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Sneak Peek: The Texas A&M Aggies

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Is the Aggie hype for real?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 27 Texas Bowl- Oklahoma State v Texas A&M Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be taking a quick look at every Auburn opponent on the 2020 schedule.

2019 Record: 8-5 (4-4)

2020 Signing Class: 6th (4th SEC)

Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (3rd season)

Key Departures:

  • WR Quartney Davis - 54 rec 616 yds 11.4 avg 4 TD
  • WR Kendrick Rogers - 30 rec 351 yds 11.7 avg 2 TD
  • DT Justin Madubuike - 45 tackles 11.5 TFL 5.5 sacks INT 2 PBU FF

Key Returners:

  • QB Kellen Mond (Sr) - 258/419 (61.6%) 2,897 yds 20 TD 9 INT 126 carries 501 yds 4.0 avg 8 TD
  • RB Isaiah Spiller (So) - 174 carries 946 yds 5.4 avg 10 TD 29 rec 203 yds 7.0 avg
  • WR Jhamon Ausbon (Sr) - 66 rec 872 yds 13.2 avg 5 TD
  • TE Jalen Wydermyer (So) - 32 rec 447 yds 14.0 avg 6 TD
  • DE Tyree Johnson (Jr) - 32 tackles 6.5 TFL 4.0 sacks PBU
  • LB Buddy Johnson (Sr) - 77 tackles 9.5 TFL sack PBU FR FF TD
  • LB Anthony Hines (Jr) - 73 tackles 10.5 TFL
  • S Demani Richardson (So) - 71 tackles 0.5 TFL 0.5 sacks INT 2 PBU FF

Preview

When Texas A&M so ceremoniously welcomed Jimbo Fisher to College Station three years ago, it was with the expectation that he would be the one to finally harness the tremendous amount of resources available to the Aggie program and take them to the mountain top. Aggie fans, for the most part, have been patient, understanding that he would need a couple of years to build the program to his liking and before being able to compete with the best in the SEC.

The honeymoon is over. It’s time for Jimbo to start winning.

No team in the SEC returns as much production in 2020 as the Texas A&M Aggies, most notably at quarterback where Kellen Mond enters his fourth and final year as the Aggies starter. He best represents Texas A&M’s program and it’s inconsistency over the past three seasons. At times, Mond looks like the elite QB so many analysts want him to be. Deftly navigating the pocket to avoid pressure before launching an accurate missile 50 yards down field for a touchdown. Then just a possession later he will revert to a panicked freshman, unable to see the whole field, resulting in a stalled offense and a very frustrated fanbase.

A&M is hoping it all comes together for Mond in 2020. I don’t think Jimbo Fisher did him many favors last fall, stubbornly sticking to his preferred 12 or 21 personnel instead of going four wide with that stable of wide receivers and allowing Mond to play at pace. Auburn fans saw the difference in how Mond operates in those two systems last fall when Auburn’s defense smothered the Aggies for 3 quarters only to be shredded in the 4th when Jimbo finally abandoned his poor game plan. I don’t expect Jimbo to deviate too much from his philosophy so it’s key that Mond continues to improve as a pro style pocket passer if A&M’s offense is going to be effective against better defenses.

For Fisher’s offense to be great, it typically needs an elite running back and an elite tight end to go with a top notch quarterback. I am not sure they have either in 2020 but they do have some intriguing players at those spots.

Isaiah Spiller returns at tailback following a solid freshman debut. Jashaun Corbin was supposed to be the man in 2019 but an injury sidelined him for the year opening the door for Spiller. Corbin has since transferred out so Spiller looks set to be the bellcow once again this fall. However, one of the young standouts last season at wide receiver, Ainas Smith, is moving to tailback this fall. He could provide some competition for Spiller at running back. At the least, he should add a home run threat to the backfield.

Tight end is interesting as well. Sophomore Jalen Wydermeyer returns following a solid freshman season. He lead the team in receiving touchdowns and finished #3 in receptions and yards. But he was not the true freshman expected to make an impact at that spot. In the 2019 class, A&M signed the nation’s #1 ranked tight end in Baylor Cupp. But the former top 100 prospect missed all of 2019 with an injury. He will be back in 2020 and likely a major factor in this offense. Don’t be surprised to see the Aggies operate a lot out of 12 personnel to get both Wydermeyer and Cupp on the field at the same time.

The Aggies receiving corps is the one position that will undergo a somewhat major makeover. Yes, leading receiver Jhamon Ausbon is back but Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rogers are both gone. However, Texas A&M signed an outstanding WR class last cycle that included 5-star Demond Demas who is expected to compete for immediate playing time.

But all this returning talent at the skill positions won’t matter if A&M’s offensive line doesn’t get much better. All five starters return, four of which are seniors but this is a group that struggled mightily at times in 2020, especially in terms of protecting Kellen Mond. If the Aggies offense is going to take a major leap this fall, it has to start up front.

Per SP+, A&M fielded a top 25 defense last fall and return plenty of important pieces. Justin Madubuike is gone but big Bobby Brown returns to anchor the middle of the Aggies line along with pass rushers Demarvin Leal, Michael Clemmons and Tyree Johnson.

At the 2nd level of this defense, starting backers Anthony Hines and Buddy Johnson are back. They are extremely aggressive defenders who excel at causing havoc in opposing backfields. However, that aggression can sometimes lead to big plays off misdirection as A&M learned the hard way last fall against Auburn.

The secondary has been the weaker part of this defense the past few seasons but there is optimism it could be transforming into a strength. A number of starters return including Myles Jones, Demani Richardson and Leon O’Neal Jr. The Aggies also signed the nation’s top ranked safety in the 2020 class in 5-star Jaylon Jones who will likely see some early playing time.

This is by far the easiest schedule Jimbo Fisher has faced since arriving in College Station. Clemson is replaced by Colorado as the Aggies Power 5 out of conference opponent and they are set to face South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the East. Yes, they must travel to Auburn and Tuscaloosa but this as easy as it’s going to get in terms of schedule for Fisher.

With all this returning production, an easier schedule and some strong recruiting classes, it’s easy to see why hype is building for A&M to be Alabama’s top challenger in 2020. But I still have some major questions about this Aggie offensive line and personnel fit for Jimbo’s system. We will see if this is the year it all finally clicks for Fisher and he justifies that giant contract. Because next season, A&M is going to have to replace A LOT, so it better happen in 2020 or things might start getting uncomfortable in College Station.

War Eagle!