To call the three year tenure of Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a roller coaster ride would be a tremendous understatement. Things got off to a roaring start in 2012 when the Aggies joined the SEC, watched Johnny Manziel become the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy, and go on to throttle Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl posting an 11-2 record. The following season would see a bit of a drop off as the team went 9-4 and had to pull out a miracle win in the Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl over Duke. And 2014 had to be the craziest of all with the early emergence of Kenny “Trill” Hill who can now be found in Ft. Worth and likely without a nickname. Hill was an early Heisman front runner after a 5-0 start and then suddenly was out of a starting job for disciplinary reasons and later off the team. That thrust true freshman Kyle Allen into action who stepped up at times and looked like the #1 high school quarterback recruit in the nation that he was and at other times looked like a true frshman trying to figure things out. The Ags would finish 8-5 and fail to win a home conference game for the first time in four decades.
This year the gates of heaven to the 12th Man faithful will open as Kyle Field’s estimated $480 million dollar stadium renovation will be complete. Two years in the making, the project is the richest in college football history and the maroon and white must find that home field advantage that they seemed to have completely lost over the last several seasons. The Aggies were recently picked again to finish sixth in the West division at SEC media days and that will certainly not fly with the majority of the 102,512 in attendance that will be filling up the stands. The positive this year at least on paper is the favorable schedule as A&M will only have one true road game (at Ole Miss) in their first eleven weeks. They’ll kickoff the season against Arizona State at NRG Stadium in Houston, and then play a slew of home games with an Arkansas date mixed in at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The bright side if there is such a thing when it comes to playing the beasts of the SEC West is that they’ll get both Alabama and Auburn in College Station.
It’s no secret that the team’s biggest weakness last year was the horrendous defense which didn’t even crack the top 100. Enter new defensive coordinator John Chavis whom the Aggies were able to snatch away from Baton Rouge. “The Chief” had a great deal of success shutting down A&M while coaching LSU the past three seasons and by all accounts has had an immediate impact on the mindset of the players who are all having to buy into the attacking style that he demands. Defensive end Myles Garrett looks hungrier than ever coming off a year in which he broke Jadeveon Clowney’s single season SEC freshman sack record and the entire defensive line looks stacked. The question marks again will come at the linebacker and secondary positions where the guys are young but have very high potential, especially considering how highly recruited several of them are. Coach Sumlin has been able to put some very good classes together the last three years and he’s hoping it will finally come to fruition.
All of Aggieland breathed a massive sigh of relief when the Gatorade National Player of the Year and whom many consider to be the best player in Texas high school football history, Kyler Murray, chose to come to A&M after flirting with the possibilities of attending the University of Texas or entering the Major League Baseball draft. Now that the son of former Aggie QB great Kevin Murray is on campus, there has been a serious battle going on between he and the aforementioned Kyle Allen for the starting job. It’s a good problem to have both of the last two #1 rated high school quarterbacks on your team, but certainly a challenge for Sumlin to figure out who to start. Many look to Murray as the guy who would fit perfectly in the spread offense system the Aggies employ, but others point to the arm strength of Kyle Allen and the fact he could be a future first round, NFL pro-style quarterback. And it doesn’t hurt Allen’s case that he finished off last year as the MVP of the Liberty Bowl. The wide receiver position is once again loaded with the return of Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones, Speedy Noil, and newcomer Christian Kirk, the #1 wideout and all around playmaker out of Arizona. The running game must get better behind RB Tre Carson and the Aggies are counting on improved offensive line play thanks to the addition of new coordinator Dave Christensen.
Kevin Sumlin has publicly stated that he is more excited heading into this season than any other. Lord knows there is a lot to be pumped about with all of the new coordinators and 5 star athletes that have arrived. The players will surely have a chip on their shoulder with a lot to prove after getting zero respect from the media. If the defense doesn’t take major strides and the guys reestablish the Kyle Field advantage of old then the excitement will be all for not. As an added bonus the Aggies will end the regular season with the return of Coach Chavis at LSU. But there is a long way to go before that and it all starts with the Sun Devils on September 5.