Texas A&M football: Projecting the 2021 starting lineup
It’s a good thing Texas A&M has recruited well over the past few seasons.
The Aggies lose a lot of production in 2021, with several of their stars from this year already looking toward the NFL Draft. That includes quarterback Kellen Mond, the Aggies’ all-time leader in total offense.
In addition to Mond, 3 of 4 senior offensive linemen have already said they aren’t coming back. Carson Green still has not made an announcement. And that’s just for the offense.
Defensively, A&M loses linebacker Buddy Johnson and defensive tackle Bobby Brown, both big contributors this past season. A test awaits.
Was this year’s Orange Bowl victory the 1st of many big ones for Jimbo Fisher in College Station?
Given his track record at Florida State, one would assume he has it in him to keep things rolling. Only time will truly tell, though. What will this team look like next season, at least at the top of the depth chart? Here’s my best guess:
QB: Haynes King
RB: Isaiah Spiller
WR1: Chase Lane
WR2: Caleb Chapman
WR3: Demond Demas
LT: Chris Morris
LG: Kenyon Green
C: Smart Chibuzo
RG: Layden Robinson
RT: Carson Green
TE: Jalen Wydermyer
A&M retains most of their skill players from 2020, with Spiller and most of the receivers returning.
I’m hoping Chapman can make a full recovery from his surgery, because he showed flashes last season. Lane was also pretty productive, racking up more than 400 yards. The big question is whether Demas can make the leap to starter in his 2nd season.
Demas was a 5-star and ranked as the No. 25 player in the country in the 2020 class, but he played in only 3 games as a true freshman. The Aggies also have receiver/running back hybrid Ainias Smith, returning senior Hezekiah Jones and Wydermyer.
When it comes to QB and the players protecting him, though, it will be almost all new faces.
I like King to take over for Mond. The freshman from Longview, Texas, came in heralded as a 4-star recruit and a state champion. He played late in the 4th quarter a couple of times this past season, throwing a touchdown pass against South Carolina.
King also possesses upside as a runner. He was a coach’s son in high school, so he has known football his entire life.
As far as the line goes, any number of players could start. Morris, a backup in 2020, was arrested just before New Year’s and did not make the trip to the Orange Bowl. Incoming freshman Reuben Fatheree could be another candidate for the left tackle spot.
Similarly, Chibuzo was the backup center last year, but highly rated Bryce Foster could also push for an open starting spot. I left Green as the starting right tackle for now, as we don’t have any indication whether he will choose to leave.
If he, too, is gone, that just means more inexperience next season. The line will have to go through some growing pains early on.
Moving on to the defense:
DE: Tyree Johnson
DT: Jayden Peevy
DT: McKinnley Jackson
DE: Micheal Clemons
WLB: Aaron Hansford
MLB: Chris Russell Jr.
CB: Myles Jones
S: Leon O’Neal Jr.
S: Demani Richardson
CB: Jaylon Jones
Nickel: Erick Young
The Aggies had perhaps the best defense in the SEC in 2020 and were insanely good at stopping the run.
At least 1 member of their defensive line won’t be back, as Brown declared for the Draft. Clemons has yet to announce whether he will leave, so I left him on the depth chart for now. At least Johnson and Peevy are certain to return.
The only other loss is linebacker Buddy Johnson. Russell didn’t do much as a backup last year, but I expect him to step into this role, as A&M didn’t bring in any linebacker prospects.
The Aggies return their entire secondary, with O’Neal and Myles Jones being the biggest pieces. They will anchor a unit that was mostly solid, save for games against powers Alabama and Florida.
The losses of Brown and Johnson will sting, but I think there is enough returning that this defense could still be a major strength in 2021.
The Aggies lose a lot of what made them so good in 2020.
There will be growing pains with a new quarterback. The offensive line that allowed them to dominate the run game and control tempo is mostly gone. A pair of defensive stars are headed for the NFL.
To predict A&M to stay at the same level as they were in 2020 might be a bit bold, but that doesn’t mean the Aggies can’t have a good season. In fact, I still expect them to compete for a spot near the top of the conference.
All of their playmakers are still there. It’s just a matter of getting the ball in their hands. The defense isn’t totally depleted, just missing some big names.
It’s going to be a challenge, and a slow start wouldn’t be surprising with all the youth. But this team has the talent to make 2021 count.