The Merits of Dave Christensen

Rightfully so, much of the Texas A&M faithful’s focus has been directed toward the exciting conclusion of the 2015 recruiting cycle. Engaged in a no holds barred, knock-down, drag-out fight with the Texas Longhorns for the signature of 2015 prized jewel prospect, defensive tackle Daylon Mack, Aggies haven’t had much time to focus on anything else–including Coach Kevin Sumlin’s stellar string of recent coaching hires.

To put it simply-Sumlin didn’t just hit a homerun at filling A&M’s open coaching vacancies at wide receiver, defensive coordinator, and offensive line, rather he hit a bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, two outs, full count grand slam.

In my next couple of posts I want to dig in and examine two of our new coaches in particular, offensive line coach Dave Christensen, and wide receiver coach Aaron Moorehead, to more fully understand what they will bring to the table for the Aggies and Coach Sumlin in 2015 and beyond.

Please note-I’m purposefully excluding new defensive coordinator John Chavis since his background has already been discussed ad nauseum by other Aggie insider sites.

Let’s focus first on new offensive line coach Dave Christensen.

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While outgoing former offensive line coach, BJ Anderson, did a bang up job on the recruiting trail, Anderson’s on-the-field product at offensive line left much to be desired. Despite inheriting a talented group of “big uglies” personally hand-selected by legendary offensive line guru and ex Aggie head coach, Mike Sherman, Anderson’s offensive line progressively regressed over his three year tenure at Texas A&M. Things finally hit rock bottom on November 1st, 2014 when the MAC conference’s ULM Warhawks ran roughshod through A&M’s line time after time again.

BJ Anderson-AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog
Tough Year: Former offensive line coach BJ Anderson lacked answers to A&M’s line woes.

Pundits all over, from TexAgs to GigEm247 to Good Bull Hunting, agreed the line’s woes weren’t due to lack of talent but rather lack of technique and physicality—exactly the type of stuff an offensive line coach is supposed to teach you.

Enter in Dave Christensen, announced on January 6th, 2015 as Texas A&M’s next offensive line coach.

Following the announcement I ventured over to YouTube to skim over some past interview clips of him. While I realize old interviews aren’t exactly the most scientific way to go about evaluating a guy’s coaching chops, I think one can generally get a good barometer on another’s personality via video by observing tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

After taking a look at this clip, I ventured over to a like post-practice press conference held by the now ousted Anderson back in August.

While Anderson seems timid, unconfident, a little awkward, and not too thrilled to be there, Christensen is dripping with enthusiasm and “meat-headery.” His facial expressions are animated, words sprite with passion, and answers laser-

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Dave Christensen
Beast of a Man: New Aggie offensive line coach Dave Christensen’s colorful and unfiltered personality is just what Texas A&M needs.

focused. This sort of personality is exactly what the Aggies need to rid themselves of the soft culture that had pervaded Texas A&M’s offensive line over the course of Anderson’s tenure.

Another underrated part of this hire is Christensen’s extensive experience coaching offense in the college ranks. A huge issue in 2014 was the lack of battle-tested, offensive minds among Sumlin’s offensive staff when things got tough in October.

Let’s take a look at each Texas A&M offensive staff members’ resumes in 2014:

Clarence McKinney

2012- Texas A&M, Assistant Coach/Running Backs
2013 Texas A&M, Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs
2010-11 Houston, Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator
2008-09 Houston, Running Backs
2005-07 Yates High School, Head Coach
2003-05 North Shore High School, Assistant Coach
1997-2003 Booker T. Washington High School, Assistant Coach

Note- that’s three years of head coaching experience at the high school level followed by four years as a RB coach at a Conference USA school before McKinney made it to College Station in 2012.

Jake Spavital

2014- Texas A&M (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
*2013 Texas A&M (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
2011-12 West Virginia (Quarterbacks)
2010 Oklahoma State (Grad Assistant)
2009 Houston (Grad Assistant)
2008 Tulsa (Offensive Quality Control)
* Promoted to Offensive Coordinator for the Bowl Game

Spavital was a graduate assistant only four years ago.

David Beaty

2012- Texas A&M, Wide Receivers
2011 Kansas, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
2010 Rice, Offensive Coordinator
2008-09 Kansas, Wide Receivers
2006-07 Rice, Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers
2002-05 Irving MacArthur HS, Head Coach/Athletic Coordinator
2001 North Dallas HS, Head Coach/Athletic Director
1997-00 Garland HS, Assistant Coach/Special Teams/Wide Receivers
1994-96 Naaman Forest HS, Assistant Coach/Wide Receivers/Quarterbacks/Defensive Backs

Finally, a look at BJ Anderson’s resume:

2012- Texas A&M, Offensive Line
2009-11 Houston, Offensive Line
2005-08 Sam Houston State, Run-Game Coordinator/Offensive Line
2002-04 Tarleton State, Offensive Line
1999-01 Texas A&M, Graduate Assistant/OL
1998 Stephen F. Austin, Tight Ends
1997 Stephen F. Austin, Graduate Assistant/OL

Now that we have a general take-away of the level of offensive experience Sumlin was surrounded around in 2014, lets shift our focus to Dave Christensen and his experience:

  • 2015-: Texas A&M (Offensive Line/Running Game Coordinator)
  • 2014: Utah (Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends)
  • 2009-13: Wyoming (Head Coach)
  • 2001-08: Missouri (Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
  • 1997-2000: Toledo (Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line)
  • 1992-96: Toledo (Offensive Line)
  • 1990-91: Idaho State (Offensive Line/Running Backs)
  • 1988-89: Washington (Graduate Assistant)
  • 1986-87: Eastern Washington (Offensive Line/Defensive Line)
  • 1985: Everett (Wash.) HS (Offensive Line/Defensive Line)
  • 1984: Sehome (Wash.) HS (Offensive Line/Defensive Line)
  • 1983: Western Washington (Running Backs)

By 2005, when most every other member of the Aggie offensive staff was either coaching at the high-school level or still a student in college, Christensen had already been coaching college football for two decades.

It’s no wonder why Texas A&M’s offense took such a nose dive in 2014. There wasn’t anyone on the sidelines with the necessary level of experience able to challenge Sumlin’s strategies and ideas. No checks and balances to Sumlin’s power. Too many “yes men.”

Now with another savvy offensive mind in Dave Christensen on staff, Sumlin has another battle-tested brain to bounce ideas off of and challenge his game plans and assumptions. Hopefully Christensen is the sort of coach that would have veto’ed some of Sumlin’s more head-scratching decisions in 2014, such as:

-Allowing a three-man rotation at running back (thus tragically taking away carries from the ever dynamic and NFL bound Trey Williams)

-Allowing A&M’s practices post August to turn so soft

-Allowing A&M to consistently trot out under performers week after week at wide receiver

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All in all I hope Christensen won’t be afraid to share with Sumlin the wealth of knowledge he’s accumulated over his 32 year coaching career. After watching Christensen’s more “vulgar” YouTube clips, I don’t think that will be a problem.

Follow me on Twitter at @AgsInDepth_Blog, official Twitter account of “Ags In Depth-A Texas A&M Football Blog”

Top Five Aggies Bound To Get More Media Love in 2015

2014 saw several Ags receive a good bit of media attention over the year. Whether via game telecasts, analysis shows, or the press, guys like Myles Garrett, Deshazor Everett, Cedric Ogbuehi, Mike Matthews, Speedy Noil, Kyle Allen, and Josh Reynolds were heavily spotlighted by the folks at ESPN, CBS, and the SEC Network.

In this post I want to explore a few guys I think are destined to jump to this next level of “media darling” status in 2015.

Forming this list of guys was a little tricky for two reasons:

#1 Many times if a guy wasn’t a celebrated recruit in high school then it takes a year of “elite” level of play before the media takes notice… A great example was Mike Evans post 2012 and prior to 2013. Despite leading Texas A&M in catches with 82 in 2012, Evans was M.I.A. when it came to 2012 post season recognition and 2013 season previews… It wasn’t until Evans dominated again in 2013 that the media finally give Evans the hype he deserved. Another victim of this effect was Cedric Ogbuehi… Only until Jake Mathews and Luke Joeckel moved on did Ogbuehi finally receive recognition as one of college football’s best players.

#2 Often the media darlings aren’t necessarily the most talented. A great example from the past year could be the attention given to Mike Matthews and Deshazor Everett. God bless their hearts, while solid players, their level of play didn’t quite warrant the level of adoration the media showered on them in 2014. Rather much of their media attention could be attributed to other reasons–for DeShazor Everett, being a senior and a star in the past, and for Mike Matthews, being the lone Matthews brother on the o-line.

Enjoy my take below. Leave a comment below if you agree or disagree and share your own list.

#1 Germain Ifedi

Ifedi is primed to garner a good deal of media love in 2015. With Cedric Ogbuehi moving on to the NFL, Ifedi will shift into the media’s lens of focus as A&M’s next great left tackle.

Despite a bit of an underwhelming 2014 season, I think the senior-to-be will bounce back in 2015 and warrant the attention he’ll undoubtedly garner.

#2 Ricky Seals Jones

Some might question the selection of RSJ here. You may be asking-“Didn’t RSJ already receive a good bit of national attention in 2014?” Partially IMHO. Early on RSJ did receive a good amount of attention in 2014 based off his amazing physical features and recruiting stardom, but once RSJ faded down the stretch, so did the media’s focus on the young man.

Looking forward, considering his enormous potential and name recognition, I fully expect the media machine to crank right back up and designate Seals Jones as the next great Aggie WR going into 2015.

#3 Christian Kirk

Give me the freshman Christian Kirk here. Just like we witnessed in 2014 with Speedy Noil, recruiting hype goes a long way towards giving certain freshman the level of attention a typical fish wouldn’t normally receive.

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Christian Kirk
Five-Star Arizona Special: Kirk chose the Aggies over 40 other offers, including the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, and Oregon.

I expect big things from Kirk in 2015. With Malcome Kennedy’s departure, Kirk is primed to slip right into Kennedy’s starting spot at the “Y” receiver position. What makes me so optimistic about him is the fact he was a full-time receiver in high school, unlike A&M’s other recent five-star catches, Ricky Seals Jones and Speedy Noil.

Kirk should have no issues leap-frogging Sabian Holmes for a starting spot this spring. I expect he’ll be a good bet to be a “story-line” feature during his first start on September 5th when the Aggies take on Kirk’s home state school, Arizona State.

#4 Julien Obioha

Lets face it, Julien isn’t exactly a world beater at defensive end and probably will never be. Enough about what Julien isn’t. What Julien is is a solid, consistent, high-IQ football player, and great person.

Slated to be one of the only senior starters on defense, Obioha is bound to be recognized as the Ag’s designated “lunch-pail effort” guy in 2015.. And heck, who knows, maybe the addition of Coach Chavis makes Obioha a different player.. Either way, the media will be all over the senior come 2015. Expect Sumlin to select the charismatic Obioha to represent Texas A&M in this summer’s SEC media days.

#5 Kyler Murray

I realize choosing Kyler here is incredibly bold… Backup, true freshman quarterbacks aren’t typically the focus of the media. But let’s be real here, is there anything typical about Kyler Murray? There hasn’t been a more prolific quarterback in Texas football history than Mr. Murray.

Incumbent Kyle Allen really hasn’t proven himself to be the unquestioned future at quarterback moving forward… Something tells me the media won’t be able to resist the juicy storyline of Kyler Murray lurking in the background if Allen struggles in 2015.

Follow me on Twitter at @AgsInDepth_Blog, official Twitter account of “Ags In Depth-A Texas A&M Football Blog”

“The 2015 Five”-Why These Five Guys Will Be “Must-See-TV” Over the Next Four Years

Wednesday, February 4th wrapped up what’s been an incredibly tiring and excruciating recruiting cycle for Aggies. While, as a whole, most Ags are justifiably thrilled with landing a third consecutive nationally ranked top 10 class, many are relieved to no longer follow the “drama” of a particular group of elite prospects. A group that kept much of the college football world and Aggieland in suspense until the bitter end.

While I’m extremely excited to have ultimately landed (or re-landed) a particular pair of guys from this aforementioned elite group, I’d be lying if I said their “shenanigans” leading up to Signing Day hadn’t left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

In the final two weeks leading up to February 4th, both aforementioned prospects posted updates on their respective Twitter accounts strongly implying they were Austin bound. While both obviously ended up committing to the Aggies in the end, their “promiscous” tweets resulted in a lot of Aggies, including myself, to lose a a lot of sleep.

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Kyler Murray UT jersey
Battle Until The End: There was no shortage of drama for Aggies leading up to National Signing Day.

Fast forward to today–both guys are now reassuring Aggieland that their late flirtations with UT were unfounded and minds already made up in favor of the Aggies.

Then why rile everyone up in the first place?

In their defense, they don’t owe us anything. It’s a free country and they’re simply enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime process. Who are we to judge? After all, we’re the ones that let this sort-of stuff get to our heads and lose perspective on what’s important in life. The power these kids have over our emotions are more of an indictment on our misguided priorities than anything they’ve ever done.

Still, yet, these guys probably could have toned things down a bit and not have misdirected so many passionate fan bases and coaching staffs (many of whom’s livelihoods depend on their decisions).

In the end, they’re just kids that don’t know any better. It is what it is.

This is why I want to put the spotlight today on a particular group of guys that may not have the natural talent of a five-star, but have a little something you can’t quite measure: heart.

The guys I want to target happen to all play a position of dire need for the Aggies: linebacker. In addition, most assuredly, each of these five probably have a bit of a chip on their shoulders. After all it’s no secret that, by and large, Ags were incredibly disappointed with losing out on coveted 2015 LB prospects Malik Jefferson, Leo Lewis, and Roquan Smith. A&M fans voiced their disappointment on forums and social media, many of which pondered why LB coach Mark Hagen hadn’t been let go to “atone” for his 2015 haul at linebacker.

Each of these five guys have unique stories, backgrounds, and different “flaws” for why they weren’t considered to be “elite” prospects. Each are also filled to the brim with pride to be Fightin’ Texas Aggies.

One by one, I’ll quickly profile each of the “2015 five”–their histories, “flaws,” and why these guys deserve your attention over the next four years.

Richard Moore

Let’s start with Richard Moore. Moore is a kid that achieved every imaginable thing possible over the course of a varsity high school football career. As a Cedar Hill Longhorn, Moore won two 6A state championships, was named a Semper Fi All-American, and was voted to the Associated Press 6A all-state team.

As a senior at Cedar Hill, Moore racked up 184 tackles, including 15 sacks. Moore’s junior campaign was equally impressive, accumulating 182 tackles and eight sacks.

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog
Heat-Seeking Missile: Moore led the Cedar Hill Longhorns in tackles with 184 while leading Cedar Hill to a second consecutive 6A state championship.

Despite his many accolades, Moore was very much an after-thought post Signing Day. Rather than marvel at his prolific high school career, Aggie recruiting circles were (and still remain today) too fixated on his 6 foot height.

Never mind the fact that the greatest linebacker in Texas A&M football history, Dat Ngyen, was actually an inch shorter than Moore (5 foot, 11 inches) and never mind the fact that 2014 Dick Butkus award winner, UCLA’s Eric Kendricks, was/is the same height as Moore at 6 feet.

I can’t wait to see Moore this fall and am so excited he’s already enrolled at Texas A&M this spring as a mid-term signee.

Riley Garner

The next guy I want to spotlight is Riley Garner. Garner is a local product from College Station’s very own A&M Consolidated High School. He’s also a guy that’s been a target of heavy criticism inside Aggie recruiting circles.

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Riley Garner
Local Special: Garner was a rare Brazos Valley region pickup by Coach Sumlin and Co.

Ranked a 247 composite score of 83 out of 100, Garner was one of A&M’s lowest rated 2015 recruits. Upon his commitment to Texas A&M last May, many Aggies were left scratching their heads.. Alot of Aggies were of the belief that A&M was too elite to be pursuing such “lowly” prospects with offers from the likes of Texas State (whom Garner had actually received an offer from a few days before Texas A&M offered).

Nevertheless, the future looked bright for Garner that summer of 2014. After all, he was going to be an SEC linebacker at Texas A&M University.

Then came the accident. An accident that left Garner’s future playing career in serious doubt.

“I was doing something I shouldn’t have and it turned into a freak accident,” Garner said. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. As soon as it happened, the doctors knew I would make a full recovery based off how well I healed and the test results. They didn’t know how long it would take for me to fully recover, because it’s different for everyone, but after the first three or four weeks I started feeling like a bum just sitting around so I started lifting weights. When I told the doctors that they were surprised because they felt like it would take a little longer.” (Credit-GigEm 247-Taylor Hamm)

Like Richard Moore, I can’t wait to see Garner in 2015 and am so relieved for his full recovery.

Despite his low ratings, the facts remain: Garner has prototypical linebacker size at 6 feet, 2.5 inches and 220 pounds, with an impressive reported 4.52 40 time.

Additionally Garner’s highlights show a guy that naturally takes the right angles in getting to the ball carrier, with a knack for avoiding opposing blockers.

Welcome to Aggieland, Riley.

Landis Durham

Next up: Plano East’s Landis Durham. Durham, like Garner, was also largely an under-the-radar guy through out the course of the 2015 recruiting cycle (and remains so today). Like Garner, much of A&M fans’ lack of enthusiasm around Durham’s commitment can be attributed to his lack of star power.

Even so, Durham still had a pretty solid offer list, with offers from the likes of Oregon, Nebraska, and Washington. He also had offers from the Big 12’s elite, Baylor and TCU.

Undoubtedly Durham would be staring down at a far better chance of starting as a freshman had he inked his Letter of Intent to TCU or Baylor.

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Landis Durham
No Fear: Durham chose the Texas A&M over the likes of in-state rivals TCU and Baylor.

In fact, had Durham committed to the Horned Frogs or the Bears, he’d be considered one of their top 2015 recruits–(at TCU he’d rank as their 4th best 2015 recruit and at Baylor he’d rank as their 7th). At A&M, Durham ranks 21st among his 2015 peers.

No doubt, Durham deserves more love from Aggies for sticking with Texas A&M for so many months, while resisting the temptation to become a Bear or Horned Frog, especially after Baylor and TCU’s magical 2014 campaigns.

If A&M wants to win the SEC West they’ll need guys like Durham whom thrive on competition and the opportunity to play against the best in the SEC.

Besides this, Durham has some very intriguing athletic qualities. Only 17 years old, Durham’s a year younger than all of A&M’s 2015 class. This fact, combined with his impressive 6 foot, 220 pound frame, should excite Aggies. Durham’s only going to get bigger, stronger and become an absolute asset for the Aggies as he matures even more physically.

Claude George

George was a guy that sort of came out of nowhere when he committed to Texas A&M back on October 30th. George’s commitment to A&M came just one day after being offered by the Aggies.

Unlike the previous three I’ve gone over–Moore, Garner, and Durham–George’s commitment to Texas A&M was far more celebrated.

At 6 feet, 3 inches and 230 pounds, the 20 year old JUCO mid-term signee is a grown man. A fact Aggies absolutely love.

Shortly after committing to the Aggies, George quickly became a bit of a folk hero around the Aggie recruiting community for this clip of one of George’s biggest hits at Hutchinson. Aggies quickly noted the similarities of this” bone-rattler” with Aggie legend Quentin Coryatt’s “The Hit.”

Finally my favorite part of George is his pride to be an Aggie:

While George is obviously excited to be in College Station, color me surprise if he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder due to his three-star status and lack of an elite offer list.

Any how, Gig ‘Em Claude George.

(Oh yeah, the dude can also play–see the 66 tackles George racked up in 2014 at Hutchinson. Not bad).

Dwaine Thomas

Finally we get to Dwaine Thomas. Dwaine, Dwaine, Dwaine–where do you begin with a guy like Dwaine Thomas?

What a perplexing case. The story of Dwaine’s recruitment to Texas A&M is eerily similar to that of 2014 Aggie commitment, safety Donovan Wilson.

Here me out guys–both were three-stars, both had similar 247 composite ratings (George-83/100, Wilson-82/100), both are from Louisiana, and both were snagged by Sumlin in the 11th hour.

One similarity stands heads and shoulders above the rest: both players left Aggies flabbergasted over why they weren’t coveted by other major college football powers.

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Dwaine Thomas
Hidden Gem: Aggies were left shaking their heads in amazement with regards to Thomas’s lack of other major offers from power programs.

Like Wilson, at 6 feet, 1 inch and 190 pounds, Thomas has ideal size for his position at 6 feet, 2 inches and 218 pounds. Also like Wilson, whom had a stellar senior year statistically (with 70 tackles and 13 interceptions), Thomas had an equally impressive senior campaign–racking up an eye-opening 131 tackles and seven sacks.

What ever the reason is, Aggies don’t mind. We’re absolutely elated Dwaine Thomas is a Texas Aggie.

Like the aforementioned Claude George, Thomas is also filled with pride to be at Texas A&M.

Call me crazy, but why again do we waste so much time asking “what if” with guys like Malik Jefferson when you have a young man like Dwaine on-board?

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How can you not be excited about this group of guys, all of which make up Texas A&M’s 2015 haul at linebacker? Each and every one of the “2015 Five” are like walking Disney movies with compelling and diverse backgrounds. While each are different, all have one thing in common: a massive chip on their shoulders the size of Texas.

There won’t be a single better human interest story to watch unfold over the course of the next four years than the “2015 Five.” So pull up a chair, dim the lights, and grab some popcorn-this is going to be fun.

Follow me on Twitter at @AgsInDepth_Blog, official Twitter account of “Ags In Depth-A Texas A&M Football Blog”

Kevin Sumlin: Man in the Arena?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”-Teddy Roosevelt

It’s been quite the past year for Kevin Warren Sumlin.

No doubt, 2014 wasn’t quite the honeymoon “feel good” story the 2012 and 2013 seasons were. Rather, Sumlin finally experienced the full spectrum of pressures that come with the title of Head Football Coach of Texas A&M University, enduring the highest of praise and the sharpest of criticism through the course of 2014.

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Kevin Sumlin-1
Five Million Dollar Man: Sumlin looks on during a late season battle against Sam Houston State during the 2012 season. Sumlin’s record at Texas A&M is 28-11.

In this post I want us to set aside football for a moment and reflect on the incredible manner Sumlin navigated the seas of adversity in 2014, seemingly rising from the dead on two separate occasions when all hope appeared lost.

One day when the book on Sumlin has been written and the ink has dried, I think we will look back at his response to the situations described below as defining moments of the Kevin Sumlin era in Aggieland.

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Situation #1: Hell and Back Again

Time: 10/18/14-11/8/14

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Disturbance in Aggieland: Texas A&M’s embarrassing 59-0 defeat at the hands of Alabama led to deep concern among Aggie faithful

Imagine for a second you had just been standing outside in the sun for four hours, watching the team you coached get shellacked to the tune of 59 points? Imagine the pure amount of exhaustion you’d feel. Then picture having to answer questions from a pack of media reporters ready to slam you in their next column.

Nobody could have blamed Sumlin for losing a little bit of composure in this very situation on 10/18 following the ‘Bama beatdown. In fact, I think most Aggies secretly wanted Sumlin to crack a little.. Maybe to “show some teeth,” personify our frustrations a little bit by holding certain people in the program accountable.

Instead Sumlin spoke to the media with poise and incredible class, defending his team and putting the situation in perspective. I think the quote below, from the Alabama post game press conference, accurately summarizes the overlaying message Sumlin communicated to the media following Alabama:

“Situations like this are when true character comes to the forefront. You know-what now? It’s always easy when you’re winning, but when you have a situation like tonight, where basically nothing went right, the real character and the real leadership of this team has got to step forward.”

After listening to the full press conference, I couldn’t help but remember a quote from a movie I love, “Rocky Balboa”:

“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Auburn win
Season Saver: 3 weeks after Alabama, A&M and Sumlin shocked the world with a thrilling 41-38 win over top 5 Auburn.

We all know what happened next. The Ags made a change at quarterback, reshuffled the offensive line, inserted some new guys on defense, and two weeks later produced one of the defining upsets of the 2014 college football season, defeating #3 Auburn on the road, 41-38. The game was Auburn’s first home loss in 2+ years.

Has there ever been a team in the history of college football that’s been blown out by 50+ points and two weeks later takes down the #3 team in the country? Good luck searching the history books to find the answer to that.

Situation #2: The Cobra Strikes Again

Time: 11/28-12/31

Aggie fans had an impossible request of Sumlin following the firing of defensive coordinator Mark Snyder on 11/28.

The request was basically this (paraphrased):

“Go after a huge name for defensive coordinator, swing for the fences, don’t settle. Do everything it takes to get a big name.. Put time and effort into the search and perform due diligence. Even if chances are low, just try to get a big fish……….(But make sure to do it fast enough before our biggest recruit announces where he’s going to school.)”

From late November to mid-December Sumlin aggressively went after a trio of star-studded defensive coordinators in Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster, former Florida head man Will Muschamp, and Clemson’s Brent Venables. Ultimately by mid-December it was apparent Sumlin would fall short in securing any of the three, despite soliciting encouraging “nibbles” from each.

By the week of December 15th, demand for Sumlin to select his next defensive coordinator was at an all-time high. Interestingly enough, all of the folks who had so loudly demanded Sumlin go after a big fish had suddenly changed their tune. Curious.

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Malik Jefferson
Five-Star With A Smile: Jefferson was a highly coveted target of the Aggies since Jefferson’s sophomore year at Mesquite Poteet High School.

With top recruiting target, linebacker Malik Jefferson, set to make his much anticipated college decision on December 19th, A&M fans suddenly decided it was OK for Sumlin to settle at defensive coordinator. The reasoning was simple: Malik was the top prospect in Texas and just so happened to play at the the biggest position of weakness on the Aggie roster: linebacker. Understandably, Malik wanted to know who his boss was going to be in college, who he’d be “reporting” to for the next four years.

With a “good,” but not “great” guy in front of Sumlin for the taking in former Florida defensive coordinator D.J Durkin, Sumlin had seemingly an easy decision to make–hire Durkin, get Malik, and move on. Simple, right?

Sumlin refused to bite and give in to the impatient Aggie fan base. Kevin had bigger plans in mind. Plans that needed more time to develop and just couldn’t materialize in time for Malik’s big announcement.

December 19th came and Malik chose Texas. While a shock to many, it’s wasn’t too surprising considering A&M’s void at defensive coordinator was a deal breaker for Malik. But what happened in the hours after was what nobody expected:

Daylon had been committed to the Ags for nearly two years. He’d been the undisputed leader and ambassador of Texas A&M’s 2015 recruiting class. Most of all, Daylon, like Malik, played at a position of dire need for the Aggies, defensive tackle.

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Daylon Mack
#WRTS: Daylon Mack is largely accredited for starting the “#WRTS” movement that attracted a star studded group of blue-chippers to commit to the Aggies

Aggieland wasn’t too happy.. Here are a few reactions I dug up from several members of prominent Aggie forum GigEm247:

“I try to refrain from personal attacks, but what an idiot [Sumlin] you are. Chavis was never coming here, he used you for a raise and it has cost us dearly. And now Chavis is probably going to take your 5 star DT. He played you like a fiddle. Today could have been completely avoided and Malik & Mack would be Aggies right now with momentum rolling. This is terrible management, definitely not 5 million dollar management.” 

“Wow, he had Durkin on the line and decided to chase Chavis who wouldn’t come here in a million years. I’m officially done with Sumlin-he’ll be fired for tanking the program in less than two years time”

“He thinks he’s better than he really is. And he’s incredibly fragile right now. He knows these hires may be his last and is chasing pipe dreams in hopes of saving himself.”

“They could (should) have hired Durkin last week and had him attend Sumlin’s in-home visit with Jefferson. This was a case of self inflicted (unnecessary) hubris by Sumlin. It doesn’t take over 30+ days to hire a defensive coordinator. Snyder was gone by the end of the Missouri game, this wasn’t a surprise. It’s great that Sumlin kicked the tires on the tier one candidates (Muschamp, Foster, etc…) but at some point you have to move on.”

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Chief
The Chief Has Landed: John Chavis touches down at Aggieland for the first time as Texas A&M Defensive Coordinator on Janurary 1st.

Ten days later Texas A&M would go on to announce legendary long-time LSU defensive coordinator, John Chavis, as their next defensive coordinator.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Kevin Sumlin once again proved us all wrong.

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Isn’t it time we put coaching and football aside and recognize Sumlin for the fighter he is? A guy you can point to and say: “That guy is who I want leading my football team into battle” ?

I call him Kevin Sumlin, Man in the Arena.

Follow me on Twitter at @AgsInDepth_Blog, official Twitter account of “Ags In Depth-A Texas A&M Football Blog”

 

It’s Time For Kyle Allen

Kyle Allen’s face just screams quarterback.

The chiseled jawline, million dollar smile, and intense eyes-Kyle Allen’s face may have well been constructed in a football quarterback laboratory. It’s a face that communicates leadership, poise, and charisma.

Take a look at Allen’s Twitter postings over the past month and you’ll see a guy that “gets” what it means to be a leader:

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Kyle Allen
Big Man on Campus: Allen looks on during his first ever start against ULM on 11/1/15. Allen had a rough outing, going 13 for 28 for 106 yards during the Ags’ frustrating 21-16 win.

All of the above tweets were Allen’s answers to adverse situations over the past month– (1) longtime verbal commit Daylon Mack’s shocking de-commitment from the Texas A&M 2015 recruiting class, (2) ending up in the lackluster Liberty Bowl for Christmas, and (3) losing revered wide receiver coach David Beaty to the Kansas head coaching gig.

In all three situations Allen was a symbol of leadership and poise during trying times for Aggie faithful.

While Allen certainly looks and sounds the part of a great quarterback, the jury is still out on whether Allen can truly be “the guy” moving forward.

The bottom line is Texas A&M can’t afford another year offensively like they had in 2014. Look closely and you’ll see the shine of the Texas A&M-SEC brand slowly beginning to wear off after another year of underwhelming results. Just take a glimpse at recent recruiting developments of late–(Malik Jefferson to the Longhorns, Daylon Mack’s de-commitment, Kendall Sheffield’s verbal to Alabama)–and you’ll see a troubling pattern and ominous sign of trouble to come for Coach Sumlin and Co.

While Texas A&M’s 2015 recruiting class will ultimately be fine and rank as a top-10 group come February, 2016 could (and will) be a different story if A&M produces another season of lackluster results in 2015.

The fact is, when you line up annually against the LSUs, Alabamas, and Auburns of the world, you need to continue to reel in top-10 level recruiting classes year in and year out and build elite depth. Unlike our friends down the road in Austin, Texas A&M simply can’t afford “average” when it comes to recruiting. It’s four stars or bust if you want to compete with the big boys in the SEC West.

Allen’s play in 2015 will largely dictate whether A&M can maintain their recruiting momentum into the latter part of the decade or fade into a recruiting “has-been” (see the Texas Longhorns the past couple of years).

Sure, it is a little unfair to pin all of A&M’s hopes and dreams on just the offense and Allen. What about the defense? After all, isn’t offense only half the equation?

Sorry, Ags. Unlike the D, there will be no excuses for poor offensive play in 2015. All of the pieces are there for this A&M offense to be an elite group in 2015. (More on this in a later post..)

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So, what can we take away from Allen’s five starts in 2014? Mostly a mix of good and bad. In defense of Allen, it’s hard to take much from those starts when you consider:

  • Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was a rookie playcaller
  • Allen was a true freshman
  • Kenny Hill, not Allen, practiced with the first team for most of the year
  • Allen went up against some pretty darn salty defenses (LSU, Missouri, Auburn)
  • The offensive line was really, really bad (enough for O-Line coordinator BJ Anderson to get the pink slip despite his recruiting prowess)

Taking these points into account, Kyle Allen’s stat line actually looks pretty impressive:

2014-11-01 Louisiana-Monroe W 13 28 46.4 106 1 1 82.9
2014-11-08 Auburn W 19 29 65.5 277 4 1 184.4
2014-11-15 Missouri L 24 35 68.6 237 3 1 148.0
2014-11-27 Louisiana State L 17 27 63.0 144 1 1 112.6
2014-12-29 West Virginia W 22 35 62.9 294 4 1 165.4

Sure, Allen didn’t exactly look like Aaron Rodgers in those 5 starts. Many times he looked overly tentative, cautious, and unsure of himself. But really, outside of the very unusual ULM game (we’ll toss that one out since nothing made much sense in that game),  Allen performed as well as any realistic Aggie fan could have hoped–displaying some serious flashes of brilliance at times in 2014– (see the beautiful deep strikes we desperately missed from Hill and his uncanny ability to escape pressure in the pocket and make plays on the run).

AgsInDepth-A Texas A&M Football Blog-Kyler Murray
Best Ever? Murray went 42-0 as starting quarterback of Allen, winning three state championships and locking down USA Today, MAXPreps, and Gatorade National Player of the Year honors as a senior at Allen.

Despite Allen’s admirable play in 2014, the leash will be short for Allen moving forward. By the time next August rolls around, Allen will already have had two springs and summers under his belt. Much more, there’ll also be some guy named Kyler Murray landing in College Station in June if you haven’t heard yet (sarcasm). Once Murray reaches College Station, the countdown will officially begin until Murray learns the offense and adjusts to the speed of the college game. When that time comes–as crazy as it sounds–Allen will be at risk of never taking a snap as a Texas A&M quarterback ever again. Murray is just that good of a prospect. Don’t take my word for it.

It’s time for Kyle Allen to grab the reigns. Yeah the offensive line will be reconfigured in 2015, and yeah, all signs point to ill experienced Spavital getting another chance to call the A&M offense again–Despite all of this: It. Doesn’t. Matter. The bottom line is Allen is a 5-star quarterback and 5-stars are expected to make up for surrounding deficiencies. Especially Texas A&M 5-star quarterbacks. Fair or not, 2015 will likely decide whether Allen turns out to be a 4 year starter and Aggie legend or just another guy.

It’s time for Kyle Allen in 2015.

Follow me on Twitter at @AgsInDepth_Blog, official Twitter account of “Ags In Depth-A Texas A&M Football Blog”