Assuming Tiger isn’t 12 under heading into Amen Corner Saturday afternoon, the eyes of the sports world will be focused on College Station, Texas - where a plucky little regional startup known as ESPN will be broadcasting the spring football game. For those of you who associate this part of the calendar largely with annual Mike Sherman water balloon fights, welcome back. However, there are a few things to know as preparations for the perfect weather weekend commence.
1. You’re not going to learn much about the team.
If Kevin Sumlin has proven anything over his first 16 months on the job, it’s that the man tends to know what he’s doing, and showcasing a bunch of new formations and plays probably isn’t on the menu for public viewing. Sure, there are some individual stories to watch on that side of the ball: OU transfer Brandon Williams’ continued development at running back, the emergence of JaQuay Williams at wide receiver, the curious case of Gaston Lamascus’ spring dominance, and Cam Clear’s pass-catching aptitude.
But really, this is about the backups, young guys, and walk-ons proving to girlfriends that they are, in fact, a member of the team. The offensive line seems set, Ben Malena looks great, Mike Evans looks other-worldly – and there’s a rather decent guy running the show at quarterback. Enjoy the nuts and bolts of what has the potential to be an all-time great college football offense.
2. Find the guy in the headset.
Should serious questions arise, such as: who are the new linebackers, special teams, and quarterbacks coaches? (Mark Hagen, Jeff Banks, and Jake Spavital), who’s calling the plays now that the dudebro guy is gone? (Clarence McKinney), where is the local Waffle House? (um, dammit) – always, always find The Guy in the Headset, for he knows everything, even as he’s furiously focused on Dave South describing a play from sometime around 1997.
Headset Guy will haughtily inform you that yes, Floyd Raven to safety is working out brilliantly, Nate Askew to linebacker is working out decently, and don’t worry too much about the defensive line since most of the heavy-rotation guys are either hurt, or coming in the summer. Also, the defense is playing it vanilla because Mark Snyder doesn’t want to show a national viewing audience how to defend our offense, duh. ALSO, what’s up with all the girls here and this place was way better when Crocker Hall was still standing and who is that young man playing the loud music on the sideline and that’s the problem with New Army and WHY ARE YOU BACKING AWAY FROM ME YOUNG MAN I HAVE A HEADSET.
Walk away slowly.
3. Focus on your surroundings.
First, honestly score yourself on age, attractiveness, and creep factor. Then, keeping in mind said score, either focus on the attractive college girls sitting two rows down, the attractive 40-somethings down the aisle, or the continuing growth of placekicker Taylor Bertolet and the remarkable consistency that punter Drew Kaser seems to have found this spring. As John F. Kennedy and Buddy Wyatt said, time stands still for no one.
4. Drink wisely.
Those first few truly warm days of spring can creep up on even the most experienced of day-drinkers (aka college students), so remember to drink water and love your liver – May is just around the corner. More importantly, take a slow look around, remembering not to pause too much at coeds lest they report you to campus security. Yes, that’s Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit in the broadcast booth. Yes, that’s a DJ spinning on the sidelines. And yes: that’s the Heisman-winning, alien-instinct quarterback leading a top-5 A&M squad through its final paces of spring practice.
August camp and everything that comes with it - the hype, the freshmen, the expectations, the Twitter controversies – is well on its way. For now, enjoy the journey and the remarkable competitiveness that has been instilled across literally every position on the field.
And feel free to throw a water balloon for old times’ sake.