Aggies, we made it. Another tumultuous offseason is in the books, and the Fightin’ Texas Aggie football team looks to take out all their pent up frustration on the Cocks! We’ve survived the roller coaster of emotions as Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans declared early for the NFL Draft. Then we watched proudly as the aforementioned along with Jake Matthews were all picked in the 1st round. We pulled our hair out when week after week brought news of more Aggie arrests. Yet the excitement continues to grow with the unveiling of the remodeled Bright Complex and the constant progress of the Kyle Field.
Coach Sumlin leads the Aggies into a new era; one without the greatest signal caller to ever wear maroon and white. And as media pundits look to dismiss the Aggies calling the 2013 team a one-pony show, this 2014 squad enters the season with a chip on their shoulder. The defense lost a few players due to graduation and attrition, yet enter this season with twice as much depth thanks to another stellar recruiting class. The offense will have no problem reloading with a veteran offensive line, one of the deepest running back corps in the nation, some young yet talented wide receivers, and blue-chip QB Kenny Hill running the show. Through top ten recruiting classes, Coach Sumlin is building a juggernaut in College Station. The talent is already on campus for the Aggies to have a special season. Now it just comes down to execution.
The 2014 season is finally upon us!
Preview of the Game:
The #21 Aggies kick-off Thursday against #9 Gamecocks at 5pm CT on the SEC Network. The game will be played in Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC. This is the first time these two teams have ever met, but will be the beginning of A&M’s permanent cross divisional rival.
Preview of South Carolina:
The Gamecocks return 14 starters from last year’s 11-2 season and enter 2014 with high hopes. While the key personnel loss on offense was QB Connor Shaw, Dylan Thompson should help facilitate a smooth transition. In 2013, he threw for 783 yards and 4 touchdowns with limited playing time. His experience will help lead an offense that only lost 2 other starters from last year’s unit and averaged 452 yards and 34.1 points per game.
Defensively, the Gamecocks were gutted from early departures to the NFL; Kelcy Quarles (DT), Victor Hampton (CB), and Jadeveon Clowney (DE). In addition, seniors Chaz Sutton (DE) and Jimmy Legree (CB) have expired their eligibility. In all, coach Spurrier has his hands full replacing 3 of 4 players on the defensive line and another 3 in the linebacking corps and secondary.
Look for Spurrier to test the strength and resolve of the Aggies revamped defensive line early and often. Junior running back Mike Davis received All-SEC honors last season after rushing for 11 touchdowns and 1,183 yards. At 5’9” and 223lbs, he is a punishing back that seldom goes down at first contact. The Gamecocks would be smart to take advantage of an Aggie defense that yielded 5.4 yards per carry last season.
Preview of Texas A&M:
There’s a new quarterback, a new running back (by committee), and several new receivers. But don’t plan on the offense taking a major step back. QB Kenny Hill debuts his first start against a team that has not lost at home in 18 games. Talk about pressure. But he’s no stranger to pressure, having led Southlake Carroll to a 5A Championship in high school. And who’s going to replace all the production at wide receiver now that Mike Evans, Travis Labhart, and Derel Walker have moved on to the NFL? Just a couple of the nation’s top recruits in back to back years.
Defensively, it will all start and end with the Aggies front 4 defensive lineman. They will surely miss Isaiah Golden and Gavin Stansbury who were both dismissed from the team this offseason. But while 2 starters are gone, much of that production and depth will be replaced by the highly regarded 2014 recruiting class. Redshirt freshman Hardreck Walker and true freshman Zaycoven Henderson will provide a 1-2 punch at NG in place of Golden. Stansbury will be missed at DE, but Julien Obioha switches from RUSH to his more natural position of DE and checks in a full 10 pounds bigger than his counterpart. Finally, the presence of a much needed pass rush will be remedied by another formidable 1-2 punch of Daeshon Hall and 5-star recruit, Myles Garrett.
Should the Aggies continue in their dominant ways offensively and get vastly improved play from the defensive line, there is a real chance that A&M escapes Columbia with a victory. Look for Sumlin and play-caller Jake Spavital to have a very balanced attack in establishing the run first and foremost while also spreading the ball to our playmakers at wideout. With new quarterback Kenny Hill running the show, it is most probable that Spavital will stick with short pass plays that can move the chains. Defensively, the front 4 will make or break whether the Aggie defense can contain Mike Davis. Hopefully, the depth is truly as good as the coaches have been letting on this offseason.
Although there’s no barbecue like Texas, stop by Palmetto Pig BBQ on your way into town and to try out Columbia’s unique mustard-based barbecue sauce on a rack of ribs. Or if you’re not feeling that courageous, stop by Village Idiot for some good pizza and beer. Which brings me to…
Like any college town, Columbia has a solid bar scene that you should check out before or after the game. Just 3 miles north of Williams-Brice stadium are several restaurants and bars on Gervais St. Stop by something familiar like the Flying Saucer, or try out the local microbrews at Hunter-Gatherer Brewery or Liberty Tap Room. Whatever your drink of choice is, Gervais St. has something for you.
BTHO South Carolina:
Kenny Hill throws for 2 touchdowns and 200+ yards while the combination of Tra Carson, Trey Williams, and Brandon Williams go for another 200+ rushing. Speedy Noil proves to be the X-factor that everyone expects him to be finding the end-zone once at wideout and tacking on another 70+ return yards in punt returns. The defense takes their lumps in the run game giving up 250+ yards to Mike Davis and company, but the signs of improvement are unmistakable. South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson thows a critical late game interception to true freshman safety Armani Watts and the Ags escape South Carolina with a close win. Final score: 44-41 Ags.