As we cast lots last Saturday in order to determine the schlep that would be ordering the SHSU game on Pay Per View, naturally it fell to me, because I suck at gambling and was the only member of the group burdened with Dish. Therefore, the watching party happened in standard definition, an atrocity so great that it shall never be repeated.
While repeatedly squinting to discern if Cam Clear or Gaston Lamascus had made the previous play, a sentiment slowly descended over the room - though we couldn't completely articulate it, something felt slightly off. Maybe it was the Brazos Valley weather, maybe it was those horrific SHSU uniforms, or maybe it was just The Week Before Alabama, but there seemed to be a general malaise A&M was playing with.
The first of these comments happened right before halftime, or just after the 3rd gin & tonic, however one chooses to measure time in the fall. Shortly after a consensus was reached that, yes, we have some talent issues on defense and the offense really needs to get their ass in gear, the first half stats were displayed:
444 Total Yards. 9/11 on 3rd Down Conversions. Johnny Manziel: 23 of 32, 323 yards, 2 touchdowns.
Oh. Well then. Perhaps the group on the field is slightly more efficient than we were giving them credit for.
And as the always-difficult switch from mixed drinks to beer was made for the 2nd half, it hit everyone how, in only 15 short games as Texas A&M head coach, Kevin Sumlin (along with a certain quarterback) has spoiled the everliving hell out of just about every Aggie fan we know.
Nick Saban likes to talk about his 'Process', and how it permeates ever little inch of his Mr. Roboto existence, from his practice regimen, to his pattern-matching defenses, to his itty-bitty little salad lunches, and no doubt all the way to his extremely passionate seduction techniques. The last one being, honestly, a bit of a surprise to us all. Problem is, as much as Ol' Nicky wishes it were so, football isn't played in a vacuum, and the chaos theory expansion pack version played by Johnathan Manziel surely keeps the little man up at nights.
While Saban's Process seems to dominate headlines - and well it should, given the hardware he has recently collected - the truth is every coach has a process, some of which work better than others. For example, if a hypothetical 'power conference' team was to give up somewhere north of 500 yards rushing in a single evening to a middling independent FBS school not exactly known for their ground game, one natural reaction is to immediately fire the defensive coordinator. However, the decisions that truly led to that evening's debacle (poor/lazy talent evaluations, pitiful strength and conditioning programs, vague and undefined leadership structures, generalized internal rot and complacency, etc.) were often made years earlier, which only come sharply into focus as the conjectured opponent's quarterback rushes for slightly over 15 yards per carry. Hypothetically.
So what is the Sumlin Process? Simple. He happens to be an outstanding CEO, capable of identifying both playing and coaching talent, then convincing said talent to join his organization. He's not afraid to hire personnel he considers smarter than he is or could possibly even do his job (we shall label this the Anti-Fran Corollary). Add to the equation a brilliant X&O mind and a propensity for pushing the right motivational buttons, and you have a coach who is as well equipped to do his job as anyone in college football. Hence, the reasons for a very well prepared, yet very relaxed A&M team come Saturday.
Yet, this is a team only in its second year under Kevin Sumlin, and in some respects he is still managing a roster that he is only partially responsible for. Coming out of halftime, Sam Houston St. ripped off a 67 yard touchdown run between a safety that appeared to have no idea what to do in the open field, and a linebacker that seemed stunned there would be a human attempting to block him out of the play. Both of these men will play heavy minutes against the Tide, and God help us all when T.J. Yeldon or Amari Cooper find themselves in the open field.
Given the limited track record this A&M coaching staff has created, if Yeldon does sneak out a time or two, or even if Cooper high-fives our safties while running free down the middle, this program in the blink of an eye is set to compete for SEC championships for years to come. Late against SHSU, the defense featured ten - yes, ten - true freshmen on the field at one time. They were were all hyped, they all qualified, they are all running to the ball, and they are all capital-G good, with some having the chance to be even more.
And, for better and for worse, some of those guys - I'm looking at you Isaiah Golden and Jordan Mastrogiovanni, and you Ricky Seals-Jones and Quiv Gonzales - are going to help determine the fate of A&M Saturday, and it is going to be glorious. Just remember, this is Year Two of the Sumlin Process. Amazing things are afoot in College Station.