The Texas A&M football team is 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the SEC as it heads into the bye week. The Aggies have learned a lot about themselves during the first month of the season.
The No. 9-ranked Aggies have shown a few weaknesses on defense and special teams. They are a young team and the coaches are still trying to find the right combination of players to put on the field at the same time.
The Aggies have suffered some significant injuries that have affected their depth. They have been forced to play multiple true freshmen, especially on defense, in an attempt to put a viable unit on the field.
This is a look at what the coaches and fans have learned about the Aggies during their first month of the season.
The Texas A&M defensive line has been completely incapable of getting pressure on the opposing quarterback in 2013. The Aggies' defensive ends, in particular, have struggled.
Texas A&M runs a 4-3 defense as its base, but it has often been multiple under defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. In the 4-3 defense, you have four down linemen.
The defensive ends are expected to keep containment on the outside running game and get pressure on the opposing quarterback.
The Aggies' starters at defensive end, Gavin Stansbury and Julien Obioha, have struggled in both of these areas. Stansbury and Obioha have not registered a sack through five games.
The entire starting defensive line has registered two total sacks on the season—one by Tyrone Taylor when he started against Rice, and one by defensive tackle Alonzo Williams.
It is hard to imagine the Aggies being a championship team with a defensive line that is so devoid of difference-makers. Snyder and the defensive coaches are going to have to find a way to generate pressure with the blitz.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has improved on his performance as a freshman when he won the Heisman Trophy. After a tumultuous offseason in which every move Manziel made was splayed across national headlines, there was some concern that his off-the-field activities would affect his play on the field.
He has been even better as a sophomore than as a freshman. During his first five games of the 2012 season, Manziel completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,285 yards and 11 touchdowns. He rushed for 508 yards and seven touchdowns.
During the first five games of his sophomore season, Manziel has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,489 yards. He has rushed for 314 yards and three touchdowns.
Manziel has become a more polished passer despite having to throw to a much younger receiving corps in 2013. He has remained in the pocket and scrambled around to pass instead of taking unnecessary chances down the field.
The Aggies have four legitimate running backs who can carry their offense. Ben Malena, Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams could all rush for 100 yards in a game if they were given 20 carries.
All four running backs are averaging over four yards per carry. Malena leads the group with 303 yards and seven touchdowns. Carson has been a pleasant surprise with 229 yards and four touchdowns.
He has shown a lot more wiggle than expected. Carson would likely start if Malena were to go down. Trey Williams leads the team with 8.1 yards per carry.
This is a talented group that has lived up to expectations.
The Texas A&M offensive line lost Luke Joeckel to the NFL and Patrick Lewis to graduation after the 2012-13 season, and it has not missed a beat. The 2013 unit is among the top two or three offensive lines in the nation.
Jake Matthews was a returning All-American who moved over to left tackle. He has been excellent, but right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi is playing the best football of anyone on the line.
Ogbuehi has been dominant on the right side. Mike Matthews has been very solid at center, and redshirt freshman Germain Ifedi has had flashes of dominance at right guard.
Left guard Jarvis Harrison has been making a name for himself. As good as Matthews is, the Aggies run behind Harrison the majority of the time on short-yardage plays.
The offensive line has exceeded expectations.
The Aggies have had poor play from the front seven of their defense in 2013. The safeties have been hurt by injuries and poor play. The cornerbacks have been a pleasant surprise.
Junior Deshazor Everett was a proven player who was expected to be a defensive leader. He has become the best player on the defense and has moved from corner to safety in order to solidify the back end of the defense.
Everett is second on the team with 31 tackles. He has snagged two interceptions and has two tackles for loss through five games.
De'Vante Harris has responded nicely after an inconsistent freshman season. As a sophomore, Harris has shown a vast improvement against the run. His cover skills are strong, and he is having a nice year with one tackle for loss and two passes broken up.
Senior Tramain Jacobs has been a surprise at the position. His play at cornerback has allowed the Aggies to move Everett back to safety. Jacobs has registered 26 tackles and leads the team with five passes broken up.
The A&M coaches have a bye week to figure out how they can build their defense around their strength in the secondary.