Texas A&M Football: 5 Biggest Challenges for the Aggies' Offensive Coordinators
The Texas A&M football team had one of the best offenses in the nation in 2012. If new Aggie offensive co-coordinators Jake Spavital and Clarence McKinney want to see a repeat of that success in 2013, they will have to overcome multiple obstacles.
The Aggies averaged 558 yards per game in 2012 and set a Southeastern Conference record with 7,621 total yards. Texas A&M proved that a hurry-up spread offense can put up prolific numbers in the best defensive conference in the country.
Kliff Kingsbury was the Aggies' offensive coordinator in 2012. He was able to bond with freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and help the Ags to a record-setting season.
Spavital will have to step in and prove that he is up to that challenge in 2013. McKinney and Spavital will have more weapons to use than Kingsbury did, but they also have to live up to a pretty high standard.
This is a look at the biggest challenges that are facing McKinney and Spavital in 2013.
The question for the Aggies entering the 2012 season was whether Kevin Sumlin and his spread offense could be effective in the SEC. Now the question is: How do you top a record-breaking season like 2012?
The Aggies are expected to compete for a national title in 2013 with the offense leading the way. Spavital and McKinney are going to have to live up to the lofty standards set by Kevin Sumlin's last few offenses.
In 2012, Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel. In 2011, the Houston Cougars averaged 599 yards per game and led the nation in total offense. Cougar quarterback Case Keenum completed 70 percent of his passes for 5,631 yards and 48 touchdowns.
That is what Sumlin and Kingsbury have done with their last two quarterbacks.
The Aggies have a different setup than most teams. In 2012, Kingsbury called the plays and was in charge of the passing game. Clarence McKinney was in charge of the running game. Both McKinney and Sumlin had input on which plays were called.
In 2013, McKinney will still be in charge of the running game, but he has also added play-calling duties to his responsibilities. Spavital will be in charge of the passing game, just as McKinney was, and will have input on the play-calling.
McKinney and Spavital will have to find a way to measure up to producing the greatest offensive performances in the country on a weekly basis.
Handling the "Johnny Football" Phenomena
Johnny Manziel became the only freshman in history to win a Heisman Trophy in 2012. He has become a celebrity on and off the field.
There will be a tremendous amount of pressure on Spavital to help Manziel produce the same, or better, numbers than in 2012. Some people are concerned with Manziel suffering through a "sophomore slump" in his second season in the league.
Spavtial will be tasked with ensuring that Manziel is just as productive as he was in 2012 while continuing to play within the offense. The goal of a coach is to win as many games as possible.
There will be outside pressures from people wanting to see Manziel put up big numbers so he can make another run at a Heisman Trophy. Spavital's job to is make sure that a balance exists between winning games and producing numbers that keep Manziel in the Heisman race.
He will also have to help Manziel navigate a full season of dealing with the attention and interest that his fame has brought him.
Finding Enough Balls to Go Around
Johnny Manziel led the Aggies in rushing in 2012 with 1,410 yards. It is unlikely that he will match those numbers in 2013 because the Ags have so many more skilled players on offense in 2013.
The challenge for McKinney will be finding ways to get everyone their touches in each game. At running back, the Ags have four players who could start for any team in the country.
Ben Malena, Brandon Williams, Trey Williams and Tra Carson could each be 1,000-yard rushers if they were given 200 carries in a season. Unless there are injuries, none of those running backs will have that many carries in 2013.
McKinney will have to figure out a way to spread the ball around to all four running backs in a way that will keep them all happy and engaged in the game.
The Ags also have one of the top receivers in the nation on their roster. Mike Evans had 82 receptions for 1,105 yards in 2012. He is a guy who could catch 100 passes in a season.
The Ags also brought in a true tight end in junior college transfer Cameron Clear. He should create all kinds of matchup issues over the middle of the field.
There is only one ball to go around, and McKinney is going to have to find a way to keep everyone happy, especially his running backs.
Beat the Greatest Defensive Minds in the Country
The SEC features some of the greatest coaches and the greatest defensive minds in the country. Nick Saban at Alabama and John Chavis at LSU consistently produce some of the best defenses in the country.
Saban, Chavis and all of the rest of the defensive coordinators and head coaches in the SEC have spent part of their offseason trying to figure out how to stop Johnny Manziel.
McKinney and Spavital are going to have to find new and different ways to move the ball down the field. They are going to have to work with Kevin Sumlin to find ways to keep defenses off-balance.
Manziel is at his best when allowed to improvise in the open field. It is Spavital's job to come up with ways to get Manziel out in space where he can make things happen, while balancing the need for explosive plays with the need to not expose Manziel to unnecessary harm.
Spavital and McKinney are going to have to predict how coaches will try to defend what the Ags did in 2012, and then come up with new ways to exploit those defenses in 2013.
Concentrate on the Task at Hand
In 2012, two of the assistant coaches at Texas A&M became head coaches at other programs. Former offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Kliff Kingsbury took over at Texas Tech. Special teams coordinator Brian Polian was tapped to take over after coaching legend Chris Ault retired at Nevada.
With all of the talent in place in Aggieland, the Ags will likely have a good offense in 2013.
If Manziel and the Aggies experience success in 2013, other schools will come looking for the next great young offensive mind, and Spavital and McKinney will be on that list.
They both will have to be able to balance the distractions of being considered for other jobs, while taking care of business on the field and making sure the Aggies win games.