Texas A&M football: Way-too-early look at the 2022 Aggies
So, the roller-coaster ride that was the 2021 season is over. A disappointing Gator Bowl berth didn’t even happen and yet another 8-4 record is how it ended.
The Aggies have finished 8-4 or worse in 8 of the past 9 regular seasons. The outlier being the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign in which the Aggies posted a 9-1 mark and made Aggieland lose its collective mind in the belief that 8-4 seasons were now a thing of the past and better days were just around the corner.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher continues to bring in top talent, including the nation’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the 2022 Early Signing Period. So, it shouldn’t be long before those 8-4 finishes indeed become a thing of the past.
But how long is Aggieland expected to remain patient?
Good question; Texas A&M loses a ton of talent. But as touched upon earlier, Fisher continues to recruit top talent. Here’s a way-too-early look heading into the 2022 season.
What worked in 2021
Defense; the Aggies ranked 3rd in the SEC in total defense and led the league in pass defense, giving up the fewest yards through the air. Up front the Aggies were as good as any with likes of DeMarvin Leal, Jayden Peevy, Michael Clemons and Tyree Johnson leading the way.
What didn’t work
Quarterback. The Aggies were thin at the most crucial position in the game. With Haynes King sidelined for the season by injury in the 2nd game, Zach Calzada did what he could do to step up and keep the ship upright. He did what he could do, and in the upset against Alabama, Calzada was outstanding. But over the course of a 12-game season, Calzada struggled. Calzada ranked 12th in the SEC in passing and in the end, the Aggies were a quarterback away from contending.
QB situation in 2022
Calzada saw the writing on the wall. He would likely not see the field for Texas A&M in 2022 and therefore entered the transfer portal and is headed for SEC rival Auburn.
But Fisher picked up another QB from the transfer portal. Former LSU starter Max Johnson who, like Calzada, stepped in for LSU’s injured starter and finished the season leading the Tigers to a 6-6 record and a Texas Bowl invite. Johnson, a sophomore who threw 27 TD passes with just 6 interceptions, joins his younger brother Jake Johnson, a top TE prospect in the Class of 2022.
Who knows, maybe Johnson thinks he can duplicate what Joe Burrow did in transferring to LSU and blossoming into the game’s premier quarterback. He’ll have his opportunity only if 5-star recruit Conner Weigman isn’t ready. Even then, he still has to take the job away from King, who was the Aggies’ 2021 Opening Day starter.
Johnson isn’t in the same universe as Burrow, but may not have to be in order to succeed with all the young talent around him.
The 2022 Texas A&M defensive line will look very different from the stud-filled trenches of this season. Replacing the likes of Leal, Peevy, Clemons and Johnson is about as daunting a task as there is.
Unless Fisher can pluck a DL or two from the transfer portal, the Aggies will be very young across the defensive line.
In addition, junior tight end Jalen Wydermyer has declared for the NFL Draft. Wydermyer led the Aggies with 515 receiving yards (40 receptions, 4 TDs) this season.
Isaiah Spiller also declared for the NFL Draft The Aggies’ leading rusher eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the 2nd consecutive season and leaves some big shoes to fill.
Sophomore tackles Adarious Jones, Isaiah Raikes and McKinnley Jackson played in at least 10 games this season and All-SEC Freshman Team selection Shemar Turner another 8 games. That group should help shore up a decimated defensive line heading into the 2022 campaign.
Same goes for freshmen Fadil Diggs and Jahzion Harris at the ends. The DL will be young but very deep with exceptional talent.
The Aggies’ 2nd-leading receiver (509 yards), junior Ainias Smith, will return for his senior season. He led the team with 564 receiving yards in 2020. Redshirt juniors Jalen Preston and Caleb Chapman are the most experienced after Smith. They combined for 30 receptions (465 yards, 2 TDs) this season. Preston played in 11 games while Chapman was slowed by injury and saw action in only 6 games this season.
Then it’s up to Demond Demas (15 receptions, 235 yards, 1 TD) and Moose Muhammad III (10 catches, 153 yards, 4 TDs) to build on the 2021 season. True freshman Yulkeith Brown, a 4-star recruit out of Miami, burned his redshirt by playing in 5 games this season. He didn’t catch a pass, but rushed 2 times for 52 yards and could become a key contributor as well.
It may be time (finally) for Baylor Cupp to emerge at tight end. The 4-star from the Class of 2019 was injured early in his career and hasn’t reached his potential. But the door is open for him to step into the spotlight in 2022. The 6-7, 245-pounder played in 10 games this season. He is still looking for his first pass reception.
But Cupp will be challenged by junior Max Wright and others. Wright played in all 12 games this season and caught 3 passes for 23 yards.
Three TEs redshirted this season, including the athletic Eli Stowers, who was recruited to Texas A&M as a 4-star quarterback. The 6-4, 215-pounder played in 3 games this season.
Will Walter Nolen work his way into a defensive line position? Rated as the No. 1 recruit all-time at Texas A&M by 247sports.com, Nolen graded out higher than Myles Garrett. At 6-4, 325, the Tennessee product is rated the nation’s top player at his position as well as Tennessee’s top-rated recruit. Nolen is the No. 2-ranked overall recruit in the country.
Nolen is 1 of 7 DLs that Fisher is bringing in. That includes Lakeland, Florida’s Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy (6-3, 280), another 5-star recruit in the top class of 2022.
Five-star recruit Evan Stewart might work his way into the mix as well at a receiver spot. He’s the No. 2-ranked recruit in the state of Texas, according to 247sports.com. He is also the No. 2 recruit nationally at his position and the No. 6 overall recruit in the nation.
The Aggies also have 3 4-star TEs in the stellar 2022 recruiting class.