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2015 Fierce 40 Previews: #29 Texas A&M

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 31, 2015

#29 Texas A&M Aggies

2014 Recap
An 8-5 season doesn’t look bad on paper, but Texas A&M had to win their bowl game just to reach 3-5 on the back end of the schedule after a sizzling 5-0 start. Texas A&M dismantled South Carolina 52-28 in the opener and rolled into the game against Mississippi State 5-0, ranking them in the top 10. After dropping a pair of games to slip to 5-2, Texas A&M went into Alabama and lost 59-0, essentially removing them from the SEC title race.

Coaching:
Kevin Sumlin is one of those hot names you hear being mentioned as a possible NFL coach at some point, in fact there were some who thought he would be the Jim Harbaugh replacement in San Francisco. Texas A&M is 28-11 in three seasons under Sumlin. Texas A&M is making the most of being in the SEC and capitalizing on the standing of the conference. This will be a pivotal season to ensure Texas A&M doesn’t lose any of the momentum they have built up in recent years. Jake Spavital leads the offense while John Chavis tries to improve a defense that ranked 102nd overall last season.

Offense Analysis

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:
What an interesting position, quarterback at Texas A&M. This all started with Johnny Manziel winning the Heisman in 2012 and another very successful campaign in 2013. Kenny Hill opened the year as the starter, and after throwing for 511 yards against South Carolina in the opener the Heisman talk began. We have already chronicled that the season got away from Texas A&M and Hill. Hill is now sitting at TCU for a year waiting for Trevone Boykin to graduate before looking to be the heir apparent. Texas A&M went to five star recruit and freshman Kyle Allen, and he will start the season as the quarterback in 2015. Allen wound up throwing for nearly 1,400 yards with 16 TD’s to 7 INT, basically enough to keep the job, but many feel the best is yet to come. Allen has the weapons around him to pile on points, as the Aggies should exceed the 35.2 PPG they averaged a season ago.

Tra Carson is listed as the starter, but the Aggies have a three-headed monster running the football with the help of Brandon Williams and James White. The three combined for 233-1154-11 a season ago which averages out to 5.0 YPC. At 235 pounds Carson keeps the tradition of big bruising Texas A&M backs that can move. There isn’t a superstar among the three, but the Aggies will have fresh legs guaranteed for all of their drives. This running approach should help them hold onto the football, as time of possession was a concern a season ago.

Best Draft Prospect: Tra Carson RB UFA 2016.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
The starting trio of WRs for Texas A&M is the top trio in the SEC Conference heading into the season. With Josh Reynolds the Aggies may have a star in waiting, and the junior could even decide to forego his senior season if he has a monster campaign. Between the 6’4” Reynolds, the 6’5” Ricky Seals-Jones, and 5’11” Speedy Noil, the Aggies have a tremendous mixture of size, athleticism and speed. Reynolds is a junior this season, while Seals-Jones and Noil are sophomores which makes things scarier for the conference if all decide to come back for 2016. Combine the stats for these three together from last season and you are left with 146-1900-22 or 57% of the receiving touchdowns for the team.

Allen has another threat in freshman Jordan Davis who is listed as the tight end but will play the role of h-back in this offense in most sets. As long as the line holds up and gives Allen and the Aggies time to throw, big things can happen.

Best Draft Prospect: Josh Reynolds WR 3rd Round 2017.

 

Offensive Line:
Here is where we will find the most concern heading into the season. The concerns are not based upon personnel but rather the health of the players penciled in as starters. The biggest concern is center Mike Matthews who missed spring ball and claims to have played portions of 2014 on a broken foot. Just how many Matthews offensive lineman are there anyway? It seems like we have a new Matthews prospect every year or two…unbelievable lineage.

Germain Ifedi and Joseph Cheek are both returning starters, but the Aggies will have a new left tackle after Cedric Ogbuehi was drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals. Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemunor are penciled in as the starters on the left side of the line for Texas A&M. Gennesy is a JUCO transfer, and while he will start, there is a chance Texas A&M starts him on the right side and moves Ifedi to the left.

Best Draft Prospect: Mike Matthews C 5th Round 2016.

 

Defense Analysis

Defensive Line:
It is true this team finished 102nd overall in total defense, but that has nothing to do with the exploits of sophomore Myles Garrett. Garrett set the SEC freshman sack record last season, breaking the mark previously set by Jadeveon Clowney. Garrett finished with 11.5 sacks on the season and has stated that this year he wants to set the team record, which is 17 set by Von Miller. At 6’5” 255 Garrett seems to have prototypical size and looks like a future first round pick for 2017, assuming he declares a year early. An early declaration seems like a safe bet, as Garrett may be the best pure pass rushing end in the entire NCAA.

Dasheaon Hall will be the starter opposite Garrett, and he contributed quite well as the team’s third defensive end during 2014. Tackles Julien Obioha and Alonzo Williams both return for their senior seasons, and Williams has a decent shot at getting drafted late or being a free agent signing with a club. Obioha may be bumped out of the lineup by freshman Daylon Mack who looks to be the next star on the rise along the line. Any questions surrounding the defense should not arise from the front four as long as consistency in production is apparent.

Best Draft Prospect: Myles Garrett DE 1st Round 2017 (early declaration is very possible).

 

Linebackers:
There isn’t a lot to report in this section, because there is more uncertainty than certainty surrounding this unit. There are no returning starters from last season, but that might be a good thing since linebacker play was an Achilles heel for the defense a season ago. The top four linebackers on the depth chart for this season missed all or a large majority of spring ball due to injury, so that is not a promising start. Shaan Washington will man one of the outside spots and had the most productive season of the group in 2014 with 64 tackles and a pair of sacks. Sophomore Josh Walker could turn out to be a good middle linebacker, and his continued development will be paramount for the defense this season.

Best Draft Prospect: Shaan Washington LB 7th Round 2017.

 

Secondary:
The secondary loses Deshazor Everett going into this year although he never fully developed into the prospect many thought he could become early in his career. The Aggies return half of their starting four from a season ago with De’Vante Harris at corner and Armani Watts at free safety. Watts was instrumental in the passing game a season ago, as his 3 interceptions was 60% of the teams total of five (one a piece for Everett and Harris), and he led the team with nine passes broken up. It remains to see how Watts will gel with incoming JUCO transfer Justin Evans who looks like he has won the strong safety position. Fellow sophomore Victor Davis should take over for Everett at corner, and he saw action in 12 games a season ago. There is a lot of uncertainty with so many new parts here, but the secondary can be helped tremendously if the pass rush is consistently harassing opposing quarterbacks.

Best Draft Prospect: De’Vante Harris CB UFA 2016.

 

Special Teams


Drew Kaser is a definite weapon. It isn’t often that you can say that about a punter, but Kaser is among the best in the business. Not only can Kaser boot the ball, he does so with superior hang time and excels in directional punting and pinning runners to a particular side of the field in the return game. With Kaser, Texas A&M has a leg up (pardon the pun) in the battle of field position. Taylor Bertolet takes over as the kicker, and he had over half of his kickoffs go for a touchback a season ago when he handled kickoff duties.Speedy Noil has big play ability and is a very capable return man, although he didn’t have a touchdown on special teams a season ago. It’s a safe bet that Noil takes one the distance at some point during the season. Texas A&M led the SEC in punt return coverage a season ago, and that coupled with their outstanding punting game could be a huge factor min their success for 2015.

Best Draft Prospect: Drew Kaser P 6th Round 2016.

 

2015 Schedule


It will be fun for the Aggies to start the season against Arizona State, that promises to be an entertaining contest. Texas A&M will not have back-to-back road games until the end of the season against Vanderbilt and LSU. Texas A&M has a game in Arlington against Arkansas that could knock one of those teams out of the SEC title chase early on. This game will lead into the trio of games that gave the Aggies problems a year ago with Mississippi State, Alabama and Ole Miss. The good news is only the Ole Miss game will be played away from Kyle Field and the 12th man.

 

 

Draft Outlook:

Myles Garrett may only be a sophomore, but he is a legitimate contender for the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a future first round candidate. With so much talent at the receiver position it will be interesting to see if one of the trio of starters emerges ahead and causes some separation as a legitimate draft prospect. Even though kickers and punters are not hot prospects looked at in the early rounds, Drew Kaser could be the first punter off the board in 2016 and one of the few that is actually drafted and not signed as an undrafted free agent.