It’s the start of a new era for the Texas A&M Aggies. Former head coach Kevin Sumlin is stuck in Middle of Nowhere, Arizona, and in his place comes Jimbo Fisher. Although he had a rough end to his tenure with the Florida State Seminoles, Fisher is looking to hit the ground running in College Station.
The hopes of winning a National Championship are there, but it will take time to dethrone perennial favorite Alabama. Fisher will inherit some extremely talented and experienced pieces on this team, and it is up to him to develop consistency.
Looking first at quarterbacks, Fisher and offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey have to make a decision this coming season. Sophomores Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond are both excellent choices at the quarterback position. Starkel is more of a traditional pocket passer in his limited number of snap, and it’s where he shines. Mond meanwhile is a dual threat, as he threw for 1300 yards and rushed for another 340. Mond will be starting the opening game against Northwestern State.
Trayveon Williams returns for junior campaign. In his sophomore season, he rushed for over 700 yards and caught passes for 180 yards. He is going to be the starter once again, hoping to capture another 1000 yard season on the ground.
Although Christian Kirk left and is now also, coincidentally, back in Arizona, the Aggies still have good targets to throw to. A&M returns five of it’s top seven pass catchers, all of whom were underclassmen. Jhamon Ausbon is a big target who can become a No. 1 receiver and a consistent red zone threat. They also add JUCO tight end Jace Sternberger, who should be heavily involved in the offense. With a number of young receivers, look to see new faces like Jalen Preston catching passes.
A&M returns four starters on the O-Line, looking to vastly improve their pass protection and run blocking. Losing senior Koda Martin to grad transfer is a huge blow on the left side of the line. Their depth and development from last season will prove whether or not the line will hold up against some of the better SEC defenses. Speaking of which...
This season, new defensive coordinator Mike Elko looks to rev up this already impressive Texas A&M defense. It all starts up front with the D-Line. The combination of Daylon Mack and Kingsley Keke at DT is phenomenal, but senior pass rusher Landis Durham is expected to carry the load on this line. At the other end position, there are plenty of talented players to fill that spot in the rotation. Look to see Durham and Mack carry the load when it comes to sacking the quarterback.
The linebackers need to continue their performance from last season. Tyrel Dodson and Otaro Alaka are a great combo of linebackers on the weak and strong sides. Anthony Hines will work his way into the rotation as well, and depending on how quickly he adjusts and performs, we could see him playing a larger role on the outside.
The secondary needs to come up big time. Clifford Chattman is back, and Charles Oliver is back on the other side with a year of experience. Look for them to be extremely physical all season long. Derrick Tucker was a hitting machine last season, and other rotation players like Donovan Wilson and Keldrick Carper will be rotated in. This was the Aggies’ one weakness. Behind the front seven, the defensive backs need to be consistent. The problem comes when 751 yards are earned through the air by LSU and Wake Forest.
Game 1, Northwestern State: The warmup game for next week. Look to see plenty of fresh faces after the first two drives. Just pray this isn’t Troy vs LSU.
Game 2, Clemson Tigers: One of the biggest games of the year is extremely early in the season. Texas A&M loses this close game, to win a few bigger ones down the road.
Game 3, ULM Warhawks: Another tuneup game right before the conference schedule starts, look to see A&M go all out to try and break into the Top 25.
Game 4, at Alabama Crimson Tide: Loss to Bama on the road, I know it’s early, but ‘Bama is the most complete team in the country.
Game 5, at Arkansas Razorbacks: A&M will strike back with a win over the Razorbacks.
Game 6, Kentucky Wildcats: Continuing momentum from last week’s win should help the Aggies move past the Wildcats in a must-win game to stay alive for a bowl.
Game 7, at South Carolina Gamecocks: Again, another important road game. look for Trayveon Williams to dominate on the ground.
Game 8, at Mississippi State Bulldogs: I can see Texas A&M pulling off the road win, and as long as they win the final home stand, they should be in good standing.
Game 9, at Auburn Tigers: Having to face the Tigers at this point in the season is tough, almost too close to call.
Game 10, Ole Miss Rebels: Another must win game in the SEC West. Although at this point they cannot compete for a championship, playing in a bowl game should be the priority.
Game 11, UAB Blazers: Win. Next.
Game 12, LSU Tigers: The final game of the season against a predicted mediocre LSU team, look to see the Aggies win.
The Aggies this season are a 8-9 win team (barring losses to Miss St and Auburn). In Fisher’s first season, this could be considered a step back from his Florida State days. However, considering that he competes in the SEC West, I think this would qualify as a pretty good first season. I expect the Aggies to go bowling this year, barring any critical injuries.