Published August 10, 2012 - 11:00am
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I’ll be honest, being an avid viewer of football in the Southeastern Conference, I had not heard of first-year Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin before last season’s near-BCS buster run he enjoyed at Houston. A coaching journeyman with stops at seven different programs since 1988, Sumlin was simply Case Keenum’s boss in my mind, the play-caller for a quarterback I respected due to his weekly gaudy statistics.
I’d occasionally check Houston’s box score Saturday afternoons to try and comprehend Keenum’s number of completions, attempts and sheer total yardage. When Sumlin signed on with the Aggies in December, I knew the SEC was getting a future success story, a leader who brings a new appetite for offense into what’s been a defense-dominated league much of the last few seasons.
He wears a visor like Steve Spurrier, but he’s nearly 20 years younger with an offense that looks like the Gator Fun-N-Gun on steroids.
Will Sumlin’s interpretation of the Air Raid fly against some of the nation’s biggest and fastest defenders? Predicated on speed and a quick release, pass protection isn’t of utmost importance in Sumlin’s schemes since Aggie quarterbacks will have the ball out before being hit by a blitz. That’s one reason the Aggies will be entertaining this season when they have the football.
An interesting nugget surrounding A&M’s new offense is the addition of former Texas Tech gunslinger Kliff Kingsbury as the team’s offensive coordinator. Like Keenum, Kingsbury put up stupid numbers through the air during his career in Lubbock, utilizing four and five-wide sets to spread out a defense. He was an understudy of current West Virginia offensive mastermind Dana Holgorsen, another one of Sumlin’s comrades, and took personal instruction from the godfather of the spread, Mike Leach, while playing for the Red Raiders.
Last season at Houston, Sumlin and Kingsbury directed the nation’s top-ranked offense and hope to bring some of that same swagger into College Station. The Aggies have spent all spring and fall practice adjusting to the up-tempo pace expected from everyone in the hurry-up, spread-based attack.
But there’s still no No. 1 quarterback.
With a Thursday night opener at Louisiana Tech looming in three short weeks, the coaching staff has yet to name a starter expected to get the ball in space to talented receivers Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu. Right now, there are four underclassmen, interchangeable in fact, competing for the full-time gig. They are: sophomores Jameill Showers and Matt Joeckel along with freshmen Matt Davis and Johnny Manziel.
Showers is the front-runner with the quickest release on the team. I can assure you the Aggies won’t average 599 yards per game — what the Houston Cougars ran off last season — but they’ll certainly test LSU and Alabama’s secondaries through the air.
TAMU has a chance to open a few eyes across the nation with wins against its first two SEC opponents, Florida and Arkansas. Good news for the Aggies? Both of those contests come at home.
How do you think A&M’s pass-happy offense will fare during its first SEC season?