"We're going into the game thinking we can beat anybody."
It's Alabama hate week folks. No week this year will get the Ags, both players and fans, as completely filled with adrenaline before a kick-off. I don't know about you, but time is going by incredibly slow as I just noticed IT'S STILL TUESDAY?!?! But what really matters is where the coaches and players are in their preparation, so lets review today's presser to try and find out.
First note is that there was no Manziel. He spoke after the SHSU game, and that was enough. Sumlin was asked about that, and showed that he is respecting the wishes of Manziel and his family:
"Quite frankly, right now he and his family and his advisors have advised not to talk. I respect his wishes for that. I think there'll be a time, as I've said beforehand, there'll be a time when he'll be able to speak to the media. I'm going to respect his wish not to speak to the media at this time."
Highlights from this presser:
- Johnny and his family are the ones requesting to be out of the press conferences
- None of the coaching staff thinks the up-tempo offense puts the players at greater risk
- Ricky Seals-Jones is day to day, but may be back this week
- Jordan Mastrogiovanni will be getting the SAM LB start
- The Johnny Cam is stupid
- Toney Hurd Jr., in Hurd Jr. style, feels that A&M is taking over the state of Texas (#SWAG)
Defensive Preparation for Bama
The biggest story on our side of the match-up has obviously been the defensive play over the last two weeks. It's been troubling to say the least. When asked about the defense, Coach Snyder talked about the impact that having the missing A&M starters would have on the defense, most notably Steven Jenkins:
"Jenks played pretty well in this game, played pretty well last year for us period. To have that confidence on the field, a little swag, just permeating will be really good."
Regarding the reps that the suspended players have had over the last two weeks, Snyder indicated that even though the knew about the suspensions in advance of the season, the players suspended were still given reps with the ones in fall camp. They are obviously going to have to knock off a bit of rust during the game, but they will make a big impact over the freshman who have been playing the last few weeks.
Coach Snyder recognizes that A&M will be getting Alabama's best game this weekend, and is moving around personnel accordingly. The most notable change from the depth chart released this week is freshman ILB Jordan Mastrogiovanni getting the start in the SAM LB position over Nate Askew. Both Snyder and Sumlin showed confidence that this is the best move for the defense. As Snyder put it:
"He's our best viable option right now. He's a big, strong kid and he's a smart kid. They have a couple big tight ends, so we feel like he gives us the best chance."
By now everyone has read the reports about Alabama from game one, and the criticism they took for not moving the ball very well. They still put up 35 against Virginia Tech, and that was mostly due to the Alabama player generating the most buzz in the room, Walter Camp Offensive Player of Week 1, junior WR Christion Jones. He absolutely torched Virginia Tech, turning both a kick and punt return into touchdowns for Alabama. He also beat his man deep for a home run ball that put another seven on the board. You can see the highlights here, or just read what Deshazor Everett, man most likely to be running with Jones, said about him:
"He's fast. He's a good returner and we're preparing for that. We're just going to have to go out there and play to his weaknesses and try to play to our strengths."
Getting our starters back on defense to cover the threats presented by the Alabama WR corps will be absolutely huge.
Offensive Preparation for Bama
The talk today from the press seemed less about what we are actually doing offensively, and more about our style of offense that was previously criticized by Saban earlier in the year. Saban didn't think up-temp offenses were "fair" to defenses regarding substitutions, and felt the player injury risk was higher given the amount of plays being run. How does Sumlin respond to this criticism?
"It ought to be pretty obvious how I respond to it. We try to go as fast as we can. I haven't seen any evidence to support the player safety argument. Anything that's within the rules, that's how football is."
Coach McKinney also reiterated Sumlin's statements. His biggest concern isn't the tempo of the offense, but finding weaknesses in an Alabama defense that in his words "No matter where you look, there are no weaknesses." Our biggest strength in this game is going to come out of Johnny's ability to move laterally and scramble, and our Wide Receivers ability to get open. Specifically, McKinney feels that Mike Evans "[has] taken the game to a whole 'nother level." We all would love to see RSJ playing as well, and McKinney indicated that he is day to day, and might return for the game.
Ben Malena isn't worried about how the Alabama defense will adjust after having more time and tape on us since last year, and in his words:
"That's what coaches are paid to do, to make halftime adjustments. Every team we play makes adjustments during the game, but we make adjustments during the game also."
Both the players and coaches sound ready for this game, and are excited to show what this up-tempo offense can do against Alabama's defense.
The Johnny Cam
This has been the most ridiculous note of this week. If you haven't seen it, there will be a camera on Johnny for the entire game. CBS is showing that they can bring the attention of one player to an entirely new level, and will make sure they profit as much as possible by covering the nose-picking and hand-signing of an unpaid athlete. Sumlin apparently didn't know anything about the Johnny Cam until an hour before the press conference. Sumlin remarked about how this is a team sport, and how ridiculous the whole thing is:
"To me it's interesting - everything we do, everything I try to do, everything we try to do here at Texas A&M is about team.
I just don't understand why there's got to be one guy singled out and put a camera on all the time. That's not what we're about, that's not what we're trying to promote and, certainly, from my standpoint all the criticism about individualism on the football team, I don't think this helps enhance the team concept one bit."
Sumlin remarked later that he hopes his comments make CBS rethink the idea, and I hope they do as well.
Reliving Last Year
Some of the best questions and responses that came out of the presser today were in regards to how the players felt after the Alabama game from 2012, now being almost a year removed from it. In tribute to them, I put together a mix of gifs and videos with their quotes.
Malcome Kennedy on his TD last year
"It was a great time. I like the memory of me knowing I had to win on that route and scoring the touchdown. Ever since then it's been a big highlight. This year I'm looking forward to doing the same and more."
Deshazor Everett on his INT last year
"It was a two-point play we had been working on every week probably up until that week. Coach was constantly on about it because he said everybody runs that play. Finally they ran it and it was a fourth-down play, not a two-point play. I just recognized it and jumped the route."
It's obvious that the players are ready. The few who spoke today were calm and cool, talking about how the locker room today is in the same place it is each and every week for any opponent. Well good for you guys, because I am freaking out.