Texas A&M 2018 team preview

With Fisher now in charge, Aggies look for a culture change

Jimbo Fisher had success at Florida State. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After a underwhelming season in 2017, when Texas A&M finished with a 7-6 record while failing to win a single game versus a top 25 ranked opponent, the program decided to move on from head coach Kevin Sumlin. Though the Aggies were fighting an uphill battle all season after losing starting quarterback Nick Starkel to a broken ankle, another lackluster year led to the firing of coach Sumlin after his arguably underachieving six years at Texas A&M.

Following the decision to fire Sumlin, the Aggies quickly turned the page to their next chapter by hiring former Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, who led the Seminoles to a National Championship title in 2013 and finished with a career record of 83-23 in nine seasons.

There is no question that coach Sumlin underachieved with the abundance of athletic talent and recruiting depth that coach Fisher will luckily inherit. A&M fans are expected to maintain high expectations for the 2018 season considering the fact that Fisher brings with him a strong track record of success, with a program that is built like and attracts the same type of talent he had at Florida State.

The question that comes to mind now is how many wins will it take, or how quickly Jimbo will need to lead his new team to a National Championship in order to please the A&M boosters and fanbase? Can anyone possibly meet expectations that will most likely be placed on the shoulders of Fisher? 

As I turn my attention to the players, we need to examine the roster coach Fisher will have as he takes control of his new team. Fisher finds himself in an ideal situation as he will have the opportunity to begin his time at Texas A&M with a large collection of returning starters from the 2017 season.

With that said the Aggies will have to find replacements for some of their top playmakers in 2017, which includes All SEC athletes Christian Kirk (WR) and Armani Watts (S). Kirk concluded his career at A&M ranked No. 2 all-time in total receptions in school history and No. 3 in SEC history, while Watts led the Aggie secondary with his athletic playmaking abilities and his aggressive ball-hawking mindset.

Along with the loss of Kirk and Watts, the Aggies will return without starting running back Keith Ford, who ran for over 500 yards while collecting 12 touchdowns in 2017, and lastly WR Damion Ratley who hauled in six total touchdowns and gained 700 yards in 2017. 

Though the Aggies did not lose a large quantity of personnel, they will suffer with the loss of a few quality athletes. Altogether coach Fisher will have his hands full trying to replace his top three touchdown leaders, but you can expect A&M’s stash of athletes to produce the necessary stars.

Despite losing those key players, there are still multiple other players Aggie fans should be excited to see return to the field in 2018. Leading the charge will be quarterbacks Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond. Both players saw a significant amount of playing time in 2017 and faced their fair share of ups and downs. You can expect a major quarterback competition to take place before the season, but I would not bet against coach Fisher finding a way to get both QB’s on the field.

Mond definitely displayed a tremendous amount of raw playmaking ability in 2017 that Fisher will not allow to go unused. A few other offensive players returning that should draw some serious attention and excitement are Junior RB Trayveon Williams and sophomore WR Jhamon Ausbon. In 2017, Williams led the Aggies rushing attack on his way to nearly 800 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, while Ausbon finished his freshman season with over 500 receiving yards. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Texas A&M can rest easy with the return of four of their top five tacklers in 2017. The two most important of those players being linebackers Tyrel Dodson and Otaro Alaka, who combined for 182 total tackles, 11 sacks and 4 interceptions last season. Also, the national spotlight will be shining bright on returning DE Landis Durham who tallied 10.5 sacks in 2017.

The Aggies will rely heavily on Durham to chase down opposing quarterbacks and at minimum repeat that same level of play. Lastly, with the loss of star safety Watts, coach Fisher will be excited to welcome in the 75th ranked recruit in the nation and 8th ranked safety in his class (according to 247sports.com), Freshman S Leon O’Neal Jr, in the hopes that he will pick up Watts weight in the secondary.

Everyone knows that Fisher is a very capable coach, and that Texas A&M will put one of the most talented teams in the nation on the field every year. The question at hand is how quickly can Fisher get his new team back into championship contention.

Yes, expectations should be high for a program like Texas A&M, but anytime a coach takes over a new team, you can expect there to be a fair share of growing pains. I truly believe that with coach Fisher at the helm the Aggies will soon contend for a National Championship, but patience and belief will be key in his success.

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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