After players reported yesterday, Texas A&M will hold their first fall practice of the 2017 season on Friday. Our pal stringsays covered many of the major position battles and other burning questions that will shake themselves out over the coming weeks, but in a season that seems to be chock full of unknowns, there are still plenty of them left to answer.
First off, let’s hear from Coach.
Xs and Os
For the first time in Kevin Sumlin’s tenure, he returns the same offensive and defensive coordinators that started the previous season. The only changes on the staff were at DBs Coach (Terry Joseph out, Ron Cooper in) and Strength & Conditioning Coach (Larry Jackson out, Mark Hocke in). That continuity, and not having either side of the ball learning a new scheme, could definitely play in the Aggies’ favor.
Jimmies and Joes
You’ll hear a lot about the talent that’s on A&M’s roster, and that’s for good reason. Outside of Alabama and LSU, the Aggies have recruited as well as any team in the SEC, and from a personnel standpoint, there is no reason they shouldn’t be one of the better teams in the conference. Of course that was also true in 2016...and 2015...and 2014. While some would point to a lack of depth (thanks 2013 recruiting class), this should be a team that competes with almost every team on their schedule physically.
The player that throws
Obviously quarterback is always the most talked about position. That’s only magnified when you have a Heisman winner followed by a revolving door. Every player that has started a game at quarterback at Texas A&M since Johnny Manziel left either transferred in (Trevor Knight, Jake Hubenak) or has since transferred out (Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray). This trend may be part of the reason the coaching staff seemed to shy away from bringing in transfer Jarrett Stidham, who is now at Auburn. This staff needs to show that they can recruit and develop a quarterback.
Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone has had past success with young quarterbacks. At UCLA both Brett Hundley and Josh Rosen started as freshmen, and he inherited Brock Osweiller at Arizona State as a true sophomore in 2010. While Hubenak is still in competition for the starting job, Mazzone isn’t shy about starting young talent, so don’t be surprised if the job eventually comes down to redshirt freshman Nick Starkel and true freshman Kellen Mond.
Late season woes
The question that will haunt Sumlin and this team all year is whether they can finish. You’ll hear a lot of chatter about the impact Mark Hocke’s S&C program will have, and Sumlin has mentioned changing the teams’ in-season practice routine. But whether it’s because of injuries, depth, a lack of conditioning or simply a result of the strength of the schedule, the second half of the season has not been kind to the Ags in the post-Manziel era. From 2014-2016, Texas A&M is 16-2 prior to Oct. 15, and 8-13 after. No matter how hot their start, if this team can’t find some meaningful wins in late October and November, Kevin Sumlin’s seat will be as hot as ever.
What’s the answer? Nobody knows
Part of the beauty of college football is the unpredictability. Sure, Bama is an unrelenting machine that steamrolls the competition with a certain mundane beauty, but you can always count on huge upsets, teams that seem to return to national prominence only to finish 5-7, and others that despite myriad question marks, put it all together to go on a magical run. I know the rhetoric of “they worked hard in the offseason, this team is mentally tougher, freshman [insert name] will make an instant impact” is tiresome, but every once in a while, that tired rhetoric proves true. Yes, there are reasons to doubt this team, but there are also many reason for optimism, and the glimmer of that one glorious season is what keeps us all coming back year after year.
Nobody knows what the 2017 Texas A&M season will hold. Let’s find out together, shall we?
What's your outlook for the 2017 season?
This poll is closed
6-6, eat at Arby’s
7-5/8-4, eat at Chili’s
9+ wins, Terry Price smokes a two-ton brisket that feeds the entire stadium