Texas A&M football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Aggies, best players and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Texas A&M Offense
The pressure is on new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone as he tries to revive the once-proud and once-devastating attack. It’s not that A&M doesn’t have the talent or the skill, it just hasn’t been able to get the machine to work.
Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight takes over the reins as a veteran, do-it-all quarterback who lost on out on the Sooner starting job because he wasn’t consistent enough or explosive enough – that’s a problem. Fortunately, he’s got a tremendous receiving corps to work with led by Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds. If used correctly, the Aggies could have the best targets in the SEC.
The running game won’t be an afterthought under Mazzone, but it won’t be nearly as explosive as the air show if everything works right. The line has to replace three starters and needs plenty of work, but all this group has to do it give Knight a little time. That’s not a given after allowing 37 sacks last year.
Biggest Key To The Texas A&M Offense
Trevor Knight has to be outstanding. The defense is going to be okay, but the Aggies can’t win the SEC West because of it. The running game will be fine at times, but it’s hardly going to be elite.
The passing attack has to be phenomenal, and that means Knight has to be the Johnny Manziel-clone Oklahoma was hoping to have a few years ago. After the quarterback carousel and all the inconsistencies of the last few years, Knight has to be a full-season starter – and steady.
What You Need To Know About The Texas A&M Defense
It was hardly a brick wall, but by A&M standards or recent years, the John Chavis defense became fantastic going from 102nd in the nation with no run defense whatsoever, to 51st in the nation with no run defense whatsoever. The difference was with the pass D that improved by leaps and bounds.
It helped to play a slew of teams that couldn’t throw the ball, but the Aggies really did make some major strides forward and should be even better this season as long as the tackles are settled in fall camp. Myles Garrett is an NFL pass rusher on one side, leading the way with the pressure coming from several different areas helped by a veteran linebacking corps.
With the help from the pass rush comes another strong year from the secondary with four junior starters from a pass defense that finished fourth in the nation allowing just 166 yards per game.
Biggest Key To The Texas A&M Defense
Stop the run – please. The Aggies haven’t been close to being tough against the better ground games under Kevin Sumlin, allowing almost 2,800 yards last season and five yards per pop. The front seven allowed over 300 yards to Auburn and Louisville – both losses – and gave up over 200 yards on the ground eight times, losing five of them. As bad as things were, though, statistically this was A&M’s best run D in three years. With five starters returning to the front seven, at least the experience will be there.
Texas A&M Will Be Far Better If …
The drama stops. With everything happening at Ole Miss, and all the pressure that’ll be on Alabama and LSU to have massive seasons, and with all the other zaniness surrounding the SEC on a regular basis, it would be nice if this was a very, very quiet season for the Aggies when it comes to all the periphery problems.
They can’t spend the season wondering if this is Kevin Sumlin’s last season, and they can’t keep having recruiting blunders and PR gaffes, and they have to start looking like the cool program again. That only comes with big wins and lots of flash along the way.
Best Texas A&M Offensive Player
WR Christian Kirk, Soph. – It took a lot to step into a loaded Aggie receiving corps and stand out, but Kirk did that leading the team with 80 catches for 1,009 yards and seven scores. While he wasn’t as explosive as Josh Reynolds, he was one of the big positives throughout the year as a steady target catching four passes or more in 11 games.
Best Texas A&M Defensive Player
DE Myles Garrett, Jr. – He would’ve been a top five pick in this year’s draft, and he could be No. 1 overall in 2016 – or at least close to it – if he stays healthy and all goes according to plan. He’s the catalyst and the one who has to be double and triple teamed, and he can handle the pressure. Now it’ll be up to everyone else to do their part.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Kingsley Keke, Soph. – If the Aggie run defense is ever going to be better, it has to get stronger all-around play from the interior. There’s going to be more of a tackle rotation this year with last year’s starters gone, and that’s where Keke comes in. The 315-pound rising star to go along with one-time super-recruit Daylon Mack, who can be moved around to a variety of spots, and Zaycoven Henderson. No matter how this works, Keke – or one of the other options – has to turn into a true anchor.
The Texas A&M Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s a ten-win campaign. The negative momentum has to come to a stop, and that only happens by winning and showing that the problems of the last year were just a blip. The schedule has its issues with a trip to Alabama, but Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU come to Kyle Field, the Arkansas games is in Dallas, and four of the last five games are at home. But as important as all the SEC games are going to be, most important will be …
Sept. 3 vs. UCLA – If ever a coach and a program really, really, really, really couldn’t lose an opener, it’s this one. Drop the date to the Bruins at home, and the hot seat turns into a blazing fire with the SEC world still to come. UCLA is going to be terrific – an A&M win could be a massive confidence boost.
2015 Texas A&M Fun Stats
– Sacks: Opponents 37 for 250 yards – Texas A&M 34 for 200 yards
– Passing TDs: Texas A&M 25 – Opponents 10
– Texas A&M First Half Scoring: 219 – Texas A&M Second Half Scoring 135