Texas A&M Football: 4 Things Standing in the Way of an SEC Championship
The Texas A&M football team has completed spring practice and is preparing for the 2014 season. The Aggies will face multiple obstacles in their quest to win the SEC title in 2014.
To win a championship in any league, you need to have talent, depth and a little bit of luck. It is very rare that you can find a football team that is "up" on every Saturday of the season. There is going to be a game where everything seems a little off and the team is going to need some luck to scrape out a win.
A team needs to be able to avoid injuries to significant players and off-the-field issues. It takes a lot more than simply assembling a roster of good football players to win a championship.
This is a look at some of the hurdles that stand in the way of the 2014 Texas A&M football team winning a conference title.
The Aggies have had their share of off-the-field issues since the 2013 season ended. Sophomore nose guard Isaiah Golden and sophomore linebacker Darian Claiborne were both arrested and suspended before spring practice.
Sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill missed the end of spring practice after being arrested for public intoxication. Senior defensive end Gavin Stansbury, senior safety Howard Matthews and sophomore wide receiver Edward Pope were all arrested for outstanding warrants after spring practice had ended.
The bottom line is that the Aggies do not have the kind of depth on defense to withstand the loss of their starting nose guard and best linebacker from practice.
There are only so many times an athletic department is going to allow one of its athletes to make the news in a negative light before it will cut them loose.
The Aggie football players need to remain on the right side of the law so they can stay on the field and contribute to the team.
Hill was in a battle for the starting quarterback job until he missed the last few practices after his arrest.
If Golden or Claiborne run afoul of the law again, they will likely be dismissed from the team, which would be a huge blow to a defense that is trying to improve after an abysmal performance in 2013.
The Aggies need to take care of business off the field in order to have a chance at success on it.
It is no secret that the Aggies need to improve on defense in 2014. The 2013 Texas A&M defense allowed an average of 475.8 yards per game. All too often, the Aggies had to rely on offensive heroics from Johnny Manziel and Michael Evans in order to find ways to win games.
Manziel and Evans have moved on to the NFL, and the Aggies are going to have to find out ways to consistently get stops on defense.
Toward the end of the 2013 season, the defense showed some improvement early in games.
In the Aggies' last five regular-season games, the defense only allowed three touchdowns in the first quarter. They forced opponents to punt on 15 of their 19 first-quarter possessions.
If they can bring that kind of strong play to the other three quarters of the ballgame, then the Aggies will really have something. An improved pass rush with the arrival of freshman defensive ends Myles Garrett and Qualen Cunningham should help the defense immensely.
It is easy to look at the defense on paper, see all the returning starters and surmise that it will be improved. Nothing is for certain until it gets out on the field and proves it.
The Aggies will have more experience as a team than they did in 2013, but they will still be a young football team in 2014. The Aggies had 16 freshmen on their depth chart in 2013.
With incoming freshmen Myle Garrett, Qualen Cunningham, Nick Harvey and Speedy Noil expected to receive significant playing time in 2014, the Aggies will feature a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the field.
When you feature a lot of youth, you are going to have mistakes due to inexperience.
On the bright side, you may have some players who are too young to know how much of a struggle it is supposed to be. The negative is that you can have some matchups in the trenches where you have freshmen and sophomores lining up against fifth-year seniors.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is committed to playing the best player on the field, whether that be a freshman or a senior. The Aggies will have to deal with the youthful mistakes that come their way and attempt to overcome them in order to find a way to win.
It is somewhat obvious, but in order to win the SEC, the Aggies are going to have to find a way to survive the gauntlet that is the SEC schedule. The Aggies will face four teams that ended the 2013 season ranked in the Top 10 in Auburn, South Carolina, Missouri and Alabama.
The Aggies will open up the season on the road on a Thursday night in a nationally televised contest against South Carolina. They have to face Auburn and Alabama on the road as well.
Texas A&M will face nine teams that played in bowls in 2013. The two teams the Aggies face from the SEC East are the 2013 division winner in Missouri and the runner-up in South Carolina.
The Aggies will face a very daunting schedule and will need to stay healthy in order to survive the grind of the regular season.