MAFGA

Scott Woodward – Sniper Athletic Director

scottwoodward

Scott Woodward is a bona fide sniper athletic director.  He’s been on the job since January of 2016.  That’s about 23 months of service and most Aggie fans don’t know much about him other than he previously served as Washington’s Athletic Director before coming to Texas A&M.  Well, Aggie fans know all about him now with the hire of Jimbo Fisher.  The media can grade out the Jimbo Fisher hire however they want but the fact of the matter is Scott Woodward pulled off the hire of the year and maybe even the past decade.  He convinced a coach with a national championship and a program that by many accounts was established as a Top 10 program to move to Texas A&M.  I can’t think of another time that’s happened in recent memory.

Nick Saban was looking to leave Miami and get back to the college game.  Urban Meyer was sitting on the sidelines.  Chip Kelly was also on the sidelines and was familiar with the West Coast along with being able to hide in Los Angeles.  I don’t think the Chip Kelly is a bigger hire than Jimbo Fisher this year. It took a lot more to convince Jimbo Fisher to leave Florida State and come to Texas A&M than it took UCLA to convince Chip Kelly UCLA was the right school for him.  Going back to recent big hires there was Jim Harbaugh but he’s a Michigan alum and was looking to leave the NFL.  It certainly wasn’t Charlie Strong, Tom Herman, Kevin Sumlin, Art Briles, Chris Petersen, or any other mid-major to major hire.  Maybe I’m missing a hire in the last decade but I can’t think of a hire where a coach left a program like Florida State for Texas A&M.  The most recent might have been Dennis Franchione when he left Alabama for Texas A&M but that was way back in 2002.  That’s been almost 15 years ago.

If you listen to the Jimbo Fisher press conference there’s one reason why Jimbo Fisher is at Texas A&M – Scott Woodward.  Scott Woodward’s friendship was the main reason but there’s no doubt it took some serious convincing to get Jimbo Fisher to make the move.  Bill Byrne nor Eric Hyman could have made this hire.  I’m not convinced any other athletic director in the country could have made this hire.  LSU tried twice and I’m pretty sure Texas asked as well last season.  Jimbo Fisher is a bigger higher than Tom Herman.  There’s no denying that.  I’m sure there’s also been other programs that expressed an interest in Jimbo Fisher but he’s never made the move from Florida State to anywhere but Texas A&M.  Texas A&M has Scott Woodward to thank for that.  There’s no doubt Woodward got plenty of support from those in charge of Texas A&M but this hire is solely Scott Woodward’s.

The interesting thing about Scott Woodward if you pay attention to conversation about athletic directors across the country you never hear his name mentioned.  At all.  Scott Woodward’s name never comes up with the “big named” athletic directors.  The only thing anyone knows about Scott Woodward at Texas A&M other than this hire is when he went on the record saying Kevin Sumlin needed to win more at SEC media days.  Outside of that comment you’ve never heard about Scott Woodward.  People have heard of Joe Castiglione at OU, Scott Stricklin at Florida, Jeff Long formerly of Arkansas, Chris Del Conte now of Texas, Greg Byrne at Alabama, and others but you NEVER have heard of Scott Woodward with those names.  You likely won’t hear Scott Woodward’s name much despite pulling off the biggest hire in college football in the last 10-15 years.  He just sits in the weeds and does his job with no self-promotion which is why you don’t see his name thrown out there.

No matter what anyone says the MOST important thing an AD in college athletics can do is hire a winning football coach.  You win in football and everything else falls in place.  Athletic Director’s careers are made based on the success of the football coach.  Everything else is a distant second.  If you’ve got a winning football coach and have the ability to string complete sentences together in a crowd you’re going to be crowned a “successful” athletic director.  There’s no doubt Jeff Long got ran off from Arkansas because he hired Brett Bielema.  The man had done really well with the Arkansas athletic department but got fired because he hired Brett Bielema.  Joe Castiglione, Chris Del Conte, and Greg Byrne are all considered elite athletic directors because of the football program.  There’s no doubt those guys are competent athletic directors but the success of the football program lifts the perception of the rest of the athletic department.  It’s that plain and simple.

Scott Woodward is a Sniper Athletic Director because you haven’t heard a peep from him other than his introductory press conference in January 2016 and his comments this year at SEC Media Days.  On December 1, 2017 he fired a shot that made everyone stand up and take notice.  At least those with half a brain took notice.  Scott Woodward without any fanfare brought Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M.  He made his comment during SEC Media Days stating expectations and that had been it from him.  When it came time to pull the cord on Sumlin he quietly and calmly pulled the trigger bagging his mark.  Everybody knew he was around but nobody was really sure what was going on.  There was lots of speculation but nobody knew for sure.  Woodward didn’t say anything during the whole process other than when it was announced Sumlin would no longer be the head coach.  Woodward simply said the next time you would hear from him is when the new coach was named.  That was it.  That’s operating like a sniper rather than an infantry person spraying bullets hoping something big falls.  See Tennessee for an example of that later.  Woodward had his mark, his perch, and fired a clean shot.  That’s the way snipers work.

His use of the media was very well done.  Rather than let some wild speculation happen there was just enough leaks to keep any media person specifically covering Texas A&M on the Jimbo Fisher trail.  Some media people were speculating other names but those that cover Texas A&M closest always pointed to Jimbo Fisher.  It wasn’t just one media person either.  Brent Zwerneman, Billy Liucci, and Mark Passwaters who cover A&M the most were consistent in their updates it was Jimbo Fisher.  I’m hoping that was by design to get just enough information out there but not too much if Jimbo Fisher couldn’t be landed.  On the day Sumlin was let go, Randy McIlvoy of KPRC in Houston was brought into the mix to announce “according to sources” Jimbo Fisher would be the next head coach at Texas A&M.  Jimbo Fisher had one more game to go but something tells me McIlvoy’s source was the Athletic Director at Texas A&M.  At least whoever told McIlvoy had the blessing of the Athletic Director to go ahead and get the name out there.  This way when the hiring was made official it wasn’t a total shock and the media was ready cover it from different aspects.  Woodward proved the doubters wrong but he left enough crumbs out there for those truly paying attention with an objective lens.

The hiring process really reminded of the move to the SEC.  Dr. Loftin spoke just enough to control the message but never overpromised anything.  There was denial and speculation early on by a lot of the media people just like with the Jimbo Fisher.  Through it all A&M kept quiet making sure everything was lined up.  As things appeared to be happening enough news was leaked so people were prepared for the official announcement and it wouldn’t be complete shock and awe.  I thought Texas A&M handled the move to the SEC and hiring of Jimbo Fisher with almost perfect execution.  They spoke less and executed more.  As Jimbo Fisher said in his opening press conference, “Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying.”  Texas A&M’s actions said exactly what Texas A&M is about.  Doubt us and we’ll prove you wrong.

With a 10 year, $75 million contract Scott Woodward’s entire legacy is likely tied to the success or failure of Jimbo Fisher.  It seems he knows that which is why you don’t hear much from him.  I suspect Woodward will stay behind the scenes and let the football program speak for his acumen.  This was his hire and he knows this will be his legacy.  He knows ultimately the actions of the football program will speak so loudly nobody will hear what he’s saying.  There’s no point in saying anything.  Just sit back like a sniper hoping his job is done.

If you want to know a little more about Scott Woodward he’s a graduate of LSU which makes the hire of Jimbo Fisher ironic because his alma mater couldn’t do it in two previous attempts.  He graduated in 1985 and worked in politics working mainly on campaigns for state and national elections.  In 2000 he was hired by LSU as director of external affairs also serving as the liaison between the chancellor and athletics.  In 2004 he left LSU for Washington working in the same role.  In 2008 he was named the athletic director at Washington where he served in that role before taking the same role at Texas A&M in January of 2016.

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What Jimbo Fisher Means for Texas A&M

Jimbo Landing in Aggieland

A Change in Perception:

When Texas A&M made the hire of Jimbo Fisher official it sent a clear message.  Underestimate Texas A&M all you want but Texas A&M doesn’t hold the same belief.  Many national and regional “experts” believe Texas A&M is a second tier program in college football.  They don’t think A&M can compete with the “bluebloods” of college football.  They haven’t been to College Station in 10 years and they still hold their stock in IBM having never invested in Apple, Amazon, or Microsoft.  You know, because nothing ever changes.

7 years ago these “experts” that make a living talking college football said Texas A&M wouldn’t get an invite to the SEC.  Well, Texas A&M got the invite to the SEC and made the move in 2012.  They said it was a stupid move.  The first season in the SEC Texas A&M won 11 games and finished in the Top 5 while Johnny Manziel won a Heisman.  That was only six seasons ago where Texas A&M competed at the highest level.  Sure, it turned out to be a blip but the reality is Texas A&M competed at the highest level and built the most expensive stadium in college football over the last six seasons.  Texas A&M can compete at the highest level.

When chatter of Jimbo Fisher getting hired by A&M recently surfaced these “experts” said there was no way Jimbo Fisher would leave FSU.  They said it was a second tier program under Florida State.  They’re talking about the school that finished in the Top 5 only six seasons previously and had the most expensive college football stadium ever built.  No stadium even comes close to the amenities of modern day Kyle Field.  These “experts” couldn’t think past the last 12 months.  They were convinced Texas A&M despite the 2012 season, it’s location, it’s facilities, and it’s resources couldn’t attract a coach of Jimbo Fisher’s caliber because it was a second tier program.  On December 1, 2017, Jimbo Fisher made it official he was leaving Florida State for Texas A&M.

Sadly for these “experts” if they have any historical context their historical context is that of Dennis Franchione, Mike Sherman, and recently Kevin Sumlin.  They forget Texas is a hotbed of football recruits and economic development.  And I mean a hotbed of football recruits and money.  They forget the years from 1985 to 1995 when Texas A&M finished in the final Top 20 for 10 of those 11 seasons.  The overall record over those 11 seasons was 104-27-2.  That’s a winning percentage of 78 percent.  The record at Kyle Field was 63-5-1.  That’s a winning percentage of 91 percent.  That’s a flat out decade of dominance at home.  1985 was 32 years ago which seems like a long time but it’s not forever ago.  For whatever reason these “experts” assumed Texas A&M was just a second tier football program that didn’t belong in the discussions of the upper tier programs.

They believe despite the brand new $450 million stadium and facilities that rival anybody in the country along with a hotbed of recruiting Texas A&M can never compete at the highest level of college football.  These people get paid to be “experts” about college football.  The truth is these people are idiots and lazy.  They sit in their studios watching the games never visiting any campus.  Their sole basis for being an “expert” is the most recent decade of success.  They’re judging Texas A&M based solely on the jobs done by Mike Sherman and Kevin Sumlin.  Mike Sherman and Kevin Sumlin are outstanding people but they didn’t prove to be great college football coaches.  College football more than any other sport is about the head coach.  In college football the head coach has the highest input of 85 scholarship players including their recruiting, the walk-ons, and the largest staff of any college sport.  The sport requires 22 different starters with 11 of those having to work in perfect unison on every play.  No other sport comes close to the overall volume and detail the head coach must think about.  Because of that the head coach has to be something special.  The greats are few and far between.  A&M has simply failed on having a great head coach since R.C. Slocum around 1995 with a couple blips in 1998 and 2012.  We’ve been in a coach drought.  Simple as that.  It hasn’t been a resource problem.

The hire of Jimbo Fisher changes that perception.  At least it should.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher makes these “experts” wake up and pay attention.  They can deny it but they’re paying attention.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher changes the national perception of Texas A&M’s willingness and ability to compete at the highest level in college football.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher says A&M is capable of things people have forgotten about.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher tells the “experts” you can think what you want about Texas A&M but Texas A&M thinks differently about itself.

A lot of these “experts” will continue questioning if A&M is a better job than FSU when a man just staked his career to it.  Sure, Jimbo Fisher left for more money but he was already a Top 5 paid coach in college football.  The dude is as driven by anyone to win college football games.  It’s not like he’s coming to College Station for more money and ride out his career for a decade.  That makes no sense at all if you think about it logically.  A man who seemingly had it all at FSU left for another program.  Why would that be?  The only real logical explanation is the person himself who has more vested than anyone feels that Texas A&M offers a better chance to win a national championship than Florida State.  It really is as simple as that.  Sadly the “experts” will go on and on this is about money and Jimbo Fisher is an idiot.  I don’t think it’s about money as Jimbo already has plenty and FSU wasn’t firing him anytime soon.  Jimbo Fisher may be wrong in the end but the reason he made the move is he feels Texas A&M offers a better chance to win a national championship.  It’s the only reason an established coach at a proven Power 5 program would leave for another one.  It doesn’t happen very often.  I don’t think Jimbo left because of the FSU fans being critical over this season.  That seems awful petty.  Jimbo seems to have more confidence and pride to let a few fans piss him off and leave.  Jimbo left because he thinks Texas A&M offers more resources to win a national championship than Florida State.

Some of the “experts” will also say Dennis Franchione left Alabama for Texas A&M and look how that turned out.  They won’t look under the hood and realize Dennis Franchione was a fraud because he was built up by Gary Patterson much the same way Dan Hawkins was at Boise St.  Dennis Franchione jumped because of the pending scholarship restrictions coming Alabama’s way.  He too at the time believed Texas A&M offered a better chance to win a national championship than his current situation like any coach that decides to move.  Alabama was pretty bad after Fran left until Saban showed up.  The problem with Fran was he wasn’t actually a good football coach.  This is why he struggled at Texas State when he did get another job.  Winners win at any level they coach if given enough time.  Comparing Jimbo Fisher and Dennis Franchione is an exercise in being lazy.  Much different circumstances.  Still, those with the inability to have logical thoughts will use that as an argument because they sit in a studio having never been to the campus and regions around Texas A&M and Florida State football.  Just because the wins and losses over the last two decades are different doesn’t mean the resources and potential are different.

Ironically enough I’ve been saying for two decades if Florida State, Miami, and Florida can all be seen as equals on the football field why can’t Texas and Texas A&M?  Texas has access to great football talent just like Florida does.  How is Florida allowed/able to have three marquee programs in their state but Texas which is a bigger state than Florida can only have one?  Spare me the argument there’s more bigger schools in Texas because Florida has a boat load of schools as well.  Also spare me the argument Oklahoma steals recruits out of Texas.  There are PLENTY of great Texas high school football players to build a championship team at A&M.  The problem has been and always will be coaching.  Texas A&M since R.C. Slocum started declining in the late 90s has failed to hire a competent coach.  Dennis Franchione, Mike Sherman, and Kevin Sumlin were simply not great football coaches.  Texas A&M for two decades had the wrong person under the headset.

For most, the perception of Texas A&M football will change but some people will keep their head in the sand even though a man staked his career to the move.  He burned his legacy on the way out of Tallahassee so he obviously sees something beyond the money.  At least I think he does.  Most will understand and watch with curiosity if he’s right while the truly moronic people will continue to question why he’d make the move.  Those people need to shut up and save the world’s oxygen for something else.

The ultimate perception shift will only occur if Jimbo actually wins and competes with the team in Tuscaloosa.  If he mimics Sumlin’s regular 8-4 record and third to fourth place in the SEC West the “experts” will be proven right.  If at minimum Jimbo replaces LSU as the second best program in the SEC West while Saban is at Alabama then he’ll prove it was the right move.  If Jimbo actually wins a national championship at Texas A&M I’ll start a Go Fund Me page to send every person that questioned why Jimbo would leave FSU for A&M an actual plate of crow.  I’m dead serious.  Keep those Tweets.  I’ve got two from Mike Greenberg and Richard Justice even though Richard Justice deleted his.

Will Jimbo prove the critics right or wrong?  Nobody has any idea.  That includes Jimbo and the people that made the decision to bring him in.  Only time will tell but Texas A&M on December 1, 2017 put their proverbial nuts on the table.  Those in charge of hiring a football coach for Texas A&M believe completely different than the “experts” that say Jimbo Fisher is an idiot.  Jimbo Fisher has to win to fully change the perception.  If that happens those “experts” that questioned the move will be proven the idiots.  I can’t wait.

The Mechanics of the Hire and the Contract:

Kudos to Scott Woodward on this hire.  Much like when Dr. Loftin took us to the SEC he spoke very minimally and executed like an assassin.  With assassins you never know what’s going on but the results are crystal clear.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher is crystal clear.  Scott Woodward is an assassin and that’s a good thing.  While everyone else was out creating wasted noise Woodward was doing his work and when it mattered most pulled the trigger with clear results.  No fanfare and no hype.  Just the clear result for the main target all along.  You love an assassin when they’re on your side.

In the end it sort of seems like a simple hire because there was no fanfare.  It wasn’t.  LSU tried to do it the previous two seasons and failed.  There’s speculation of how long Woodward has been working on this but it doesn’t matter.  He got the best coach that would come to Texas A&M.  Texas A&M was not getting Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Dabo Swinney, or Jim Harbaugh.  I suppose there’s a possibility of getting Chris Petersen but I like the Jimbo Fisher hire more than Chris Petersen which I’ll get to in a little bit.  I don’t know the full mechanics of this hire but Woodward executed them perfectly.  He zeroed in on Fisher as the biggest attainable fish and reeled him in with flawless execution.

Despite what the “experts” say this wasn’t simply a money whip either.  Like I referenced above Jimbo didn’t leave just for money.  His situation at Florida State wasn’t bad at all.  It took Woodward convincing Jimbo he would be better served at Texas A&M.  That’s one hell of a sales job and Woodward should get more credit by the “experts” for pulling this off.  LSU has been perceived as the better program but yet Texas A&M is the one that could pull off the hire in one try.  Give credit where credit is due and that appears to be the work of Scott Woodward and those at Texas A&M that supported Woodward.  Thank goodness we’re not Tennessee.  Plus, we’re about to find out what’s going on at FSU as it seems Willie Taggart has turned them down.  Scott Frost is also going to Nebraska so he’s not a candidate.  This hire couldn’t have been cleaner.  Great job by Woodward.

As for the magnitude of the reported $75 million contract over 10 years let’s break it down a bit.  Had Sumlin stayed at A&M for 10 years we would have paid him $50 million.  That’s assuming he never got a raise.  That’s $2.5 million a year difference.  If Sumlin had more repeated success there’s no doubt we would have paid Sumlin more than $5 million a year through a raise.  On a per year basis it’s really not that much difference because in big time college football $2.5 million isn’t much.  We’ll make it up in Double Dave’s pizza rolls sales each season.  That is if Double Dave’s can get their act together and have enough on hand where there’s no line and they never run out.  Double Dave’s with better execution can make up the difference if they’ll execute like Woodward.  There’s always a line for pizza rolls and they always run out.  Talk about missed opportunity.  Although I’m more of a Gumby’s pizza roll guy because they add garlic or something giving it more flavor.  Never understood why Double Dave’s got all the pizza roll love when Gumby’s pizza rolls are better.  All marketing and not product in my mind but that’s a blog post for another day.

As for the length of the contract these “experts” and “critics” are some of the same people that said we didn’t give Kevin Sumlin enough time with 6 years.  We’re committing to Fisher for a decade so that’s only 4 years more than what Sumlin got.  That should be a positive.  Fisher is only 52 which at the end of his contract he’ll be younger than Nick Saban is now.  Arizona State just hired a 62 year old to run their football program.  It’s not unexpected that Fisher can coach 10 more years.  Maybe he doesn’t win a national championship but his track record says A&M will be better off than the previous three coaches we hired.  Winners win and history indicates Jimbo Fisher is a winner.

Winners don’t come cheap so committing $75 million over 10 years for a coach with Jimbo’s track record seems reasonable to me.  It’s steep but it’s a cost of doing business.  Attempting to win a national championship requires money or luck.  We’ve run out of luck at Texas A&M so time to throw money at winning it all.  Mike Gundy was offered 6 years at $7 million by Tennessee and Gus Malzahn has apparently received a raise to $7 million by Auburn.  Jimbo at $7.5 million doesn’t seem out of line at all compared to the numbers that have come out this past week.

If in 10 years Jimbo Fisher has not won more than the coaches that came before him then Texas A&M needs to do a serious internal analysis.  Stop wasting money on football and turn Kyle Field into a bullfighting arena or something.  If Jimbo is worse than or even equal to Kevin Sumlin then we need to stop wasting money on football all together at Texas A&M.  This is an experiment at the highest level to see where Aggie Football can go.  It’s time to step up to find the ceiling.  Finding that ceiling costs money.

I’ve seen Mike Leach’s name get thrown out there for saving money and getting similar results.  Nobody loves Mike Leach more than me since he’s no longer at Tech clowning Franchione and Sherman.  I don’t really get it though.  Mike Leach is a fine coach but he’s never won a division.  Sure, he tied for it once at Tech but after beating Texas to have the inside track to win the division his team got clowned by OU.  He had the division in front of him and he couldn’t get it done.  Then he lost the Cotton Bowl to Ole Miss that season.  That’s the closest he’s ever come to winning a division and a major bowl.  Mike Leach will do more with less but he has a ceiling in my mind.  Mike Leach has won 10 games in ONE season of 16 seasons as head coach.  I know Texas Tech and Washington State aren’t perennial winners but you would think he’d have at least one more season where he won at least 10 games.  He’s only had one.

I don’t think rolling the dice and saving money would have been a good move with Leach.  I don’t see the “great” switch going off for Mike Leach at Texas A&M or any major program.  He’ll be a thorn to opponents but he’ll never win it all.  It’s not worth saving money to not have a chance to win it all.  That goes for any other similar unproven coach.  It wouldn’t have been worth it to save some money and “hope” that coach becomes great at Texas A&M.  We tried it with Franchione and Sumlin and it didn’t work.  Like I said earlier we’re out of time for “hope” so it’s time to spend money.

$75 million for ten years seems like a risky investment but let’s take a look at Jimbo the coach and see how risky it is.  Everybody said the Red Sox and Cubs couldn’t win it all until they finally hired someone competent enough to lead the team.  It’s always about leadership and that costs money.

Jimbo the Head Coach:

I believe a coach’s record matters more than anything else.  You can play ifs and buts all you want but over a period of time a coach’s record no matter where they coach will reflect their ability.  If he’s at a horrible program he’ll improve the record he took over if he’s a good coach.  Let’s look at Jimbo’s record and the four seasons at Florida State before he took over from Bowden.

The first four years are Bobby Bowden and the final eight years that are bolded are Jimbo Fisher.

Year Record Conference Bowl (W/L) Final Rank Title
Bowden – 2006 7-6 3-5 Emerald – W NR
2007 7-6 4-4 Music City – L NR
2008 9-4 5-3 Champs Sports – W 23 Division
2009 7-6 4-4 Gator – W NR
Jimbo- 2010 10-4 6-3 ChickFilA – W 16 Division
2011 9-4 5-3 Champs Sports – W 23
2012 12-2 7-1 Orange – W 8 Conference
2013 14-0 8-0 BCS NCG – W 1 National Champ
2014 13-1 8-0 Rose – L 6 Conference
2015 10-3 6-2 Peach – L 14
2016 10-3 5-3 Orange -W 8
2017 5-5 3-5

 

As you can see, the four seasons before Jimbo took over Florida State was not exactly a dominant program.  Florida State only finished once in the Top 25 those four seasons.  Their best record was 9-4 with an ACC division championship.  Other than that Florida State had a 7-6 record each season prior to Jimbo Fisher taking over.

The first season Jimbo took over he lead Florida State to a 9-3 regular season record winning the Atlantic Division.  They lost to Va. Tech in the ACC Title game but beat South Carolina in the ChickFilA Bowl.  That’s a pretty quick turnaround from the previous season at Florida State where they went 7-6.

Overall, including bowl games, Jimbo Fisher won 10 games or more in 6 of 8 seasons.  He was 6-2 in bowl games including 2 Orange Bowl wins and a national championship in the Rose Bowl.  That’s three marquee bowl game wins which is damn impressive in 8 seasons.  He went to 5 marquee bowl games from 2012 to 2016.

He lost the Rose Bowl in 2014 in the first year of the College Football Playoff to Oregon and Marcus Mariota.  In 2015 FSU lost to UH in the ChickFilA Peach Bowl.  I believe FSU was on their third string quarterback that game.  That can be considered a bad loss but that UH team was hitting on all cylinders and Tom Herman at UH was 5-0 against Top 25 teams at UH.  I’m not going to completely ding Jimbo for that loss even though it looks pretty bad.  In 2016 Jimbo beat Jim Harbaugh’s vaunted Michigan team in the Orange Bowl.  He’s played in big bowl games and done pretty well.

A lot of people like to point out Jimbo’s greatest success came with Jameis Winston under center.  That can be considered true but the fact of the matter is Florida State went 27-1 those two seasons.  Say what you want to about Jameis but Jimbo harnessed his talent to only lose 1 game in 2 seasons. That’s remarkable.  Jameis was a great college quarterback but Jimbo deserves credit for going 27-1 in those two seasons.  How many coaches have gone 27-1 over two seasons?  Not many at all.  It still takes coaching to win like that even if you have talent.  Ask Mack Brown, Les Miles, and Ron Zook.

Outside of Jameis, Jimbo has lead Florida State to a 56-21 record which is a 73 percent winning rate.  That includes the 5-5 record this season which has brought it down some.  Even without Jameis Winston and a .500 season he’s basically winning every 3 of 4 games.  Add in the Jameis Winston years and Jimbo has an overall record of 83-22 which is an almost 80 percent winning rate.  That’s winning every 4 of 5 games over 8 years as the head man at Florida State.  That’s damn good no matter how you want to spin his time there.  I firmly believe winners win and there’s no denying Jimbo Fisher won a lot of football games at FSU.

Based on the last 12 years of Florida State football there’s no reason to think Jimbo Fisher won’t improve the number of wins the Aggies have going forward.  His 8 seasons of football at Florida State speak for themselves compared to the previous 4 seasons.  He wins football games plain and simple.  There’s plenty of talent on the A&M football roster to win more games in 2018 than in 2017.  His biggest issue is going to be improving the A&M offensive line along with deciding pretty early if he wants to have a dual threat attack with Kellen Mond or a straight passing attack with Nick Starkel.  He may also bring in another quarterback but my guess is he’ll roll with either Mond or Starkel.

The schedule is pretty tough playing Clemson and Alabama in 2 of the first 4 games so we’ll find out pretty quickly if Jimbo can make improvements to Aggie football.  I don’t expect A&M to win those games but I do expect them to be competitive in those games.  The rest of the schedule should be pretty manageable with Auburn and LSU posing the toughest tests for the remaining 8 games.  I don’t think it’s out of the question for A&M to go 8-4 next season at minimum but if Jimbo is worth his $7.5 million a year we should win at least 9 games and potentially 10.  I do expect to see immediate improvement when it comes to wins and losses next season.  We didn’t hire Jimbo to “build” a program.  We hired him to come in and start winning more games right away.  He’s got a 10 year contract but he’s being paid to win more in Year 1.  No excuses.  There’s no “building” with his pedigree and what he’s being paid.

In addition to his coaching record Jimbo is known as an elite recruiter.  He had a head start on Kevin Sumlin’s time in Aggieland having already been at Florida State for 2 seasons but Florida State out-recruited Texas A&M in each of Sumlin’s six seasons.  Sumlin was seen as a strong recruiter but Jimbo proved better.  In 8 seasons of signing recruits Florida State was ranked in the Top 10 every season except for one where they came in at number 11 so almost in the Top 10.  In those 8 seasons Florida State was ranked in the Top 5 for 5 of those signing classes.  That’s an elite level of recruiting for sure.  There’s no reason to think Jimbo Fisher can’t do the same at Texas A&M.  He’ll be leading the only SEC team in the state of Texas and the other flagship school struggling right now so he shouldn’t have issues recruiting.  He’s an offensive coach but Jimbo recruited elite talent on both sides of the ball at Florida State.

Jimbo and his staff appear to do a pretty good job developing that talent.  Florida State has had 35 players drafted in the last 5 years.  That’s averaging 7 players each year of the last 5 NFL drafts.  There’s been 35 rounds in the last 5 NFL drafts so Florida State basically had a player for every round.  It didn’t break down that way but you get the point.  It certainly appears that Jimbo can not only recruit elite level talent but he and his staff can also develop it.  There are lots of coaches that can recruit but can’t develop talent and Jimbo seems to develop talent.

The data basically speak for itself in Jimbo’s time at Florida State.  If you look at record, recruiting, and drafting Jimbo Fisher is a Top 5 coach in the country.  That’s pretty hard to argue.  There’s no guarantee those things will carry over at Texas A&M but at least he’s proven he can do it.  I don’t think he would have taken the job if he didn’t feel he can replicate his success.  Maybe he just cashed a huge lottery check but I really think he believes he can do at Texas A&M what he did at Florida State.  He wouldn’t have made the move if he didn’t because his situation at Florida State was really damn good.  I mean the “experts” say that Florida State is the better job.  Jimbo Fisher made a calculated decision he can do at Texas A&M what he did at Florida State.  I’ll trust the man with the skins on the wall over the “experts” that sit in a studio or behind a keyboard.  One man has done it.  The others haven’t.

Make no mistake Jimbo Fisher was hired to Make Aggie Football Great Again.  Only time will tell if he actually can.  Based on his time at Florida State there’s no reason think in 5 years he won’t change the phrase Make Aggie Football Great Again to Made Aggie Football Great Again.  For $7.5 million a year he better change the “k” in Make to a “d” for Made.  When that happens it will prove every single dollar we signed Jimbo for was worth it and the “experts” are idiots.  We’ll be shipping plates of crow all over the country.

#MAFGA

Gig ‘Em Aggies!

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Is Jimbo Fisher a Good Hire for Texas A&M?

Jimbo Fisher

There’s some chatter out there that Jimbo Fisher is a primary target of Texas A&M to replace Kevin Sumlin.  I don’t know if he’s an achievable target or not but the chatter is out there.  He has a history with A&M’s Athletic Director as they were both together at LSU back in the day.  They know each other which always helps in the hiring process.  Would he be a good hire for Texas A&M?  I’m not sure but let’s take a look.

Before I look at anything coaching related let’s be clear Jimbo Fisher is an asshole.  He’s got a temper and it gets the best of him sometimes.  Earlier this season he told a fan to come down and fight him after the fan told Jimbo he needed to fire some of his coaches.  A lot of coaches are assholes so that’s not a big deal but you can’t engage fans and invite them to come out of the stands and fight you.  If they jump out of the stands and confront you that’s one thing.  If there’s a fan in the stands saying bad things as you run back to the locker room you have to keep going.  You can’t engage any negative behavior from anyone in the stands ever.  Words from a distance are just that and nothing more.  Be bigger than that and move on.

Beyond that the thing that bothers me the most about Jimbo Fisher is his involvement in the Jameis Winston rape issue.  It’s very Art Brilesesque.  I obviously have no direct knowledge of what happened between Winston and the girl that night but what I do know is there appears to be a systematic failure to truly discover what occurred that night.  The Florida State administration (including Athletics), Florida State Police Department, Tallahassee Police Department, and Tallahassee District Attorney are all either completely incompetent or weren’t really interested in finding out the truth over what happened that night.  Jimbo Fisher is a part of that.  Where they purposefully covering up for a star athlete, afraid to find out the truth, or just incompetent?  I don’t know the answer but it was one of those three if you read how everything was handled involving the investigation.  It doesn’t give you a warm and fuzzy feeling things were handled correctly.  Well, that is if you think rape is a really bad thing and deserves investigating.  If you think rape is no big deal then I’m sure you don’t have an issue with how things were handled.

If Texas A&M is serious about hiring Jimbo Fisher I want a very lengthy and extensive conversation as to what he knew and how he would handle the Jameis Winston situation looking back at it.  I would purposefully ask him what he thinks of the situations with Joe Paterno at Penn State and Art Briles at Baylor.  In both of those instances those coaches just wanted to wash their hands of the situations.  They had no interest in taking the lead and doing what was right in those situations.  Fisher at best was similar with Jameis Winston.  He seemed to just want to know if he’d have his star quarterback to play games.  Fisher did not take the lead trying to uncover the truth about that night.  That’s fine as it shouldn’t necessarily be the head coach’s job but at some point I hope he at least had an uneasy feeling for how things were handled.  I would ask him that point blank.

If he’s flippant or not contrite in how things were handled I’d thank him for his time telling him he was free to leave.  Think back to the Art Briles interview on ESPN the season after he was let go.  He was very vague about everything never offering specifics and seemed to fake feeling contrite only because he was supposed to.  If Fisher is not sincere in his answers to how things could have been handled with Winston then there’s no point in asking him further questions.

I can handle an asshole as a head coach but when it comes to matters of rape I want someone that understands the severity of something like that.  I want someone that understands there’s a point where a line is crossed and people need to step back thinking about more than football.  I don’t expect a head coach to be a saint and perfect at all times but I do need to know my head coach does in fact have a moral compass and there’s a line that once crossed everyone needs to step back and think about what is truly going on.  There’s a time to protect the players but there’s also a clear line when a player is accused of something that maybe football shouldn’t be a factor until it’s all sorted out.  It took A&M too long to handle the Kirk Merritt situation appropriately and I want a coach that recognizes those situations and handles them quick and swiftly.  There’s a clear line between boys being boys and someone doing something harmful to someone else.  I want to know Jimbo is FULLY aware where that line is.

I certainly don’t want A&M ever turning into a Penn St or Baylor where I fully question my support of the University as a whole.   I also don’t want A&M turning into a Florida State or Oklahoma where I question if a player was protected or given something they don’t deserve simply because they’re really good at football.  No player is ever above the program.  Even if it means a national championship because we’re playing a player that likely raped someone or laid a woman out.  I want Jimbo Fisher to understand that up front.  If he’s not on board with that then there’s no reason to continue discussion any further.  Being an asshole is one thing.  Being a sleazy coach putting wins above what’s right is another.

With that out of the way let’s look at Jimbo as a head coach.  He’s an outstanding head coach.  He’s having his worst season in his 8 seasons as head coach.  He’s currently at 3-5 and in jeopardy of not making a bowl game if he can’t beat Florida.  He’s doing so bad they had to re-schedule the canceled game against Louisiana-Monroe because FSU will need that game to become bowl eligible.  That game was originally canceled thinking it wouldn’t be needed for bowl eligibility.  This season has turned out differently for FSU so they scheduled that game so FSU can get 6 wins to go to a bowl.  FSU lost their starting QB in the opening game against Bama but they’ve looked terrible this season with close wins over Wake Forest, Duke, and Syracuse.  Those shouldn’t be FSU’s only wins and they shouldn’t close.  That’s not a good look for Jimbo even losing his starting QB in the first game.

When you look at the other 7 seasons during his time at FSU it paints a different picture.  You know about the national championship in 2013.  Coming into this season Fisher has only had one season where he didn’t win 10 games.  6 out of 7 seasons he’s had 10 wins or more.  That’s pretty damn impressive.  He’s been to a bowl game every year and is 5-2 in bowl games including 2 Orange Bowl wins.  He beat Michigan in last year’s Orange Bowl.  His two bowl losses were the Rose Bowl in 2014 when they lost to Oregon in Winston’s second season and then in 2015 when they lost the Peach Bowl to Tom Herman and UH.  I believe FSU was missing both of their starting quarterbacks on the season at that point.  Great win by UH but I don’t think FSU was playing with a full deck.  Fisher’s bowl record is pretty damn impressive.  He seems to have his team show up in big games for the most part.  I like that.

Fisher’s coaching tree is pretty impressive having coached under both Nick Saban and Bobby Bowden.  He was named Bowden’s successor as coach in waiting and it actually worked out.  FSU was actually pretty mediocre before he took over as they went 7-6 in three of the four seasons before Fisher took over.  FSU’s best season in those four seasons was 9-4 two years before Fisher took over.  Fisher made immediate improvements to a FSU program that had slipped to above average and was no longer dominate.  The dude can coach without a doubt.

He’s an offensive coach through and through having been a quarterback in college.  He’s always been on the offensive side of the ball having coached mainly quarterbacks and been a very high profile offensive coordinator at LSU and FSU before assuming the head job after Bobby Bowden.  FSU for the most part has never had issues scoring points.  Fisher is the main reason for that as he appears to call the plays himself.  He has two co-offensive coordinators but not sure how much they help with the game plan and calling plays during the game.

From a recruiting standpoint Fisher is an outstanding recruiter.  The area around Tallahassee is a hot bed for recruiting but Fisher has had a top 10 class every year except for 2013 where FSU ranked 11th so it wasn’t far off.  In the last four years he’s signed a class ranked #6 or higher.  That’s pretty damn impressive even if he’s in a great area for recruiting.  No reason he couldn’t do the same in Texas as it’s a great area to recruit as well.  He must not be that big of an asshole to kids if he’s pulling those kinds of recruiting classes.

In doing research on Fisher my main concern outside of the moral question is his staff seems to be pretty complacent.  It looks like a lot of the same guys he’s had for a while and many of them should be considered to be replaced.  The hiring of assistants is one of the most important things a college head coach can do.  Nick Saban is a master at it.  He’s continually replacing his guys because some of his guys move on to better jobs or Saban feels they need to be replaced.  I would want Fisher to challenge his assistants and never let them get complacent.  I think Kevin Sumlin has done a lot of that with his offensive staff letting everyone getting complacent.  Sumlin has definitely done this on the offensive side of the ball.  I would want Fisher to detail out his plan for his assistants in the immediate and long term.  A complacent staff can kill a football program.

In looking at Fisher there’s no doubt in my mind he’s a Top 10 college head coach.  He has some unexplainable losses every season but so does every coach not named Nick Saban.  That includes Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Les Miles, Chris Petersen, James Franklin, Jim Harbaugh, and any other coach you can think of.  It happens and you just have to deal with it unless you’re Alabama with Nick Saban.  Jimbo Fisher clearly belongs in that next class of coaches that aren’t Nick Saban.

If A&M hired Jimbo Fisher I think he’d immediately vault Texas A&M to at least the third best team in the SEC West and likely the second best SEC West team every season.  We’d become a better LSU during the Les Miles era as we’d actually have a competent offense.  This is assuming nobody in the West hires a lights out coach like Fisher as well.  I think we could compete with Alabama year in and year out even winning one every four years or so.  Fisher wouldn’t be cheap at all but the results are pretty guaranteed.  We’d be a legit Top 15 team year in and year out with Fisher.  More than likely we’d be a Top 10 team most of the years.

Assuming the A&M higher ups make it clear to Fisher there’s a CLEAR line when it comes to the morality of players I’m good with the Fisher higher.  I’m fine with him being an asshole sometimes because he wins games.  What I’m not okay with is him being a sleazeball putting wins above doing what’s right when it comes to his players.  No player is above the program at Texas A&M.  Johnny Manziel came close but he was just signing autographs and getting drunk like a lot of college players do.  I don’t expect a team of saints but I do expect a team that knows things like rape and female assault are never acceptable.  Other violent crimes and major theft also apply here.

If Jimbo is aware of that and willing to make his players aware and uphold those standards then I’m perfectly fine with him as Texas A&M’s head coach.  He’d make us a damn good program in no time at all.  He’s not a slam dunk hire and wouldn’t be cheap but he’s about as big of a guarantee in college football as it gets right now.

Thoughts from the Auburn Game

Auburn v Texas A&M

There is no doubt in my mind Kevin Sumlin sealed his fate on Saturday losing to Auburn.  He’s done at Texas A&M as head coach.  I suppose that officially makes him a spec home builder if the news is true he’s in the middle of building a new house in College Station.  I don’t think he’ll ever live in it.  He might want to leave the flooring and countertops for the eventual buyer.  Even if he wins the last three games he’ll still be 8-4 and that’s not going to cut it.  I think the decision to move on from Kevin Sumlin has been made and A&M is doing their due diligence for its next head coach.  What that due diligence is I have no idea but I hope it’s a serious search considering a major budget and plenty of names.

Two moments from that game signal to me Sumlin is done.  At the end of the first half we got the ball back with 1:36 left in the game.  Auburn had just scored on a quick drive capped by a 53 yard touchdown pass that put Auburn ahead 14-13 heading into half.  Auburn was getting the ball coming out of half so they were set up well.  We had the ball at the 20 yard line and Auburn had two time outs.  Starkel had lit a fire under the offense and had been moving the ball.  What does Sumlin do?  He runs the ball three times which burned about a minute off the clock thanks to Auburn’s two timeouts.  There was NO sense of urgency by the A&M offense and no desire to run a two minute drill to see if they could make something happen.  None at all.

A&M lines up for the punt and what happens?  Auburn who had taken two timeouts playing aggressively sends their punt return team for a block and gets through.  They block the punt into the end zone for a touchdown and a 21-13 lead heading into half and getting the ball.  That was the moment I knew Sumlin was officially done.  He had no sense of urgency and got owned by a coach who did have a sense of urgency.  I don’t know if we were lined up in max protect but we should have been.  That was a failure by both Sumlin and Jeff Banks to not have their punt protection and punter prepared for that situation.  Auburn took advantage of Sumlin not being aggressive by being aggressive themselves.

The other moment in the game that told me Sumlin was done coaching was late in the fourth quarter.  We had shown some signs of life offensively but the defense had given up too many points.  With a little over 5 minutes left Auburn scored to go up 42-20 which is a pretty steep hill but in college football it’s not insurmountable.  In fact it happens way more than it should.  It’s still a three score game but it’s not impossible.  If you feel you’re coaching for your job you should coach with some serious urgency.  Kevin Sumlin clearly wasn’t doing that.

After Auburn goes up 42-20 Trayveon Williams returns the kickoff to the Auburn 28 with a little over 5 minutes left.  A&M has two timeouts left with 5 minutes left.  We should have had 3 timeouts but had to use one because we tried to punt with 12 people on the field which is another story.  It’s a longshot but three scores in 5 minutes on their 28 yardline is technically doable with good clock management, play calling, and some luck which is not uncommon in college football.  So what happens is we get to the Auburn 11 yard line thanks to a pass interference call with a little over 4 minutes left.  4 minutes and two timeouts left on the opponent’s 11 yard line needing 3 scores.  Not likely but with the some breaks you can make it happen.

We call back to back run plays in that situation.  Seriously.  We’re on the 11 yard line needing to conserve as much time a possible and we call two run plays.  Two run plays.  Unreal.  We got a gain of six yards and a loss of 3 yards.  We ran the ball twice needing to conserve the clock.  I couldn’t believe it.  At that moment I realized Kevin Sumlin is just totally clueless when it comes to game situations or he just doesn’t care.  I think it’s a combination of both.  He’s just not a great head coach.  Completely unaware of what’s needed in certain situations.

We did wind up scoring there but burned a minute off the clock we didn’t need to.  If we score with a little under 4 minutes left and two timeouts you can at least make a decision on the kickoff to kick deep or onside kick.  Sure, you probably onside kick but at least you have an extra minute and there is some element of surprise.  As it is you burned a minute and everybody in the stadium knew an onside kick is coming so there’s no element of a surprise.  We failed the onside kick and that moment sealed any chance of coming back.  The odds of scoring 22 points in 4 minutes is not likely but it is possible with some breaks.  As it was Kevin Sumlin had ZERO interest in finding out if we could get a few lucky breaks.  No sense of urgency or care on his behalf.  And because of that he’ll be gone after LSU unless he pulls a Jim McElwain saying something stupid that forces A&M’s hand.  I don’t think he’s that dumb but you never know.

It’s also ironic that Jarret Stidham is part of the final nail in Sumlin’s coffin.  Kevin Sumlin twice had the opportunity to recruit Stidham but passed the first time in order to get Kyler Murray.  We saw how that turned out.  He also had the chance to recruit him in the 2017 February class but passed on him for Mond along with Hezekiah Jones and Jhamon Ausbon.  Evidently they were a package deal and Sumlin was scared signing Stidham would scare off all three.  Mond got pulled in the first half on Saturday while neither Jones or Ausbon caught a ball.  Meanwhile Stidham went 20 for 27 throwing for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.  Basically Sumlin not signing Stidham can be seen as a direct reason Sumlin will no longer be the head coach at Texas A&M when this season is done.  Another reason Sumlin needs to go.  He didn’t recruit quarterback with a sense of urgency in the off season.  He had nobody with any experience under center and passed on Stidham for fear it would scare off people who likely wouldn’t contribute this season.  Once again Sumlin is just unaware of his current situation and doing things to immediately right the ship.  I said at the time he would regret not signing Stidham and Saturday proved that to be right.

For the rest of my normal thoughts I’m going to keep it short.  It’s basically the same from the Mississippi State game.  I want to keep it short because with it clear Sumlin is gone I want to start looking at potential candidates in more detail.  Big rumor is Jimbo Fisher is our top target because we think he’s attainable.  I want to spend my time digging under the hood of Fisher and get that written up.

Offense:

This was basically the same thing as the Mississippi State game other than the change at quarterback.  Before I get to that change I’m just going to say the line looked slightly better with Starkel in there because defenses know they have to respect the pass with him as QB.  With Mond they were just loading the box and destroying our line.  At receiver it was more of the same except Damion Ratley caught balls and had a great catch and run for a 62 yard touchdown.  Outside of that he caught 3 balls for 20 yards so not explosive on the other catches.  Kirk caught 8 balls for 62 yards with a long of 29 yards so he didn’t exactly light it up either.  Trayveon caught a beautiful shovel pass for 41 yards but other than that not much in the passing game.  Receivers still don’t seem to be getting or separation unless it’s just busted coverage.

The running game was definitely improved with Starkel under center as the defense backed off the line of scrimmage to respect the pass it seems.  Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams combined for 29 carries totaling 151 yards.  That’s a little over 5 yards a carry and most of that came with Starkel in.  The longest run was 40 yards by Traveon.  Ford and Williams were chewing off good runs which we definitely didn’t see against Mississippi State.  Pretty clear having to respect the passing game helped our running game.

As for Starkel he was 11 for 22 for 184 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.  That’s not outstanding but it’s the best outing we’ve seen all year from a quarterback against a respectable defense.  He had the 62 yard pass to Ratley so that was a big play that accounted for 33% of the yards but Starkel did a nice job passing the ball considering the play calls and lack of receivers getting open.  Barring an injury this is Starkel’s job the rest of the season and heading into next year no matter who the new coach is.  He’s just a better passer and its clear Mond has a ways to go from a passing standpoint.  The one big difference I saw between Starkel and Mond in the game is that Starkel played with a sense of urgency.  He was begging for the play to get everyone lined up.  I never saw that from Mond.  I think it’s completely a confidence and comfort thing.  Starkel appears more confident and comfortable taking snaps at the college level.  Starkel also seems to make much quicker decisions in the passing game.

One thing I’d love to see happen but it won’t is eliminate the red zone fade route.  I don’t know that it’s worked all year but I can count at least a dozen times we’ve tried that and it hasn’t been close to a completion.  It’s like Mazzone thinks we have Mike Evans or Josh Reynolds who can go up and get the ball.  We don’t have anyone like that and the ball hasn’t even been close to a completion if we did have someone that could go get it.  Sumlin needs to go rip that page out of Mazzone’s play sheet but let’s face it those two don’t care anymore.  They both know they’re gone so we’ll see it a few more times this season.  I can’t wait.

Defense:

Defensively this felt just like the Misissippi State game for the most part.  The defense played well enough in the first half save for one play.  That was the 53 yard pass with under 2 minutes left where they just got isolated coverage with their fastest receiver against our backup corner because our best cover guy wasn’t playing.  The Auburn receiver got separation from our corner and Stidham hit him in stride for a touchdown.  Great coaching isolating talent on lesser talent and great job by Stidham hitting the guy in stride.  Other than that I thought our defense played just fine in the first half despite our offensive issues until Starkel came in.

The second half was pretty bad as the defense held Auburn to a three and out on their first possession of the half but it went downhill quickly after that.  Our offense responded to the defense starting the second half with a three and out by also going three and out giving the ball right back to Auburn.  Auburn would then score on their next two possessions making the game 35-13.  The game was over halfway through the third quarter for the most part.  The back breaker was when Auburn got the ball on their own 4 yard line and took the ball 96 yards the other way on 14 plays burning 8:17 of the clock.  They ran the ball 11 times and passed only 3.  That’s pretty demoralizing for the defense .  There’s no way to defend a defense that gives up a drive like that.  If they can hold them there it could have been a 35-27 game at one point.  Ifs and buts though don’t get anyone anywhere though.

Individually the two best performances for me were Tyrel Dodson who has turned into an absolute beast.  The dude is legit.  Anthony Hines was the other who had his best game of the year.  Armani Watts had his solid game as well.  The front four looked solid most of the game other than that demoralizing drive in the 4th quarter.

All in all they played great in the first half but the second half was a different story.  Time of possession wasn’t too far off at 35:44 to 24:16 but I do think there’s an element of always playing defense from behind that becomes a mental battle.  Defenses want to be aggressive knowing they’re playing for something and that’s just happening with our offense.  It would be interesting to see what would happen if our offense could actually get a lead or swing time of possession in their favor.  This defense has not been great the last two games.  They have looked really solid in the first half but faded in the second half when the offense wasn’t doing anything.  Hard to blame them.  Despite all of that I still contend our “Front 6” has looked really solid for most of the season with a few hiccups here and there.

I’m still on the Chief Train mainly because I think the offense is not giving this defense any chance to shine.

Special Teams:

Talk about a Jekyll and Hyde game.  Two blocked field goal attempts and a great kick return by Trayveon Williams.  But we had the blocked punt where we should have been in max protect fully expecting a jailhouse break trying to block the punt.  Auburn executed it perfectly and we weren’t ready for it.  The timeout in the third quarter because we were trying to punt with 12 guys was maddening.  After we got the personnel straightened out we punt the ball off the up back.  Like I’ve said all season this special teams unit isn’t spectacular for the most part other than some big individual contributors.  I know Jeff Banks gets lots of love but I personally think the guy is just average.  Just too much inconsistency and bone headed plays like we saw on Saturday.

Going Forward:

Sumlin is done and he knows it.  He’ll coach out the season and be done after LSU.  I expect us to go 2-1 finishing 7-5 but it could be worse.  This team could just collapse going down the stretch.  I don’t think that will happen as I think there’s enough young leadership.   Starkel and Dodson on their respective sides of the ball won’t let that happen I don’t think.  7-5 will be a disappointment but it’ll get us to a bowl game which we should accept as you always want the extra practice and experience.
Make Aggie Football Great Again!

Thoughts from the Games and Arkie Look

MAFGA at Rose Bowl

We are now 3 games through what I still feel is Kevin Sumlin’s Farewell Tour.  After the second half of Saturday I’m not entirely sure it’s his Farewell Tour like I was coming into the season and especially after the UCLA and Nicholls St games.  If I were a betting man I’d still wager on a 7-5 season but what I saw in the second half of the ULaLa game made me pause my certainty.  Couple what happened in the second half and watching the Saturday games of the SEC teams left on our schedule this could be a 10 win team.  I put that at about 5% but if that team that showed up in the second half of the ULaLa game continues to show up and even better progresses they can possibly beat every team left on the schedule not named Alabama.  I truly believe that.  Will it happen?  I truly doubt that.

Based on Sumlin’s tenure there is no way this team consistently puts together 16 halves of football against the remaining teams not named Alabama.  We have a sample set of six halves so far and there’s been 2 really good halves and 4 absolute stinkers.  I don’t think the light went off for the rest of the season but if Sumlin wants to keep his job the light is dim and flickering.  I don’t think Sumlin has the ability to figure out the power source and wiring to light it up and keep it lit for 14 halves of football to save is job.  14 halves because he needs at least 9 wins to guarantee his job for next season so he needs 7 more wins.  He’s going to have some stinkers along the way so I don’t see how he wins 7 more but we’ll see.

This is still the guy that had an AMAZING first half against UCLA and then a COLOSSAL collapse in the second half followed by a full game nail biter against Nicholls State.  He then followed up that performance by trailing ULaLa 21-14 at half before absolutely blowing the doors off ULaLa in the second half to win walking away.  We’ll find out this weekend how much this team has really progressed and if Sumlin has any chance of keeping his job.

Let’s take a look at the various components of the units for where we are:

Offense:

Had the second half of ULaLa not happened I would have really thought this team had a best case scenario of going 6-6 right now.  What I saw in the first half of the ULaLa game and then especially in the second half gives me some real pause as to what’s going on.  Kellen Mond looked really solid at the QB position.  Even in the first half he looked really poised in the pocket and made some really solid throws.  Especially the deep ball to Ratley in the first half.  That was a beautiful ball.  Mond threw for over 300 yards which even against ULaLa is no small feat.  Prior to that game Mond looked like absolute garbage.  He really did.  He couldn’t throw a ball to save his life.  Maybe he just calmed down.  That ULaLa game could be Mond’s coming out party like Johnny Football in the 2012 SMU game or it could be like Kenny Trill against Arkansas in 2014 where it never got any better than that.  I think it’ll be somewhere in between because Mond is a true freshman and showed solid progression but it wasn’t a breakout performance like Johnny against SMU.  I think the rest of the way Mond’s going to have some solid games and then some stinkers which is why I still contend this is a 7-5 team.  Either way I think this is no doubt Mond’s team going forward unless he just really struggles.  If he struggles we’re hosed because I do think Mond has highest ceiling of any QB on the roster including a healthy Starkel.

For the rest of the offense the running backs have been the saving grace of this team.  They demolished UCLA in the first half and then didn’t get a real opportunity against UCLA in the second half.  They rushed for over 300 yards against UCLA despite barely seeing the ball in the second half which is just insane.  It really is.  They rushed for almost 200 yards against Nicholls St and the efforts of Kendall Bussey is likely the reason we won that game.  They rushed for over 200 yards against ULaLa which allowed Mond to have some success passing as ULaLa was doing what they could to shut down the run.  The running backs are no doubt the strength of this team as Bussey and Kibodi have stepped up with Williams and Ford banged up.  We’ve got some real talent at running back.

I have no clue what’s going on with the offensive line.  There’s so much shuffling I can’t keep up.  They flat out dominated in the first half of the UCLA game but then fell off big time.  I don’t know if it was because of the shuffling or defenses figured out how to attack each lineman.  It seems like the shuffling is over with McCoy back at center even though his snap issues continue.  Maybe they keep shuffling but headed into SEC play they better set what they think is their best 5 guys and let them work as a unit.  The strength of an offensive line is trusting the guy next to you to make the same reads as you so there’s no major whiffs.  That only happens with repeated work together to establish familiarity.  Jim Turner of all people should know this.

At receiver this crew other than Christian Kirk looked like warmed over death before ULaLa.  They couldn’t get separation and if a ball came near them or even hit their hands they couldn’t catch it.  However, against ULaLa these guys started catching balls.  I think they’re going to be extremely inconsistent in SEC play but it was good to see them actually catching balls against a team even if it was a non Power 5 conference team.  Seems like there’s a lot of young talent but we’ll find out how much as we enter SEC play.

I still don’t trust Mazzone against great defensive coordinators which is part of why I’m leaving my prediction at 7-5 and for now.  There’s going to be stretches during games where our offense does nothing.  It’s just the way it is with Mazzone.  However, I did see some promise in the second half against ULaLa to make me think we’ll split our SEC games at 4-4 as there will be enough offensive firepower to win half of those SEC games but it’ll be inconsistent to not win enough to save Sumlin’s job.

Defense:

Defensively this squad has been the exact opposite of the offensive having played 4 great halves of football and 2 stinkers.  I remember sitting in the first half of the UCLA game thinking John Chavis was a damn genius.  I mean we were taking it to UCLA and Josh Rosen with pressure all over the place.  Then the second half happened which I don’t need to re-hash.  Despite the fact it was Nicholls St they actually played pretty damn good football most of the game but just had some brain farts in the passing game.  Same thing in the first half of the ULaLa game but played lights out in the second half against ULaLa shutting them out.

What I see is a John Chavis defense that is going to focus on shutting down the run and bring pressure because that’s what he likes to do and I’m okay with that for the most part.  The problem is we’re going to give up a big play here and there as we miss a coverage assignment or one of our guys just gets beat one on one.  It’s a defensive scheme that rather than give up yardage during the entire game the defense is going to look to shut down an offense knowing they could have some busted plays for big yards and likely touchdowns.  In this day and age offenses are going to get yards and scores so you just hope a defense steps up when it has to.  They didn’t do that against UCLA obviously but did do it against ULaLa in the second half.  This also leads me to believe the defense will have some stinker games and some solid games.  Kevin Sumlin just better hope they’re lined up with his offense having good games.

The defensive line has been tremendous.  We knew the defensive tackles were going to be good but the defensive ends have been way more impressive than I could have ever imagined.  They did a tremendous job against Rosen in the first half and then have shut down the run against Nicholls St and ULaLa which honestly was not the strength of Hall and Garrett last season as they tried to tee off on quarterbacks.  It seems these defensive ends are playing to their strengths rather than be something they’re not in pressure defensive ends.

Linebacker play has been really solid for the most part.  Having talent and experience in Alaka and Dodson is nice with them leading the way.  Anthony Hines showed some promise against ULaLa so maybe he keeps developing.  It looks like Larry Pryor is going to play that Safety/Linebacker position Chavis likes and looked tremendous against UCLA and ULaLa.  He’s probably been the biggest surprise so far.  Maybe he’s playing the true strong safety position as I haven’t been paying attention to where he lines up but I know the dude is making plays on the field.

Losing Donavan Wilson was big especially with the way Pryor has been playing as having Watts, Wilson, and Pryor would be pretty damn devastating.  Capers-Smith has stepped in for Wilson it appears and hasn’t been horrible other than letting the interception go through his hands at UCLA but we won’t talk about that.  Armani Watts has been Armani Watts.  He’s going to play on Sundays.  The dude loves to play football and knows where the ball is going.

Our corners of Priest Willis and Myles Jones have looked pretty good.  Similar to Pryor I haven’t counted specifically who’s lining up where on each play.  I just think those two guys have looked the best in coverage with Charles Oliver doing okay.  They’re not perfect but they’ve been on the good side of coverage a lot more than they haven’t.  Myles Jones is a true freshman and showing lots of promise.  Nick Harvey may never see the field again and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

All in all this defense has looked better than I thought they would.  I expected a fall off like from 2012 to 2013 and that hasn’t happened yet.  We also haven’t seen this defense against SEC teams but we’re about to see that.  In my mind the jury is still out on Chavis as he has some brain farts but in my mind he has this defense playing above talent and my expectations.  Not perfect but this looks like a decent enough unit right now.

Special Teams:

I think our Special Teams has really been below average.  They’re not terrible but they do little things here and there that make me wonder how focused they really are on Special Teams as opposed to just an afterthought.  I think there’s been at least 2 kick offs out of bounds.  One is excusable depending on situation but at least 2 in 3 games boggles my mind.  I think it’s actually been 3 which makes it even worse.  It tells me teams are looking for it and if they see the angle is steep then let it go out of bounds.  Heady play by opponent’s special teams on our lack of execution.  I’m not even sure why we’re doing it if we can’t execute it.

Tripucka has done an excellent job with long punts and pinning punts.  He’s definitely the bright spot on special teams.  LaCamera has been pretty solid with 5-7.  Ironically enough had he been healthy enough to kick the final field goal attempt against UCLA we might have won but that’s the breaks.

The worst thing I’ve seen on special teams was the called fake field goal against ULaLa.  I don’t like exposing wrinkles against “inferior” opponents.  Every kick block team is coached to look for fakes.  Or at least they should be.  I don’t like putting that stuff on film when it’s not needed.  Even worse we couldn’t even execute it against ULaLa.  That was terrible.

I have faith in the individuals of Kirk, Tripucka, and LaCamera but as a whole unit I don’t see the Special Teams doing anything special to win games but maybe I’ll be wrong.

 

We’re about to find out what’s going on with this team starting this Saturday as we enter SEC play.  Based on what I’ve seen in our games and our opponent’s games I think we beat Arkansas and South Carolina and then lose to Alabama and Florida although Florida is VERY beatable.  For right now though I’m going to put it as a loss as I think the Florida defense will shut our offense down and they’ll win with defense and special teams while our defense holds their offense to a couple of field goals.  It’ll be an ugly offensive game for sure.  If we split those games that will put us at 4-3 with remaining SEC games against Miss St, Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU.  We’ll have a gimme with New Mexico which is 5 wins so Sumlin would need to do better than split those final four SEC games to potentially save his job.  Sweeping those would save his job and 3-1 might save it depending on how they look.  I’ll leave my prediction at 7-5 for now but let’s worry about Arkansas first.

 

Arkansas:

Although Arkansas has played us close since going back to JerryWorld (yes, even last year was close until mid-way through the 3rd) I think we win again this year for the following reasons:

  • Arkie looked TERRIBLE at home against a solid but not great TCU team. I mean they looked bad.
  • Bret Bielema is a bigger moron than Kevin Sumlin at game planning and in game coaching.
  • Arkansas is a worse team than last year.
  • Our defense has looked good for the most part.
  • Mond’s passing gives me hope we can keep Arkie from solely focusing on our running game.
  • Having played at 11:00 a.m. last week will help A&M.

In my mind unless we come out totally unprepared Austin Allen will have to channel his inner Josh Rosen to beat us completing passes like crazy over the middle and hitting his running backs flaring out of the backfield.  Austin Allen is a damn fine quarterback but I don’t think he has the offensive line and skill position guys to score a lot of points on our defense like Rosen.  At least the defense I’ve seen this season.

If I’m Bielema I use the entire bye week going back and watching film of A&M since the Tennessee game and installing offensive plays that worked against us.  That’s basically using the middle of the field  in the passing game as well as using running backs out of the backfield to take advantage of our aggressiveness.  You can bust those for big yards if you have the patience to set them up.  Instead though, I think Bielema will run his traditional offense of wanting to establish the run to set up the pass and it won’t be effective.  We’ll have more talent on defense than they have on offense and we’ll be prepared for it.  At least that’s the way I see it on that side of the ball.

On offense I think Mazzone’s traditional read based offense will be fine as we have more talent on offense than they do on defense.  If I’m Arkansas I definitely come out looking to stop the run and make Mond pass to see if the second half of last week’s game was a fluke.  If Mond can pass we’ll win this game walking away I think.  If Mond can pass they’ll have to adjust to defend the pass which will open up our running game or they’ll choose to dare Mond to continue to pass which he’ll do.  If Mond can’t pass then A&M could be in trouble but I think Mond has made a quick adjustment to the college game.  I think he’ll be fine against defenses where A&M has more talent on offense.  I definitely think Arkie’s defense is worse than last year’s defense.

I think we’ll see A&M up at half like 17-10 and I think the final score will be 30-16 in favor of the Aggies.  If that happens it’ll look great on the scoreboard but I’m not sure how much that will tell us because I do think Arkie is that bad.  If we do lose to Arkie look out as we could go 0-4 against Arkie, SoCar, Bama, and Florida.  If that happens I don’t think Sumlin will survive the bye week but I don’t see that happening.  I think he beats Arkie this weekend making us wait a few weeks longer to figure out his true fate.

I believe it’s his Farewell Tour but you never know for sure until the Fat Lady comes out on stage.

When Aggie Football Was Great

As the Founder, President, and main client of the Make Aggie Football Great Again Movement I often get asked when Aggie Football was ever great.  Obviously it was great in 1939 when the Aggies won their only official National Championship.  In addition there was the 1956 team that went 9-0-1 and finished 5th in the AP poll, the 1976 team that went 10-2 and finished 7th in the AP poll, and of course in recent memory the 2012 team that went 11-2 finishing 5th in the AP poll.  Those are four isolated seasons where one was definitely great and three others that were really good bordering on great.

For me there was a decade of Aggie Football in recent memory that was borderline great that I think Aggie Football can get back to with the right head coach.  College football is cyclical but there’s a decade of Aggie Football that should the standard by which Aggie Football is judged.  That decade is from 1985 to 1995.  20-30 years ago seems like a distant memory now but it should be a reminder of what’s possible.

In those 11 seasons Aggie Football finished outside of the Top 20 only once.  They finished in the Top 10 in five of those seasons.  They finished with 10 wins in six of those seasons in a period when only 11 games where the norm as opposed to the 12 games that are played now.  There were some 12 game seasons back then but the majority of those seasons were 11 game seasons so 10 wins is a big milestone.  There were three 9 win seasons and only one season of 8 wins and one season of 7 wins.  That’s pretty damn impressive from a win standpoint.  That’s a combined record of 104-27-2 for those 11 seasons for a winning percentage of .782.  That is an outstanding winning percentage over a decade.

Here’s a chart that summarizes each season:

There’s a lot to digest but there’s no doubt that’s a decade of REALLY good football bordering on great.  Win one national championship in there and that’s absolutely a great decade of football.  There were legitimate chances to win it all in 1985, 1992, and 1994.

1985 was a lot like the 2012 season where they opened up with a tough loss to a ranked Alabama team on the road, lost to a ranked Baylor team in the middle of the season, and then got hot and just rolled everyone they played absolutely thrashing their final three opponents in TCU, Texas, and Auburn that included Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson in the Cotton Bowl.  Had they not lost one of those early season losses they might have had an outside chance to get Penn St to the Cotton Bowl instead of OU getting them in the Orange Bowl which is how OU won the national championship that year.  Early season losses set this team back just like in 2012.  There’s no doubt though at the end of the season this was one of the best teams in the country.

1992 was an undefeated regular season but like the modern day Big 12, Texas A&M was playing in a wretched Southwest Conference.  So wretched there wasn’t one team in the Southwest Conference that was ranked when they played.  A&M’s only win over a ranked opponent was to open the season against Stanford who was ranked 20th at the time.  At the same time both Alabama and Miami went undefeated beating more ranked opponents than A&M so Miami went to the Sugar Bowl instead of the Cotton Bowl.  Had Bama lost a game that season there’s an outside chance Miami and A&M would have matched up in the Cotton Bowl for the national championship but that’s still a stretch as Miami might have played Florida State in a re-match.  The Southwest Conference did A&M no favors that season because the teams were crap much like what top Big 12 teams face today.  Of course A&M losing to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl makes talk of a national championship that season moot but that was a damn good Notre Dame team.  However, A&M didn’t help itself for that game having to suspend Greg Hill for receiving improper benefits.  As it was A&M belonged in the conversation of Alabama, Miami, Florida State, and Notre Dame teams that were just loaded with talent.  That was a great team.  Probably the greatest of that decade for Aggie Football.

The 1994 team technically went undefeated but thanks to Greg Hill not going to his cush job for Warren Gilbert at a Dallas apartment complex they were on NCAA probation.  A&M was banned both from the post season and television that year.  A&M had no chance to win a national championship that season but if Greg Hill goes to his job or doesn’t take the money this potentially could have been a championship team.  The reality is this team wasn’t really all that close as even if they weren’t on probation and hadn’t tied SMU in one of the worst games I’ve ever witnessed as an Aggie fan, an undefeated Texas A&M likely wouldn’t have climbed over undefeated Nebraska and Penn St who had better regular season opponents and impressive bowl victories to remain undefeated.  Playing in the Southwest Conference was just not going to position a team for a National Championship unless a bunch of other teams lost in their better conferences.  That didn’t happen in 1994 but if A&M goes undefeated in 1992 and isn’t on probation it’s not a total stretch to think this team is playing for a national championship assuming they beat SMU that season.

While the Southwest Conference was pretty bad for the most part the statistic that stands out to me during that decade is the record at Kyle Field.  63-5-1 is just flat out amazing.  That’s partially where the mystique of Kyle Field came from in recent memory.  In 11 seasons Texas A&M only lost FIVE games at Kyle Field.  FIVE games in 11 seasons.  That’s unreal.  In 7 seasons Texas A&M never lost a game at home.  There was one tie which is kind of losing but it’s not a loss so we won’t count it that way.  Only one season did A&M lose 2 games and that was easily the worst team of that decade.  A&M never lost more than 1 game at Kyle in any other season and had a five year run where a fan at Kyle Field never saw a loss with just one tie.  That is flat out amazing at defending Kyle Field.  That my friends is absolutely great Aggie Football at home.  I don’t care how bad the Southwest Conference was as there were some big wins over non conference opponents and some solid Southwest Conference teams along the way.  Five losses in 11 seasons.  That’s amazing.

I won’t classify that entire decade as truly great because of the struggle in bowl games and key road losses but it’s not far from it and it’s what Aggie Football expectations should be.  With A&M’s resources there’s no reason why we can’t return to a decade of Aggie football like this and make it even better.  Make the right hire and we can get back there.

The most interesting part of this decade is a conversation I had with Dr. Loftin in 2010 after Nebraska and Colorado announced they were leaving for the Pac 12 and we had flirted with the SEC but didn’t pull the trigger.  This was prior to the Longhorn Network being announced.  Dr. Loftin told me the support for going to the SEC wasn’t as large as it seemed.  He said it was actually divided more to staying as there was a silent majority that was fearful of the SEC.  He told me he had basically divided support for the SEC between two major groups.  One was the recent graduates who were enamored with the SEC because of all the publicity it was getting at the time and the other was those Aggies that had graduated during this decade of Aggie Football and more specifically those that had been in school when Jackie was coach.  Those Aggies didn’t fear the SEC like those that didn’t attend school during that decade.

Dr. Loftin didn’t say this but there’s no doubt those Aggies during that period remember dominating football teams and most importantly dominating Kyle Field.  They weren’t scared at all of the SEC as they know Aggie football can compete at the highest level with the right coach.  This decade of Aggie Football should be the minimum standard of expectations going forward.  If those results aren’t being achieved then we need to be doing a serious study of what’s going wrong and what change is needed.  Shift the mindset that this decade is what Aggie Football should be.  We’re not there from a mental standpoint.  We really aren’t.

If you didn’t experience that decade as a student or fan you don’t know what you’re missing out on.  Kyle Field rocked every game and the biggest reason was the Wrecking Crew.  Defense was the staple of that decade and a coach needs to focus on bringing the Wrecking Crew mentality back.  It won’t be easy in this new era of high powered offenses but A&M needs a head coach that makes recruiting and preparing defensive players to thrash opponents a top priority.  Easier said than done but offense just wins games and the Wrecking Crew can win championships.  If a coach doesn’t understand the importance of bringing the Wrecking Crew back then we stand no chance of ever being great again.

There is no doubt with the right mindset a head coach can absolutely Make Aggie Football Great Again.  There’s a decade that says it’s possible.

#MAFGA

2017 Aggie Spring Practice Review

Before I get going on my “analysis” of A&M’s Spring Practice I want to be clear that I will never cheer against Texas A&M and I’m not rooting for Kevin Sumlin to fail.  Not at all.  I hope Sumlin proves me wrong in what I’m about to write but I’m trying to look at this objectively.  We’ve had 5 years of Kevin Sumlin and nothing that I’ve seen says this is the year he finally flips the switch.  I’m just being realistic here.

There’s nothing that can come out of Spring Practice/Games that should get anyone excited.  Its practice and nothing more.  Every program in the country does it.  All it’s really good for is getting the younger guys some reps and for a coaching staff to maybe determine who might start where heading into the summer.  It’s a practice where players are going up against each other and not real competition.  It’s good to get those reps but nothing at all matters until real bullets start flying on Labor Day weekend in California.  That game is the only thing that matters so until that happens there’s no need to get worked up over practice reports.  Practice matters and means a ton but the ultimate evaluation comes in the form of wins and losses.  Until live bullets start flying in September there’s no reason to get worked up over anything you see or read related to spring practice.

The absolute best thing that can come out of a spring practice is naming your starting quarterback if there’s any question.  That’s what happened last year with Trevor Knight but Sumlin didn’t name a starting quarterback this year.  That’s not a good thing because it means the trio of Hubenak, Starkel, and Mond didn’t separate themselves.  In the Sumlin era Trevor Knight is the unquestionable #2 quarterback when judged solely by wins and losses behind Johnny Manziel.  It’s not even close.  No other quarterback even comes close to a season of work when it comes to wins and losses to be the #2 quarterback behind Johnny.  I say that because I think we’re really going to miss Trevor.  As wildly inconsistent as he was as a passer, he was a consistent winner.  He had control of the team and ran Mazzone’s offense pretty damn well.  If he didn’t transfer in from OU last season would have been a DISASTER and Sumlin wouldn’t be our coach.

Quarterback:

So here we sit with a trio of quarterbacks that no one can figure out who’s going to start including the coaching staff.  There’s no Trevor Knight here.  Let’s not forget we’re headed into Year 6 of Sumlin’s tenure and have no clear quarterback.  We could be in Kyle Allen’s senior season, Kyler Murray’s third season, or something else but we sit here wondering who is going to be taking snaps.  Sumlin has botched his handling of quarterbacks since Johnny.  He flat out has.  This is all on him.

Under center against UCLA we will have a quarterback who’s never won a start and some that haven’t even taken a snap.  Hubenak started in some big games against Louisville, Ole Miss, and LSU and didn’t win any of them.  I think Jake Hubenak is a fine Aggie but when it comes to production measured by wins his body of work doesn’t look good.  He couldn’t bring A&M back against Mississippi State either.  If it’s not Hubenak then it’s going to be a guy who’s never taken a snap in a college game in redshirt freshman Nick Starkel or true freshman Kellen Mond.  We’re going to have a guy under center who has NEVER won a game at the college level against another Power 5 conference team.  None of these guys are Johnny Manziel so get that out of your head.

I think it’s either going to be Mond or Starkel but what bothers me about those two is they’re both completely different quarterbacks.  Starkel is a classic pocket guy and Mond is a dual threat guy.  I kind of wish Sumlin had named Starkel the starter coming out of spring practice as it would give the players and staff some idea of what type of offense they’ll be running.  As it stands we’ll go into summer camp with no clue if we’re going to have a pocket or running quarterback.  A redshirt freshman or a true freshman.  I would have given the nod to Starkel and told him it was his job to loose.  It doesn’t mean you hurt Mond’s development as you can have some plays for him but I think the sooner you establish your starting quarterback the better off your team is.  Just like Trevor Knight last year.

I just don’t know how this team does better than last year from a record standpoint when Trevor Knight is clear head and shoulders above any QB on the roster.  I think Mond could be really solid at some point down the road but Kevin Sumlin should only be looking at 2017 right now and what’s best to get more than 8 wins.  He might survive an 8 win season depending on how it goes but there’s no way in hell he survives a 7 win season.  No way at all.  He’ll only survive an 8 win season if we beat LSU with Mond under center showing there’s some progress but good luck doing that in Baton Rouge this season.

Pass Rush:

In addition to not having a quarterback we also don’t have a pass rush.  I mean none.  We lost our two best defensive ends to the draft and the guys we have behind them showed virtually no promise last season.  We had a massive drop off in defensive end play when Myles Garrett wasn’t on the field.  So much so that South Carolina and Mississippi State ran their QBs at Garret’s replacement on their first offensive play of the game and ripped off 75 yard touchdown runs.  We’re not going to have any pass rush to speak off and that’s going to stress our already weak cornerback situation I believe.  I really think our defense is going to fall off big time next season with the loss of Garrett and Hall.

We finally get some depth and talent in our linebacking corps but there’s no Von Miller to bring pressure off the edge.  Speaking of Von Miller let’s think back to the season after we lost Von and what happened.  We went from 9-3 to 6-6 and Mike Sherman got fired.  Our defense couldn’t hold a lead at all partially because we lost our ability to bring a pass rush.  I just don’t know how a defense that’s not already loaded with talent gets better when you lose a guy that is the #1 or #2 pick in the draft.  I just don’t know how that’s possible.  I hope I’m wrong but the talent and depth of the defense isn’t there to be better than last year’s defense with the loss of a guy like Garrett as well as Hall.  A lot like in 2013 when the defense lost all its upperclassmen leaders.

We lost our two best players from last year’s team in Trevor Knight and Myles Garrett and we’re supposed to be better when their replacements appear to be significant drop offs?  Remember when people were saying Caleb Russell was going to be a fine replacement for Von Miller?  How did that turn out?  Kevin Sumlin is going to have to flat out pull a rabbit out of his hat to equal the 8 wins from last season.   I don’t know how 8 wins is possible much less 9 or more.  I really don’t.  I hope I’m wrong but I don’t know how we’re better.

Receiving Corps:

While it’s easy to point out the likely drop in production of our quarterback and defensive ends there’s another group that I think could suffer but hardly ever gets talked about.  That group is our wide receiving corps.  Most people seem to think we have the talent to re-load and go but I’m not totally sold on that.  I don’t think we fully understand what the loss of Josh Reynolds will mean to our passing game.  While he’s not exactly Mike Evans he’s not too far from him in terms of production.  Christian Kirk is an outstanding receiver but outside of Kirk I don’t see one guy on this roster that will come close to matching Josh Reynold’s production.  Jhamon Ausbon appears to have the talent and supposedly had an excellent spring but he’ll still be a true freshman and they tend to hit a wall.  I don’t think he’ll be good enough to replace Reynolds for 12 games this season.  Reynolds is kind of like Knight in that he’s CLEARLY the second best receiver as far as production in the Sumlin era.  Kirk is good but Reynolds got the job done better.  Now he’s gone and nobody is talking about his loss because there’s this weird assumption he’s easily replaced and I just don’t see it.

I know everyone seems to be glad RSJ moved on as he was wildly inconsistent and never lived up to his talent but he wasn’t terrible.  He was a defensive mis-match and along the way he made some solid catches.  He dropped some balls he should have caught and he’s replaceable but I’m not sure there’s anyone on the roster that’s a sure upgrade.  There’s talk of Damion Ratley starting at receiver.  If you think RSJ dropped passes, Ratley makes RSJ look like he’s got glue for hands.  If Damion Ratley starts for us it’s not a good sign for our receiving corps at all.  I can’t believe Ratley is even in the running to start at receiver but he is.  I’m not talking about Kirk Merritt until his “jock itch” situation gets taken care of because I’m not sure he should be practicing with the team right now.  It’s a little Baylor esque in my mind and I don’t like that at all.

There’s some talent and depth on the roster at the receiving position but it just seems odd everybody assumes the receiving corps won’t miss a beat with the loss of Reynolds for sure and even RSJ.  Christian Kirk while extremely talented has not shown he can carry a team and some of that might be on Noel Mazzone.  However, in the receiving game I think defenses will make sure to take away any threat from Christian Kirk and see if the other receivers can beat them.  In my mind this unit is going to be worse than last year.

Strength and Conditioning:

Now to my favorite move ever by Kevin Sumlin.  The firing of Larry Jackson aka Black Death.  I have no allegiance to Larry Jackson but I giggle every time I hear the late season collapses being blamed at the hands of our strength and conditioning coach.  Four flipping seasons in a row we failed to win games in November and Kevin Sumlin decides his strength and conditioning coach was to blame.  Get out of here.  I don’t mind a change to the staff to shake things up but to blame FOUR SEASONS of losing November games on the strength and conditioning coach is maddening.

Our guys weren’t gassed to the point they couldn’t get off the ground and they weren’t suffering from muscle atrophy where they were just weaker and got pushed around.  That wasn’t the case at all.  In fact I remember reading things last season of how Coach Jackson had changed things to be more “SEC Like”.  Coaching lost to Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and LSU last season.  It wasn’t ANYTHING related to strength and conditioning.  Blaming those losses on lack of strength and conditioning is some Coach Fran bullshit right there.

The reality of in season football is strength and conditioning isn’t all that important beyond a maintain level.  Any strength and conditioning coach can do that as it’s mainly just making sure guys are doing some running post practice and doing some lifting to maintain what they have.  You’re not building strength and conditioning during the season.  As long as Larry Jackson didn’t cut gassers and lifting during the season he ain’t to blame.  And if Larry Jackson did cut gassers and lifting then Kevin Sumlin should have fired him on the spot and told his squad to line up for gassers and get their ass in the weight room and do some lifting.  It really is that simple.

All of this talk of how different the players look this spring cracks me up.  Our new strength and conditioning coach hasn’t been on the job for even 4 months.  If he’s really having an effect where already elite level athletes look totally different then he needs to get an infomercial or a website because he’s found the secret to working out.  He could make a shit load more money selling his system to the general public than wasting it on 100 players at Texas A&M.  Seriously.  If it’s true this guy has changed the physique and lungs of our athletes in four months then Sumlin should be fired right now for keeping Larry Jackson around as long as he did.

It’s all a big ruse by Sumlin to deflect more blame from himself while he pretends to be an elite level coach by being condescending to anyone that questions the reality of where this program is.  At the end of the day it’s about football coaching and technique.  If you have superior coaching and athletes your strength and conditioning program could consist solely of gassers, running stands, swinging sledgehammers, and flipping tires.  I’m dead serious.  Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney didn’t get to the National Championship the last two years because they have superior strength and conditioning coaches.  In fact I bet Nick Saban would still beat Sumlin if Saban hired Larry Jackson as his strength and conditioning coach.  Just Sumlin re-arranging his staff and blaming someone else because he can’t re-arrange or blame himself thanks to his big contract.  Classic clueless management.

Units That Will Be Better:

Since I’m bagging on units that I think will be worse I do think there’s some units that will be better.  I think it starts with our offensive line.  We lose our tackles but I think we’ll be fine with their replacements.  Neither of those guys are getting drafted super high and doesn’t look like they’re going to play tackle at the next level so I think they’re replaceable.  It’s not like we‘re losing someone named Joeckel, Matthews, Ogbuehi, or even Ifedi.  There will be some shuffling of positions along the line it seems but I think we’ll settle on 5 guys that will be better than last year mainly because we had a lot of youth along the interior and those guys should be better this season.

I think we’ll be better at the running back position as well.  We were pretty good last year but I think Keith Ford and Tray Williams will be better just having a full season under their belt.  Hopefully we rely more on the run this year as boring as it might be.  This is where I wish we had our starting quarterback already named so we would have some idea of what kind of offense we’d be running.  With Starkel we’d have a more pro style/pocket offense and with Mond it would be more zone read.  At least that’s what I’d assume.  It would be nice to spend the entire off season knowing which way we should be working.  If Mazzone plans on running the same offense with either QB we’re hosed.  For our running backs I’d love for them to be able to spend the off season knowing if they’re going to be used in more direct hand offs or part of a zone read type offense.  It’s not that big of a deal but I think it would help.

I also think our linebacking corps will be better.  Dodson should be better and the addition of Hines and Marchiol add some needed talent and depth.  They’re likely too young to have a major impact this season but they’ll add some talent and depth that we haven’t had in a while which will be an improvement.  Assuming this unit stays healthy and improves with time it’ll be much better than last year’s unit.  We will desperately need an improved linebacking corps since we won’t have any pass rush to speak of.

I think our secondary will be about the same as last year.  Losing Justin Evans will hurt but as long as we have Armani and Donovan Wilson we still have major talent.  Hopefully cornerback will be better as it can’t get much worse even though there’s talk Nick Harvey might be out for the season.  Either way I don’t see a major drop off or improvement for our secondary as it’ll be much like last year I believe.

Bottom Line for 2017 and Sumlin:

With all of that being said I don’t see how Sumlin wins 8 games next year.  The schedule is less favorable than last season.  We lose our best offensive player in Trevor Knight and defensive player in Myles Garrett.  We won 8 games last year losing the last 4 against major conference opponents.  We got beat by Kansas State in a bowl game.  Kansas State in a bowl game in Houston.  Think about that.  Kevin Sumlin in his fifth year got beat by 115 year old Bill Snyder in a bowl game filled with Aggies everywhere when he had almost a month to prepare.  You think a new strength and conditioning coach is going to cure that and win at least 8 games again?  I hope Sumlin proves me wrong but his data set is way too big for me to think otherwise.  Plain and simple this team will be worse from a roster standpoint coupled with a tougher schedule than last year.  I don’t know how 8 wins is even possible looking at it objectively but we shall see.  Sumlin has 12 games to prove everyone wrong that he’s figured it out.

I’ll do a season preview in the next couple of months along with a list of potential new coaches after that.  I don’t see 2017 being a very good season for Aggie football and I hope the higher ups are already doing their due diligence for if/when a change at the top spot is needed.  Sadly I think this is the season where all of the shine for Kevin Sumlin comes off and the 2012 season seems like a distant memory.

I’ll be in the stands for every Aggie home game along with UCLA and Florida wearing my “Make Aggie Football Great Again” hat hoping for the moment it comes to fruition.

#MAFGA