Blood in the water
Improvements key as A&M attempts to navigate through 2012 schedule
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 01:09
As the Aggies recover from another gut-wrenching second-half loss, watching this new-look football team will be particularly intriguing in week two — especially as greater context of the college football season continues to unfold.
A&M must continue its positive progress despite Saturday’s loss to the Florida Gators and, if they do, the team could still set itself up for an impressive run in its inaugural SEC season.
The reason to keep your hopes up can be stated thusly: things just got very interesting — both in terms of the team itself and, in equally significant measure, the schedule.
Lest we forget, the Aggies actually presented considerable promise in their debut SEC contest.
We remember a special teams unit that made all of its kicks, averaged nearly 50 yards a punt and was excellent in coverage. We remember a defense grinding it out against a physical Florida offensive line, collecting eight sacks while keeping the Aggies in the game for four quarters. And, of course, we remember the early game heroics of the redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and an offense that could seemingly do no wrong — for one half.
The SMU Mustangs will provide just the trial A&M needs after a physical SEC slugfest. The Aggies will be going on the road against a team that will test A&M’s young corners and fight with just enough defense to keep things relatively interesting. It’s a challenge no doubt, but one this football team should have little problem overcoming.
The Aggie special teams must prove it can do more than hit par for the course. In addition to making no costly errors, they need to put pressure on opposing defenses by providing dramatic shifts in field position for A&M’s prolific offense. Scores would be nice, too.
A&M’s defense, while solid, must build on its success from Saturday. The Aggies should be in a position of dominance and take advantage of the talent disparity. The young corners — specifically freshman De’Vante Harris and sophomore Deshazor Everett — must continue their success in coverage while dramatically improving their ability to tackle in space. Oh yeah, they also need to start forcing turnovers.
The offense, meanwhile, must prove it can be a consistent producer through four quarters. With one game now under his belt, Manziel will need to show he can threaten teams with a deep vertical passing game. The running backs should have a field day as the offensive line asserts its dominance. Receivers, particularly seniors such as Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu, must create separation with opposing defensive backs to give Manziel options through the air. Turnovers, like the first game, must be avoided and penalties must be cut down.
The laundry list for this team, despite its length, can — and should — be done. While talent must be improved (via recruiting) across the board to keep up with the Alabamas and LSUs of the world, improvement in the phases listed will keep A&M in a winning position for every other game they play.
Another reason for optimism: the schedule.
Arkansas, once believed an easy No. 3 in the SEC West after Alabama and LSU, suddenly appears vulnerable. Their loss to La. Monroe, a Sunbelt team, is likely to have rocked their psyche. Add a pummeling from Alabama this weekend and Tyler Wilson still in recovery from injury — let’s just say the Razorbacks have become very beatable come Sept. 29.
Auburn, too, has shown its vulnerabilities. Falling in a close contest to Clemson in week one, the Tigers were then straight up decked by Mississippi State. If you thought the Florida offense was bad, well, Auburn’s is atrocious.
Needless to say, blood is in the water. The Aggies, meanwhile, have a chance to capitalize and make some noise in their new league.
For now, however, it’s all about executing. Next up: the SMU Mustangs.