Everything old is new again, A&M looked like world beaters in August and September until the big boys showed up in November. A 7-1 start ended with the Aggies losing four of five and the now typical 8-5 record. Call it a tradition.
Let's take a gander at the 2016 Ags.
We harp on this because it's critical, what's the identity of a program? In other words, beyond the "core values" and marketing, what does a program do well? What do they do that makes them special, potent, or hard to deal with? If a program isn't intentional about what it wants to do, it's just hoping things go right and hope ain't a strategy.
The Aggies want to be a physical, downhill spread rushing team. They aren't. The Aggies brought in Dave Christensen in 2015 to remold the offensive line and run game. Didn't work. This year they brought in Noel Mazzone from UCLA, they bragged about how they had rebuilt their roster to deal with the rigors of the SEC West. Mazzone's offense looked a lot like Christensen's. Well with more bubble screens.
The offense ran the football effectively when Trevor Knight was healthy, oh and when they played teams that weren't good. As the season wore on, and Knight broke down, the yards per rush sank and so did the Aggies' chances at winning. In August/September the Aggies rushed for over 7 yards a carry. By November that number shrank to 4.5.
A&M had a plethora of talented receivers. Christian Kirk, Speedy Noil, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Josh Reynolds gave the Aggies perhaps the best receiver group of in school history and yet A&M only ranked 46th in the FBS in passing offense. Part of the issue was Knight's inability to get the ball to them with any degree of accuracy. For all the good things that Knight brought to A&M's run game, he brought an equal measure of inefficiency to the passing game. Knight exceeded 60% in completion rate just twice in 2016. He was below 50% three times.
Defensively this was supposed to be A&M year to assert dominance, returning perhaps the best pass rushing duo in college football and three uniquely gifted safeties. The results didn't match the hype as the Aggies ranked 90th in total defense, 91st in passing defense, and 80th against the run.
In Defensive Coordinator John Chavis' second season, the Aggies were 39 places worse in total defense.
So now we head into a similar offseason with Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat. Can the Aggies improve on 8-5 or will 8-5 be considered an achievement given the attrition of the offseason? We're about to find out.
Without a doubt the Aggies 13 point win at Auburn was the bell cow. A&M beat an overhyped UCLA team, a Tennessee team at home thanks to seven turnovers, and their now annual close AT&T win over Arkansas, but Auburn was different. The Tigers ended up as the second best team in the SEC. Light years behind Alabama, but second best none the less. A 13 point win at Jordan Hare was a huge boost in week three.
A&M lost four of five to end the season, but it's the loss to Mississippi State in Starkvegas that stings the most. The Aggies were 7-1 with the only loss to top ranked Bama. To make matters worse the Aggies were the controversial fourth seed in the initial playoff rankings. The Aggies couldn't stand success and laid an egg to the Bulldogs who ended the season as a five win bowl qualifier.
Answers we have...
The Aggies received some good news when ultra productive Safety Armani Watts announced he was returning for his senior season. As Watts goes, so goes the A&M secondary and he can be among the best in the country.
Trayveon Williams was one of the top backs in the SEC as a true freshman, although his production and touches dropped significantly as the SEC season wore on.
Christian Kirk continues to be one of the most explosive players in college football. His special teams contribution alone makes him a consistent big play threat.
The Aggies may have found a pillar of their offensive line in rising sophomore center Erik McCoy. McCoy was named All-SEC freshman along with Williams.
Answers we need...
With Trevor Knight graduating who does A&M turn to in 2017? Rising Senior Jake Hubenak has been inconsistent and then there are the unproven: redshirt freshman Nick Starkel and incoming IMG quarterback Kellen Mond. The Aggies have been haunted by the ghost of Johnny Manziel since he was banished to Cleveland, can any of these three get close to filling that void.
After Christian Kirk's 63 catches the next most from a returning A&M receiver are six from Jamal Jeffrey. The Aggies will be starting over on the edge in 2017.
You don't lose Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall without feeling some ill effects from the pass rush. Who does A&M have on the roster that can get after the passer?
Perhaps the biggest question on defense is when will the move to John Chavis pay off? Like so many of the Aggies recent coaching moves, this one hasn't paid dividends in on-field production.
A&M's 2017 non-conference slate starts at the Rose Bowl and UCLA and then moves back to Kyle Field for two games against Louisiana schools, FBS Nicholls State and UL Lafayette. In conference the Aggies travel to Florida for the first time since joining the league and have a gauntlet to end the season at Ole Miss and LSU.
9/2 at UCLA
9/9 Nicholls State
9/16 UL Lafayette
9/23 at Arkansas
9/30 South Carolina
10/14 at Florida
10/28 Mississippi State
11/11 New Mexico
11/18 at Ole Miss
11/25 at LSU
The Aggies are currently ranked in the Top 10 by all three recruiting services. The jewels of the class are Kellen Mond, the quarterback from San Antonio Reagan via IMG Academy and Plano East's Anthony Hines. The Aggies have secured the commitment of Jhamon Ausbon, the eight rated receiver in the country.
|Scout Rank||Name||Pos||Pos Rank||Ht||Wt||40 Time||School|
|NR||Dan Moore Jr.||OG||40||6'5"||330||Beaumont, TX|
|31 (JC)||Micheal Clemons||DE||6'6"||250||Cisco JC|
|19||Anthony Hines||ILB||1||6'3"||225||4.5||Plano, TX|
|55||Jhamon Ausbon||WR||8||6'3"||217||4.67||Bradenton, FL|
|159||Devodrick Johnson||OLB||10||6'2"||210||4.65||Dallas, TX|
|NR||Jacob Kibodi||RB||75||6'0.5"||195||Baton Rouge, LA|
|NR||Ondario Robinson||DE||35||6'3.5"||236||5.16||Hutto, TX|
|NR||Jared Hocker||OT||6'5"||291||Haltom City, TX|
|NR||Jayden Peevy||OT||45||6'6"||275||Bellaire, TX|
|NR||Tyree Johnson||DE||53||6'3.5"||247||Washington, DC|
|175||Hezekiah Jones||WR||25||5'11"||185||Stafford, TX|
|291||Camron Buckley||WR||42||6'1.5"||185||4.6||Cedar Hill, TX|
|124||Kellen Mond||QB||10||6'3"||202||4.81||Bradenton, FL|
|NR||Santino Marchiol||OLB||31||6'2"||225||Bradenton, FL|
|NR||Camron Horry||TE||28||6'5"||261||5.06||Katy, TX|
|215||Keldrick Carper||ATH||17||6'3"||185||4.66||Plain Dealing, LA|
|NR||Keynel McZeal||TE||58||6'3"||224||4.69||Port Neches, TX|
|NR||Debione Renfro||ATH||6'2"||180||4.81||Pearland, TX|
|NR||Adrian Wolford||OG||33||6'4"||295||Meeker, OK|
|NR||Connor Blumrick||QB||83||6'6.5"||204||4.74||Pearland, TX|
|146||Derrick Tucker||S||13||6'2"||194||4.63||Manvel, TX|
|NR||Carson Green||OT||63||6'6"||280||Southlake, TX|
|179||Grayson Reed||OT||21||6'4.5"||304||5.41||Houston, TX|
|NR||Myles Jones||CB||35||6'3"||180||Magnolia, TX|
|NR||Roshauud Paul||ATH||48||6'0"||170||4.78||Bremond, TX|
|NR||Devin Morris||ATH||59||6'1"||175||4.43||Caldwell, TX|