Legitimately couldn't sleep Saturday night. I hate that football does this to me and I’ve got a tremendous amount of fatigue from thinking about this team, but that is what it is and something I’ll address with my therapist in the offseason.
After mentally analyzing this game in excruciating detail for the past 36 hours, I’ve come up with 5 questions that are nagging at me. I am interested in your thoughts:
1) WAS THE LAST PLAY A GOOD ONE
I find the diametrically opposed responses from Kellen and Johnny to be really funny given how different they are as players, and how each tweet reflects both their personalities and approaches to the game. Kellen is an execution guy and spent three years working his ass off to do what Jimbo wanted him to do. Johnny is a to hell with the play do what works guy.
As with most things I’ve landed in the middle. The play is fine, but it requires near-perfect performance from a true freshman WR and a QB with a long wind-up. It’s the Jimbo Fisher offense in a nutshell. Instead of doing what suits the talent of the team, we draw up what should work in this situation if the execution is perfect.
Verdict: Hell if I know.
2) ARE WE A YOUNG TEAM/ 3) DO WE HAVE BAD LUCK WITH INJURIES
I hate youth as an excuse. Even if it is true...the critical question is WHY are we young in year 5 of a coach’s tenure.
But that aside, let’s look at the Bama game's starting lineup. This is off the official box score:
OL: Ogunbiyi RS SO (replacing RS FR Zuhn), Wykoff RS-FR (replacing Ogunbiyi/RS FR Moko), Foster-SO, Robinson-JR, Fatheree-SO
WR: Stewart-FR, Muhammad-SO (Replacing Smith-SR), Marshall-FR (replacing SO Brown)
QB: King-RS SO (kind of replacing Johnson-SO?)
DL: Diggs-SO, Jackson-JR, Nolen-FR (Replacing RS FR Adileye), Stewart-FR (Replacing SO Turner)
LB: Cooper-SO, Russell-SR (Replacing White-SR)
DB: Harmon-SO (replacing Chappell-SO), Jones-JR, Gilbert-SO, Richardson-SR
VERDICT: I will go with a resounding yes on the injury front. This season has been a total bitch as far as injuries go. 8 missing starters (not counting Johnson here) is just wild
On the youth thing, 14/22 starters were freshmen or sophomores. So yeah we’re young. But we had the #1 class in the country in 2022 and the #8 class in 2021. We’re always going to have young talent and every team in the country that recruits well is young. So yes we are young but it's no excuse.
4) WHAT DO WE THINK ABOUT HAYNES
King played the best game he’s played at A&M. I mean that too. He was more decisive in where he went with the ball, he was more decisive in his runs, and he trusted his WRs to make plays. It was the best game we’ve seen from Haynes.
Here’s the thing. Is that enough? It’s game 6 of Haynes’s third year on campus. Can we afford to be patient with him as he grows into the position, given the growing pains that will inevitably occur and have occurred—given that they’ll impact on-field performance (and already have)? And is that time better dedicated to getting Weigman up to speed?
Verdict: Hell if I know
5) IS CLOSE GOOD ENOUGH
I am absolutely conflicted after that game. I really liked what I saw of the youngsters. You had true freshmen having the game of their lives on the biggest stage they’ll see this year. You could see the growth in this team. That’s great.
But man I’m tired of being close. I’m tired of being the program that can put together a good effort but not necessarily a good season (save for 2020). I don't know what we need to do to make the leap from one to the other and maybe it’s just stringing together efforts like the one we had on Saturday.
I am encouraged after this Saturday’s showing for the rest of the season...I certainly feel better about the back half of the schedule than I did after Miss St. But encouragement doesn’t align with the confidence I had coming into this year. That’s on me and not on the team—I’m just trying to recalibrate to understand where we are right now.
Half Glass Full Conclusion
If you’re willing to accept the answer to questions 2 and 3 then this year makes sense in context. The best players on this team are underclassmen. The LEADERS on this team are freshmen. We don't have the time to allow them to grow up incrementally, we need them to grow exponentially.
And hopefully, the Bama game serves as the catalyst for that kind of growth. Guess we’ll see!
BTHO those BASTARDS