Texas A&M Football

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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Did Texas A&M Treat Kevin Sumlin Fairly?

kevin_sumlin__intro press conference

As we draw near to the end of the Sumlin era let’s look at how things got to where they are.  Over the next week or so there will be lots of narratives and agendas being pushed by various people in the local and national media.  Some will do it because of existing relationships with Sumlin, some will do it because of their perception of A&M, and some will do it just to draw attention in hopes of propelling their name.  Nobody will really be taking an objective look at how things got here because when you look at things objectively it’s actually pretty boring.  People like drama which propels attention so narratives and agendas will be pursued.

Before moving forward let’s address a potential elephant in the room.  The racist note the Sumlin family received after the UCLA game.  Some will want to use that as an example Sumlin was mis-treated and A&M is a racist school.  None of that is true.  Not one Aggie I’ve spoken with in private has any response other than they can’t believe someone sent that.  It’s not reflective of the A&M fan base at all.  That note was sent by a rogue Aggie “fan.”  Based on the writing and return address it’s likely an old white lady with some money.  The reality of her situation is she probably has more time and money than most and hits the wine too much.  In addition, her husband is probably tired of her nagging him and doesn’t talk to her anymore just like her kids.  He’d divorce her but it would cost too much so he just ignores her which means she needs an outlet to get attention.  One night the week after the UCLA game she had a little too much wine and wrote the Sumlin’s a note using the only address she knew that wasn’t her home.  She’s a pathetic human being and not reflective of the Aggie fan base at all.  If someone wants to use that to paint the entire Aggie fan base they’re just as pathetic with a feeble brain that can’t apply logic to a situation and also pushing an agenda.  It’s a terrible thing that happened but it means nothing the grand scheme if you have half a brain.

Dismiss anyone that wants to bring up that issue as a factor in anything related to Sumlin.  In fact, send them to this link which proves it’s a non-story as it pertains to the A&M fan base as a whole.  Mrs. Sumlin makes it pretty clear she sees it as a poor pathetic person acting as an individual and not a representative of the fan base – https://twitter.com/courshel/status/906988595696820224/photo/1

Another item to think about with people with an agenda against A&M is how the Sumlin situation was handled this week.  A&M is no different than any other major program.  Think about LSU two years ago.  Think about Texas last year when it was made aware Charlie Strong would not survive his last game against TCU no matter the outcome after three seasons in Austin.  Any Longhorn fans that talks trash about A&M in this situation just ask them about how Charlie Strong was handled.  It likely won’t shut them up because a lot of them are morons but it might.  It was handled almost the same way heading into the last game.  Think about Florida earlier this year when reports surfaced that McElwain’s agent had met with the Florida administration on a buyout.  The Florida AD denied that report and two days later fired McElwain.

Hell, think about how firings are handled in your workplace.  Sometimes they’re known before they happen as well.  I’m not saying people don’t deserve better but to say the Sumlin situation has been handled this week is different than how MULTIPLE other situations have is foolish.  Do I wish A&M could have handled it differently?  Sure.  Is it possible to handle it differently?  Based on other programs in similar situations it sure doesn’t seem like it.  You never know who is leaking this stuff as it could be the coach’s agent to get the word out there his coach is available.  Terminating an employee is rarely clean and quick no matter the level or industry.  Kevin Sumlin was not treated any differently than countless other coaches.  At least he’s not getting fired on the tarmac after landing from a road loss.  Coaches also leave on their own in less than desirable circumstances.  Sadly it’s the nature of the beast in the industry.  Don’t let anyone act like A&M is any worse than anyone else.

What I think is interesting about these changes is that it’s really a life lesson for the players.  At some point in their professional career someone they report to will move on which will change their professional outlook.  They also might be moved intercompany and have to report to someone they’ve never reported to before.  At that point an individual can either realize they themselves have more effect on their professional career than anyone else or they can wallow in self-pity they have a different boss they didn’t choose.  Winners go on and win while losers look for blame.  It’s not an easy lesson but believe it or not it can be a beneficial one.  We live in a world where things change.  I do believe a player should have 12 months to transfer to any school without sitting out once a school makes a change at head coach.  That’s my only real issue in changes like this.  Other than that it’s just a reality of life despite what the talking heads say.  They work for companies that lay people off or their bosses leave for greener pastures all the time.  They themselves have all left for greener pastures at some point but they fail to mention that when they become holier than thou in a coaching change.  It’s not perfect and never will be perfect.  It’s called life.

With that out of the way let’s talk about what Kevin Sumlin was given during his tenure at Texas A&M:

  • The greatest offensive line in A&M history, a senior laden defense, and Johnny Football in his first season as coach. He capitalized on it in his first season but he walked into a near perfect situation for a first year coach.  Most coaches don’t inherit the loaded team he inherited.
  • The nicest on campus football stadium in the country.
  • Football facilities that are on par with anyone in the country.
  • Money to hire any assistant/football staff he asked for.
  • The Swagcopter.
  • 30,000 seat student section which is the largest and best location for intimidating the opponent.
  • A passionate fan base of former students that ranked in the Top 5 of attendance during his tenure.
  • A large contract increase after his second year when there appeared to be potential suitors in the NFL and USC . This put him in the Top 5 of coaches salary wise and he would always be in the Top 7 of coaches in during his remaining tenure.
  • SIX seasons at Texas A&M which seems to be lost on people claiming he needs more time and stability. He had SIX seasons of stability coupled with everything else listed above.  Kevin Sumlin had PLENTY of time as head coach of A&M to establish as a perennial Top 25 program.

Now let’s list out what Kevin Sumlin didn’t do:

  • Place higher than 3rd in the SEC West even in his first year when he went 10-2 in the regular season.  He never placed higher than 4th after the 2012 season.
  • Win more than 8 games in the regular season beyond his first season in 2012.
  • Finish in the Top 25 in his final 4 seasons. He finished at #5 and #18 in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
  • Have a winning SEC record outside of 2012. Most seasons he was 4-4 in SEC games.
  • Win SEC games in November after the 2012 season. Heading into his final game against LSU he is 4-10 in November games against the SEC from 2013 on.
  • Win SEC games at Kyle Field. In his six seasons Sumlin was 8-14 against SEC opponents and 3-12 against SEC West opponents at Kyle Field.  What was once a major home field advantage in college football Sumlin never could utilize.
  • Have a winning record against the Mississippi SEC schools. Sumlin is 3-3 against both Mississippi SEC schools.  While respectable programs A&M should have a winning record against those programs based on resources.
  • Beat LSU ever. Heading into this weekend’s game Kevin Sumlin has never beat LSU in five tries.  That trend will likely continue.
  • Keep a consistent string of starting quarterbacks. We all know about the Kyler Murray/Kyle Allen situation but where Sumlin really screwed up was not recruiting Jarret Stidham twice.  I can understand the first time as he was completely enamored with Kyler Murray as where a lot of people.  However, the second time he had the opportunity to recruit Stidham he had no veteran quarterback on the roster and passed.  He should have learned with Trevor Knight what a talented transfer quarterback can mean to a football team that has a depleted quarterback situation.  If he signs Stidham in the last recruiting class he’s likely secure as A&M’s head coach right now.  He didn’t learn his lesson which is a trend with him.
  • Keep his offensive line stocked with talent. What was a strength during his first season fell off dramatically due mainly to a bad string of offensive line coaching hires in identifying talent.  Jim Turner appears to be too little too late at this point.
  • Change his ways of coaching when coaching for his job in 2017. There were no visible changes for how Sumlin handled in game situations in 2017.  His handling of the clock based on awareness of the game situation was no different than previous seasons.  The preparedness of his team before certain games and coming off bye weeks seemed no different than previous seasons.  He never adjusted to winning SEC games at Kyle or November.  For a coach that alluded to doing different things in 2017 because of the perceived “hot seat” the results were the EXACT same as the previous 4 seasons.  His stubbornness or lack of awareness didn’t change one bit when it needed to.
  • Establish Texas A&M as the definitive SEC program West of the Mississippi. I’ve always felt one thing Sumlin should have done was establish A&M as the Western outpost of the SEC.  He was well on his way securing major commitments out of Arizona and Nevada but his lack of wins never allowed him to establish what should be a key component in A&M’s recruiting.
  • Hire a competent offensive coordinator after Kliff Kingsbury. Clarence McKinney, Jake Spavital, and Noel Mazzone were not successful offensive coordinators.  They scored points and gained yards but their offenses were wildly inconsistent disappearing and not sustaining drives in games when they mattered most.  Sumlin chose to hire people he had a relationship with rather than hiring the most competent offensive coordinator he could find.  His hiring of Jake Spavital and not demoting him fast enough also lead to the firing of B.J. Anderson and hiring Dave Christensen to coach the offensive line which was a complete disaster.  He did a nice job hiring Jim Turner but it seems too little too late.  Speaking of Dave Christensen ask the Christensen family how they felt after Christensen was let go after one year.  Sometimes the college coaching profession is a messy business and neither side is perfect.
  • Win without Johnny Manziel. Sumlin was 20-6 (77%) with Johnny Manziel and 31-19 (62%) without.  It’s not a stark difference but it’s a difference that contributed to his dismissal.  Most of the difference is tied to his SEC record.

Let’s talk about some of the things Kevin Sumlin did do:

  • Had the guts to start a redshirt freshman by the name of Johnny Manziel that would win A&M’s second Heisman and lead A&M to a Top 5 finish that season.
  • Beat Arkansas a perfect 6 times. It took 3 of those going to overtime but credit is due where credit is due.
  • For the most part ran a really clean program Aggies everywhere can be proud of. There were a couple of problem players early in his tenure and the Kirk Merritt situation wasn’t handled in the best manner but Sumlin ran a program that never shamed A&M relative to other programs.  He’s a good person that served A&M admirably as head coach outside of wins and losses.
  • Recruited really well. Sumlin was by the far greatest recruiting coach in the last 20 years.
  • Hire John Chavis. Despite what some people think John Chavis has been a really solid defensive coordinator.  Sumlin might already be fired if it wasn’t for John Chavis.  He’s been worth 3-4 more wins in Sumlin’s tenure and could have been worth 3-4 more wins with a competent offense.  John Chavis is not perfect but I stand by he’s a Top 10 defensive coordinator in college football.  Credit to Sumlin for making this hire as it’s saved his job until now.
  • Continued putting players into the NFL but that is trending down at the moment.
  • While this area is mostly positives there is one thing Sumlin did that needs to be remembered and referenced earlier. During the 2013 season he flirted with the USC job along with NFL openings.  That flirting got him his 6 year/$30 million contract extension.  While the talking heads talk about loyalty from the A&M side they need to remember Sumlin was looking out for himself during the 2013 season.  I don’t fault him but don’t forget Sumlin has been on the business side of things himself.

When you look at the ledger of what Kevin Sumlin was given, what he didn’t do, and what he did do as coach at Texas A&M it’s hard to say he was treated unfairly by Texas A&M.  He was given everything he asked for over six seasons but yet failed to finish in the Top 25 despite being paid as a Top 5-7 coach.  He was compensated way higher than what he delivered over the last four seasons.  It’s not a knock on him personally but it is a knock on him as a head coach.  He simply didn’t deliver to the expectations that were placed on him and Texas A&M has decided to move on.  Those in charge of Texas A&M feel that Aggie Football is capable of achieving better results than what Kevin Sumlin has and will likely deliver.  It’s nothing personal as a clear pattern of mediocre football has been established under Sumlin’s final five seasons.  It’s a business.  Sumlin knows this better than anyone.  Win enough or else.

Going back to how things were handled this week there are reports Sumlin was made aware of the decision prior to the public report by Brent Zwerneman in the Houston Chronicle.  If Sumlin failed to inform his staff that’s on him as he could have given them a heads up to start putting feelers out for other jobs.  I’m sure Sumlin’s agent has already got a jump on things reaching out to athletic directors that might be interested in hiring Sumlin.  I don’t think Sumlin has been sitting on his hands waiting for the official public announcement from Texas A&M.  I doubt his assistants have been sitting on their hands as well despite the article by Bruce Feldman claiming an assistant first hear about it when the Chronicle published Zwerneman’s story.  I’d wager every one of Sumlin’s assistants has put some kind of feeler out for employment next year.  Employee departures are never easy and clean.  Welcome to this thing called life.

Despite all of the noise what’s going to happen is there to be a change in head coach at Texas A&M in the next couple of weeks.  A month from now everyone will have moved on from this week’s news of how Kevin Sumlin, his staff, and the players were claimed to be “treated unfairly” by a few people with an agenda or need for attention.  At worst if Sumlin, staff, and players found out via the Chronicle story at least he wasn’t in the driveway of a recruit like Mike Sherman.  There have been worse coaching termination notifications and there will be worse.  It’s never a clean move despite what the “experts” say.  It’s all part of the business.  Kevin Sumlin will likely have a new head coaching job in a month from now if he really wants one.  He’s a fine coach but he’s just not a great coach as the last five years at A&M have shown.  Maybe this is the wake-up call he needs to finally make changes to his coaching style.  Either way a year from now all of this will mostly be forgotten just like Charlie Strong and Texas last season and countless other coaching changes over the years.  This is no different.

It looks like Jimbo Fisher could be the new guy which I’m fully on board with.  It’s a MAJOR statement hire by Texas A&M and likely the most sure thing out there.  It won’t be cheap but it could absolutely be worth it.  A&M made a bold move to the SEC which woke some people up but hasn’t woken everyone up.  Some people still don’t have an objective opinion of Texas A&M Football.  The hire of Jimbo Fisher will continue to wake people up that Texas A&M has the ability and desire to compete with the top programs in the country.  It’s all about coaching and A&M is making a move to see if they can find the right coach to Make Aggie Football Great Again like it was from 1985 to 1995.  No more and no less despite what someone may want to portray it as.

#MAFGA

BTHO LSU!

Gig ‘Em Aggies!

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Thoughts on the Ole Miss Game

2017 Ole Miss

This week’s thoughts are going to be pretty short because the Ole Miss game was more of the same as we’ve seen all season.  Even with Nick Starkel starting his first game of the year against a P5 team since UCLA it was much of the same.  I will say that had Kellen Mond started the game we likely lose.  Ole Miss committed to shut down the run and luckily Starkel was able to complete passes.  If we don’t have a passing game then we lose that game without a doubt.

Before I get to my analysis the craziest thing about the game was the first 7 possessions by each team were mirror images.  When Ole Miss scored A&M scored.  When Ole Miss punted A&M punted.  When Ole Miss turned the ball over A&M turned the ball over.  Pretty crazy first 14 possessions for the game.

Now to my quick analysis of the game.

Offense:

We scored 31 points but only 21 of those were by the offense.  All of those in the first half.  The defense was responsible for 7 of those points and LaCamera was responsible for the other 3.  Outside of responding to what Ole Miss was doing in the first half this offense didn’t do much at all.  Every chance we had to really respond and take the lead or even start pulling away we didn’t do anything.  It was completely frustrating seeing us get the ball with a chance to take the lead or pull away and couldn’t do anything.

I believe coming into this game Ole Miss was 125th against the run in the country.  That’s out of 129 teams.  That’s not good as they’ve given up around 5.5 yards every carry.  What did A&M do to exploit that?  Not a damn thing.  A&M running backs rushed 38 times for 133 yards.  That’s 3.5 yards per carry which isn’t terrible.  Take away Keith Ford’s 43 yard run and we rushed 37 times for 90 yards.  That’s 2.43 yards per carry.  Against the 125th ranked run defense in the country that’s terrible.  Three yards a carry less than their average.   That’s maddening we couldn’t exploit that.

Even worse is Trayveon Williams carried the ball 26 times for 75 yards.  That’s averaging 2.9 yards a carry but the worst part is his longest run was 6 yards.  Trayveon got the ball 26 times and the longest run he could muster was 6 yards.  26 chances and his longest run was 6 yards.  Trayveon’s longest run was what Ole Miss gives up on average every run coming into the game.  Let that sink in.  Trayveon is a home run hitting running back so that’s all on our offensive line.  On 26 carries not once could they open up a hole big enough for Traveon to bust off a run longer than 6 yards.  That’s terrible.  It seems it was just basic running schemes off the left guard or right guard.  It was great to see us commit to the run in the second half but it’s disconcerting that we couldn’t actually establish a running game against a TERRIBLE run defense.

I know our offensive line is terrible but it’s more frustrating that our offense can’t scheme any home run plays for two really good backs.  Especially against a team that’s struggled against the run.  We couldn’t really do anything in the running game other than what a high school team can do.  I don’t get it.  It appeared to be basic zone blocking and nothing more.  I’m fine with zone blocking but when you can’t establish it against a terrible run defense you better have something else in your back pocket to try.  We had nothing other than keep handing off and crossing the fingers hoping a big play happens.

We also still had issues with snaps.  I don’t know how many there were but I believe I counted around 5 during the game.  There was a crucial one being on the last drive where we were trying to punch it in to the end zone to put the game away.  It completely stalled out a potential goal line score.  Erik McCoy is our best offensive lineman by far but I have no clue why he can’t clean up his snaps.  I don’t get it at all.

Starkel was 19 of 32 for 272 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception.  That’s less than 50% so he wasn’t exactly lighting it up but it was a solid enough performance.  It was definitely good enough to win and I don’t think Mond would have done the same.  We might have had a better running game with Mond but it wouldn’t have been dominating at all.  Mond wouldn’t have been the difference in establishing a running game but just more likely he would have busted off a couple longer runs.  I still think we lose with Mond though.  Starkel helped us win that game but the defense in the second half was the reason we won the game.  Not the offense.

From a receiving standpoint Damion Ratley had probably the best game of his career.  He was outstanding catching 5 balls for 111 yards and a touchdown.  He had two big catches on our first two offensive possessions when we had to respond to Ole Miss scores.  He’s had his ups and downs this season but he’s been tremendous at times.  Kirk had his normal productive game catching 5 balls for 77 yards.  Jhamon Ausbon had probably his best game of the season catching 4 balls for 61 yards.  Outside of those three there wasn’t much else in the passing game.

Let’s get to some nitpicking.  There was an extremely frustrating moment in the first half.  It looked like we were setting up a trick play or some kind of play to our tight end.  We wind up false starting as the tight end streaked down the field before the snap.  That’s completely a high school team move.  We’re about to call a play with a wrinkle and our offense got ancy completely screwing it up.  Similar to what happened in the Florida game.  It just reeks of being unprepared and not disciplined.

From a coaching standpoint on offense Kevin Sumlin showed what appears to be continued complete unawareness of urgency.  Ole Miss is lining up to kick a 28 yard field goal tied 21-21 with 28 seconds left in the half.  The clock isn’t rolling because there was an incomplete pass so there’s no need to call a timeout by A&M.  We call a timeout so I guess Sumlin thought he was icing the kicker.  Um, you can’t ice a kicker on a 28 yard field goal.  That’s 8 yards longer than an extra point.  There’s no icing a 28 yard attempt.  I’m not sure what Sumlin was thinking with that timeout.  I really don’t.  By the time the kick went through the uprights there was 24 seconds left in the half.  That’s not a lot of time but you can move the ball with 24 seconds and two timeouts to set up a field goal and try to tie the game going in at half time.  Those two timeouts would allow you to attack the middle of the field rather than just the sidelines.

What happens when Ole Miss kicks off?  They kick the ball short to Trayveon and he bobbles it before taking off.  Seems like a lack of focus or urgency by him but he actually got to the 32 yard line with 17 seconds left.  Not a lot of time but decent position and you have one timeout.  Go for the middle of the field, call the timeout, and go for a hail mary.  What do we do?  We run the ball.  Trayveon runs to the sideline for a 2 yard gain stopping the clock.  We then rush it up the middle for 6 yards and let time expire.  I don’t get it.  If you have no intention of calling the timeout you have why not kneel it?

If you don’t want to take a chance on a pass why not call the timeout and run the ball again on a draw or screen in case you happen to break a long run?  It’s not likely but if you’re going to try and run twice why not try a third time?  It’s just mind boggling what Sumlin is thinking in those situations.  He doesn’t have ANY sense of urgency or awareness.  I’d been fine if he just kneeled it.  Why expose your running back to two additional hits along with your other players if you have no interest in scoring?  I just don’t get Sumlin’s end of the half play and clock management.  I don’t think he honestly knows either.

Another situation was at the end of the game we’re up by 4 with 2 minutes left on the 1 yard line.  It’s 4th down and Sumlin decides to kick the field goal.  It’s a chip shot which would put us up by 7 but we now have to kick off to Ole Miss with a little less than 2 minutes left.  Ole Miss has no timeouts left and would have to score a touchdown.  Sumlin decided rather than attempt a 4th and goal from the 1 yard line he’d rather go up by 7 and kick off to Ole Miss.  If we score the game is over.  No way Ole Miss can score 11 points with less than 2 minutes and no timeouts.  If we don’t make it then Ole Miss has to drive 99 yards for a touchdown with 2 minutes and no timeouts because a field goal won’t be enough.  I would think a head coach would know the probabilities of a team scoring from a kickoff in under 2 minutes or driving 99 yards in 2 minutes.  I can’t help but think driving the 99 yards with 2 minutes and no timeouts to be much less likely.

To make matters worse I think our kickoff specialist who can kick it out of the back of the end zone was hurt as LaCamera was handling kick offs.  LaCamera is a great field goal kicker but doesn’t have Braden Mann’s leg on kick offs.  We don’t even have our best kick off guy which would seems more reason to go for the touchdown to put it away or set up a 99 yard drive.

LaCamera kicks off to their 15 and they return it to their 34 yard line so they’re set up pretty well.  Ole Miss has three incompletes which ended their series before it could ever get going so we wound up just fine.  Sumlin’s decision there just reeks of a coach not confident in his offense and not knowing the likely percentages of a team scoring with 2 minutes and no timeouts either having to go 99 yards or receiving a kickoff that’s returnable.  It turned out fine but I would love to know if Sumlin knows the related probabilities in those two scenarios.  I would think a coach would have some clue.  Maybe Sumlin knows the probabilities and that was the basis for his decision but I highly doubt it.

He just seems to have ZERO sense of urgency or awareness for what’s going on for all facets of the game when it comes to making decisions.  It appears he just decides in a vacuum of actual football probabilities and awareness for his team.

Defense:

We’ll talk about the first half briefly.  We all saw what happened.  It’s confusing how we gave up over 300 yards in the first half but only 66 in the second half.  It’s tremendous we did it because it saved the game for A&M but the difference in the halves is amazing.  From my standpoint there was no sense of urgency coming out to play the first half.  There were TONS of missed tackles it seemed.  There was no swarming to the ball and the defense just seemed to be going through the motions.  Ole Miss wasn’t known as a running team coming into the game but they ran all over us in the first half.  Defending the run with our front 6 has been a strength of this team for most of the season.  It was terrible for a half against a team not known for running the ball.  I didn’t understand it as it was happening and still don’t for the most part.

The second half was completely different as our defense shut down the Ole Miss offense.  They held Ole Miss scoreless and only allowed 66 yards in the second half for their 8 possessions.  That’s domination.  Amazing adjustments by Chavis at half so the defense deserves major credit for the win.  Without them stepping up in the second half we lose that game.  I don’t even really know what else to write because it’s so dysfunctional where the same players can get rolled in the first half and then dominate the second.  You got me but credit to the Aggie defense for stepping up when it mattered most.

And of course the key play of the second half was the pick six by Derrick Tucker.  That was the only time the Aggies saw the end zone in the second half because our offense stunk it up in the second half.  Just an uncanny game with two completely different halves of football.  You got me.

Special Teams:

More of the same here where lots of inconsistency from various units but there was one star and that was Shane Tripucka.  He punted 8 times for 368 yards which is a 46 yard average.  Most importantly he pinned 5 of those kicks inside the 20 yard line.  I thought he was outstanding all night.

Other than Tripucka nobody really stood out to me from a special teams standpoint.

Going Forward:

I don’t think this game changes anything with Sumlin.  Even if he beats LSU I think he’s gone.  I don’t think he’ll beat LSU though as if Ole Miss can shut down our offense for a half then LSU can shut us down the whole game.  I think LSU has enough talent on offense to score more points than our offense will score.  At 7-5 Sumlin will be done with no question.

Even with a win over LSU I don’t think Sumlin survives 8-4 because I think the relationship of Sumlin and A&M is done.  I think both parties will agree to move on.  With UCLA opening up I wouldn’t be shocked to see Sumlin take that job.  It seems to suit him a lot more.  Bright lights and not the same sense of urgency A&M has to win it all.  Sumlin can survive a LONG time winning 8 and 9 wins a season at UCLA.  I think he’ll go there and we’ll be off the hook for a good portion of his buyout.

As for Sumlin’s replacement I’m now all in on Jimbo Fisher.  He’s kind of a jerk but he can flat out coach.  It won’t be cheap but he’ll do better than Sumlin and there’s a good chance he’ll make A&M the second best team in the SEC West.  Plus, it’s a major shot that Texas A&M is serious about winning big time college football.  Attracting Jimbo Fisher IMMEDIATELY changes the perception of Texas A&M from a national standpoint.  It’ll prove that A&M is interested in being more than the sleepy college football program that perpetually underachieves relative to its resources.  It’s a hire that says Texas A&M is now a Top 10 job in the country like it should be.  Maybe Fisher won’t be successful but his track record says otherwise.

If we don’t get Fisher then I say give Chad Morris a chance assuming he keeps John Chavis and his defensive staff.  Either way we have to act quickly with an early signing period this year.

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!

Chad Morris is Better than Kevin Sumlin

Morris Greater Than Sumlin

Before I get going with this column I want to make two things clear:

  • At this point there’s a 97% chance Kevin Sumlin will be let go as the A&M coach. Even if he wins the final 3 games he’ll wind up at 8-4 which will be too little too late.  I don’t see him beating LSU as I think the LSU defensive line will destroy the Aggie offensive line.  If he goes 7-5 he stands no chance of coming back.    We’ll be 5th in the West and that’s not going to cut it in Season 6.
  • This column isn’t advocating for the hiring of Chad Morris. This column is to simply establish a baseline for those people that believe we won’t be able to hire someone better than Kevin Sumlin.  Chad Morris would be our “worst” hire.  The attitude that Kevin Sumlin is the best we can do is a terrible one to have.  Kevin Sumlin is in over his head at Texas A&M.  There are a LOT of coaches that can do what Kevin Sumlin has done at Texas A&M.  Kevin Sumlin has never won more than 8 games in the regular season other than his first season.  Let’s not forget about his struggles in November as well.  He’s not a very good coach despite what some think.  Texas A&M can absolutely do better and we need to eliminate this defeatist attitude.

I also want to establish two questions those in charge of the hiring decision need to make perfectly clear as they go forward:

  • How much are we willing to pay? It can be fluid but I think those making the hiring decision need to know if money is going to be a factor.  Don’t go shopping without a budget as that will get you in trouble.
  • Are we looking to hire someone that can potentially compete with Nick Saban or do we want to be second in the SEC West? A coach that can compete with Nick Saban doesn’t exist so you have to take a chance on an unproven coach like Matt Campbell or Scott Frost if you’re willing to pay money.  Those guys won’t come cheap.  If you want to get a “proven” coach that’s not going to compete with Nick Saban but win 9-11 wins every year then go get Chip Kelly or Mike Leach.  Both of those guys will win more games than Kevin Sumlin but will be expensive because they’re proven in P5 football.

Where Chad Morris comes in is if we’re not willing to spend money but want to improve over Kevin Sumlin.  Chad Morris will win more games than Kevin Sumlin without a doubt.  While his head coaching record at SMU is in question it’s still SMU.  Nick Saban wouldn’t walk into SMU and win 10 games in 2-3 seasons.  Chad Morris is not a horrible head coach once you dig below the surface of the wins and losses at SMU.  He’s improved his record each season he’s been there.  He went 2-10 his first season at SMU but he inherited a team that was horrible.  They didn’t score an offensive touchdown until their 5th game the season before as June Jones quit on that team.  Last year he went 5-7 with a blowout over 11th ranked Houston.  That’s progress.

This season he’s sitting at 6-3 so he’s already improved last season’s win total with 3 games left.  He’s got 2 tough games in Navy and Memphis but he could absolutely beat Tulane improving SMU to 7-5 in his third season.  That would be a marked improvement for the program he took over 3 seasons ago.  He’s not a coach that inherited a great program like Kevin Sumlin and Tom Herman did at UH.  He took over a crappy program that won 1 game with a wretched offense the season he took it over.  He only won 2 games the next season but he made immediate improvements to their offense which is his specialty.  The SMU defense was horrible.

Digging beyond his time at SMU he was the offensive coordinator at Clemson for 4 seasons.  During those 4 seasons the Clemson offense established 127 offensive records and posted the top 3 scoring seasons in Clemson history.  While there he was crucial in recruiting and developing Deshaun Watson’s early collegiate career.  Clemson would play for the national championship in the two seasons after Morris left with coordinators that served under Morris.  If Chad Morris was still the Clemson offensive coordinator and had played in the last two national championship games winning one and maybe two would your perception of him be different?  He’d be the hottest name in coaching without a doubt.  Instead he’d be an “underwhelming” hire from SMU.  He’s still the same coach but now with some collegiate head coaching experience so he’s actually better served to be a head coach at a P5 school.

Before Clemson he served one season as OC at Tulsa where they averaged 41.4 points a game.  The dude is a successful collegiate offensive coordinator.  Before Tulsa he served as head coach in the Texas high school ranks for schools like Bay City, Stephenville, and Lake Travis.  His record as a high school coach is 169-38 winning 3 state titles including two back to back titles at Lake Travis before going to Tulsa.  The dude can coach.  Art Briles and Billy Gillispie made the jump just fine to winning games at the college level from high school.  Let’s leave their personal issues out of it as I think Chad Morris is a fine person based on what I know.  We’re just looking at the transition to win from high school to college in Texas.  It’s very possible to have it translate.

He’s won pretty much wherever he’s gone but hasn’t won enough for Aggies that are only aware of his record at SMU.  He took over a HORRIBLE SMU program and has improved them each year.  When you dig under the hood he’s a damn good football coach and I promise you better than Kevin Sumlin.  When you dig under Kevin Sumlin’s hood you learn there’s not much there other than being in the right place at the right time.  Sumlin’s timing up until this point has been impeccable but his coaching is far from it.  Sumlin got rich from A&M and it’s time to move on.

I’m not advocating for the hiring of Chad Morris right now.  I want Texas A&M to do an exhaustive search and analysis for the best coach that fits the parameters of the two questions above.  Chad Morris is going to leave SMU at some point for a better program.  Maybe it’s A&M and maybe it’s not but he will leave SMU for a P5 job sooner than later.  I just want Aggies to realize that if we wind up with Chad Morris as our “worst” option it will be MUCH better than Kevin Sumlin because the dude can coach football.  I don’t know that he’ll be able to compete with Nick Saban but I do know he’ll be able to do better than what Kevin Sumlin has done here.

I do think if we hire Morris he’ll have to leave many of his SMU assistants behind as his staff isn’t amazing and he’ll need more seasoned SEC guys.  If we do hire Morris I’d actually like to keep our defensive staff in place.  Our defense has played pretty well in the first half of games but the lack of offense has really hurt our defensive efforts.  I think a combination of Morris and Chief would create a staff that could easily win 2 games a season more than Sumlin right away.

What Texas A&M has in Kevin Sumlin is not working.  It’s a bad marriage that needs to end.  If Chad Morris is our next hire then be pretty damn excited because things will get better without a doubt.  We will have hired a coach that’s going to make Texas A&M a better football team from Day 1 over what Kevin Sumlin has offered us the past 5 seasons.  Chad Morris is not the “sexiest” hire out there for Texas A&M but he’s a damn good coach that will absolutely make us better.  He’ll come at a price that will make the move worth every penny “invested” in what’s owed Kevin Sumlin after this season.

Don’t get caught up in the glitz on the surface.  There’s lots of good coaches that can do what Kevin Sumlin has done at Texas A&M.  There’s no doubt in my mind Chad Morris will do better than Kevin Sumlin and if he’s the “worst” hire Texas A&M can make then we’ll still be better off.  I truly think Chad Morris and John Chavis would win 9 games next season at Texas A&M.

That’s still a far cry from what we really want but it would be a hell of a lot better than what Kevin Sumlin is doing right now.  If you can’t get excited about that then I’m not sure what else to tell you as improvement has to start somewhere.  Chad Morris would absolutely offer immediate improvement with the right staff.

EDIT:  One thing I wanted to make clear but didn’t in the original piece is I don’t care that Chad Morris is an Aggie.  It’s a non factor for me.  I don’t care about someone with ties to Texas or “gets” Texas A&M.  It shouldn’t even be a consideration in this hire.  Winners win.  Simple as that.  Aggie and Texas connections don’t matter to me.

Also an interesting note in doing some light research on Morris is he interviewed for the Tech job when Kingsbury got it.  Sounds like Kinsbury was the selection over Morris.  Think Tech would like to have that decision back?

 

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.