Texas A&M Aggies head football coach, Kevin Sumlin, is currently in the midst of a contract paying him $5 million per year. Just one day after being exploited for 500-plus yards by the LSU Tigers on Thanksgiving Day in College Station, the Aggies axed their defense coordinator, Mark Snyder. Snyder was removed from his position after three seasons running the show on defense. A&M finished 7-5 (3-5) on the year, and is now hoping to salvage something out of their season in a TBA lower-tier bowl game.
Looking for the vaunted “Wrecking Crew” defense to reappear, A&M fans saw anything but that in Snyder’s short tenure in College Station. Besides Snyder’s shortcomings, the most alarming problem on defense for the Aggies has been a lack of consistency, stability and true depth. With their outstanding recruiting classes beginning at the start of the Sumlin era, A&M has continually looked to true freshmn to solve their woes on defense. Clearly, this has not worked for three seasons now — the Aggies’ future growth on defense will be solved by patience. There is no reason to continually feature freshman after freshman without any luck. The A&M recruits must develop, become young men and be given a chance at improvement year after year. I understand that at Texas A&M there has always been a win now mentality, yet again my key word is “patience.” In my opinion, there is not even a choice in the brutal SEC West when facing teams like Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas. With these teams beating-up on each other all season long, their needs to be stability along with having tremendous depth on defense.
As for the Aggies’ offense, it has never seemed to be a problem since coach Sumlin’s takeover. However, towards the end of this 2014 campaign, we have seen an extreme decline in A&M’s offensive efficiency as well as point totals. After a dominating 52-28 win over the then No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks to open the season back on August 28th, the then No. 19 Aggies felt as if they could conquer the college football universe. With a spectacular performance on offense as well as defense, storied announcer Brent Musburger made it clear that, “Kevin Sumlin is building a powerhouse at Texas A&M”. Musburger also alluded to the fact that A&M looked like 1 of the 4 playoff teams that would be in competition for a FBS National Championship come January 2015. Not so fast my friend, Mr. Musburger — the last time I checked, one game never defined a full season for any team.
After decimating the Gamecocks on that Saturday, August 28, quarterback Kenny Hill decided to nickname himself, Kenny “Trill” Hill. I felt it was a fitting nickname; however, the problem at that point was that he had only started one measly game for A&M. In addition, you never nickname yourself — that defeats the purpose of the nickname process, because nicknames are earned. So, after a remarkable 5-0 (2-0) start courtesy of a gigantic victory over Arkansas in a 35-28 OT thriller, the Aggies found themselves in the meat of their SEC schedule. The turning point of the Aggies season began when the then No. 6 football program faced off against a much improved Mississippi State Bulldogs squad in Starkville. A&M inevitably fell 48-31 versus the Bulldogs on the road, and then hit huge bumps in their season-long journey with a loss at home to the Ole Miss Rebels, followed by a virtual no-show in Tuscaloosa as the Aggies were crushed 59-0 by the Alabama Crimson Tide. This horrifying 3-game losing streak had A&M grasping at straws for anything that could help.
Due to an off week after the Bama game, coach Sumlin and A&M looked at the evaluation of all personnel moving forward. The most pertinent decision became the battle between Kenny Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen for the starting quarterback job. From the Aggie locker room, it appeared that in that short amount of time Kyle Allen had won the job; however, everyone still wonders if the 2-game suspension of Hill had anything to do with their final decision. Hill’s suspension was due to personal conduct issues as well as violation of athletic department policy.
So, true freshman Allen took over the reins at QB for A&M, and showed flashes of both brilliance and struggle throughout the remainder of the season. Kyle is a true freshman, so going into his first start against the UL-Monroe Warhawks, the learning curve was going to be immense. Allen’s struggles and triumphs went hand-in-hand with the offensive performance of the Aggies from week-to-week. Ultimately, A&M’s offense sputtered in the final two games of the season.
With a new $20 million football facility attached to Kyle Field, it seems that Texas A&M is primed and ready to make noise in the SEC and on the national level. The state of the art facility will help win recruiting battles, which will help cultivate better talent for Sumlin, who is gaining national praise for his development of the program.
This year, Kyle Field in College Station has been continually filled with 50,000-plus Aggie faithful at midnight yell practices as well as 100,000-plus fans for every single home game. That being said, all Aggie fans alike witnessed a 7-5 (3-5) season, and still zero national titles since 1939. As an A&M fan whose parents are A&M alumni, I can say that Aggie Nation has its fingers and toes crossed for eventual SEC as well as national supremacy.
If I were to give a grade to the football program based on where they started versus South Carolina and where they finished, I cannot convince myself to give them anything better than a C- in 2014.
*Section Photo credit to Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Troy Taormina, USA Today Sports