Texas A&M Football: Biggest Surprises for Aggies Through Week 4
The Texas A&M football team is 2-1 and ranked No. 9 in the country as they enter the fourth week of the season. The first three weeks of the season have been full of surprises both on and off the field.
The Aggies entered the season as a team that many thought would compete for the Southeastern Conference and BCS titles. Their week three showdown with No. 1 ranked Alabama was one of the most hyped regular season games in recent memory.
Texas A&M lost the game 49-42 but still have a shot at making this a season to remember. The last two national champions also suffered a loss during the regular season.
The early season has been fraught with surprises both positive and negative for the Aggies. This is a look at the biggest surprises for the Aggies through the first four weeks of the season.
Poor Linebacker Play
The Texas A&M defense has struggled mightily through the first three games. The Aggies are allowing 36 points and 489 total yards per game.
They are allowing 260 rushing yards and six yards per carry. The front seven on defense and specifically the linebackers have been a major disappointment.
The linebacker unit has been hampered by suspensions as Steven Jenkins missed the first two games of the season. However, Jenkins missing two games does not explain the poor play from the unit as a whole.
Donnie Baggs was a backup at outside linebacker in 2012 and switched to middle linebacker where he is the starter in 2013. His play has been particularly poor.
Through three games Baggs has 12 combined tackles with one quarterback hurry. That is a solid game for a middle linebacker in the SEC.
Baggs has basically disappeared in many of the games. He has not been a difference maker at major position of need for the Aggies.
Outside linebacker Tommy Sanders had a very good game against Sam Houston State with three tackles for loss. His play was limited against Alabama as the Aggies went with a 4-2-5 defense for much of the game.
If the Aggies want to have a championship season in 2013 then the linebackers as a unit need to step up. Up to this point, their play has been surprisingly poor.
Mike Matthews Is Farther Along Than Expected
Sophomore center Mike Matthews has surpassed expectations with his play during the first three games of the season. The first-time starter has impressed his coaches with his solid play.
Matthews has struggled a big with snap infractions, but he has been very solid at center after stepping in for the departed Patrick Lewis. He had a pre-snap penalty against Alabama and on the very next play, got to the second level and buried a Tide linebacker.
Matthews looks like a future All-SEC center and a possible All-American like his brother Jake Matthews.
Mike Evans Is Playing Like an All-American
Much was expected of sophomore wide receiver Mike Evans after he led the Aggies in receiving as a freshman with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards. No one could expect that he would dominate the way he has through the first three games.
Evans currently leads the nation in receiving with 518 yards on 20 receptions. He is averaging a ridiculous 179 yards receiving per game.
The Aggies run a spread offense where the ball is spread around to multiple receivers. The fact that Evans has been able to dominate the way he has in this kind of offense is a testimony to his ability.
If he stays healthy he should break every major single-season receiving record for A&M during the 2013 season.
Tight Ends Ignored in Passing Game
The Aggies entered the 2013 season with a solid duo at tight end in senior Nehemiah Hicks and junior Cameron Clear. Neither were thrown a pass during the first two games of the season but that was brushed aside as the coaches saving something for Alabama.
Clear caught a first quarter touchdown pass against the Crimson Tide and then was not thrown to again. Hicks has not seen a ball come his way yet.
With two talented tight ends who are threats in the passing game, one has to wonder why they are not being used. Clear and Hicks can offer offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney a lot of flexibility on offense in the type of formations he wants to use.
He can put both tight ends on the line in a running formation or put both of them in the slot when he wants to go four-wide. It is somewhat of a mystery why these two players are being ignored in the passing game.
The Offense Has Been so Pass Dominated
The Aggies have a very talented quartet of running backs in Ben Malena, Trey Williams, Brandon Williams and Tra Carson. Many thought they would rely on the run early in the season as they broke in a new group of receivers.
Through three games, the Aggies are averaging 416 yards passing per game and only 193 yards rushing. They are passing for twice as many yards as they are gaining on the ground.
The Aggies have had some injuries at running back. Trey Williams has missed two games with a high ankle sprain. Brandon Williams missed the season-opener while recovering from offseason surgery.
When Trey Williams gets healthy he will add another dynamic offensive player to the roster. You take the yards where you can get them, but it would be nice to see the Aggie running backs be a larger part of the offense.