Texas A&M football: 5 areas for the Aggies to improve out of the bye week
Even with his team at 3-1 and No. 7 in the country, Jimbo Fisher knows it can be better.
He talked about it during Texas A&M’s press conference during the bye week, saying he is happy but not satisfied. The Aggies have certainly turned things around after their first two weeks and now have a real shot to make the College Football Playoff in January.
But like all teams now, they’re a work in progress. Here are five things we hope the Aggies improved during the off week:
1. Establishing connections with receivers
Through four games, the Aggies have had three different leading receivers.
That could be considered a good thing — obviously, Kellen Mond has lots of options to spread the ball to. However, if you follow the Aggies, you know their woes at the position. Their leading receiver from last season, Jhamon Ausbon, opted out weeks before the season began. Caleb Chapman suffered a season-ending injury on Oct. 10 against Florida.
Running back Ainias Smith leads A&M in receiving yards and is tied for the lead in touchdowns.
The Aggies are young, with no upperclassmen starting at receiver. With that being the case, you would expect them to get better each week. Chase Lane and tight end Jalen Wydermyer have both shown potential. Can one of them take off post bye?
2. Defensive consistency
The Aggies are looking a lot better on defense after surrendering 52 points to Alabama in their second game.
Florida’s potent offense obviously got its points, but A&M forced a key turnover late. Against Mississippi State, the Aggies looked stout all game.
They are currently fourth in the SEC in total defense, having allowed 354 yards per game. Considering that includes games against the No. 1 (Alabama) and No. 4 (Florida) offenses in the SEC, that’s not bad. Still, the Aggies have to prove they can play at this level on a consistent basis if they hope to make any noise.
3. Offensive balance and efficiency
The Aggies did a nice job against Mississippi State of running time off the clock once they had the game in hand.
Fisher said in his weekly press conference that it was a good opportunity for his team to learn how to play in those types of situations. What’s even more encouraging is that A&M succeeded in doing so without running back Isaiah Spiller at the end of the game. Spiller exited late with an injury, but he is expected to play against the Razorbacks on Saturday.
“I’m talking about the last 4 minutes of the game when you have to run it,” Fisher said. “They know you’re going to run it. We’re learning to run it when you have to. The rest of the time is what the numbers say. You have to be balanced. We’re getting better, but there’s still a lot of yards we’re leaving on the field.”
The Aggies will look to improve even more out of the bye.
4. Kellen Mond
Entering the bye week, Mond had the sixth-best quarterback rating in the conference.
For all the criticism he has taken over his career, he has been solid this year. In the game against Florida, he threw for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. He didn’t have to do much against Mississippi State with Spiller leading the way.
A&M will hope Mond keeps climbing that list to become a top-three quarterback in the SEC, at least. There are a couple of quarterbacks ahead of him whom he is likely better than, in LSU’s Myles Brennan and Missouri’s Connor Bazelak.
Mond has been good, but for A&M to get where it wants to go, he will need to find that next gear as the second half of the season approaches.
5. Focus in close games
A&M has really only had one close call this year, in their 41-38 win over Florida.
The Aggies forced a fumble, then Mond led the game-winning drive in that one, so the Aggies are 1-for-1 in the clutch. Even with an easier schedule the rest of the way, there is still a chance A&M finds itself in a close game.
Hopefully, Fisher has them practicing some of those scenarios during the bye week. It can only come in handy down the road when they are called upon to be calm in the face of pressure.