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Tra Carson shines in 2015 despite struggling Aggie offense

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Texas A&M's offense was wildly inconsistent this year. Tra Carson was not.

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

What's wrong with the offense?

Kevin Sumlin rode a swirl of hype and excitement into the SEC and in 2012 he caught lighting in a bottle with Johnny Manziel. The Aggies finished their inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference with the number two offense in the country. Remarkable. Kliff Kingsbury was snapped up to become the head coach of his alma mater and Clarence McKinney was given the reins to the offense. Year two of Johnny Manziel did see a bit of a drop-off: the Aggies finished 2013 ninth in total offense...AND CLARENCE MCKINNEY WAS DEMOTED at the end of the regular season. Demoted. For a regression, even though the offense was still top ten and second only to national title contender Auburn in the conference. At the time, this looked like a total commitment to excellence. Jake Spavital ascended as the chosen one; the golden child.

Why was McKinney relieved? Was he a placeholder just to get Spav some co-OC experience? Did Sumlin cave to some pressures to make a move after the ridiculous expectations set by Kingsbury in year one? Only a few people really know, but what everyone knows is this: since the 2013 season, when the team averaged over 44 points per game, the output has fallen steadily: the 2014 offense dropped to #32 overall, while scoring 35 ppg. This year's offense is ranked #46 and averages 28 ppg. So why was McKinney cast aside so readily and Spavital has been given two full years, while total yards per game has dropped from 538 to 423? Why has Sumlin not stepped in and made more internal adjustments? There could be any number of reasons: Sumlin could be regretting the McKinney move and is very hesitant to give into pressure to pull the trigger again. More likely is that he has already pulled the trigger on Spavital but wanted to wait until the end of the season, as he did with DC Mark Snyder.

Whatever the reason, it's been frustrating as hell, because this year we've actually got the defense to keep us in games. We left two November wins on the table. Offensive implosions against Auburn and LSU are the difference between ten wins and eight. It's bad. One touchdown against each of those teams is bad. We have the talent. Some dropoff was imminent after Manziel's departure, but we're stocked with blue-chippers all across the offensive depth chart. Hell, the one position we are thin at this year gave us the most consistent producer in Tra Carson. The reasons why are myriad and complex, and could very well go beyond the simplistic solution being bandied about in the popular clamor of "Fire Spav." The inconsistency, the lack of identity or leadership, the sloppy penalties late in the season...these all go well beyond playcalling and design.

The solution is even more complex, and it resides only in Kevin Sumlin's head at this point. The man is facing a crucial juncture in his time here at A&M. He brought in Chavis and successfully fixed the defense, but it wasn't meant to come at the expense of the offense. The staff moves he makes in the next month or so will lay the foundation for a 2016 season that will carry massive expectations. Time to finally live up to the potential.

But how about that Tra Carson

Enough of the bad numbers. This whole season has been a circus of offensive criticism, but there's one guy who's quietly been turning in a great season, all things considered. Let's celebrate the best offensive performer of the year.

Tra Carson rolled up 69  yards in Death Valley last night to push his final regular season total to 1,059. And each one of those were tough, bruising, hard-earned yards. A few notes:

  • his longest run all year was 30 yards
  • he had 413 yards down the stretch in November
  • he had 6 rushing touchdowns
  • he had 28 catches for 176 yards and a TD
  • he had 100+ yards rushing in 6 of 12 games
  • five of those 100 yard games came against SEC foes

Carson had several factors to contend with: inconsistent offensive line play with very little push, some playcalling that didn't play to his strengths, and lack of depth that forced him to play far more snaps than he had been accustomed to. He plowed through it all with good grace and kept churning.

He's the first Aggie running back to break a thousand yards since 2011 (Cyrus Gray) and the first to do so in the SEC. Well done, Tra Carson.