Football season is nigh, and I'm already getting nervous about this year. Feels like there's a lot at stake. In year four we should be able to get a good sense of how good a Kevin Sumlin-led program can be and what our ceiling really is. In some sense I think this year we find out whether the juice was worth the 5 million dollar squeeze.
You'll also note that I'm not at all too worried about John Chavis overall. Here's the thing: there's no doubt in my mind that he's going to be more gap/fundamentally sound than Mark Snyder. There's no doubt in my mind that we won't see exotic three man fronts on obvious running downs. I'm just pretty confident that he's going to make our defense better--I dont think it's unrealistic to expect a ranking in the top 60. A top 60 defensive ranking would have gotten us to 10 wins last year.
So with that in mind, here are 5 key questions I have about this upcoming year. Feel free to agree/disagree and share your perspectives in the comments
1) Who starts at corner opposite DeVante Harris?
This is a question that keeps me up at night. I have full confidence in DeVante Harris. He's a three year starter who I think is going to thrive in a more aggressive scheme. The big question is who's he gonna be playing alongside? Guys like Victor Davis, Noel Ellis and Nick Harvey all have decent experience...but are they ready to step up as full time starters? Or is it going to be one of the relative unknowns like Tavares Garner or Roney Elam? How good can Brandon Williams be at CB? In my mind this is the absolute number 1 question about the 2015 A&M football team.
2) Can our linebackers stay healthy?
I feel good that Chavis can make something out of a group consisting of Walker, Alaka, Washington, and Hillard. Depth is an issue, but there is some talent behind that nucleus of four. However, all four have proven to have some durability concerns. If this group stays healthy, and some combination of those four is starting in our last game against LSU, then sky's the limit. If one or two of them go down to injury, then who knows.
3) Can our offense take the next proverbial step?
The talent at RB is there. Tra Carson is a star, James White is a star in the making and there are a handful of backs behind them that are capable of being a quality third guy. For years air raid teams have struggled with the ability to run the ball consistently well. Christensen has experience running the ball out of an up-tempo spread from his time at Missouri, and hopefully he can do the same here.
On a similar note, I'm interested to see what progression Jake Spavital makes as a playcaller. It seemed like last year we tried our darnedest to "out athlete" the other team instead of relying on scheme. We were predictable for many of our games and our offense sputtered. How creative can we be this year?
4) Will Kyle Allen improve?
I thought Kyle met expectations last year...and did so under crazy circumstances. Can he take the next step in his development...meaning can he go through his progressions quicker and consistently make throws to put his receivers in position to be successful?
I know that I gotta include something about Kyler here, but I just don't see him pushing Kyle. This is Kyle's team.
5) Can our WRs take a leap from athletes to true WRs?
Three out of our top five receivers last year (Speedy, RSJ, and Pope) didn't play WR in high school. It's not unfair to say that they are still learning how to be elite at the position. We had more athletes playing WR than we did WRs playing WR if that makes sense. Can that group make the leap to be an elite group of WRs this year? The potential is undoubtedly there...and especially when you add a guy like Christian Kirk to the lineup the group has the ability to take over games. But can they do it? Can they play as well without the ball as they do with? Can we regain that physical edge that our 2012 WR group had?
If we are able to answer those five questions in a positive way...then there is potential for the 2015 A&M football team to have a very special season.