After the loss to Alabama we learned some things to be true. We learned that we have one of the best offenses in college football, as well as one of the worst defenses. Today's press conference had a few key messages in it. The first being that we have a very young defense that needs time to develop. The second is that the Alabama game is over, it's time to move on, and we are preparing for SMU.
Mark Snyder addressed the defensive woes in today's press conference, and alluded to the youth of the defense as the primary concern at this time. Coach Snyder pointed out that the defense made "both mental mistakes and physical mistakes." Of that, I have no doubt. What was one of the more concerning takeaways from the game was the complete lack of a pass rush. When asked about this, Snyder had the following to say:
"The Taylor twins give you some juice if you get in third and long. But that was our problem, we couldn't get in third and long. They only had six third downs the whole game. We've got to get in situations where we can use what we're recruiting."
I understand what he is saying, but we should be able to get some pressure in the backfield before third down. AJ McCarron seemingly had all day to throw. If we have to force third and longs to get a decent pass rush then we are in big trouble this year. Mark Snyder indicated that "it's in," referring to whether or not the defense had been installed.
The defense is obviously rattled. The early suspensions killed their progress as a unit over the last two weeks, and hopefully they will mature more over the next couple of weeks. The biggest things they will gain, as addressed by Sumlin, are communication and continuity:
"What you miss is the communication ... It's one thing for a coach to make adjustments, but it takes some sort of experience and wherewithal to utilize that in a game. ... The continuity of me, particularly with the young guys, just learning this position instead of the pressure we put on those linebackers and D-linemen to learn different positions because we had to get through those games, we had to get them in the right position to practice from a continuity standpoint and get leadership from the guys that hadn't played in a communication faction."
One of the better points made today in regards to the defense was where the program needs to head. Sumlin wants to be able to redshirt guys like Daeshon Hall in the future. Give them an extra year to develop so they don't have to learn on the job. Unfortunately, the NFL caliber turnover we have had the last few years is killing us. It's the price of success, and it's time to get our current unit ready for SMU.
SMU is currently #2 in the country in passing attempts per game under Hal Mumme's Air Raid offense. We will have a lot of pressure put on our corners and safeties this week to make plays. If the defensive line can't get to Gilbert, we may be in for a high scoring evening.
Leading our offense in the charge will of course be Johnny, Mike Evans, and Ricky Seals-Jones. We didn't see much of RSJ against Alabama. Clarence McKinney provided some insight today pointing out that "As far as I know, [RSJ's] ready to go. He was ready to go last week, but he didn't practice as much as you would have liked for a game like that." Even without RSJ, the Texas A&M offense chopped up an Alabama defense that was ranked #1 in 2012, and was top 5 until last weekend. Most of that was thanks to the incredible play of Mike Evans who looks like one of the best WRs in the country at this point. Clarence McKinney on how Mike Evans is progressing:
"He's really starting to learn the position. From a talent standpoint, the talent is there. It's just learning the little things. He's getting better each week."
Mike Evans getting better than a 25.90 yds/reception average (season) is a scary thought. The only thing that may make his incredible average go down is the return of RSJ to full speed. Our receivers aren't only talented, but they are learning how to play with Johnny better, coming back to the quarterback during his scrambles. This was emphasized during the magic scramble on Saturday. As Sumlin put it:
"When he threw it over the middle of the field, I had a problem with that. ... If you watch the video, what people don't know is Pope got pushed out of bounds, completely out of bounds off the screen, and he comes flying back over the field and leaps to catch the ball."
Here is that pass below. Sumlin stated that Johnny said "It was as good as a punt" and that's why he let that ball fly. Looking at that placement, I agree with him.
One of the better parts of the press-conference was Sumlin talking about his place in the history of the new wave of offenses we see college football embracing. As Mike Price once said to Coach Sumlin:
"If you want to coach in the college ranks, if you learn the principles of this offense you'll always have a job."
If the offense puts up numbers like they did against Alabama, I can't see how this isn't a true statement.