about Jimbo Fisher is his involvement in the Jameis Winston rape issue.  It’s very Art Brilesesque.  I obviously have no direct knowledge of what happened between Winston and the girl that night but what I do know is there appears to be a systematic failure to truly discover what occurred that night.  The Florida State administration (including Athletics), Florida State Police Department, Tallahassee Police Department, and Tallahassee District Attorney are all either completely incompetent or weren’t really interested in finding out the truth over what happened that night.  Jimbo Fisher is a part of that.  Where they purposefully covering up for a star athlete, afraid to find out the truth, or just incompetent?  I don’t know the answer but it was one of those three if you read how everything was handled involving the investigation.  It doesn’t give you a warm and fuzzy feeling things were handled correctly.  Well, that is if you think rape is a really bad thing and deserves investigating.  If you think rape is no big deal then I’m sure you don’t have an issue with how things were handled.

If Texas A&M is serious about hiring Jimbo Fisher I want a very lengthy and extensive conversation as to what he knew and how he would handle the Jameis Winston situation looking back at it.  I would purposefully ask him what he thinks of the situations with Joe Paterno at Penn State and Art Briles at Baylor.  In both of those instances those coaches just wanted to wash their hands of the situations.  They had no interest in taking the lead and doing what was right in those situations.  Fisher at best was similar with Jameis Winston.  He seemed to just want to know if he’d have his star quarterback to play games.  Fisher did not take the lead trying to uncover the truth about that night.  That’s fine as it shouldn’t necessarily be the head coach’s job but at some point I hope he at least had an uneasy feeling for how things were handled.  I would ask him that point blank.

If he’s flippant or not contrite in how things were handled I’d thank him for his time telling him he was free to leave.  Think back to the Art Briles interview on ESPN the season after he was let go.  He was very vague about everything never offering specifics and seemed to fake feeling contrite only because he was supposed to.  If Fisher is not sincere in his answers to how things could have been handled with Winston then there’s no point in asking him further questions.

I can handle an asshole as a head coach but when it comes to matters of rape I want someone that understands the severity of something like that.  I want someone that understands there’s a point where a line is crossed and people need to step back thinking about more than football.  I don’t expect a head coach to be a saint and perfect at all times but I do need to know my head coach does in fact have a moral compass and there’s a line that once crossed everyone needs to step back and think about what is truly going on.  There’s a time to protect the players but there’s also a clear line when a player is accused of something that maybe football shouldn’t be a factor until it’s all sorted out.  It took A&M too long to handle the Kirk Merritt situation appropriately and I want a coach that recognizes those situations and handles them quick and swiftly.  There’s a clear line between boys being boys and someone doing something harmful to someone else.  I want to know Jimbo is FULLY aware where that line is.

I certainly don’t want A&M ever turning into a Penn St or Baylor where I fully question my support of the University as a whole.   I also don’t want A&M turning into a Florida State or Oklahoma where I question if a player was protected or given something they don’t deserve simply because they’re really good at football.  No player is ever above the program.  Even if it means a national championship because we’re playing a player that likely raped someone or laid a woman out.  I want Jimbo Fisher to understand that up front.  If he’s not on board with that then there’s no reason to continue discussion any further.  Being an asshole is one thing.  Being a sleazy coach putting wins above what’s right is another.

With that out of the way let’s look at Jimbo as a head coach.  He’s an outstanding head coach.  He’s having his worst season in his 8 seasons as head coach.  He’s currently at 3-5 and in jeopardy of not making a bowl game if he can’t beat Florida.  He’s doing so bad they had to re-schedule the canceled game against Louisiana-Monroe because FSU will need that game to become bowl eligible.  That game was originally canceled thinking it wouldn’t be needed for bowl eligibility.  This season has turned out differently for FSU so they scheduled that game so FSU can get 6 wins to go to a bowl.  FSU lost their starting QB in the opening game against Bama but they’ve looked terrible this season with close wins over Wake Forest, Duke, and Syracuse.  Those shouldn’t be FSU’s only wins and they shouldn’t close.  That’s not a good look for Jimbo even losing his starting QB in the first game.

When you look at the other 7 seasons during his time at FSU it paints a different picture.  You know about the national championship in 2013.  Coming into this season Fisher has only had one season where he didn’t win 10 games.  6 out of 7 seasons he’s had 10 wins or more.  That’s pretty damn impressive.  He’s been to a bowl game every year and is 5-2 in bowl games including 2 Orange Bowl wins.  He beat Michigan in last year’s Orange Bowl.  His two bowl losses were the Rose Bowl in 2014 when they lost to Oregon in Winston’s second season and then in 2015 when they lost the Peach Bowl to Tom Herman and UH.  I believe FSU was missing both of their starting quarterbacks on the season at that point.  Great win by UH but I don’t think FSU was playing with a full deck.  Fisher’s bowl record is pretty damn impressive.  He seems to have his team show up in big games for the most part.  I like that.

Fisher’s coaching tree is pretty impressive having coached under both Nick Saban and Bobby Bowden.  He was named Bowden’s successor as coach in waiting and it actually worked out.  FSU was actually pretty mediocre before he took over as they went 7-6 in three of the four seasons before Fisher took over.  FSU’s best season in those four seasons was 9-4 two years before Fisher took over.  Fisher made immediate improvements to a FSU program that had slipped to above average and was no longer dominate.  The dude can coach without a doubt.

He’s an offensive coach through and through having been a quarterback in college.  He’s always been on the offensive side of the ball having coached mainly quarterbacks and been a very high profile offensive coordinator at LSU and FSU before assuming the head job after Bobby Bowden.  FSU for the most part has never had issues scoring points.  Fisher is the main reason for that as he appears to call the plays himself.  He has two co-offensive coordinators but not sure how much they help with the game plan and calling plays during the game.

From a recruiting standpoint Fisher is an outstanding recruiter.  The area around Tallahassee is a hot bed for recruiting but Fisher has had a top 10 class every year except for 2013 where FSU ranked 11th so it wasn’t far off.  In the last four years he’s signed a class ranked #6 or higher.  That’s pretty damn impressive even if he’s in a great area for recruiting.  No reason he couldn’t do the same in Texas as it’s a great area to recruit as well.  He must not be that big of an asshole to kids if he’s pulling those kinds of recruiting classes.

In doing research on Fisher my main concern outside of the moral question is his staff seems to be pretty complacent.  It looks like a lot of the same guys he’s had for a while and many of them should be considered to be replaced.  The hiring of assistants is one of the most important things a college head coach can do.  Nick Saban is a master at it.  He’s continually replacing his guys because some of his guys move on to better jobs or Saban feels they need to be replaced.  I would want Fisher to challenge his assistants and never let them get complacent.  I think Kevin Sumlin has done a lot of that with his offensive staff letting everyone getting complacent.  Sumlin has definitely done this on the offensive side of the ball.  I would want Fisher to detail out his plan for his assistants in the immediate and long term.  A complacent staff can kill a football program.

In looking at Fisher there’s no doubt in my mind he’s a Top 10 college head coach.  He has some unexplainable losses every season but so does every coach not named Nick Saban.  That includes Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Les Miles, Chris Petersen, James Franklin, Jim Harbaugh, and any other coach you can think of.  It happens and you just have to deal with it unless you’re Alabama with Nick Saban.  Jimbo Fisher clearly belongs in that next class of coaches that aren’t Nick Saban.

If A&M hired Jimbo Fisher I think he’d immediately vault Texas A&M to at least the third best team in the SEC West and likely the second best SEC West team every season.  We’d become a better LSU during the Les Miles era as we’d actually have a competent offense.  This is assuming nobody in the West hires a lights out coach like Fisher as well.  I think we could compete with Alabama year in and year out even winning one every four years or so.  Fisher wouldn’t be cheap at all but the results are pretty guaranteed.  We’d be a legit Top 15 team year in and year out with Fisher.  More than likely we’d be a Top 10 team most of the years.

Assuming the A&M higher ups make it clear to Fisher there’s a CLEAR line when it comes to the morality of players I’m good with the Fisher higher.  I’m fine with him being an asshole sometimes because he wins games.  What I’m not okay with is him being a sleazeball putting wins above doing what’s right when it comes to his players.  No player is above the program at Texas A&M.  Johnny Manziel came close but he was just signing autographs and getting drunk like a lot of college players do.  I don’t expect a team of saints but I do expect a team that knows things like rape and female assault are never acceptable.  Other violent crimes and major theft also apply here.

If Jimbo is aware of that and willing to make his players aware and uphold those standards then I’m perfectly fine with him as Texas A&M’s head coach.  He’d make us a damn good program in no time at all.  He’s not a slam dunk hire and wouldn’t be cheap but he’s about as big of a guarantee in college football as it gets right now.

Thoughts from the Auburn Game

Auburn v Texas A&M

There is no doubt in my mind Kevin Sumlin sealed his fate on Saturday losing to Auburn.  He’s done at Texas A&M as head coach.  I suppose that officially makes him a spec home builder if the news is true he’s in the middle of building a new house in College Station.  I don’t think he’ll ever live in it.  He might want to leave the flooring and countertops for the eventual buyer.  Even if he wins the last three games he’ll still be 8-4 and that’s not going to cut it.  I think the decision to move on from Kevin Sumlin has been made and A&M is doing their due diligence for its next head coach.  What that due diligence is I have no idea but I hope it’s a serious search considering a major budget and plenty of names.

Two moments from that game signal to me Sumlin is done.  At the end of the first half we got the ball back with 1:36 left in the game.  Auburn had just scored on a quick drive capped by a 53 yard touchdown pass that put Auburn ahead 14-13 heading into half.  Auburn was getting the ball coming out of half so they were set up well.  We had the ball at the 20 yard line and Auburn had two time outs.  Starkel had lit a fire under the offense and had been moving the ball.  What does Sumlin do?  He runs the ball three times which burned about a minute off the clock thanks to Auburn’s two timeouts.  There was NO sense of urgency by the A&M offense and no desire to run a two minute drill to see if they could make something happen.  None at all.

A&M lines up for the punt and what happens?  Auburn who had taken two timeouts playing aggressively sends their punt return team for a block and gets through.  They block the punt into the end zone for a touchdown and a 21-13 lead heading into half and getting the ball.  That was the moment I knew Sumlin was officially done.  He had no sense of urgency and got owned by a coach who did have a sense of urgency.  I don’t know if we were lined up in max protect but we should have been.  That was a failure by both Sumlin and Jeff Banks to not have their punt protection and punter prepared for that situation.  Auburn took advantage of Sumlin not being aggressive by being aggressive themselves.

The other moment in the game that told me Sumlin was done coaching was late in the fourth quarter.  We had shown some signs of life offensively but the defense had given up too many points.  With a little over 5 minutes left Auburn scored to go up 42-20 which is a pretty steep hill but in college football it’s not insurmountable.  In fact it happens way more than it should.  It’s still a three score game but it’s not impossible.  If you feel you’re coaching for your job you should coach with some serious urgency.  Kevin Sumlin clearly wasn’t doing that.

After Auburn goes up 42-20 Trayveon Williams returns the kickoff to the Auburn 28 with a little over 5 minutes left.  A&M has two timeouts left with 5 minutes left.  We should have had 3 timeouts but had to use one because we tried to punt with 12 people on the field which is another story.  It’s a longshot but three scores in 5 minutes on their 28 yardline is technically doable with good clock management, play calling, and some luck which is not uncommon in college football.  So what happens is we get to the Auburn 11 yard line thanks to a pass interference call with a little over 4 minutes left.  4 minutes and two timeouts left on the opponent’s 11 yard line needing 3 scores.  Not likely but with the some breaks you can make it happen.

We call back to back run plays in that situation.  Seriously.  We’re on the 11 yard line needing to conserve as much time a possible and we call two run plays.  Two run plays.  Unreal.  We got a gain of six yards and a loss of 3 yards.  We ran the ball twice needing to conserve the clock.  I couldn’t believe it.  At that moment I realized Kevin Sumlin is just totally clueless when it comes to game situations or he just doesn’t care.  I think it’s a combination of both.  He’s just not a great head coach.  Completely unaware of what’s needed in certain situations.

We did wind up scoring there but burned a minute off the clock we didn’t need to.  If we score with a little under 4 minutes left and two timeouts you can at least make a decision on the kickoff to kick deep or onside kick.  Sure, you probably onside kick but at least you have an extra minute and there is some element of surprise.  As it is you burned a minute and everybody in the stadium knew an onside kick is coming so there’s no element of a surprise.  We failed the onside kick and that moment sealed any chance of coming back.  The odds of scoring 22 points in 4 minutes is not likely but it is possible with some breaks.  As it was Kevin Sumlin had ZERO interest in finding out if we could get a few lucky breaks.  No sense of urgency or care on his behalf.  And because of that he’ll be gone after LSU unless he pulls a Jim McElwain saying something stupid that forces A&M’s hand.  I don’t think he’s that dumb but you never know.

It’s also ironic that Jarret Stidham is part of the final nail in Sumlin’s coffin.  Kevin Sumlin twice had the opportunity to recruit Stidham but passed the first time in order to get Kyler Murray.  We saw how that turned out.  He also had the chance to recruit him in the 2017 February class but passed on him for Mond along with Hezekiah Jones and Jhamon Ausbon.  Evidently they were a package deal and Sumlin was scared signing Stidham would scare off all three.  Mond got pulled in the first half on Saturday while neither Jones or Ausbon caught a ball.  Meanwhile Stidham went 20 for 27 throwing for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.  Basically Sumlin not signing Stidham can be seen as a direct reason Sumlin will no longer be the head coach at Texas A&M when this season is done.  Another reason Sumlin needs to go.  He didn’t recruit quarterback with a sense of urgency in the off season.  He had nobody with any experience under center and passed on Stidham for fear it would scare off people who likely wouldn’t contribute this season.  Once again Sumlin is just unaware of his current situation and doing things to immediately right the ship.  I said at the time he would regret not signing Stidham and Saturday proved that to be right.

For the rest of my normal thoughts I’m going to keep it short.  It’s basically the same from the Mississippi State game.  I want to keep it short because with it clear Sumlin is gone I want to start looking at potential candidates in more detail.  Big rumor is Jimbo Fisher is our top target because we think he’s attainable.  I want to spend my time digging under the hood of Fisher and get that written up.

Offense:

This was basically the same thing as the Mississippi State game other than the change at quarterback.  Before I get to that change I’m just going to say the line looked slightly better with Starkel in there because defenses know they have to respect the pass with him as QB.  With Mond they were just loading the box and destroying our line.  At receiver it was more of the same except Damion Ratley caught balls and had a great catch and run for a 62 yard touchdown.  Outside of that he caught 3 balls for 20 yards so not explosive on the other catches.  Kirk caught 8 balls for 62 yards with a long of 29 yards so he didn’t exactly light it up either.  Trayveon caught a beautiful shovel pass for 41 yards but other than that not much in the passing game.  Receivers still don’t seem to be getting or separation unless it’s just busted coverage.

The running game was definitely improved with Starkel under center as the defense backed off the line of scrimmage to respect the pass it seems.  Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams combined for 29 carries totaling 151 yards.  That’s a little over 5 yards a carry and most of that came with Starkel in.  The longest run was 40 yards by Traveon.  Ford and Williams were chewing off good runs which we definitely didn’t see against Mississippi State.  Pretty clear having to respect the passing game helped our running game.

As for Starkel he was 11 for 22 for 184 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.  That’s not outstanding but it’s the best outing we’ve seen all year from a quarterback against a respectable defense.  He had the 62 yard pass to Ratley so that was a big play that accounted for 33% of the yards but Starkel did a nice job passing the ball considering the play calls and lack of receivers getting open.  Barring an injury this is Starkel’s job the rest of the season and heading into next year no matter who the new coach is.  He’s just a better passer and its clear Mond has a ways to go from a passing standpoint.  The one big difference I saw between Starkel and Mond in the game is that Starkel played with a sense of urgency.  He was begging for the play to get everyone lined up.  I never saw that from Mond.  I think it’s completely a confidence and comfort thing.  Starkel appears more confident and comfortable taking snaps at the college level.  Starkel also seems to make much quicker decisions in the passing game.

One thing I’d love to see happen but it won’t is eliminate the red zone fade route.  I don’t know that it’s worked all year but I can count at least a dozen times we’ve tried that and it hasn’t been close to a completion.  It’s like Mazzone thinks we have Mike Evans or Josh Reynolds who can go up and get the ball.  We don’t have anyone like that and the ball hasn’t even been close to a completion if we did have someone that could go get it.  Sumlin needs to go rip that page out of Mazzone’s play sheet but let’s face it those two don’t care anymore.  They both know they’re gone so we’ll see it a few more times this season.  I can’t wait.

Defense:

Defensively this felt just like the Misissippi State game for the most part.  The defense played well enough in the first half save for one play.  That was the 53 yard pass with under 2 minutes left where they just got isolated coverage with their fastest receiver against our backup corner because our best cover guy wasn’t playing.  The Auburn receiver got separation from our corner and Stidham hit him in stride for a touchdown.  Great coaching isolating talent on lesser talent and great job by Stidham hitting the guy in stride.  Other than that I thought our defense played just fine in the first half despite our offensive issues until Starkel came in.

The second half was pretty bad as the defense held Auburn to a three and out on their first possession of the half but it went downhill quickly after that.  Our offense responded to the defense starting the second half with a three and out by also going three and out giving the ball right back to Auburn.  Auburn would then score on their next two possessions making the game 35-13.  The game was over halfway through the third quarter for the most part.  The back breaker was when Auburn got the ball on their own 4 yard line and took the ball 96 yards the other way on 14 plays burning 8:17 of the clock.  They ran the ball 11 times and passed only 3.  That’s pretty demoralizing for the defense .  There’s no way to defend a defense that gives up a drive like that.  If they can hold them there it could have been a 35-27 game at one point.  Ifs and buts though don’t get anyone anywhere though.

Individually the two best performances for me were Tyrel Dodson who has turned into an absolute beast.  The dude is legit.  Anthony Hines was the other who had his best game of the year.  Armani Watts had his solid game as well.  The front four looked solid most of the game other than that demoralizing drive in the 4th quarter.

All in all they played great in the first half but the second half was a different story.  Time of possession wasn’t too far off at 35:44 to 24:16 but I do think there’s an element of always playing defense from behind that becomes a mental battle.  Defenses want to be aggressive knowing they’re playing for something and that’s just happening with our offense.  It would be interesting to see what would happen if our offense could actually get a lead or swing time of possession in their favor.  This defense has not been great the last two games.  They have looked really solid in the first half but faded in the second half when the offense wasn’t doing anything.  Hard to blame them.  Despite all of that I still contend our “Front 6” has looked really solid for most of the season with a few hiccups here and there.

I’m still on the Chief Train mainly because I think the offense is not giving this defense any chance to shine.

Special Teams:

Talk about a Jekyll and Hyde game.  Two blocked field goal attempts and a great kick return by Trayveon Williams.  But we had the blocked punt where we should have been in max protect fully expecting a jailhouse break trying to block the punt.  Auburn executed it perfectly and we weren’t ready for it.  The timeout in the third quarter because we were trying to punt with 12 guys was maddening.  After we got the personnel straightened out we punt the ball off the up back.  Like I’ve said all season this special teams unit isn’t spectacular for the most part other than some big individual contributors.  I know Jeff Banks gets lots of love but I personally think the guy is just average.  Just too much inconsistency and bone headed plays like we saw on Saturday.

Going Forward:

Sumlin is done and he knows it.  He’ll coach out the season and be done after LSU.  I expect us to go 2-1 finishing 7-5 but it could be worse.  This team could just collapse going down the stretch.  I don’t think that will happen as I think there’s enough young leadership.   Starkel and Dodson on their respective sides of the ball won’t let that happen I don’t think.  7-5 will be a disappointment but it’ll get us to a bowl game which we should accept as you always want the extra practice and experience.
Make Aggie Football Great Again!

Chad Morris is Better than Kevin Sumlin

Morris Greater Than Sumlin

Before I get going with this column I want to make two things clear:

  • At this point there’s a 97% chance Kevin Sumlin will be let go as the A&M coach. Even if he wins the final 3 games he’ll wind up at 8-4 which will be too little too late.  I don’t see him beating LSU as I think the LSU defensive line will destroy the Aggie offensive line.  If he goes 7-5 he stands no chance of coming back.    We’ll be 5th in the West and that’s not going to cut it in Season 6.
  • This column isn’t advocating for the hiring of Chad Morris. This column is to simply establish a baseline for those people that believe we won’t be able to hire someone better than Kevin Sumlin.  Chad Morris would be our “worst” hire.  The attitude that Kevin Sumlin is the best we can do is a terrible one to have.  Kevin Sumlin is in over his head at Texas A&M.  There are a LOT of coaches that can do what Kevin Sumlin has done at Texas A&M.  Kevin Sumlin has never won more than 8 games in the regular season other than his first season.  Let’s not forget about his struggles in November as well.  He’s not a very good coach despite what some think.  Texas A&M can absolutely do better and we need to eliminate this defeatist attitude.

I also want to establish two questions those in charge of the hiring decision need to make perfectly clear as they go forward:

  • How much are we willing to pay? It can be fluid but I think those making the hiring decision need to know if money is going to be a factor.  Don’t go shopping without a budget as that will get you in trouble.
  • Are we looking to hire someone that can potentially compete with Nick Saban or do we want to be second in the SEC West? A coach that can compete with Nick Saban doesn’t exist so you have to take a chance on an unproven coach like Matt Campbell or Scott Frost if you’re willing to pay money.  Those guys won’t come cheap.  If you want to get a “proven” coach that’s not going to compete with Nick Saban but win 9-11 wins every year then go get Chip Kelly or Mike Leach.  Both of those guys will win more games than Kevin Sumlin but will be expensive because they’re proven in P5 football.

Where Chad Morris comes in is if we’re not willing to spend money but want to improve over Kevin Sumlin.  Chad Morris will win more games than Kevin Sumlin without a doubt.  While his head coaching record at SMU is in question it’s still SMU.  Nick Saban wouldn’t walk into SMU and win 10 games in 2-3 seasons.  Chad Morris is not a horrible head coach once you dig below the surface of the wins and losses at SMU.  He’s improved his record each season he’s been there.  He went 2-10 his first season at SMU but he inherited a team that was horrible.  They didn’t score an offensive touchdown until their 5th game the season before as June Jones quit on that team.  Last year he went 5-7 with a blowout over 11th ranked Houston.  That’s progress.

This season he’s sitting at 6-3 so he’s already improved last season’s win total with 3 games left.  He’s got 2 tough games in Navy and Memphis but he could absolutely beat Tulane improving SMU to 7-5 in his third season.  That would be a marked improvement for the program he took over 3 seasons ago.  He’s not a coach that inherited a great program like Kevin Sumlin and Tom Herman did at UH.  He took over a crappy program that won 1 game with a wretched offense the season he took it over.  He only won 2 games the next season but he made immediate improvements to their offense which is his specialty.  The SMU defense was horrible.

Digging beyond his time at SMU he was the offensive coordinator at Clemson for 4 seasons.  During those 4 seasons the Clemson offense established 127 offensive records and posted the top 3 scoring seasons in Clemson history.  While there he was crucial in recruiting and developing Deshaun Watson’s early collegiate career.  Clemson would play for the national championship in the two seasons after Morris left with coordinators that served under Morris.  If Chad Morris was still the Clemson offensive coordinator and had played in the last two national championship games winning one and maybe two would your perception of him be different?  He’d be the hottest name in coaching without a doubt.  Instead he’d be an “underwhelming” hire from SMU.  He’s still the same coach but now with some collegiate head coaching experience so he’s actually better served to be a head coach at a P5 school.

Before Clemson he served one season as OC at Tulsa where they averaged 41.4 points a game.  The dude is a successful collegiate offensive coordinator.  Before Tulsa he served as head coach in the Texas high school ranks for schools like Bay City, Stephenville, and Lake Travis.  His record as a high school coach is 169-38 winning 3 state titles including two back to back titles at Lake Travis before going to Tulsa.  The dude can coach.  Art Briles and Billy Gillispie made the jump just fine to winning games at the college level from high school.  Let’s leave their personal issues out of it as I think Chad Morris is a fine person based on what I know.  We’re just looking at the transition to win from high school to college in Texas.  It’s very possible to have it translate.

He’s won pretty much wherever he’s gone but hasn’t won enough for Aggies that are only aware of his record at SMU.  He took over a HORRIBLE SMU program and has improved them each year.  When you dig under the hood he’s a damn good football coach and I promise you better than Kevin Sumlin.  When you dig under Kevin Sumlin’s hood you learn there’s not much there other than being in the right place at the right time.  Sumlin’s timing up until this point has been impeccable but his coaching is far from it.  Sumlin got rich from A&M and it’s time to move on.

I’m not advocating for the hiring of Chad Morris right now.  I want Texas A&M to do an exhaustive search and analysis for the best coach that fits the parameters of the two questions above.  Chad Morris is going to leave SMU at some point for a better program.  Maybe it’s A&M and maybe it’s not but he will leave SMU for a P5 job sooner than later.  I just want Aggies to realize that if we wind up with Chad Morris as our “worst” option it will be MUCH better than Kevin Sumlin because the dude can coach football.  I don’t know that he’ll be able to compete with Nick Saban but I do know he’ll be able to do better than what Kevin Sumlin has done here.

I do think if we hire Morris he’ll have to leave many of his SMU assistants behind as his staff isn’t amazing and he’ll need more seasoned SEC guys.  If we do hire Morris I’d actually like to keep our defensive staff in place.  Our defense has played pretty well in the first half of games but the lack of offense has really hurt our defensive efforts.  I think a combination of Morris and Chief would create a staff that could easily win 2 games a season more than Sumlin right away.

What Texas A&M has in Kevin Sumlin is not working.  It’s a bad marriage that needs to end.  If Chad Morris is our next hire then be pretty damn excited because things will get better without a doubt.  We will have hired a coach that’s going to make Texas A&M a better football team from Day 1 over what Kevin Sumlin has offered us the past 5 seasons.  Chad Morris is not the “sexiest” hire out there for Texas A&M but he’s a damn good coach that will absolutely make us better.  He’ll come at a price that will make the move worth every penny “invested” in what’s owed Kevin Sumlin after this season.

Don’t get caught up in the glitz on the surface.  There’s lots of good coaches that can do what Kevin Sumlin has done at Texas A&M.  There’s no doubt in my mind Chad Morris will do better than Kevin Sumlin and if he’s the “worst” hire Texas A&M can make then we’ll still be better off.  I truly think Chad Morris and John Chavis would win 9 games next season at Texas A&M.

That’s still a far cry from what we really want but it would be a hell of a lot better than what Kevin Sumlin is doing right now.  If you can’t get excited about that then I’m not sure what else to tell you as improvement has to start somewhere.  Chad Morris would absolutely offer immediate improvement with the right staff.

EDIT:  One thing I wanted to make clear but didn’t in the original piece is I don’t care that Chad Morris is an Aggie.  It’s a non factor for me.  I don’t care about someone with ties to Texas or “gets” Texas A&M.  It shouldn’t even be a consideration in this hire.  Winners win.  Simple as that.  Aggie and Texas connections don’t matter to me.

Also an interesting note in doing some light research on Morris is he interviewed for the Tech job when Kingsbury got it.  Sounds like Kinsbury was the selection over Morris.  Think Tech would like to have that decision back?

 

Thoughts from the Tennessee Game

trayveon-vs-tenn

First off, something VERY major happened with that Tennessee win.  Kevin Sumlin confirmed his spot as Aggie head coach for one more season.  It was trending he was off the hot seat but if the Aggies collapsed like the last two seasons and he lost to Tenn, Bama, Ole Miss, and LSU there’s a slight chance Sumlin could have lost his job.  With this win we’re a 9-3 regular season team and will play in a damn good bowl game.  Kevin is gonna win at least nine so with that Tennessee victory on Saturday night he guaranteed he’s fine for 2017.  Congrats Coach.

Secondly, I’m TIRED of all the hand wringing about the Wrecking Crew.  Yes it’s frustrating and statistically it doesn’t look good at times but the reality is this Wrecking Crew while not dominant responds and makes plays when it has to.  The offense is still a work in progress but for 90% of the game our defense is playing their assess off and making plays.  I get the frustration of the 10% when they’re not dominant but don’t ever forget what those guys are doing for almost the entire game.  Tennessee is a damn good football team and dialed up some great plays and made some second half adjustments we were late to adjust to.  Still, that defense played their ass off on Saturday night and they’re the reason we won.  While our offense was sputtering our defense was holding their own for most of the game.

If Trayveon Williams doesn’t fumble out of the back of the end zone there’s a good chance we win that game 42-28.  I’m not sure Tennessee would have scored knowing they had to come back two scores down with under 2 minutes.  If he’s tackled it’s a 35-28 game that we kneel out.  That changes the perception of things big time.  I’m not putting this on Trayveon directly but the odds of that play happening are miniscule and yet totally changed the perception of the game from a defensive standpoint.  In overtime the Wrecking Crew showed up and held Tennessee to only 5 plays including the field goal.  When they had to, the Wrecking Crew has shown up twice in overtime games.  I don’t like the stats either but the point is this defense has shown they can show up and make plays when it’s needed most.  We haven’t had this trait in a LONG time.  Like I’ve been saying this defense won’t be this good next year so quit with the hand wringing on this defense and enjoy it because you’re going to be doing lots of hand wringing next season.

Before I get into the analysis can we PLEASE stop assuming when a defensive player goes down he’s faking it?  Every time a Tennessee player went down someone in my section was yelling they were faking.  Even before they carted their guy off people were yelling he was faking.  Uh, he went off on a stretcher.  That’s one hell of a fake.  We’re not even running a true up tempo offense right now so Tennessee had ZERO incentive to fake injuries because they were already missing three starters on defense.  When you’re injured you have to sit out a play.  They weren’t faking.  The rules allow a defense time to make substitutions based on offensive substitutions so you don’t see the amount of faking you used to see.  The worst was I heard an impromptu yell while a Tennessee player was on the ground.  That’s completely classless.  I would love to think Aggie fans are better than that but maybe not.  The MOST important thing that should come out of every game is every player leaves without any kind of injury.  Please have some respect when people are down on the field.  If we’re running true up tempo and an opponent’s player goes down repeatedly then it can be questioned.  But please don’t boo or yell at a player down on the field just because you think they’re faking it.  I don’t want Kyle Field turning into a place that’s not respectful of the opposing players when they’re injured and it sure got close on Saturday.  We’re not the idiots in Austin.  At least I hope not.

The Wrecking Crew:

I’m starting with the defense this time mainly to drive home the work these guys did.  Statistically at the end of the game they look liked crap.  I mean utter crap.  Evidently we witnessed the defense that gave up the most yards ever in an Aggie football game.  That’s insane because for the 3 quarters and then in 2 overtimes I saw a damn dominant defense.  At the end of the first half we were up 21-7 and at the end of the 3rd quarter the score was 28-14.  I mean that’s REALLY respectable.  Damn respectable.  That’s where I wrestle with Tennessee played better than A&M and we got lucky to get a win.  For 3 quarters we soundly beat Tennessee mainly thanks to our defense.   We really did.

Tennessee was 0-7 on third down conversions to start the game.  They didn’t convert one third down the entire first half.  Say what you want but that’s DAMN impressive.  They wound being 6-17 for the game which means they were 6-10 in the second half which isn’t so impressive.  I don’t know the exact stats but I’m assuming at least 4 of those came in the 4th quarter.

We clearly melted down in the 4th quarter giving up 21 points and everybody forgets what this defense did for 3 quarters.  We won 3 quarters and OT and Tennessee won the 4th quarter.  So did Tennessee really play better than us?  I don’t think so.  I think Tennessee just got really hot in the 4th with some REALLY great play calls and our defense was too slow to adjust.  Most of those play calls were screens that took advantage of aggressiveness and pressure along with crossing routes that took advantage of the pressure our linebackers and safeties were applying. We were leaving the middle of the field wide open for crossing routes.  It was some really great play calls by Tennessee.  We probably should have gone to a much more conservative defense but that’s not how Chavis rolls.  He likes to bring pressure.  I don’t like what happened in the 4th at all but it’s hard to fault these guys for how they played for 3 quarters and the overtime.  They were truly dominant for 45 minutes of the game and then the same thing in overtime.  I can’t fully explain the 4th quarter melt down other than solid play calling by Tennessee and execution by a pretty talented team.

There are two things I can fault this defense for and the first time I’ve seen it all season.  The tackling was TERRIBLE.  I mean just terrible.  I don’t know if it was because Tennessee is the best team we’ve played athletically all year or something else but this defense was not bringing Tennessee players down like we’ve done with other teams.  It was really noticeable.  The other terrible thing by this defense was the defensive ends playing in place of Myles Garrett were biting on the zone read really bad.  So much so Dobbs got some pretty nice runs when there shouldn’t have been anything there.  On the zone read the defensive end is left alone and the QB makes the decision to leave the ball with the running back or pull it and run outside if the defensive end is crashing.  Usually there’s not much help out there so if the QB sees the defensive end crash and pulls the ball he’ll get a decent gain.  Dobbs was doing that repeatedly so I don’t know why our defensive ends kept crashing as they need to stay home and be disciplined.  I think it was just a case of those back-up defensive ends being excited to make plays and forgetting what should have been disciplined football.

Speaking of defensive ends I have no clue what was going on with Myles Garrett. Early in the game he was playing on passing downs but then he kind of went away for the most part and then showed up in the 4th quarter and played basically the rest of the game.  He was even in on a punt return in the 4th quarter.  If he was hurt why was he in a punt return?  I don’t get why we’d even expose him to special teams.  Either way I’m not sure why they handled him like they did.  Maybe they realized they finally needed him in there later in the game but it’s kind of head scratching how he was handled.  I will say when he finally did go full time in the 4th quarter he looked solid.  He wasn’t his normal dominant self but Tennessee was focused on him and Myles was  pushing their tackle around.  In VERY limited action he still got 1 sack and a tackle for a loss.  I hope he’s fully healthy going into the Bama game as he’s a flat out game changer.  Even injured he helped stabilize a defense late in the game.

As for the rest of the defense the guy who stood out the most was Armani Watts.  Watts is such a baller.  I mean flat out baller.  The dude took the ball away from a guy that was about to walk into the end zone again.  He just clean stripped it from the guy and held it.  He just does that time and time again.  It’s amazing.  Obviously he got the game saving interception which looks like a bad throw by Dobbs but if you watch Watts on that play he had great anticipation knowing where it was going.  He was playing the ball and not the receiver because he knew where it was going.  His instincts are uncanny.  I questioned if he was going pro after this season but there’s no doubt in my mind he’s gone.  I think he’s a first round draft pick.  He should be an All-American based on how he plays.  I once thought Evans was better but Watts is the better all-around safety and it’s not even close at this point.  That’s not a knock on Evans at all but Watts is just better.

The other guy that stood out the most was Shaan Washington.  That dude seems to be coming into his own right now.  I really feel like he’s gotten better each week where he’s now a legit SEC linebacker.  Alaka looked decent but Washington is clearly our best linebacker right now and I don’t think it’s close.  I’m not sure how many plays Tyrel Dodson got but he had some really solid plays.  He’s a true freshman but I think he’s going to be a really solid contributor the next 2-3 seasons.  I doubt he goes pro early but the kid looks like a baller as a true freshman.  Nobody really stood out from the linebacker position as the lack of tackling was really bad.

The defensive line didn’t get as much pressure as it usually does but it wasn’t bad at all.  Dobbs wasn’t holding on to the ball very long but we still wound up with 4 sacks and 5 QB hurries on 47 pass attempts.  Keke, Henderson, Walker, Mack, and even Chevis did they usual thing of just consuming blocks for a big part of the game.  Henderson and Mack each got ½ a sack each.  Hall had a pretty solid game bringing pressure from his side as he wound up with ½ sack but most importantly he had 4 QB hurries.  Even though I griped about the other defensive ends biting on the zone read when they shouldn’t have, Dobbs only wound up with 57 yards of rushing with a long run of 33 so he wasn’t gashing us on the zone read.  As usual the defensive line was the strongest part of our defensive effort.

Not much more to say about Watts and Evans as they wound up being the leading tacklers on the team along with each having an interception.  I don’t know what more you could want out of these two.  Donovan Wilson was tied for 4th on the team in tackles so all our safeties do is produce.   At corner I actually thought Harvey and Willis played really well.  Probably their best game yet.  Dobbs threw for 400 yards but 160 of them were to their running back so I can’t fault our corners for those yards.  I mean that’s 40% of their passing yards right there.  They didn’t get burned deep as the longest pass was for 43 yards and the rest were under 27.  All of the passing yards just seemed to be screen plays to the running back and then crossing routes late in the game.  As much as I love Chief that’s really on him for not adjusting to a Tennessee OC that was clearly calling great plays against an overly aggressive defense that wasn’t watching for certain plays.

I know people want to rail on the Wrecking Crew for the total yards and the defense at the end but I just can’t.  For three quarters they played stellar football and I contend had our offense taken better advantage of the turnovers the defense got then everyone is talking about what an amazing game the Wrecking Crew played.  I’m not totally putting it on the offense but the offense did need to do more in the second half when the defense was giving them the ball.  I know Tennessee had 7 turnovers but a lot of those were caused by us and most importantly we got to the ball.  There was one fumble late in the game where the running back fumbled it and Dobbs tried to pick it up rather than run with it to which he bobbled it and we jumped on it.  We have to give credit to our defense for being around the ball and jumping on it rather than trying to be a hero.  Just jump on the ball.  Fundamentals.  The Wrecking Crew just makes plays when they have to.  It doesn’t look like the Wrecking Crew of old but like I’ve said time and time again this ain’t the Southwest Conference.  We need to clean up our tackling but these guys play their asses off and make plays when they have to.  We now have two 2 OT wins where the defense held the offense to a field goal in the first OT and then didn’t let the other team score a TD when they had to in the second overtime.  That’s pretty damn solid.

Offense:

Not sure where to begin here.  Do I start with Knight or Williams?  I’ll start with Williams.  Except for ONE play this guy was amazing.  I mean flat out amazing.  217 yards on 28 carries averaging almost 8 yards a carry.  That’s unreal for a true freshman that wasn’t touted like an Adrian Peterson, Fournette, or any of those Georgia running backs.  This dude has essentially been carrying this offense since the Auburn game.  He really has.  He’s the biggest difference maker on this offense and it’s not even close.  He’s come so far since his first game when I honestly thought Keith Ford was the better back.  Williams’ vision is his secret.  The dude is so good at anticipating things and adjusting before it happens.  He knows when to cut and when to be patient.  This was his 4th SEC game and he hasn’t been denied the end zone in any of them.  When he gets to the second level he’s really dangerous but watching him he’s so good at getting beyond the line.  He sees the whole develop and knows to accelerate or do a jump cut and go.  Then when he’s on the second level he doesn’t go down with contact and constantly adjusting while going forward.  I don’t know who he looks like to be honest.  It’s a rare combination I haven’t seen in a long time.  Maybe more like Ladanian Tomlinson more than anyone but I think Williams is bigger.  He’s just amazingly fluid in doing it that it looks effortless.  He obviously had the fumble at the end of the game.  If he scores or gets tackled that game is over and never goes to overtime.  It’s hard to fault him for what happened because of his effort the entire game but hopefully he learned a lesson you don’t ever give up until you cross the goal line including protect the ball.  Still, this guy has carried this offense to 4 straight SEC victories so I’m not going to get on him about anything.  He’s going to be a BIG reason why we win 10 or 11 games in the regular season as opposed to just 9 if we wound up with 10 or 11.

Good ol’ Trevie Knight.  At this point he is who he is.  He was a dead flat 50% passer with 2 TDs and 2 INTs.  That’s about as half good and half bad as it gets.  But the damn kid can flat out run.  I mean flat out run like you wouldn’t expect.  If he didn’t have his legs I think we’d be miserable with him as our quarterback but if he gets a seam up the middle on the zone read and into the secondary the kid has amazing top end speed.  It’s actually really amazing to watch as he’ll frustrate you with his passing and decision making through the air but then the next thing you know he found a seam up the middle and he’s prancing untouched into the end zone because no one could catch him.  He sucked everyone into being frustrated and then next thing you know he’s in open field showing off his wheels no one expects him to have.  All you can do is smile as he crosses the goal line and gives everybody the double gigs.  Kid doesn’t get down and just keeps grinding waiting on opportunity to strike.  That’s actually a very admirable trait as a quarterback has got to have confidence and persistence.

Watching him pass is just really remarkable because he’s so inconsistent.  He’ll have some flat out amazing passes and then have some head scratchers on how the same guy can be so inconsistent.  The pass I do like the most although I don’t always agree when it’s called is the deep sideline ball.  He’s obviously inconsistent but he hits it enough it’s worth trying and with our receivers it’s likely to not be intercepted.  I love that it keeps the defense honest because if they don’t account for it and Knight hits it then it’s a big play.  Mazzone tends to do it on second downs where I’m wanting to string along a more consistent drive but it’s worked enough I’m okay with it.  Mazzone is trying to hide it between 1st and 3rd downs to keep defenses on their toes and to give us another down if it doesn’t hit.  It’s worked enough that I can’t really complain but there’s been a drive or two where I just wanted to keep the ball on the ground and move the chain that way.  The biggest problem with Knight passing is that his bad passes are so frustrating they outshine the good passes.  After every game I can remember a lot more bad passes than I can his good passes but that’s just the way it goes.  I’ve also gotten so used to his passes being bad I thought the pass to Kirk in the second overtime was actually picked off the way people dove for it.  I was shocked when it was actually caught by Kirk.  Sorry for ever doubting you Trevor as I don’t know if it went where it was supposed to but it was between two defenders where only Kirk could catch it.  Keep doing what you’re doing as you have more confidence in yourself than any fan does.  More often than not it’s worked in everyone’s favor so just be you and we’ll enjoy this ride with you.

I thought the offensive line did fine as usual.  Tennessee slowed down our running game it seemed in the late 3rd and early 4th quarters but when it mattered most they made holes for Williams to run through and gave Knight time in the pocket late in the game.  They weren’t really dominant at all but they only gave up one sack and we had almost 600 yards of total offense so we clearly had time and holes most of the game.  I don’t remember any WTF moments like we tended to have 2-3 times last year in a game which is a big positive.  There were a couple of penalties that need to get cleaned up and only one high snap on a play I thought we were going to fumble but Knight was able to get into Williams hands for a touchdown.  I’d obviously like to see this line keep getting better and better but the end results are about as much as you can ask for considering we had no clue what to expect coming into the seasons.  Jim Turner has just done a tremendous job with this group considering this was a major question coming into the season.

As far as receiver goes I still stand by the fact Josh Reynolds is the best receiver on this team and the most underrated receiver in the country.  I’m not sure if he plays at the next level but he’s got the speed with decent size that some NFL scout and GM has to watch some film and be giddy at the fact they could take a flier on this guy late in the draft at this point because no one talks about him.  He had a tremendous one handed catch that went for over 30 yards.  It was just an amazing catch with a defender draped all over him.  He had a 15ish yard catch that would have been a clutch 3rd down conversion but we had a lineman downfield so it came back.  That would have pushed him to over 100 yards on the day.  He’s not Mike Evans so you can’t just lean on him like we did with Evans but I firmly believe we should use him more often.

Kirk had a nice day as well catching 7 balls for 80 yards and a score.  I’m not sure what to think about Kirk at this point.  I love the guy and we all know he’s amazingly talented but I’m not sure Mazzone is using him the best way he can.  He seems to be using him mainly on the edges on the bubble screens.  Kirk is an amazing talent so it seems like we should be using him more in space.  I know defenses are keying on him but it just seems we’re not exploiting him as best we can.  We love to run him in all kinds of motion but we don’t ever use him in the motion.  I keep waiting for us to flip the ball to Kirk as a diversion but we haven’t done it these last few games.  Maybe it’s being done to keep defenses honest and read coverage but we’ve never used him of all the times we’ve run Kirk in motion and snapped the ball with him in the backfield.  We did do it against UCLA I think but nothing in SEC games.  I’d love to see him and Reynolds lined up in a stack and run routes downfield off each other.  It just seems he could be much more productive.  I’m not down on Kirk at all as he’s producing but I’m just not sure Mazzone is really using him like he should be.

As for the rest of the receivers they didn’t do too much which is pretty disappointing considering Tennessee’s secondary isn’t one of the best we’ll face all year.  I know RSJ was out but with the way Tabuyo played last week I was hoping he might be a factor and wasn’t.  Speedy had a 27 yard catch but he also dropped a 3rd down conversion that hit his hands so that was a little disappointing.  I know Trevor is an inconsistent passer but this whole squad of receivers except for Reynolds and Kirk just seems to be inconsistent as well.  There’s plenty of talent there but they just seem to underachieve.  I don’t know if that’s on the receivers themselves or Moorehead as their coach.  If he wasn’t our receivers coach next season I wouldn’t be too disappointed as I haven’t see anything come out of that guy in the time he’s been here other than late night Twitter battles.

As for the play calling I’m still not sure what I think of Mazzone.  I still believe he’s a play picker and not a true play caller.  To me a true play caller is someone that is always setting plays up or sequencing plays to keep drives alive.  We were 5-16 on third downs which isn’t great by any stretch and how we’ve been all season.  We have to get better at that.  I mean it’s actually really terrible as we could be sniffing 50%.  The offense is a little too sporadic for me to think he’s always thinking 2-3 plays ahead or knows the perfect time to call a play based on what he anticipates the defense is going to do.  He’s not horrible by any stretch as we saw horrible the last two years but we just seem to stall out for periods at a time and can’t sustain drives.  We’re a big play offense more than anything else and at some point we’re going to run into a defense that doesn’t allow big plays.  I’m looking mainly at LSU and Bama in that regard.  It’s why I don’t think this is a playoff caliber team.  I do think it’s a borderline Top 10 team because we can hit the big plays but we need more consistency from our offense to sustain drives to truly be an elite level team.   This is a really good football team but it’s not elite mainly because our offense can’t sustain consistent drives.  That’s on Mazzone.

Special Teams:

Man what a cluster this whole day was.  My theory on special teams is unless you truly practice it or are fully dedicated to it like Frank Beamer used to be then it just shouldn’t be noticeable.  That wasn’t the case for us on Saturday.  We all know about the missed potential game winning kick but there was PLENTY of other issues during the game.  Tripucka shanked 3 punts and all in the second half I think.  He had some nice points but midway through the game he just seemed to hit a funk where he didn’t connect cleanly on 3 or maybe even 4 punts.  He did pin 6 punts inside the 20 so he’s actually really good at that but he can’t be shanking balls.  Braden Mann who is our kickoff specialist kicked a ball out of bounds in the 4th quarter.  It wound up not hurting us as I don’t think Tennessee scored on that possession but he can’t be kicking the balls out of bounds.  He just can’t.  Boom it out of the back of the end zone and be done.  The 12th Man did make an awesome hit on a kickoff to cause a fumble we recovered so that was solid.  According to the stat sheet on 12th Man.com we didn’t return one punt or kickoff which I guess is right but Tennessee punted 6 times so I guess we just fair caught each one that didn’t get downed or go in the end zone.

My take on our special teams right now is we’re not going to win any games with special teams so we need to make sure we don’t lose any games because of special teams.  No shanked punts, no kickoffs out of bounds, or mis-handling of the ball.  I do have to give LaCamera credit as he was perfect with extra points and after missing the 38 yarder to win the game he hit the 34 yarder to tie the game and send it to the second overtime.  It’s good to see a kid put a major miss behind him and come back with confidence.  Still, hit the field goals in regulation and let’s avoid overtime all together!

 

Make no mistake that was a damn fine win on Saturday.  Any of the Aggie teams in the last 3 years would have lost that game.  There’s no doubt in my mind.  That win puts as at 9 wins minimum and I think we actually win 10 games splitting one of the Ole Miss or LSU game.  It’s possible we win both of those but I still need to see more of each of those teams to figure out who they are.  It’s possible we go into Bama and win that game but we’re going to need lots of help or Trevor to channel the Trevor that beat Bama in the Sugar Bowl.  In fact now that I think about it I’d love for Sumlin to tell Mazzone to roll the dice and create some plays we haven’t ran all season.  We have two weeks to prepare and nothing would excite me more than to see us come out with stuff Bama hasn’t seen all season.  It’s what I wanted Spav to do last year which he clearly didn’t.

I might do a more in depth analysis of us vs Bama next week after watching Bama and Tennessee this weekend.  It really couldn’t set up any better for us to have a common opponent take on Bama while we take the week off.  Ole Miss put up 43 on Bama and Arkansas put up 30 on them so they’re not invincible.    Bama scored 48 and 49 points in those games but our defense is clearly better than those teams.  I’m not saying we beat Bama but if Sumlin, Mazzone, and Knight realize we’re essentially playing with house money we stand a real chance.

As it is let’s just enjoy this victory over Tennessee and being 6-0 for the first time since 1994.  We’ll worry about Bama next week.  Oh and if there was a Gameday curse we finally got the sucker off our back!  Good job Ags!