The final pieces of the puzzle are coming together for the Texas A&M Aggies, and one is coming over from the west coast.
According to Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com, UCLA Bruins offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will take over as the offensive coordinator of the Aggies, replacing recently dismissed coordinator Jake Spavital.
Noel Mazzone will be your new Texas A&M offensive coordinator. https://t.co/qq8bGZ3Z422016-1-7 05:09:51
The school confirmed that report Friday afternoon via email.
“I have known Noel for many years and he is a great addition to our coaching staff,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said in the statement. “His experience is outstanding and he will do an excellent job of coordinating our offense.”
Mazzone is no stranger to the SEC.
He served as the offensive coordinator on Tommy Tuberville's staffs at Ole Miss (1995-1998) and Auburn (1999-2001), and he returned to the Rebels in 2005 for a season before moving on to the New York Jets for three seasons as their wide receivers coach.
He has an old-school flavor thanks to his time in the SEC, but he developed a new-school twist over the last half-decade with stops at Arizona State and UCLA. In fact, you can even purchase the specifics of Mazzone's system through his website.
Mazzone is the perfect hire for the Aggies.
Instead of making wholesale changes, A&M will undergo a minor tweak with Mazzone.
He ran an offense almost exclusively out of the spread at UCLA, but the Bruins finished in the top five in rushing in the Pac-12 in three of his four seasons in Westwood. What does Sumlin need out of his offense? The ability to run when he wants to and needs to.
The Aggies averaged just 4.35 yards per rush on the ground in 2015, and that number dropped to just 3.82 yards per carry against Power Five opponents. UCLA averaged 5.03 yards per rush in 2015 and only dropped to 4.61 against Power Five opponents.
That speaks to the toughness Mazzone preaches, which is something A&M sorely lacked under Spavital.
Yes, he will utilize bubble screens—a common complaint among UCLA fans (and Texas A&M fans, for that matter)—but is more interested in stressing a defense's weaknesses with run/pass options, creating favorable matchups with pre-snap motions and using inside zone and trap concepts in the running game.
Ralph Russo of the Associated Press noted the respect Mazzone demands within the coaching fraternity:
Ralph D. Russo @ralphDrussoAP
There seems to be a massive disparity between how Noel Mazzone is thought of within coaching and what fans think of him as an OC.2016-1-7 16:49:03
Ralph D. Russo @ralphDrussoAP
Of course that can be said for many coaches, especially OCs, but seems few as respected inside as Mazzone and generally unimpressive to fans2016-1-7 16:51:47
He took a true freshman passer in Josh Rosen and tossed him into the fire on a team that had conference title aspirations. While the Bruins didn't reach their team goal, Rosen did complete 60 percent of his passes (292-of-487) for 3,669 yards, 23 touchdowns and 11 picks.
Rosen threw two interceptions vs. the Stanford Cardinals on Oct. 15, but he didn't throw a pick over his next 246 attempts—a school record that came to an end vs. the USC Trojans on Nov. 28.
Think about that for a second—Mazzone's true freshman quarterback who hadn't even been on campus for a full year got better as the season went on. That's the polar opposite of life for Sumlin, who has seen quarterbacks regress in October in each of the last two seasons.
The identity Sumlin established when he got to College Station will stay intact with Mazzone, but an increased dedication to the run, the simplicity in which Mazzone operates and his proven track record of developing quarterbacks make him a perfect fit for the Aggies.
Mazzone isn't there to reinvent the wheel; he's there to make a few key tweaks.
He can do just that.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.