The Texas A&M Football team shocked the nation in 2012 by finishing 11-2 in its inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference. There are multiple obstacles preventing the Aggies from experiencing or surpassing that level of success in 2013.
The 2012 version of the Aggies finished 2012 ranked No. 5 in multiple polls. It experienced the serendipity of a strong senior class, limited injuries and a dynamic coaching staff coming together at the same time.
It is unlikely that the Ags will be able to replicate that kind of combination again. That means that if they want to exceed 11 wins in 2013 then they will have to overcome some of the obstacles that will face them during the season.
This is a look at the biggest obstacles facing the Ags in 2013.
The hardest thing to replace from one season to another is the leadership from a particular team. The 2012 Aggies team had tremendous leadership from Sean Porter, Ryan Swope and the other seniors.
In 2009 the Ags played 18 true freshmen during the football season. They were rewarded for their youth movement when all of those freshmen became seniors.
In 2011 the senior class did a poor job of leading the team. Former head coach Mike Sherman expected the seniors to lead the offseason workouts. The team was not dedicated in the offseason and that was a major factor in the Ags' 7-6 campaign in 2011.
One year later, a different group of senior led to a different result. No one knows how the 2013 seniors will do once thrust into a leadership role.
The positive for Aggies fans is that they have a natural leader in quarterback Johnny Manziel. He should help give the Aggie players someone to follow into battle.
The 2013 version of the Aggies only lost one player to injury for the season. Safety Steven Campbell was forced to give up football due to complications from multiple concussions.
The Ags were very thin on the defensive line and at linebacker. Since they had no injuries, that never came into play during the season.
It would border on statistical impossibility for A&M to have so few injuries for a second season in a row. Aggie fans should expect more injuries in 2013 than they had in 2012 just due to the laws of probability.
The way to combat those losses is through increased depth. The Aggies should be a much deeper football team in 2013 than they were in 2012. If they can limit injuries again then they should have a chance at winning the SEC and possibly a BCS title.
The Texas A&M Football team featured four All-Americans in 2012. Quarterback Johnny Manziel, offensive tackles Luke Joeckel, offensive tackle Jake Matthews and defensive end Damontre Moore were all named All-Americans by various media entities.
Joeckel and Moore decided to forgo their senior seasons at A&M and enter the NFL draft. Joeckel is the top left tackle in the nation. Moore is one of the top defensive ends in the nation and gave the 2012 Aggies a pass rush.
Matthews will move over to left tackle in 2013 to fill Joeckel's spot. It remains uncertain how the Aggies will replace Moore. Right now any number of players could take over his defensive end spot.
If the Ags are going to improve on their 2012 record, then they need two players to step up and replace their departed All-Americans.
The Ags are losing 12 of their 22 starters off the 2012 team. All teams have to replace departed seniors every season, but the Aggies are losing some significant players.
Wide receiver Ryan Swope is graduating and moving on to the NFL. He holds the school career records for receptions and receiving yards. Swope is arguably the best receiver ever to play at A&M. It will be hard to replace his production.
The 2012 defense was led by the linebacker corps. A big part of that was the play of seniors Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart. Porter is one of the most underrated linebackers in the country. He should have a long career in the NFL.
The Ags have experienced backups like Malcome Kennedy and Donnie Baggs who can step in for Swope and Porter. The question is whether they will be as good as the departed players. No team can simply replace 12 starters without it having an effect on the field.
The 11-2 season for A&M resulted in multiple members of Kevin Sumlin's staff getting poached by other schools. Offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury took the head coaching job at Texas Tech. Special teams coach Brian Polian took the head job at Nevada.
Linebackers coach Matt Wallerstedt was hired by Kinsbury to be the defensive coordinator at Tech. These departures bring up the question of how the team will adjust to the new staff.
The largest concern is how quarterback Johnny Manziel will adjust to a new quarterbacks coach now that Kingsbury is in Lubbock. Sumlin went out and hired Jake Spavital to coach the quarterbacks for A&M.
Clarence McKinney was promoted from running backs coach to offensive coordinator and already had some success with Manziel in the Ags' Cotton Bowl victory.
The Ags' new special teams coach is Jeff Banks from UTEP. Sumlin has not hired a coach to replace Wallerstedt yet.
The 2012 staff was a young group made up of outstanding recruiters. The team fed off the coaches' youthful enthusiasm and that led to a lot of fun and victories on the field. Aggies fans will have to wait and see what kind of effect the new staff will have on the team.