Welcome to the Deadspin 25, a college football poll that strives to be more democratic and less useless than every other preseason poll. Leading up to the college football season kickoff, we will give you previews of the 25 teams that you, the readers, voted to be most worthy of writing about. Now, No. 21 Texas A&M.
Texas A&M is a fine team if you want to watch a squad that will both score and allow at least four touchdowns per game. Nobody can say Aggies won’t be entertaining, but they aren’t exactly going to come out and snatch the league this year.
Last year, Kenny Hill seemed like he was going to fill in for Johnny Manziel just fine after breaking Manziel’s single-game passing yards school record in his very first start against South Carolina. But his time on top was short-lived, as he could not sustain the success he had against the Gamecocks once the team got into conference play. RIP to Kenny “Trill.”
Texas A&M burst onto the scene with a 5-0 record last year because it played teams that moonlighted as garbage cans. Once the Aggies got into conference play, we were able to see that they just didn’t have what it takes to stay winning week-to-week in the SEC West. And what I mean by “it” is a consistent defense and a quarterback that could put up the numbers they needed to win.
So, after eight games, Hill was benched in favor of the top-rated pro style quarterback in the Class of 2014, Kyle Allen. Allen came on and somewhat lived up to his billing, tossing 1,322 yards and 16 touchdowns in four starts. After the season concluded and it was clear that Allen was now The Man, Hill decided to take the L and transfer to TCU, where he will sit out this season due to transfer rules while Trevone Boykin lights up some Big 12 ass.
With Allen the declared starter, things should be notably easier on head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff. Allen definitely has some things to work out in his sophomore campaign—mainly his internal pocket clock—but he’s a great fit for Texas A&M, especially since he gets one of the nation’s top receiving corps to work with.
Wide receiver Josh Reynolds led the team with 842 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014 and should have another big year as Allen’s top option. And although last year’s No. 2 option, Malcome Kennedy, is gone, Speedy Noil, who does indeed live up to his name, is back and will give Allen the chance to put up some more impressive games come September. The group also adds a pair of guys in Ricky Seal-Jones and Edward Pope who both put up at least 450 yards and four touchdowns last year.
In the backfield, running back Tra Carson will return, and although the Aggies will never be a strong running team under offensive coordinator Jake Spatival’s schemes, Carson should be good for a 600-yard season this year.
The offense, of course, isn’t what should worry Texas A&M fans. The offense has never had an issue putting up big numbers. The problem the Aggies have had and still have to deal with is their defense.
When Manziel was in College Station, Texas A&M lost games because its defense was laughable at best. Even with the future Heisman winner regularly spotting them a bushel of touchdowns, A&M would lose games because they simply could not prevent the other team from scoring. The good news is that the defense should start improving, probably later rather than sooner, thanks to the arrival of new defensive coordinator John Chavis from LSU.
Chavis’s decision to leave the Tigers, where he had established top-15 defenses almost annually, was a surprising move considering where he ended up, but a $1.5 million per year contract can be very persuasive. Texas A&M has been pitiful on the defensive side of the ball for a while now, but with Chavis inheriting a few young playmakers and gaining the recruiting advantage Texas offers, the Aggies won’t be a joke for long.
That’s looking a good ways down the road, though. This year’s squad is still going to have some rough times. The good news is that the team returns two standout sophomores in defensive back Armani Watts, who nabbed three interceptions last year as a rookie, and defensive end Myles Garrett. Along with Garrett, the Aggies return their top four sack producers among the front seven, and barring any major injuries to the group, they will get after the SEC’s quarterbacks this year.
As a true freshman, Myles Garrett burst onto the scene, setting the SEC freshman sack record with 11.5 on the year—it’s worth noting that only three came in conference play, though.
Garrett is a mortal man—after all, he’s no Shawn Oakman—but he’s a hell of man. Standing 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, he’s a freak on the field, and as a freshman who teams had limited film on, he made so, so many guards look like children on the field.
This year, Garrett will lack the ability to sneak up on people that comes with being a rookie, but don’t expect him to fall off. This guy was a five-star recruit for a reason, and not just anybody breaks Jadaveon Clowney’s records. He’s going to be entertaining to watch, and should be able to break the double-digit sack mark again this year, even with the double teams that are inevitably coming his way. What makes following up a rookie campaign so hard is having the expectations laid upon you by coaches, fans, and the media. But Garrett is a special talent, and I think as the sole true star on this defense, he’s not going to disappoint in 2015.
No. The Aggies are going to be fun on offense as usual, and they should be at least semi-respectable on defense under Chavis, but the playoff is far out of reach for Kevin Sumlin’s squad. In order to make the vaunted four-team bracket coming out of the SEC West, you have to be a damn-near perfect team, and Texas A&M most certainly is not. I’m not saying all hope is lost and this season is a waste, but this team is not built to sustain throughout an entire season and win the most difficult division in college football.
One of the main things required to win the West is a defense that can at least qualify as good. At best, Texas A&M is a top-70, average defense. The Aggies have the talent in Garrett and Watts, but one stud pass rusher and a good defensive back is not enough to completely reshape a defense, even with Chavis working his magic. The SEC boasts too many amazing running backs, and the Aggies will slip up too many times to put themselves in the conversation.
Kevin Sumlin is many things. Intense, somewhat-ethical, innovative, funny, lucky, and an offensive genius who blessed us with Johnny Football. But is he a dick? One particular pool boy would probably argue yes.
Nah. But they’ll make it fun and upset a few teams that aren’t prepared to stop Kyle Allen and the boys like they did at then-No. 3 Auburn last year, so if you see Texas A&M is playing a top-5 team, it might just be worth your three hours.
Sept. 5: Arizona State
Sept. 12: Ball State
Sept. 18: Nevada
Sept. 26: @ Arkansas
Oct. 3: Mississippi State
Oct. 10: Alabama
Oct. 17: @ Ole Miss
Oct. 29: South Carolina
Nov. 7: Auburn
Nov. 14: Western Carolina
Nov. 21: @ Vanderbilt
Nov. 28: @LSU