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Monday, January 14, 2013
Decisions that defined A&M in 2012: No. 5

By Sam Khan Jr.

This week, GigEmNation looks back at five decisions that helped define Texas A&M's 2012 season. These moments could be on or off the field or could have even come before the season, so long that they had a lasting impact on the Aggies' 2012 campaign. Today, we look at our pick for No. 5, the hiring of offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury.

Leading up to the 2012 season, Texas A&M's first in the Southeastern Conference, the question was as frequent as it likely was irritating to Kliff Kingsbury.

Kliff Kingsbury
Kliff Kingsbury used his success at Texas A&M to land the head coaching job at his alma mater, Texas Tech.
"Will this offense work in the SEC?"

Kingsbury, a former Texas Tech quarterback and now Texas Tech's newest head coach, is a disciple of the Air Raid offense. He played in it under former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach and though Kingsbury doesn't call his offense the "Air Raid," many of the principles Kingsbury incorporates into his scheme are rooted from that offense.

Coaches from the Air Raid tree have all, as Kingsbury put it, "put their own spin" on the scheme. Kingsbury, the wunderkind offensive coordinator that head coach Kevin Sumlin hired first at Houston and then later at Texas A&M, is no different in that regard.

And it was the marriage of Kingsbury, redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and this wide-open, up-tempo offense that helped make the Aggies one of the most potent attacks in the country, one good enough to befuddle even back-to-back BCS champion Alabama.

Sumlin, a innovative mind himself, knew what he want and what he wanted his offense to look like. He was the one who promoted a then-30-year-old Kingsbury from offensive quality control assistant to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Houston and gave Kingsbury full rein to call the plays after Dana Holgorsen left Houston for Oklahoma State.

Kingsbury would later say at Texas A&M that Sumlin didn't once question one of his play calls. The result was a record-setting offense at Houston in 2011 that ranked No. 1 in the nation in total offense and scoring. Once Sumlin hired Kingsbury, who joined Texas A&M immediately after Houston's TicketCity Bowl win over Penn State on Jan. 2, 2012, Kingsbury was able to take an already-successful Aggies offense that set its own records in 2011 and make it even more potent. His aggressive nature and confident play calls led to a unit that carried a swagger about it and believed it could score every time it touched the ball.

When it came to answering the question, of whether his offense would work in the SEC, Kingsbury -- publicly -- didn't like to answer with words, often saying, "We'll see."

He didn't have to. The Aggies were definitely SEC-ready when it came to the offensive side.

For the season, the Aggies ranked No. 3 nationally in total offense, racking up 558.5 yards per game, which was tops in the conference. Their scoring offense was also an SEC-best 44.4 points per game, good to tie Baylor for fourth in the nation. And the offense helped produce a Heisman Trophy winner in Manziel whose ability to run from the quarterback position added a dimension that this offensive scheme hasn't seen, maybe ever.

Kingsbury won't be a part of the Aggies' future, as he'll lead Texas Tech moving forward, but he was very much a part of their 2012 success.