The Texas A&M football team kicked off the 2012 season, and their inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference, with a 20-17 loss to the Florida Gators. Even though the Aggies did not come out on top on the scoreboard, Aggie fans should feel confident going forward about their future in the SEC.
The SEC is a different style of football than the Big 12, where Texas A&M previously played. It is a much more physical style of game with a greater emphasis on defense.
The Aggies are going to be an outlier in the conference, at least for a while, with the hurry-up spread offense favored by head coach Kevin Sumlin.
The differences in the style of football favored in the SEC should make the Aggies' transition easier as they make their adjustments to playing in the league of champions. The move to the new conference has already helped some Texas A&M football players expand their role on the team.
This is a look at how playing a different style of football in the SEC will benefit the Texas A&M football team and some of its individual players.
The SEC is obviously the most physical conference in all of college football. The SEC officials allow more leeway than the officials in a lot of other conferences.
If you watched the A&M vs. Florida game, you saw multiple hits to players who were near the sideline and heading out of bounds. In the Big 12, those hits—especially on quarterbacks—would have drawn a penalty.
In the SEC, the player just dusts himself off and gets ready for the next play. It helps the flow of the game and gives the SEC a more NFL feel to the game.
Texas A&M middle linebacker Jonathan Stewart was recruited by all of the top programs in the south and, in the end, chose the Aggies over Alabama.
He had been somewhat of a disappointment on the field until midway through 2011 when he started to play up to his potential. With the move to the 4-3 defense under Mark Snyder, Stewart has really started to shine in the middle of the Aggies' defense.
In his first ever SEC game, Stewart was all over the field, registering 17 tackles and half a tackle for loss. He is the ideal SEC middle linebacker. At 6'3", 240 lbs he has the size and speed to stonewall running backs in the hole.
Stewart is much more adept at playing the running game than he is chasing after tight ends in pass coverage. Facing SEC offenses fits right into his skill set as a defender. .
The Texas A&M secondary is still a work in progress. The corners and safeties looked good in the spring playing tight man-to-man coverage.
Against Florida the Aggies played zone coverage almost the entire game. The secondary is very young with true freshman De'Vante Harris starting at one corner and sophomore Deshazor Everett starting at the other.
They gave up some big completions to Florida, who are average, at best, at quarterback. The good thing about the SEC is that other than Missouri, Mississippi and Arkansas, the Aggies will not have to face an offense that is going to try to spread the defense out and pick on the secondary.
The ground and pound style of offense that is popular in the SEC should prevent the Aggies' secondary from being exposed.
There are a lot of quarterbacks in the SEC who are asked to be game managers rather than the primary focus of the offense. Quarterbacks like South Carolina's Connor Shaw and Florida's Jeff Driskel are not asked to win the game.
Their job is to manage the offense and to not lose the game. They are taught that, when the pocket collapses, take the sack and punt the ball.
This philosophy plays right into the hands of defensive ends like the Aggies' Damontre Moore. The junior from Rowlett, Texas had a career-high three sacks against the Gators in his first action in college as a defensive end.
Texas A&M is the only team in the SEC that runs a hurry-up spread passing attack. That means that the majority of defenses in the SEC will spend their practice time preparing to face running teams.
Sometimes it is an advantage to be different. With only three or four practices to prepare for the spread attack that A&M employs on offense, most SEC teams will struggle to defend the Aggies, simply because of scheme.
That is a tremendous advantage considering the difference in talent between A&M and a few of the SEC teams at this time. The Aggies' offensive scheme will help level the playing field.
This goes along with the outlier effect of the Aggie offense. The Texas A&M offense is built to win a shootout. Most offenses in the SEC are built to grind down the clock and wear down the defense.
If the Aggies can get a two touchdown lead on a team, most of their opponents in the SEC do not play the kind of offense where they will be able to respond. SEC teams are built to bludgeon their opponents, not win a track meet.
The Aggies are built to win a track meet and are used to playing in those kinds of games in the Big 12.