Texas A&M Football: How New Assistant Coaches Will Impact Aggies
Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin led the Aggies to a surprising 11-2 season in 2012, then watched as his coaching staff was poached by other programs looking to improve their teams. Sumlin made three changes on his staff which will have a large impact on the 2013 team.
Two Aggie assistants were hired as head coaches after the 2012 regular season. Aggie offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury was hired as the head coach at Texas Tech. Texas A&M special teams coach Brian Polian was hired to take over for Hall of Famer Chris Ault who retired from Nevada.
Sumlin reacted quickly hiring Jeff Banks to coach special teams, promoting Clarence McKinney to offensive coordinator and hiring Jake Spavital to coach the quarterbacks. Sumlin build an amazing staff before the 2012 season.
It is not surprising to see some of them move on after such a successful run in their first year in Aggieland. Ideally you would like stability in your coaching staff, but when you hire young, motivated assistants this is the price you play.
Young coaches can easily relate to the players they coach in college. The trade-off is that most young coaches are ambitious and will jump at their first opportunity to become a head coach. The advantage that coaches like Sumlin have is that if your develop a reputation for promoting your assistants, the top assistant coaches in the nation are going to want to come work under you.
That is the place that Sumlin and the Aggies find themselves in right now. This is a look at how the new assistant coaches on the A&M staff will affect the Aggies going forward.
Jeff Banks Special Teams
When Brian Polian left for Nevada, Sumlin wasted little time in hiring Jeff Banks away from the University of Texas-El Paso. Banks coached the running backs and special teams at UTEP, but will concentrate on special teams in Aggieland.
Banks helped the Miners lead Conference USA in special teams for the last two years in a row. In 2011 the Miners were seventh in the nation in punt return average with 10.0 yards per return. In 2012, the Miners allowed opponents only 3.1 yards per punt return while they averaged 10.1 yards per return.
Under Banks, the Miners excelled at gaining the hidden yardage in the game on special teams. They consistently had one of the top punt and kickoff coverage units in the nation.
Brian Polian was a very good special teams coach and excellent recruiter. Dustin Harris struggled with dropped punts his entire career until Polian arrived in Aggieland. In 2012, Harris only muffed one punt which he later recovered.
The only issue with Polian as a special teams coach is that the Aggies did not block any punts. They did not even appear to try to block punts.
UTEP blocked three punts in 2011 and two punts in 2012. The Aggies should expect a more aggressive punt-block unit under Banks.
The biggest difference between Polian and Banks will be on the recruiting trail. Polian is recognized as one of the top recruiters in the nation. He was instrumental in getting wide receiver Jeremy Tabuyo from Hawaii to commit to A&M.
When he was at Notre Dame, Polian convinced Manti Te'o to pass on USC and sign with the Irish. He is an exceptional recruiter, and Banks is not at that level yet.
Jake Spavital Quarterbacks, Co-OC
Kliff Kingsbury was the Aggies' offensive coordinator and quarterback coach in 2012. He accepted the head coaching job at Texas Tech so Sumlin went out and hired quarterback coach Jake Spavital from West Virginia.
Sumlin brought in Spavital to be the quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator. Spavital will coordinate the passing game for the Aggies.
Spavital's coaching resume reads like a who's who of the spread offense. He was a graduate assistant at Tulsa under Gus Malzahn. Then he went to Houston and was a graduate assistant under Sumlin.
He then went with Dana Holgerson to Oklahoma State. When Holgerson was hired as the head coach at West Virginia, he took Spavital with him to coach quarterbacks.
Spavital was on the staff of two teams that led the nation in total offense at Tulsa and Houston. Every school he has coached at has had one of the top offenses in the nation. Spavital helped WVU quarterback Geno Smith become one of the top quarterbacks in the nation.
In his stop at four different schools, Spavital has helped coach all-conference quarterbacks C.J. Kinne, Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden and Smith.
At A&M, Spavital will get the coach the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Spavital is known to have a little swagger to him much like Kingsbury did. He should mesh well with Manziel.
The Aggies should not expect any drop-off in performance from the quarterback position in 2013. Spavital has learned the spread offense from the top spread coaches in the country. He should be able to add some new ideas to the offensive meetings.
Clarence McKinney Running Backs, Co-OC
Clarence McKinney was hired from Houston Yates High School by Sumlin in 2008. He has been with Sumlin ever since. McKinney came with Sumlin to A&M as the running back coach.
He has been promoted to the co-offensive coordinator along with Spavital. McKinney will call the plays for the Aggies. In 2012 McKinney was the running game coordinator for A&M while Kingsbury was the passing game coordinator.
McKinney will remain the running game coordinator in 2013 while Spavital will be the passing game coordinator.
McKinney called the plays during the 2013 Cotton Bowl and did an excellent job. The Aggies rang up 633 total yards of offense with 326 rushing yards against Oklahoma. The Aggies threw the ball 35 times and rushed the ball 31 times. McKinney did an excellent job of identifying the Sooners' weaknesses and attacking them.
McKinney knows Sumlin's offense and he knows the Aggie players. The offense should continue to excel with McKinney calling the plays.
Effect on Johnny Football
The changing of the guard at offensive coordinator should have little effect on the Aggies's and Johnny Manziel in 2013. Spavital may bring some new ideas and schemes from WVU, but by in large the offense will remain the same.
With McKinney calling plays, one might expect the running backs to get more looks in the offense. That did not hold true in the Cotton Bowl where the running backs only had 14 carries compared to 17 carries for Manziel.
In 2013, Brandon Williams and Tra Carson will be eligible to play for the Aggies at running back. With 6'6" 280-pound Cameron Clear at tight end, the Aggies may look to a power running game more.
Aggie fans may see more hand-offs from Manziel instead of called run plays. Expect the Aggies to take advantage of their talent at running back and attempt to lessen the physical toll on their quarterback.
Manziel may have less rushing yardage in 2013, but he should have more passing yardage as his understanding of the scheme increases with experience.
Effect on the Team Overall
One of the greatest asset of Kliff Kingsbury was his youthful exuberance. He obviously had fun on the sidelines and that feeling was contagious. When an entire football team is having fun, it plays loose and tends to win games.
Spavital is only 27 years old and brings that same kind of youthful excitement to the game. His presence in the quarterback meeting room and on the field should keep "Johnny Football" and the offense having fun.
The addition of Spavital keeps the image of the Aggie coaching staff young and fresh. It means that they are still young enough to relate to high school recruits on a personal level.
The Aggies are a hot team right now in the media and in the public eye. The promotion of McKinney and the addition of Spavital and Banks should keep the train rolling.