You could write an entire graduate thesis on the problems surrounding the Texas Aggie offense right now. It's been amazing to watch a once-prolific offense that catapulted the Aggie program into relevancy crumble on itself in just a few weeks' time.
After sitting back now trying to quietly form my own unbiased opinions of what is currently going on with the Texas A&M offense, I propose three simple solutions that can be acted on today to improve the situation. No, it doesn't involve firing anyone or benching of players. I'm sorry if that disappoints you.
1) Forcefully incorporate the H-back into the offense
I know I've talked about this earlier in the season, probably after Arizona State. This offense needs a TE/H-back type of player to be successful in running the football, and needs to establish a running game going forward. We've seen a few combinations of players playing this role earlier in the season—Caden Smith has been the main guy here, but true freshman Jordan Davis has also played sparingly. The reasoning is pretty simple here—our five offensive linemen have not been able to establish a ground game alone when facing 5 or 6 man fronts. Not only do the Aggies need that sixth blocker in the run game, but also in pass protection.
The thing about adding the sixth blocker is that it opens up so much more of the run game playbook. A huge issue with the run game this season has been backside pressure that results in the play killed in the backfield before the ball carrier reaches the line of scrimmage. Inserting the TE/H-back gets rid of that threat. Additionally, the TE/H-back will give the Aggies more options in terms of run play design when it comes to counters and whams, something we've seen in only limited situations all year, but they have been some of the better run plays when called.
This time last season A&M gave that job to Ben Compton, and he pretty much stayed on the field for the rest of the year. Looks like the Aggies are right back to trying to find a Ben Compton in 2015.
2) Reinstall the core spread concepts
The more I've watched the Aggie offense the last two weeks, the more I've become convinced that coaches moved away from a lot of original spread concepts that started when this coaching staff arrived. I'm not even referring to the Kingsbury offense—I'm referring to what was left in the Clarence McKinney year as offensive coordinator and what Jake Spavital was calling last season. A lot of those simplistic concepts have completely disappeared. Instead, A&M has started to incorporate more of a pro-style offense in terms of passing route combination. I'm not entirely sure why that is or who brought it into the offense. Maybe it was offensive line coach Dave Christensen, or maybe it was Jake Spavital's decision to evolve his offense with Kyle Allen and what many believe to be an NFL arm. That evolution wouldn't be unheard of on the college level—Mark Helfrich and the Oregon staff did the same with Marcus Mariota last season. A majority of the throws I'm watching Kyle Allen attempt are NFL throws. Passes, that in order to be completed, have to be in a certain location to the edges of the field to give the receiver a chance. Footballs that need to be thrown in small windows for completion. That's just asking too much for a sophomore quarterback. It would be borderline insane to ask 97% of all college starting quarterbacks to complete those passes on a consistent basis, especially going up against some of the top defenses in the country week in and week out. This should not be A&M's bread and butter.
Aside from most of these throws being difficult, there is also no imagination to them. I used to believe that Jake Spavital was one of the better offensive coordinators in running an opening game script. By that, I mean a sequence of 7-12 pre-planned plays a team practices heading into that week's game. We used to see his scripts run beautifully, getting the Aggies out to early game leads in 2014. This year, it's completely gone. One of Spavital's favorite setups in the 2014 was to attack the defense horizontally with either quick passes to the running back out of the backfield or a couple of bubble screens to get them flowing in that direction, and then hitting the defense over the middle for a long gain. Just watch the setup in the opening series of last year's Auburn game as an example.
Where has that gone? I can't answer that question, and I'm stumped by it. But here is one thing that is clear—the Aggies need it back... badly. This offense won't improve until we start to see those concepts back in the game script, no matter who the quarterback is.
3) Play with tempo
I will admit that the tempo offense left Aggieland when Kliff Kingsbury left. We haven't seen much of it since then. Maybe it was for good reason since A&M's defense was so weak the previous two seasons. They couldn't run tempo and expect to keep opponents under 50 points. But now the Aggies have Chavis, and he has proven his worth with the vast improvement on that side of the ball.
The reason I want to see the tempo return isn't necessarily just to play fast or to try and catch the defense off guard. I want A&M to play fast because it will give players, especially the QB, less time to think. There has been absolutely no rhythm to the Texas A&M offense all season long. That greatly diminishes efficiency. Where is hurts the most is in the quarterback to wide receiver connection. Timing is everything in passing routes, and it is just not there. By playing with tempo, you almost force the issue by trying to restore that critical connection. Plus, high tempo gives the quarterback some urgency in terms of making a decision and delivering the ball. Right now Kyle Allen is just thinking too much. Reduce the clock inside his head, relying on fast, quick reads to get the offense moving in a positive direction.
I don't think I'm asking for a lot here—these are simple fixes that can be acted on this week that would lead to offensive improvement. The question now becomes how much self-scouting does the coaching staff actually do to identify their weaknesses and will they implement changes to correct them? If that was actively going on since the beginning of the season, maybe A&M's offense wouldn't be in the situation we see now. What happens in these next three weeks will go a long way to determining what kind of success Kevin Sumlin's program will have in the future. This cannot wait until the offseason. Effective change has to occur now. What he's built is slipping away.