5 ways Texas A&M will be better in 2020 than 2019
Texas A&M had, by all definitions, a solid season in 2019.
The Aggies finished 8-5 and earned a victory over Oklahoma State in the Texas Bowl. But compared to the expectations at the beginning of the year, it still felt disappointing.
Texas A&M entered the season ranked No. 12, though that was the highest it would ever be. The Aggies kept falling as the season went on until they were out of the polls entirely. They failed to show up against tougher opponents and voters recognized it.
This year, Texas A&M is similarly ranked at No. 13 in the preseason AP poll. Excitement abounds, with SEC title and even College Football Playoff aspirations. But it’s hard not to remember how the team has failed to live up to such lofty expectations. Here are 5 reasons 2020 will be better than 2019 for the Aggies:
1. Kellen Mond
If Texas A&M lives up to expectations this year, it will be in large part because of Kellen Mond, their senior quarterback.
He will take the step from good SEC quarterback to elite SEC quarterback. He’s among the top returning QBs in the conference, along with Auburn’s Bo Nix and Florida’s Kyle Trask. He threw for 2,897 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, but also had 9 interceptions. He will need to eliminate a few of those if Texas A&M hopes to stay in the conference title race.
Mond had great showings last year. He threw for 335 yards and 2 touchdowns against Auburn, though the Aggies lost. He put up 275 yards against Georgia (another loss). But he also had the dud game against LSU in which he threw for 92 yards and 3 picks.
Mond had no problem beating teams he should last season. He seemed to falter against elite teams. Texas A&M will hope he reaches a new level that allows him to excel even when the stakes are high this year.
2. Offense will reach potential
Texas A&M’s offense seemed like it underachieved last season for as many weapons as it had. They finished 6th in the SEC in scoring at 29.5. On the surface, that appears OK, but they failed to hit that mark in all 5 losses. They exceded 31 points just once in 10 games against Power 5 opponents.
The Aggies will try to make amends this season. Mond gets top target Jhamon Ausbon (872 yards and 5 TDs) back and Isaiah Spiller should improve after rushing for nearly 1,000 yards as a freshman.
Despite all this talent, Texas A&M ranked just 64th in total offense and 62nd in scoring last season. Those numbers have to improve this season. I think they will, with potential to be one of the better units in the SEC if Mond and Spiller operate as expected.
This is Jimbo Fisher’s 3rd season, so big things are anticipated.
3. Demond Demas
Aside from Ausbon, the Aggies’ receiver spots are hardly solidified.
The other starters from 2019 were early entrants in the NFL Draft, leaving room for new stars to emerge. Texas A&M might have one in 5-star receiver Demond Demas.
Demas – 6-3 and 185 pounds – was ranked the No. 3 receiver and No. 25 overall prospect in the 2020 class by 247Sports. He had 1,574 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior but sat out his senior year of high school after transferring schools and being ruled ineligible.
Fisher has lauded Demas in practice, saying 2 weeks ago that he found the receiver “very intelligent” and that he’s “very coachable and has really flashed it.”
That sounds like he sees Demas as someone who can make an impact for Texas A&M sooner rather than later. Given the openings at receiver, he should play a significant role in his first season and could wow as a true freshman.
We know Mond has the arm strength to stretch the field. Having a 6-3 state champion long jumper on the other end of a few 50-yard rainbows gives the Aggies an athletic edge and new potential to make explosive plays. That aspect definitely was missing last season. The Aggies finished tied for 12th in the SEC in completions of 30+ yards with just 10 such plays. For perspective, LSU led the league with 45. Alabama had 36, Florida 25. Even Arkansas (14) and Vanderbilt (12) had more than the Aggies.
4. Force more turnovers
Texas A&M ranked 13th in the SEC last season in turnovers forced per game (1.1).
The top team in the league, Alabama, forced twice as many miscues as the Aggies. National champ LSU ranked 7th in the conference. If A&M expects to compete with the best (which it should), it needs to do a better job at putting pressure on opposing offenses this year.
It returns Myles Jones, its leader in interceptions from 2019, and Tyree Johnson (4 sacks). Plus, linebackers Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines III are back. If the Aggies can get to the quarterback and force a few more bad throws, they will give themselves a better chance to win. Given how low the numbers were last year, it wouldn’t be much to expect them to be a little better.
5. The Aggies will stay in the league race
Last season’s disappointment came from the fact that Texas A&M simply couldn’t win games that mattered.
The Aggies went 0-5 against the ranked teams they played and 7-0 against everyone else in the regular season. They were supposed to get a break with their schedule this season, but added No. 8 Florida and No. 25 Tennessee with the revised conference-only schedule.
They’re slated to play 5 ranked squads again, as they also have No. 3 Alabama, No. 6 LSU and No. 11 Auburn.
Going 3-2 or better in those games would go a long way for the Aggies’ season. Texas A&M is one of the more experienced teams in the conference, bringing back its starting QB, leading rusher, leading receiver and 8 starters on defense. In a season with shortened preparation time, one would think that experience could work to their benefit.
Expect the Aggies to stay right there with the league’s best in 2020.