- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our "One good reason" series continues with the newbies at Texas A&M.
Let's see what the Aggies might do in their first season in the SEC:
Texas A&M will break through and win at least eight games: Key playmakers are still around on offense and defense.
There are holes on both sides of the ball that must be filled by the Aggies, but there is still some quality talent that will take the field this fall. Offensively, Texas A&M returns what could be one of the top lines in the SEC. It's headlined by left tackle Luke Joeckel and right tackle Jake Matthews, who could be early NFL draft picks next year, and should help provide good time for whichever young quarterback takes snaps this fall. There are also solid players in the middle, starting with veteran center Patrick Lewis. Behind that line you have potential 1,000-yard rusher Christine Michael, who appears to be 100 percent after tearing his ACL last season, and there's still the possibility that Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams could be cleared to play this fall. Wide receiver isn't too bad, either, as seniors Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu return. The two combined for 139 catches, 1,846 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. There are also a few potential breakout candidates at receiver.
On defense, the front seven has some strong components with outside linebacker Sean Porter and converted defensive end Damontre Moore returning. Both combined for 18 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss last year. Add senior Steven Jackson to outside linebacker, and the Aggies could yet again have another ferocious pass rush like the one that generated a nation-best 51 sacks last season. Having leading tackler Jonathan Stewart back at middle linebacker is a plus as well.
The Aggies are facing new challenges in the SEC, but with the key talent returning, they won't be pushovers for their new competition. If these players stay healthy, Texas A&M could pull a couple of surprises.
Why it won't: Too many changes.
While the Aggies do have some talented playmakers coming back, a lot will be different in College Station this fall. For starters, a brand new coaching staff is in place and so is a new offense and defense. The Aggies are moving to a 4-3 defensive scheme and Kevin Sumlin is hoping to incorporate as much of his up-tempo spread offense as possible. He'll do so with a gang of young quarterbacks, who have combined for five career pass attempts -- all from sophomore Jameill Showers, who has the edge at starter. Defensively, the Aggies return studs in the front seven but have a completely new secondary, which could feature three sophomore starters. There were bright spots from Texas A&M's young secondary, especially from Deshazor Everett and Floyd Raven, this spring, but they are still young and they'll have to grow up in the SEC.
Besides the personnel changes, Texas A&M is also entering college football's toughest conference. Division games will now include Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. Linemen are a little faster and a little bigger around these parts. Running backs pound a little harder and skill players have a little more kick in their steps. It's going to take some time for the Aggies to adjust and this year could be full of growing pains.
1dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough
3dSam Khan Jr.
6dSam Khan Jr.