Texas A&M football: 5 players who need to step up after the bye week
There were really only two ways to look at the 2019 season. One was to believe that with a full season under his belt that Jimbo Fisher would improve upon what has become an Aggies program stuck on 8-4 seasons. Or you could look at it a little more objectively and think that while the program might be improving steadily, the won-loss record might not reflect that given their schedule.
It seems like the latter is the direction that Texas A&M is headed. But at 3-2 with just over half the season still yet to play, who knows what might be? The opportunity for a special season is in front of them with Alabama, LSU and Georgia still left on the 2019 slate.
If that is to happen, these are the 5 players/areas in which the Aggies must improve upon.
1. QB Kellen Mond
I don’t know that Mond has to be that much better necessarily, but he has to be more consistent in big games. He’s a Heisman Trophy candidate if you only count games last year against LSU and North Carolina State. So we know the talent is there.
I used to be in the corner of those who believed that Mond’s inconsistency stemmed from being afraid to make a mistake under Fisher. But now it’s become all too clear that his inexcusable mistakes are the result of overconfidence. That sometimes leads to mental letdowns like the fumbling of a simple exchange with running back Isaiah Spiller, which resulted in a scoop-and-score, allowing Arkansas back into a game it shouldn’t have been in.
Or forcing a red zone pass that gets intercepted leaving the Aggies scoreless on the opportunity. Or taking a sack that puts added pressure on kicker Seth Small or takes him completely out of field goal range.
Those are the things that separate a good quarterback from a great one and can oftentimes be the difference between victory and defeat.
2. Offensive line
We could single out each one individually but decided to lump them together as a group. Guards Jared Hocker and Kenyon Green have had their moments, but the offensive line as a unit has left something to be desired, even from both guards.
Mond was sacked 4 times by an Arkansas team that had combined for 5 sacks over the previous 3 games. And the run game, well it ranks No. 12 in the SEC. Only suddenly pass-happy LSU and Vanderbilt average fewer rushing yards per game this season.
3. RBs Isaiah Spiller and Jacob Kibodi
Perhaps the problem is with run blocking, but Spiller and Kibodi have got to find a way to make plays. A&M has had 1,000-yards rushers in 3 of the past 4 seasons, but it is beginning to become apparent that Spiller and Kibodi combined might not reach that plateau. Combined the duo is averaging 77 rushing yards per game.
Obviously losing Jashaun Corbin was significant, but overcoming injuries is a necessity in the SEC.
4. TEs Glenn Beal and Jalen Wydermyer
Now nobody suggested that either would fill the shoes of All-American Jace Sternberger — certainly not this year. They weren’t even slotted to be starters. But they have been thrust into prominent roles with the injury to frontline TE Baylor Cupp.
They were shut out by Arkansas last week and for the season have a combined 10 catches for 75 yards and 2 touchdowns. The potential is there for either or both to become stars, but both will need to fast track their development both blocking and pass catching if they are to help out the Aggies offensively.
Again we could single them out, but as a unit the Aggies are giving up too many yards passing. Arkansas was 2 yards shy of a 300-yard passing game and Clemson threw for 268.
With the meat of the SEC schedule upcoming, those numbers have got to be improved upon moving forward if the Aggies are going to be competitive. Safety Leon O’Neal Jr. is one player whose game must trend upward. He was replaced on Saturday by Keldrick Carper as the starter, although he did see action.
Bottom line, defending the pass in upcoming games against Alabama and LSU, among others, will be critical in the success of the remainder of the season.