Texas A&M Football: 6 Biggest Differences Between Kevin Sumlin and Sherman
It has been a year since Mike Sherman was fired as the head coach of the Texas A&M football program and Kevin Sumlin was tapped to replace him. Now that the Aggies have completed their first regular season under Sumlin, some glaring differences between the two coaches have become apparent.
Every coach has their own style and way of approaching problems. Sherman is a tremendous football coach as evidenced by the quality of the coaching positions he has held throughout his career. You do not become the head coach and general manager of an NFL football team without knowing what you are doing.
Taking all that into consideration, Sumlin's first season at A&M has been a tremendous success. He made some subtle and not so subtle tweaks to the A&M football program with outstanding results.
This is a look at the differences between Sumlin and Sherman.
Emphasis on Strength and Conditioning
When Kevin Sumlin took over the Aggie football program, one of the first things he did was push spring practice back two weeks, in order to allow Aggie strength and conditioning coach Larry Jackson extra time with the team.
Sherman's approach to strength and conditioning was an improvement over the previous regime under Dennis Franchione where every position on the team did the exact same workout. Still, Sherman trusted the players to police themselves.
He expected the seniors to lead the team and for the players to be accountable for getting their workouts in. Many players did not spend the time in the weight room that they should have during the summer of 2011, and the result was a 7-6 season.
While Sherman took more of an NFL approach of trusting the players, Sumlin has his team work out under the watchful eye of Jackson. The former Aggie OLB and DE stresses hip and core strength over all else.
There is luck involved with avoiding injuries, and you cannot train an ankle or a knee not to get injured. However, a football player that is in better shape is more likely to continue to play with proper technique late in the game and lessen the chance of injury.
The Aggies did not suffer many major injuries during the 2012 season. Some of that has to be attributed to Jackson and his grueling workouts.
When the Aggies were playing the then-No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa and the cameras panned the Texas A&M sideline after the third quarter, the audience was treated to an excited group of Aggies football player jumping up and down around their head coach.
That football team was excited and jumping around even though they were in a dog fight. They knew they were in great physical shape and had the energy to fight Alabama until the end. They had that confidence and mental toughness because they had earned it by working hard in the offseason with Jackson.
By all accounts, Mike Sherman is a great man and a very good football coach. He is someone that any parent should feel comfortable leaving their son with for four years to help them grow while they are in college.
The difference between Sherman and Sumlin is that Sherman comes across as a father-type who will make you a better man. Sumlin is like the cool uncle who will let you drive his new Corvette.
Sumlin has the inner confidence and style that Sherman never had. Some of the Texas high school coaches had trouble relating to Sherman who spoke with a Northeast accent.
Sumlin is from Alabama and does not have an issue relating to high school coaches that were reared in the South.
Recruits gravitate towards Sumlin and the confidence he exudes.
Sumlin made one of the simplest yet most important changes to the practice routine after he arrived in Aggieland. He piped in music to the practice fields that blared before, during and after practices.
Sumlin surmised that the constant noise during practice would help the players focus on the job at hand and would simulate crowd noise. The logic is that football games are never quiet, so why practice in silence?
The unintended effect was that it helped loosen up the atmosphere at practice. Players began to have more fun at practice while listening to some of their favorite tunes.
Recruits absolutely loved the loose atmosphere it created. Sherman was a little more old school in his methods and never played music during practice.
Appealing to a Younger Crowd
Sumlin knows that recruiting is the lifeblood of the program and will do the little things to appeal to recruits, whether that means letting the players wear black uniforms or arriving at high school football games in a maroon helicopter,
Sumlin knows how to get and keep the attention of 17- and 18-year-old recruits. He changed the team's entrance at Kyle Field to include smoke and modern music. All of that appeals to recruits.
Sherman was more of a traditionalist. He was more likely to arrive at a high school game in a Lincoln Towncar than a helicopter. Sherman was old school, while Sumlin is definitely from the new school.
Sumlin Will Go for the Jugular
The biggest criticism that Sherman ever received was that his teams did not know how to finish games. Texas A&M lost five games in 2011 that it led at halftime. While they also won seven games they led at halftime, the Ags were branded as a team that did not know how to close.
Sumlin is an extremely aggressive coach who will try to rip the oppositions heart out in the first quarter. Against Auburn the Aggies got out to an early 14-0 lead. Aggie defensive coordinator Mark Snyder realized that Auburn did not have an accurate quarterback.
The Aggies began blitzing everyone on every single play. With an offense that is a threat to score on every play, Snyder and Sumlin went for the kill shot. They forced Auburn into three-and-outs, and the rout was on.
The Aggies beat Auburn 63-21 in a game that was not as close as the score indicates. When he gets up in a game, Sumlin goes for the kill. When Sherman got up in a game, he tried to run the block out by running the ball. He had more an a traditional NFL mindset than Sumlin.
Sumlin employs a hurry-up spread offense while Sherman favored a West Coast offense that employed variations of the spread.
Sherman had an almost obsessive need to be balanced on offense between passing and rushing. Sumlin simply wants to find a way to score points and win football games.
In 2011 the Aggies could have beaten Texas if they kneeled the ball on every offensive snap in the second half. Instead Sherman insisted on trying to throw the ball to even out the imbalance between rushing and passing yardage.
The Aggies turned the ball over and found a way to lose the game. Sumlin sticks with whatever is working. He is just as happy winning a game rushing for 400 yards as he is passing for 400 yards.