Find a new Kirk, run it, rely on LBs: Three keys to the Aggies’ season


It’s a minimum goal for Texas A&M this season. Break the rut.

The Aggies must find a way to win conference games in November and basically finish the season with the same burst of energy they show when they start it. Last year’s 7-6 record broke a string of three straight finishes of 8-5.

The midseason swoons led to a coaching change last December, with Jimbo Fisher replacing Kevin Sumlin.

Aside from a coaching change, here are some keys to a more successful season:

1. Find a go-to receiver

The Aggies lost their playmaker in Christian Kirk, who was a second-round NFL draft pick back in April. So who steps up among the receivers? There’s not anyone older than a sophomore among the top five receivers listed on the season-opening depth chart.

Jhamon Ausbon caught 50 passes last season — statistically, he’s the top returner. Trayveon Williams, who had 20 catches last year, is the next most seasoned receiver, but he’s the starting tailback.

There could be another dynamic to the passing game. The tight end figures to be in play. Look out for Jace Sternberger, a junior college transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. He was the star of the spring game with eight catches for 149 yards. But how his game translates to the SEC still is a question. He originally signed with Kansas, but transferred from the Jayhawks after the 2016 season.

2. Ride the running game

A&M’s new offense, on paper, is designed to be more physical. Williams, a junior and team captain, was named to the second-team of the All-SEC preseason squad. He rushed for 1,057 yards as a freshman, but that total dropped to 798 last season.

Since the Aggies joined the run-oriented SEC, they’ve struggled with their rushing game, save for 2012 when Johnny Manziel was running the show. A year ago, they were 10th in the league, averaging 155.6 rushing yards a game. But that stat dropped to 136.1 in SEC contests.

The offensive line figures to be better. There are four returning linemen who started parts of last season, although only two — guard Keaton Sutherland and center Erik McCoy — are listed as first-teamers for the opening game. With Kellen Mond having been named the starter, the running game gains another effective rusher.

3. Find an impact linebacker

This could be the year that the linebackers are considered a strength of the defense.

Fifth-year senior Otaro Alaka is the anchor in the middle. He’s a veteran of 33 starts. His 12 tackles for loss were a team-best last season. Junior Tyrel Dodson led the team last year in tackles. But the impact guy could be sophomore Anthony Hines, a Parade All-American in high school. Hines, however, will miss Saturday’s game. He made the All-SEC freshman team in 2017.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Quarterback issues trouble Texas State in 25-21 loss at UTSA
Quarterback issues trouble Texas State in 25-21 loss at UTSA

Texas State quarterback Willie Jones III was knocked out of the game on the Bobcats’ second drive, and UTSA took home the “I-35 Showdown” for the third time with a 25-21 win Saturday night. The Bobcats (1-3) used three quarterbacks in all. After Jones left with a shoulder injury, backup Jaylen Gipson played for two series before then...
After beating TCU, Texas is thinking it may boast one of the ‘best wide receiver group in the nation’
After beating TCU, Texas is thinking it may boast one of the ‘best wide receiver group in the nation’

On Sunday, Collin Johnson says he just plans to celebrate his birthday with his family. If those plans seem low-key for turning 21, don’t worry. Johnson was the center of attention at a party at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday that was attended by 95,124 people. The junior receiver had 124 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in UT&rsquo...
Texas 31, TCU 16: This is no illusion, the Texas football program is coming back to life
Texas 31, TCU 16: This is no illusion, the Texas football program is coming back to life

Momentum may be an illusion, as Texas coach Tom Herman is wont to say. Try telling that to the 95,124 fans at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday. What they saw was no illusion, as the 17th-ranked Horned Frogs can attest. The Texas football program is indeed coming back to life. Slowly, but surely, raising those Horns a little bit higher...
Golden: Texas’ big win over TCU proves that with this team, it should all start with defense
Golden: Texas’ big win over TCU proves that with this team, it should all start with defense

Congratulations, Longhorn Nation. Your four-year TCU nightmare has finally come to an end. The Texas Longhorns just beat the Horned Frogs with a belly-rubbing, ball-hawking defense leading the way. Todd Orlando’s pupils tackled in bunches. They played free-wheeling, aggressive football with no signs of that uncertainty we witnessed...
Bohls: Texas stuns TCU, the latest hint that the Longhorns are rising again
Bohls: Texas stuns TCU, the latest hint that the Longhorns are rising again

The best team won. How long has it been since we’ve written that about the home team on a big stage? But it’s the unvarnished truth as Texas bested TCU and in dominating fashion at that. There was nothing fluky about this one. Starving for relevance, unranked and unappreciated Texas staged yet another comeback victory in consecutive...
More Stories