SDS kicks off a series looking in-depth at teams and their biggest subplots heading into 2013. Up next: Texas A&M.
- Mississippi State
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
1. Here to stay
The next step for Texas A&M as a program is to become among the nation’s elite every year, a perennial power. The Aggies have an SEC monopoly on the state of Texas, and it’s already obviously showing with recruiting and the fandom surrounding the program. The biggest potential threat to the program becoming a title contender every single year is parity. It’s not Kevin Sumlin or Johnny Manziel leaving; it’s the Aggies’ own half of its division, playing against the likes of Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas and even rising power Ole Miss every single year. There’s so much parity within college football, but on any given Saturday, any of the other six teams can win a head-to-head matchup. Another 11-win season or a championship run could help bolster an already ecstatic fan base.
2. Johnny Manziel’s encore
This is probably the biggest player personnel question within the SEC for 2013 – can the electrifying Johnny Football actually improve his game. I’ll argue he was so raw last year as a passer, and obviously he was just nasty as a runner. Since he’s not getting any slower, I look for his game to take a big step forward. Now, maybe he won’t combine for more than 5,000 yards and 47 touchdowns, but he is a tireless worker and wants to be the greatest at his position. He’s not content to just sit at home and bask in what he’s already accomplished, but he’s taking steps to improve his game yet even more in 2013. NFL scouts and executives are still mixed on his pro prospects. We all lose if Manziel can’t play in 2013.
3. The best at his position?
While Johnny Manziel and Jake Matthews get all the ink for the Aggies’ offense, there’s an unsung hero standing in the back in the form of a 6-5, 218-pound receiver who catches everything in site. You can make an argument that Mike Evans is the best receiver in the conference after seeing what he did as a freshman in 2012. Eighty-two catches for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns is impressive, especially while sharing catches with then seniors Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu. I think Evans has a big year as he becomes Manziel’s biggest weapon on the outside.
4. Mark Snyder: The defensive guru
Heading into last season, the outlook for Texas A&M’s defense looked bleak. But first-year defensive coordinator Mark Snyder made them into a sound, serviceable and underrated unit. No, Texas A&M didn’t finish in the top five in defense, but they didn’t have to. And they certainly don’t have to this coming season either. The loss of DE Damontre Moore and LBs Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter hurt, but they’ll be much better in the secondary and should have a solid linebacker group. The one position of concern is the most important position in the SEC – defensive line. Can Snyder and his position coaches develop a young and inexperienced defensive line into game changers enough to make a run at a championship? This team reminds me of Auburn’s 2010 defense – not very explosive, but they can make the necessary plays in key moments.
SDS takeaway: Texas A&M is arguably the third most attractive job in the SEC for the future. Alabama and Florida are more attractive situations for immediate success, but Texas A&M has a chance to have a long-term perennial program. Remember, we’re talking seven to 10 years down the road, but all the pieces are in order for the program to soar. Could this be the perfect storm for in-state rival Texas?