Texas A&M football: Analyzing the Aggies' projected starting lineup
As fall camp continues, Texas A&M and head coach Jimbo Fisher take aim at the SEC West. The Aggies climbed to the No. 2 spot in last year’s standings behind only National Championship Game participant Alabama.
But are the Aggies ready to take that final step to the top of the division and knock off the perennial power in the conference? That is the question as Fisher enters Year 2 with 11 returning starters (7 offense, 4 defense) and another stellar recruiting class.
With one of the best quarterbacks in the conference coupled with veteran receivers and a more experienced offensive line, look for the Aggies to produce on the scoreboard. It’s keeping the opposition from doing the same that remains to be seen. Major holes along the front 7 must be filled for that to happen.
Here’s a look at the projected starting lineup and how I expect it to perform.
QB: Kellen Mond
RB: Jashaun Corbin
Skinny: Mond threw for more than 3,000 yards last season. With another year of tutelage from Fisher, look for Mond to establish himself as one of the top QBs in the SEC this season. He was nothing short of spectacular is his final 2 games last season and expectations are through the roof for this budding star this fall.
Corbin still has to prove himself, but should get all the help he needs from a more experienced offensive line and what shapes up to be one of the more productive passing games in the conference. Look for Corbin to enjoy a breakout season in 2019.
LT: Dan Moore
LG: Jared Hocker
C: Ryan McCollum
RG: Colton Prater
RT: Carson Green
Skinny: Positions should be nailed down in the fall and don’t be surprised to see some tweaking still to come. McCollum must step up at this critical position while the group around him settles in for another year in the trenches.
As with the quarterback position, depth could be an issue with very inexperienced backups at each spot. So staying healthy will be a key. If so, the group should be able to carry out the physical style offense that Fisher is noted for.
Wide receivers/tight end
WR: Jhamon Ausbon
WR: Quartney Davis
WR: Kendrick Rogers
TE: Glenn Beal
Skinny: This should prove to be an area of strength. The sophomore quartet of Davis, Ausbon, Rogers and Camron Buckley returns give Mond all the help he’ll need for a big season. As a group, the 4 combined last season for 137 receptions and 1,770 yards (13 TDs).
Of course, replacing your top receiver (TE Jace Sternberger) is the concern. But Glenn Beal and freshman Baylor Cupp by all indications appear suitable for Fisher’s offense. Beal (sophomore) has the edge in experience and solid blocking skills. Expect both the become solid performers.
DE: Tyree Johnson
DT: Justin Madubuike
DT: Bobby Brown
DE: Michael Clemons
Skinny: Question marks abound around Madubuike, who has already garnered watch list recognition for the Nagurski and Outland Trophies. Big things are expected from Brown and Clemons, who missed last season with an injury. Both are expected to play big roles in 2019.
Johnson played in all 13 games last season, recording 14 tackles. He should have a much bigger role in 2019, building on 1.5 sacks and 2.0 tackles for loss a year ago. Jayden Peevy could have a bigger role, too. Incoming freshman prize recruit DeMarvin Leal, a 5-star from Converse, could also prove to be a factor sooner rather than later.
WLB: Buddy Johnson
MLB: Anthony Hines
SLB: Braden White
Skinny: Let’s hope that the biggest question mark on the team doesn’t turn into its Achilles’ in 2019.
Johnson played 12 games last season, recording 27 tackles including 5.0 for loss (0.5 sacks). But he must ramp up his game significantly in order to lead that group. Hines missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury after playing well in his freshman season. A return to health could be the boost that this position is in dire need of.
After that it’s a group of relative inexperienced LBs looking to make the most of an opportunity. Ikenna Okeke and Braden White are possibilities to fill the role as is freshman Andre White.
CB: Charles Oliver
CB: Debione Renfro
S: Leon O’Neal Jr.
S: Derrick Tucker
Skinny: There’s nowhere to go but up for this group. Oliver, Renfro and Tucker have a year of experience and that should bode well for a pass defense that ranked 12th in the SEC last season.
O’Neal played well in the 2018 Gator Bowl game, so there appears to be much needed light at the end of the tunnel for this group.
K: Seth Small
P: Braden Mann
Returner: Roshauud Paul
Skinny: What more needs to be said about Mann? The unanimous All-American and Ray Guy Award winner returns after averaging 51 yards per punt in 2018.
Small, on the other hand, didn’t have a great freshman season, hitting just 20-of-28 field goal attempts and ranking 11th in the SEC with a 71.4 percent success rate. Perhaps a year of experience will propel Small to break out as a sophomore.
Paul was 5th in the SEC last season averaging 8.71 yards per punt return. With Corbin moving into the starting RB position, Paul could take over the kick return duties as well.
Final thought …
If the offensive line improves as expected with a year of experience behind them, this figures to be an explosive offense. If the front 7 can grow up in a hurry and make enough stops, this could turn out to be a very exciting season in Aggieland.