Texas A&M football: 5 biggest holes to fill in the 2021 starting lineup
Texas A&M hit its stride in Year 3 under Jimbo Fisher.
The veteran coach led the Aggies to an Orange Bowl victory, a huge step forward in the Aggies’ quest for SEC respect. They ended the season on an 8-game winning streak and were the first team out of the College Football Playoff. They finished No. 4 in the country, better than even Johnny Manziel’s best year.
Fisher’s system will be put to the test in 2021, though, as plenty of pieces from the Orange Bowl team are moving on.
That includes quarterback Kellen Mond, the Aggies’ all-time leader in total offense. If only he were the lone loss.
The Aggies lose 4 starters on the offensive line, a huge blow as the running game was a major part of their success this past season. They also have a couple of defensive starters leaving that will leave big holes to fill.
If A&M wants to stay in the upper echelon of the conference, it will need the replacements to fill in nicely. Here are the 5 biggest holes to fill in the 2021 starting lineup:
1. Haynes King replacing Kellen Mond at QB
Kellen Mond’s journey in College Station was up-and-down, but it was good to see him go out on a high note. He leaves as one of the best quarterbacks in program history, and is their all-time leader in total offense, passing touchdowns, completions and attempts.
Now, we’ll get to see one of Fisher’s recruits take over.
I like Haynes King, a former 4-star from Longview, Texas, to earn the spot. He was the backup to Mond this season as a true freshman and threw his first career touchdown against South Carolina. He won a state championship as a junior and is the son of a high school coach, so he’s a football lifer.
It could take a while for King to find his footing in 2021, but once he does, I believe the Aggies will be in good hands.
2. Chris Russell replacing Buddy Johnson at MLB
Buddy Johnson was everywhere in 2020. He led the team in tackles with 85, including 7.5 for loss, 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. His departure is significant.
Russell played in 9 games and was primarily used in special teams. He even blocked a punt against Mississippi State and finished the season with 4 tackles. His playing time was limited, but I expect him to take on a bigger role in 2021.
Hopefully, he can grow into a productive player with the increase in playing time. The Aggies absolutely need that.
3. McKinnley Jackson/Tyree Johnson replacing Bobby Brown at DT
Brown left early for the NFL Draft, which means the Aggies need to find a replacement at defensive tackle.
They will be hard-pressed to replace his team-leading 5.5 sacks, but they have a couple of candidates in Jackson and Johnson.
Jackson was the direct backup to Brown this past season and is who I expect to take over the starting spot. He had 13 total tackles and 1.5 sacks in his limited time. Johnson got time at defensive end and finished with a total of 4 sacks and 23 tackles. He had 6 tackles, including 1.5 sacks, in the bowl win over North Carolina.
I think A&M has enough talent on its defensive line to survive this switch, regardless of whether Jackson or Brown starts.
4. Nearly all of the offensive line leaving
A&M must replace 4 of the 5 starters on the offensive line.
Dan Moore, Ryan McCollum, Jared Hocker and Carson Green are all departing. Only left guard Kenyon Green returns. The line was their biggest strength last year, paving the way for one of the strongest running games in the SEC and providing plenty of protection to Mond.
Chris Morris looks like he will start at left tackle, Smart Chibuzo at center, Layden Robinson at right guard and Blake Trainor at tackle. There are likely going to be a lot of growing pains with this young group, and this is the biggest key for A&M this season.
5. Demond Demas replacing Hezekiah Jones at WR
This one isn’t set in stone, but I would like to see Demas get more run this season.
The 5-star recruit from Tomball, Texas, didn’t make much of an impact in 2020, but Fisher did praise his abilities in the early part of the season. The Aggies were lacking at receiver last season, so if Demas is able to blossom into his potential it would be huge.