A quick recap of what happened last year will prove why the traditional top dogs need to pay attention to Kevin Sumlin’s squad this fall.
Believe it or not, many experts wrote off A&M heading into the 2012 season. The Aggies had just completed a disastrous 7-6 campaign that ultimately cost head coach Mike Sherman his job. Although it returned 16 starters from that team, no one thought Texas A&M had even a punchers chance to compete in toughest division in college football. This lack of confidence showed in the preseason voting as the media picked the Aggies to finish fifth in the West, and selected only two players to the preseason all-SEC first team (and Damontre Moore didn’t even make the third team).
We all know how that turned out. Despite the loss of first round draft pick Ryan Tannehill, the Aggie offense led the SEC in total offense under first-year starter Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy. The defense was equally impressive, leading the conference in passes defensed despite breaking in three new starters.
Although A&M finished with an 11-2 record in 2012, several experts have said that Sumlin’s program will take a huge step back this season for the same reason(s) that they did last year. After all, the Aggies have the monumental task of replacing another first rounder (LT Luke Joeckel) as well as seven starters on defense. Could Texas A&M possibly reload rather than rebuild this fall?
Based on the results of spring practice, the answer is a resounding yes. Despite suffering some key losses, the Aggies will once again be strong on both sides of the ball.
Although Manziel is the catalyst, the Texas A&M offense has more weapons than just Johnny Football. Sophomore Mike Evans continues to improve with each practice, and is a legitimate contender to win the Biletnikoff Award after catching 82 passes a season ago. With the return of Ben Malena and Trey Williams, plus the addition of transfers Brandon Williams (Oklahoma) and Tra Carson (Oregon), the Aggies will have one of the deepest backfields in the nation this year.
The defense should be just fine also. Sure, the Aggies lost plenty of experience, but they’ve played well in spring practice. They’re clearly doing something right if they forced the ultra-efficient Manziel into five picks — more than half of the total he threw during the entire 2012 season — in the first two scrimmages.
Not bad for a unit that finished 12th in the SEC against the pass in 2012-13.
So don’t expect to see Texas A&M fall off the face of the earth this season. If the Aggies can beat Alabama in College Station, they could end up playing for all the marbles.
Who would have thought that would be the case a year ago?
Terry Johnson is a college football writer for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TPJCollFootball, like him on Facebook and/or add him to your network on Google+