The 2017 season look like a make-or-break year for head coach Kevin Sumlin. The Aggies approach the season with much trepidation, breaking in a new quarterback and replacing one of college football’s most feared sets of defensive ends.
So let’s delve into the what-ifs and take a look at three dream scenarios and, not to be too much of a Debbie Downer, just two disaster scenarios for the upcoming season.
Living the dream
1. QB comes through: Okay, so Aggies fans will remain on pins and needles until Sumlin makes official the team’s starting quarterback. And that will only be the beginning. The butterflies will only vanish if and when said quarterback proves he can handle the job. Senior Jake Hubenak is the only candidate with actual playing time, but redshirt freshman Nick Starkel and true freshman Kellen Mond are running neck-and-neck it would appear for the starting job.
With an offensive line that returns veteran starters Connor Lanfear, Erik McCoy and Colton Prater, along with the Aggies’ top running backs in 1,000-yard rusher Trayveon Williams and bruiser Keith Ford, this just might be the formula for success while a new signal-caller settles in.
2. Kirk captains an explosive offense: Granted, the Aggies will be working in a fresh quarterback, but talent like Christian Kirk in the receiving corps could make things a lot easier, especially if he continues to improve on the numbers he’s put up over his first two years in College Station. He didn’t break 1,000 receiving yards like he had in his freshman season, but Kirk increased his reception total by three to 83 last season and increased his touchdown receptions by two, hauling in nine.
He also upped his punt returns for touchdowns from two to three and increased his kickoff return average by 9 yards to 28.83 a year ago. Yes, he will be hard-pressed to further those stats this season, but it’s a dream scenario. If he is able to accomplish the feat, it will open up the passing lanes for a fresh set of receivers to work in.
3. Defense, have some: This will be the third season under DC John Chavis. His reputation is on the line after last season’s drop-off. And with sack artists Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall taking their talents to the NFL, Chavis is under pressure to come up with a scheme to overcome the losses. While the Aggies improved vastly against the run from last in the SEC the previous season, the pass defense floundered. The Aggies went from third in the SEC against the pass in 2015 to 13th in the league last season. Only Arkansas had a worse pass defense in the SEC.
So this season, Chavis needs to put it together and put his defense in position to defend both the pass and the run. If that happens, it could also take a lot of the pressure off an offense that probably will need some time to jell.
Disaster strikes if …
1. QBs flop: Here’s the flip side to the quarterback situation. What if none of the three is ready to take the reins? What if no one in the trio is able to step up and work the passing game, leaving Noel Mazzone’s offense one-dimensional? As good as the line should be, and as good as the backfield is, without an effective passing quarterback, the Aggies will go against SEC defenses that are stacking the box. The results won’t be pretty.
2. Early losses away from Kyle Field: The Aggies play two key games away from Kyle Field in their first four. The season opener Sept. 3 at UCLA and a Sept. 23 date with Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, could be crucial. Losses in those would set the Aggies at 2-2, at best, heading into a stretch of games against Alabama and Florida on consecutive weeks, with Auburn lurking two weeks ahead.
A 2-2 start could be disastrous for an Aggies team that has deflated over the second half of the season in each of the last three years.