Carrying more of the load this year?
Part of an effort to catch up with installments missed due to travel
Perhaps this is falling into the obvious, but our list here appears to be offense-offense-offense. And with Kevin Sumlin bringing his high-flying attack from Houston to College Station, that's probably to be expected. No one expects Sumlin to drop 500 points on the SEC -- particularly not in his and the program's inaugural season in that conference -- but Sumlin was brought to help generate points. (Stemming fourth-quarter collapses would also be nice, of course.) The personnel left behind by the Mike Sherman Administration present opportunities and challenges in that department.
BIGGEST RETURN | RB Christine Michael
We could almost have put Michael under the "breakthrough" category here -- seeing as how he only played in nine games and carried the ball on less than a third of TAMU's rushes. But that would also be a bit disingenuous. When he did run the ball, Michael was very good, picking up six yards a carry for a total of 899 yards and eight touchdowns. That average is better than Cyrus Gray, who ran for 1,045 yards on 49 more carries. Despite its pass-heavy reputation, Houston did run a fair amount last year (420 times) and was pretty successful at it. One way to get around a lack of experience under center is to run the ball, and Michael should be able to do that.
BIGGEST LOSS | QB Ryan Tannehill
There are worse things than losing your experienced senior quarterback in the NFL Draft. One of those would be losing your experienced senior quarterback in the NFL Draft as your program attempts to install a new pass-heavy offense. Which is the situation Texas A&M finds itself in. Tannehill earned a solid 133.18 passer rating last year, going 327-of-531 for 3,744 yards, 29 TDs and 15 INTs. A less-noticed part of his game was mobility: Tannehill gained about 5.3 yards a carry last year and scored four times on the ground, rushing for 306 yards on 58 attempts.
BREAKTHROUGH POSSIBILITY | QB Jameill Showers
"Possibility" is the key part of that phrase in this case. By most accounts, Showers is the favorite to be the starting quarterback when Texas A&M takes the field this season. His stat line passing last year? Oh, 4-of-5 for 40 yards. Not exactly a book full of research there. So it will be up to Sumlin and crew to try to get Showers up to speed on the new schemes and hope he can execute. If he can do so relatively well, the Aggies have enough talent around him to probably do a bit better than most expect.
That's still a huge question mark. There's a chance that Showers breaks through and gives A&M a real chance to make some noise in its first year in the SEC; that's why he's here. But there's also the very real possibility that Showers ends up as one of the many A&M players who find out that the SEC is a bit different than the Big 12.