Thursday, September 6, 2012
Five storylines: Texas A&M Aggies
By Sam Khan Jr.
Texas A&M hosts no. 24 Florida on Saturday at Kyle Field in the Aggies' first Southeastern Conference game. Let's take a look at five storylines for each team as they head into their SEC tilt:
1. The Kevin Sumlin era begins There's a lot of "new" around Texas A&M football and that includes a new coaching staff, led by Sumlin, the new head coach who spent the last four years at Houston. It also includes new coordinators and assistants and new offensive and defensive schemes. All of those things will be unveiled for the first time on Saturday.
Redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel is the Aggies' starting quarterback against Florida.
2. The debut of "Johnny Football" Along with all the new comes a first-year starting quarterback, redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. The Kerrville (Texas) Tivy product won the job during fall camp after coaches say he made big strides from the spring to the fall. He was an All-American at Tivy, but will make his collegiate debut against an SEC defense that ranked eighth nationally in total defense last year, Florida.
Teammates are already praising Manziel's leadership and he's a true dual threat: if he gets outside the pocket, he has the speed to make big plays on the ground. But nothing simulates game experience, so it will be worth watching to see how Manziel handles the first-game jitters.
3. The key word is 'tempo' The Aggies will debut a new offense that is known for its high tempo. While its roots are in the "Air Raid" popularized by Texas Tech, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury doesn't call it that, and doesn't have a term for it at all. At Houston, Sumlin and Kingsbury's Cougar offenses averaged nearly 80 plays per game last season. Look for the the Aggies to try to match or exceed that pace here in an effort to keep SEC defenses off balance.
4. Stop the run Texas A&M's biggest challenge will likely be slowing down Florida's run game. The Gators were effective in that area against Bowling Green as running back Mike Gillislee had a career day of 148 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Texas A&M's biggest concern area on defense coming into the season is on the defensive line and particularly at defensive tackle.
Talent is not the issue, depth is, because the Aggies made the switch this offseason from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3. The Aggies have worked out and moved players that were previously defensive ends to defensive tackle in fall camp to remedy the depth situation.
5. Welcome to the SEC If there is one theme that has dominated the offseason, it's the anticipation over the Aggies' first season in the SEC. There is an intrigue surrounding the Aggies as they begin their tenure in college football's premier conference and the Gators will provide an ample first test. Not only that, with it being a home game at Kyle Field and College GameDay originating from College Station, it will be an electric atmosphere. Aggies fans have been waiting for this day for a long time.