Coach Sumlin's Biggest Challenges for Texas A&M in 2013

Michael Taglienti@@miketag98Featured ColumnistMay 19, 2013

Coach Sumlin's Biggest Challenges for Texas A&M in 2013

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    The Texas A&M Football team turned in a surprising 11-2 record during their inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference in 2012. There are a number of challenges facing Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin as he and his team prepare for the 2013 season. 

    Sumlin led the Aggies to a top five finish in his first season at A&M. There is not much room for improvement after a season like that. 

    The Aggies' coach has repeatedly pointed out that the team finished third in the SEC West. The A&M football team will have to make great strides in all phases of the game in order to meed or exceed their performance in 2012.

    Texas A&M lost a very talented group of seniors to graduation from the 2012 team. The key to success in the 2013 season is replacing the leadership and play from that group.

    This is a look at the various challenges facing Sumlin as the Aggies approach the 2013 season.  

Team Leadership

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    In 2012 Aggie linebacker Sean Porter was a great player on the field, but he set the tone off the field with his leadership. Porter helped set the tone for the team. 

    Sumlin is going to have to find some players who will step up and into Porter's role on the 2013 squad. It is easy to plug players in and find someone to make plays on the field. 

    It is much tougher to find the right leadership and chemistry in the lock room from year to year. When a team has good leaders they will fight through adversity and find ways to win. 

    When a team has poor chemistry and leadership, they will accept losing. Aggie fans were able to witness this first-hand after the seniors on the 2010 team graduated. The 2011 team was very talented but did not finish games because they lacked leadership. 

    The Aggies are going to need players like quarterback Johnny Manziel and others to step up and make this team their own.  

Off the Field Hoopla

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    In 2012 the Aggies were a new team joining the SEC and stayed under the radar for the most part. After a season opening loss to Florida, no one paid attention to them at the national level until they beat No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

    The Aggies will likely enter the 2013 season as a Top Five ranked team featuring a returning Heisman Trophy quarterback. In 2012 Johnny Manziel was a freshman quarterback who wowed Aggie fans on Saturdays.

    In 2013 Manziel is a national celebrity who is accorded rock star status wherever he goes. Every move he makes on and off the field is scrutinized. 

    Sumlin is going to have to keep his team focused while they are in the national news every week. The level of interest in the Aggie program is at an all-time high, so the level of distractions for the players will increase. 

    The Aggie coaches are going to have to keep the team humbled and focused on winning every week, while their classmates and national media are feeding their egos on a daily basis. 

Defensive Line Depth

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    If everyone returns healthy from offseason injuries and surgery, then the Aggies should have a solid starting defensive line in 2013. The question is whether everyone will be healthy, and what kind of depth the Aggies will have. 

    In 2013 the defense was led by linebackers Sean Porter, Jonathan Stewart and Steven Jenkins. With Stewart and Porter gone, the defense is going to have to be led by the defensive line while the linebacker corps finds its way. 

    The starting defensive line of Gavin Stansbury, Kirby Ennis, Alonzo Williams and Julien Obioha should be solid. The Aggies are going to need incoming freshmen Justin Manning, Isaiah Golden, Hardreck Walker and Jordan Points to step in and offer depth immediately. 

    If the Aggies do not get help from the incoming freshmen, then the defense will struggle all season long. 

Maintaining the Hunger

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    The Texas A&M Aggies entered the 2012 season as a hungry football team. They had gone 7-6 in 2011 and were willing to put in the time in the weight room and on the practice field to get better. 

    The 2012 team experienced a lot of success and it will be a challenge to maintain that hunger in 2013. Sumlin and the coaches will have to keep the team motivated. 

    Most expected the Aggies to struggle in their first season in the SEC. The Aggies took this as a sign of disrespect and worked hard to prove the doubters wrong. 

    The challenge for the Aggie coaches in 2013 is to keep the Aggie players hungry like they were in 2012. If they can play with the same chip on their shoulder in 2013 that they had in 2012, they should be able to meet everyone's championship expectations. 

Chemistry

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    The 2013 team is talented enough where they should experience success on the field. The challenge for the coaches will be keeping everyone on the same page. 

    When teams start winning consistently, players start to worry about their own statistics and playing time more than team goals. It will be a challenge for the Aggie coaches to keep the team focused on the team goals. 

    Will the coaches be able to keep Ben Malena, Brandon Williams, Trey Williams and Tra Carson happy while they split carries? Will the coaches be able to keep the defensive players happy if Johnny Manziel is receiving all of the media hype?

    Sumlin and his staff will have to work to keep everyone happy and pointed in the right direction.