The Aggies open the season against Sam Houston State on Saturday.Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.
It has been quite an eventful offseason for Texas A&M and head man Jimbo Fisher. As a lifelong fan and recent graduate of Texas A&M, I haven’t seen the Aggies receive this much national attention since Johnny Manziel was under center for the Ags. From defeating top ranked Alabama at Kyle Field in October to landing the number one recruiting class of all time in February to his dust up with Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban, all eyes have been on College Station for both good and bad reasons.
Expectations are also at an all-time high for Jimbo Fisher and his Aggie squad, who are entering year five under his direction. Last season was a disappointment to say the least, after the 2020 Orange Bowl victory, A&M was poised to take the next step into the College Football Playoffs in 2021. However, after starting QB Haynes King was injured in the second drive of the second game against Colorado, it was up to backup Zack Calzada to carry the load. Outside of his performance against Alabama, Calzada seemed to lack confidence in his play, among other disappointments with the team, and lead the Aggies to an 8-4 season. With that in the rearview, the Aggies enter 2022 ranked #6 in the AP Preseason Poll.
Heading into this upcoming season, I think there are 3 factors that will determine how well the Aggies will do in 2022. First factor and probably most obvious, quarterback play. Coach Fisher confirmed at his press conference on Monday that third year Sophomore Haynes King will get the starting nod against Sam Houston State. With King at the helm, the Aggies offense will have the most experienced signal caller on the A&M roster taking the snaps. Jimbo’s playbook is notoriously complicated, so it seems with King having the most time to learn and digest the playbook that he was the obvious choice. Add that in with King’s speed, rumored to be one of the fastest players on A&M’s roster, the versatility a mobile quarterback brings to any offense is key if you want to be successful in college football. If the Aggie’s live up to expectations in 2022, watch for Haynes King to have a big year.
One of the most overlooked storylines heading into this season for the Aggies is how will new Defensive Coordinator DJ Durkin fare in his first season with the Maroon and White. Durkin was hired away from Ole Miss after Mike Elko departed to take the head coaching job at Duke. Durkin led the Rebels to the 12th ranked defense in the SEC in 2021, but he inherits a great deal of talent, more than he had at Ole Miss. Following up Mike Elko will be a tall task for Durkin; Elko has been one of the elite coordinators in the country for the past several seasons, and a step back could be expected for the Ags this season.
Lastly, Jimbo Fisher brings in the most talented true freshman class of all time, according to 247 Sports. It will be interesting to see which freshman make an instant impact for the Aggies. Buzz out of fall camp has been centered around Wide Receiver Evan Stewart, who might be a much-needed big play threat. There might be some production from a few of the seven defensive linemen brought in, with Michael Clemons and Demarvin Leal leaving for the NFL. Look for several true freshman Aggies to make an instant impact.
Texas A&M kicks off the much anticipated 2022 campaign against the Sam Houston State Bearcats in Kyle Field at 11 A.M. on Saturday. In order to have an early idea on how the Ags will fare this all-important season, be watching for these storylines to develop.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.