Better or worse? Previewing Texas A&M’s offense in 2022
The Texas A&M offense struggled at times last season. The Aggies finished 11th in the SEC in total offense, averaging 391.6 yards per game. They were 8th in scoring (29.3). The passing game was not good. Among SEC teams, only Vanderbilt threw for fewer yards.
But that’s somewhat understandable given starting quarterback Haynes King suffered a season-ending injury very early in just the 2nd game. That’s not to say that Zach Calzada didn’t have his moments. He helped upset No. 1 Alabama by throwing for a season-high 285 yards.
However, in 4 games last year, the Aggies were held under 300 total yards and lost 3 of those games. When totaling 300 yards or better, the Aggies were 7-1 with the only loss to Ole Miss (29-19) on the road.
Can Texas A&M produce more yardage on offense this season? Let’s dive in and see what areas of the offense will be better or worse than last year’s.
Key losses: TE Jalen Wydermyer, RB Isaiah Spiller, OL Kenyon Green, OL Jahmir Johnson
Key returnees: RB Devon Achane, WR Ainias Smith, QB Haynes King, OL Bryce Foster, OL Kayden Robinson, OL Reuben Fathree.
Potential breakout players: QB Max Johnson (transfer), WR Jalen Preston, WR Evan Stewart, OL Trey Zuhn, OL Jordan Spasojevic-Moko.
If the left side of the offensive line can be solidified with young talent (redshirt freshman) Zuhn and (redshirt sophomore) Moko, the Aggies’ offense could rebound to be among the conference’s best. It’s odd that at Texas A&M, the offense has been up and down since 2016. Last year was the down year, so if the trend holds, it will be a big year for the Aggies’ offense. And with the personnel head coach Jimbo Fisher and 5th-year offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey have to work with, it seems highly likely that it will.
Passing offense: Better
There’s really nowhere to go but up, regardless of who wins the starting job at quarterback. King threw for 292 yards in his only full game last season. In the 11 games that followed, Calzada never threw for that many yards in any one game. His ceiling was the 285 he threw against Alabama.
So, if King wins the job, we know he’ll be an improvement. And if LSU transfer Max Johnson emerges as the starting quarterback, we know from experience that he can put up significant numbers. Last season in Baton Rouge, Johnson threw for 300-plus yards against 5 teams, including 306 (3 TDs, 0 INTs) in a 27-24 victory over the Aggies in the 2021 finale.
Though the consensus future at QB for Texas A&M is Conner Weigman, it may still be a year or two before he’s ready to step into the spotlight. For now, though, either King or Johnson is a step up from what the Aggies had a year ago at that position.
Of course, someone has to be on the other side of those passes. And that’s probably a bigger question mark. Who steps up to take the pressure off Smith? Will it be Preston or Stewart? Are Chase Lane and Moose Muhammad III ready to up their games this season?
And what about tight end? A position that has been so vital to the passing game the past 4 seasons is in question. Is Max Wright the next player to fill that role, or Blake Smith, or one of the many highly-touted incoming freshmen? One of those will need to step up and assume that role.
Running game: Better
Replacing a 1,000-yard rusher like Spiller is never easy. But remember, Achane nearly got there himself. He was 90 yards shy of the mark and had the Aggies played a bowl game, he could have reached it.
Achane is a legit 1,000-yard rusher. The only way he doesn’t reach that milestone in 2022, aside of course injury, is if Fisher decides to keep him fresh with a plethora of quality backs behind him who can fill in and do the job. Amari Daniels and LJ Johnson, Jr. have demonstrated an ability to excel at this level. They may not have as much experience as Achane, but they are certainly capable of filling in and giving the Aggies’ next star enough rest to keep him relatively fresh.
Kicking game: Worse
How can you get any better than old reliable Seth Small? The senior connected on 22-of-27 field goal attempts, including the game-winner over Alabama, and all 37 PAT tries. Over his 4-year career at Texas A&M, Small made a program all-time record 71 field goals (71-of-91) and booted 164-of-165 extra-point kicks.
But enough about that, because the Aggies must now turn the page and look to either redshirt junior Caden Davis, or sophomore Randy Bond to step up. Davis has handled kickoff duties the past 2 seasons, but has yet to make his first college field goal. He missed on his only attempt.
Bond is in a similar boat, having only seen action on kickoffs. He has yet to attempt his first field goal.
As far as kickoff returns go, Achane is certainly capable but you have to hold your breath every time he’s back there to receive, hoping he doesn’t sustain some sort of injury. Achane returned 9 kicks last season, averaging 33.4 yards per return, including a touchdown; the first kickoff return for a TD by an Aggie since 2018.
Watch for Stewart to also have an opportunity to return kicks this season and showcase his talent as well.
If the left side of the offensive line can jell, this could be a very potent offense. It most definitely has the potential to be better than 11th in the conference and actually could very well become one of the best offenses in the SEC.
An upgrade at quarterback, depth at running back, and a receiving corps that is talented but yet unproven past Smith should all add up to a much improved offense that once again makes the Aggies fun to watch.