1. So, another season of high expectations for Texas A&M. They have their QB. They have their coach. Another top-flight recruiting class. But we know by now that the results do not oftentimes match those expectations. How do YOU think A&M faces these expectations this year?
Andrew Spanel: Texas A&M is in a strange situation. Normally, fans would be expecting big results at this point from Jimbo Fisher, but with everything going on right now, it feels like things are once again a year away for the Aggies. Obviously, this includes the restructured schedule and limited capacity at the typically rocking Kyle Field, but between losing guys to injuries and opt-outs before the season even begins, they face a challenging season ahead. The good news is the defense looks to be one of the top units in the SEC, and the offensive line looks solid. The main question concerns the skill players for the Aggies. Mond has been around so long that fans are expecting more out of him, but with a depleted receiving corps, it’s almost certainly going to be rough sledding early on. It could be a lot of ground and pound at first.
Chris Novak: Until they prove that they can meet these expectations, I’m sorry but I’m going to say they fall short. I think you can give them some BOTD here given that their WR corp is absolutely decimated (more on that later) and the abbreviated season will make things tougher. But they have one double-digit win season this century, back in 2012. And they were in the Top 10 for at least one week every year from 2011-2016. They’ve gone 7-6, 9-4 and 8-5 in the last three seasons. You keep waiting, but I need to see it first. This is a pretty talent-rich team especially so on defense, and Isaiah Spiller is very good. But, I think this is another case where they’ll end up falling short.
Robert O’Neill: I’m not going to say it’s a make or break year for Jimbo Fisher because he has one million years and 700 million dollars left on his contract and it’s obviously a weird year all around but at some point they have to hit that second gear and possibly get to how Florida State was under Fisher. That was the goal, right? That’s why you bring him in? Regardless, I really do think this could be a good year for A&M. Alabama and LSU are both looking at potential down years, or at the very least, years with inexperienced quarterbacks at the helm. I’m still not sold on Bo Nix at Auburn, so there’s no reason not to think A&M could be right up there in the division and conference race all season.
Josh Rothenberg: This could have been a big year for the Aggies, but with the new SEC-only schedule and some pretty bad roster attrition, I just can’t see this being the year that the long-awaited breakthrough is going to happen.
2. Speaking of that QB, let’s talk about Kellen Mond. Given all the QB reshuffling this year do you think he’s the best QB in the conference? Or do you think that title belongs to somebody else?
Andrew Spanel: I’m going to say no, but it’s always so hard to predict these things. It’s kind of like picking who you think is going to win the Heisman before the season begins, and the winner is usually some guy who comes out of nowhere. With that in mind, I think we kind of know what we’re going to get with Mond. With the same coaching staff in place too, I don’t think we’ll see him really “breakout.” I know Florida’s Kyle Trask is highly touted, but give me someone like Mac Jones, Myles Brennan, KJ Costello, or even whoever is Georgia’s quarterback as likely finishing ahead of Mond in the end.
Chris Novak: I don’t believe so. Mond is a quality quarterback, but I think Kyle Trask will be the best quarterback in the conference by season’s end. That’s just my personal conviction here. Mond has a lot of good qualities, and we’ll certainly see what he’s made of when it comes to playing with the depleted WR corp. But I think Trask is that guy.
Robert O’Neill: I think it’s Trask and then Mond, but I think Mond isn’t getting enough credit here from the two of you. I could definitely see him taking a step forward this year.
Josh Rothenberg: Even if he is, I don’t think he’s going to be in the best position to show it this year. Personally, I’d have him 3rd behind Kyle Trask and Mac Jones, and not too far ahead of KJ Costello. Mond has always seemed like a perfectly good college quarterback, but I haven’t seen anything that makes me think he is anything more than that.
3. Texas A&M’s WR corp is not all that rich with experience. They have four freshmen on the depth chart, so you figure that tight end Jalen Wydermyer will get a lot of targets. But who do you see breaking out from the group this year?
Andrew Spanel: Man, this group has been absolutely decimated. Their leading receiver is tight end Wydermyer, and after that, the next most experienced guy had three catches last year. I’m going off the board and picking Ainias Smith, who was the backup running back last year and figures to be used in pass catching/ third down situations. Other than that, keep an eye on freshman Demond Demas. Five-star recruit who could make an immediate impact.
Chris Novak: It’s really tough, but I’m going to go with Moose Muhammad III. Maybe that’s just the nostalgia and the namesake here. If it’s not him then I’ll say Kam Brown.
Robert O’Neill: This is where Mond will sink or swim. Can he make something out of this group? I think leaning on Wydermyer a lot is a fine strategy for a bit, and then I’ll go with Moose Muhammad III as well, but that’s the Chicago Bears fan in me.
Josh Rothenberg: I’ll go with Demas. If this group is going to have success they are going to probably need someone to turn into a star on the outside, and while Demas is young, I think he has the most upside in the group. It will just come down to whether he can do it as a freshman in unusual circumstances, which won’t be easy.
4. The defense for A&M has a lot of experience, however. Plenty of juniors, seniors and graduate-level players. Where do you see the biggest strength?
Andrew Spanel: With linebacker Anthony Hines recently choosing to opt-out, I’ll go with the D-line, especially if they can become more disruptive to opposing offenses. However, this whole defense could be scary good this year.
Chris Novak: I tend to agree with Andrew here. Let’s go with the DL. This is a damn, damn good group with Demarvin Leal, Michael Clemons, Tyree Johnson and Jeremiah Martin set to run roughshod.
Robert O’Neill: Like I mentioned above, the elite teams they’ll be facing look to be taking a step back on offense this season, which could be a huge strength for an experienced defense. I agree that it’ll be the DL that is the strongest of the bunch.
Josh Rothenberg: If this team is going to win games this year, it’s going to be because of the defense. Demarvin Leal is an awesome name, as well as an awesome player, and him and the rest of the DL should cause some problems for even some of the better teams they play.
5. Predict how Texas A&M will fare in 2020.
Andrew Spanel: 6-4 (and Jimbo’s seat starts to get a little warm)
Chris Novak: 6-4
Robert O’Neill: 7-3, but I think if they can find a way to split the games against Alabama and Florida (Weeks 2 and 3, respectively) they could go 8-2.
Josh Rothenberg: 5-5