Texas A&M Football: 5 Biggest Questions Heading Into 2015
Texas A&M is heading into the 2015 with high expectations. The Aggies have spent most of the offseason developing the defensive line and the secondary. A&M also had to address the transfer of quarterback Kenny Hill who looked solid against South Carolina putting up a score of 52-28; Hill appeared to be the player to provide a seamless transition from Johnny Manziel, completing 44 of his 60 passes for 511 yards and three touchdowns against the Gamecocks. As it turned out, the success did not last for Hill. After the team as a whole struggled mightily in a 59-0 loss to Alabama in October, Hill was replaced by freshman Kyle Allen. Allen went on to lead the team to a 3-2 record to close out the season that included a 41-38 win over No. 3 Auburn and a 45-37 victory in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against West Virginia. Texas A&M, like so many teams in the SEC West, would have dominated most other conferences. The Aggies finished out the 2014 season with an 8-5 record. Granted, the Aggies didn’t dominate the headlines like they once with Manziel as the quarterback. However, in a stacked SEC West, the Aggies still remain a threat to teams trying to climb the ladder. With that being said, let’s break down the Aggies with five big questions leading into the upcoming season.
Does Texas A&M have a favorable schedule this season?
I should start this section off by saying “I hate people who think that the schedule is important”. Nine times out of ten the schedule is not as important at it is hyped. However, in the SEC West the schedule is very important. Texas A&M has a good-looking schedule this year. Texas A&M will open up the season on the road against Arizona State, then, the Aggies are in College Station for the next two versus Ball State and Nevada. The first true test for A&M will be against the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T stadium on September 26. The revamped defensive unit will get its true test against the tricky play calling of Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. That game alone could be the defining moment of the Aggies season. The next two games are at home versus Mississippi State and Alabama. After those two games, the Aggies schedule lightens up drastically until the clash with LSU in Baton Rouge November 28th. Texas A&M has the opportunity to finish out this season with 2 or perhaps 3 losses, depending on how much Arkansas has built off their late success last season. Of course, with Alabama at home on October 17th, that game could determine whether A&M is going for a SEC West or if they will remain in the middle of the SEC West.
Is Kyle Allen ready to take the Aggie offense to the next level?
Kyle Allen did not have a bad season last year, throwing for 1322 yards with 16 touchdowns; he seems to be ready to start the season as the quarterback. With Hill’s departure from the team, Allen’s biggest competition will come from three-time high school state champion Kyler Murray, a highly-coveted five star prospect with a solid arm and great speed. Of course, that is contingent upon Murray making it to campus. Highly talented in baseball as well, Murray has an excellent shot of being drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft in June. Should he choose football over baseball and arrive in College Station, Murray will not have enough time to beat out Allen for the job and will enter the season as backup. With all these elements in play, Allen should be the clear cut starter for the Aggies this season.
Will the running game improve from last season?
Aside from the defensive struggles, A&M also had issues with the running game. In 2014, A&M had a three-man rotation between Trey and Brandon Williams as well as Carson. Carson led the Aggies with 124 carries for 581 yards and 5 touchdowns last season at the running back position. Trey Williams led the touchdown numbers with 7, before declaring for the NFL draft this offseason. Now, A&M is looking fresh with a new offensive line and run game coordinator Dave Christensen was hired by Kevin Sumlin in the offseason, and is inheriting plenty of talent to work with. Carson and Brandon Williams will get the majority of the carries, but recruits from the 2015 class will have a chance to make their mark early. I don’t see any reason why A&M will improve their run game this season.
Can the offensive line protect against touch SEC defenses?
Texas A&M and their offense line coach BJ Anderson parted ways last season before the Liberty Bowl. Strange because the A&M offensive line was projected to be one of the strongest units of the 2014 squad, the line appeared that it would live up to the hype after a 52-28 victory over South Carolina that saw QB Kenny Hill throw for a school record 511 passing yards. Like Hill’s stay under center, the success of the offensive line did not last. Looking ahead A&M was fortunate to bring back Mike Matthews, Avery Gennesy, and Germain Ifedi. Keeping Ifedi away from the NFL is a plus and he will certainly be a leader for the Aggies this upcoming season. As for recruiting, the Aggies cleaned up in that area yet again in regards to the offensive line, landing three four-star recruits. Early enrollee Keaton Sutherland has already had the opportunity to work out with the team during spring practice.
Will Texas A&M ever play the Texas Longhorns again?
It’s strange when a team leaves a conference; it’s almost like a high school boyfriend/girlfriend break up. Once the break up takes place, almost 3 days later there is another match “made in heaven”. Texas A&M is no different than a high school break up. After leaving the Big XII for the sexier SEC, Texas A&M finds that they are building new rivalries, playing against Arkansas in Arlington at AT&T stadium. Granted, Aggies/Longhorns weren’t OU versus Texas, or Ohio State versus Michigan, the Texas versus Texas A&M game is one that college football is missing. We all we’re shocked last year when Texas AD Steve Patterson was quoted as saying “unless there is a compelling reason, the football series between Texas and Texas A&M is dead.” Ouch, harsh words. Texas and Texas A&M are in two completely different positions. Texas is rebuilding and praying for a decent season, and Texas A&M is poised to be one of the top teams in the SEC. Texas coach Charlie Strong was quoted just last week as saying “I’m not pushing too hard for it yet because I want to win some games first.” Specifically, he said "I don't know if I want to go walking into College Station right now." Now, if Texas gets back to being one of the top teams in the Big XII, chances are this rivalry could return for the sake of great football.