The Texas A&M football team has exceeded expectations during their first two years under head coach Kevin Sumlin. Their successes on the field contributed to the recent retirement of Mack Brown from the University of Texas.
Former Aggie had coach Mike Sherman and Texas athletic director Deloss Dodds each played a part, but Sumlin's early success wrapped it all up.
Sherman took over the program in 2008 and immediately started re-stocking the team with talent through recruiting. Sherman did not excel on the field during his time in Aggieland with a 25-25 overall record.
What he did excel at was identifying and developing talent. Sherman's first two recruiting classes produced six NFL players. In 2010, he brought in quite possibly the best offensive line class in college football history, and
All four would start for multiple seasons for the Aggies on the offensive line. Joeckel and Matthews were both named All-Americans. The 2010 class also included a lightly recruited defensive end from Rowlett, Texas named Damontre Moore.
With that class, Sherman laid the foundation for Sumlin's success in Aggieland and the Aggies' success in the SEC. That class produced three All-Americans and gave the Aggies an advantage on the offensive line that they still enjoy to this day.
In 2011 Sherman signed a class that included wide receiver Mike Evans and quarterback Johnny Manziel. If Evans is named All-American in 2013, then Sherman will have recruited five All-Americans in his last two classes at A&M.
Sherman restocked the roster with talent on offense. Sumlin came in and put the talent to use in one of the top offenses in the country.
Dodds Fatal Mistake
When Texas A&M considered leaving the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference, Texas stated that if A&M left then they would no longer play the Aggies in football. When A&M made the move, the Longhorns followed through with their threat.
Texas athletic director Deloss Dodds gambled that the Aggies would struggle in the SEC. He felt that he could marginalize the Aggies by refusing to play them in a nationally televised game that ended every regular season.
Dodds denigrated the Aggies and the impact the SEC would have in Texas. He felt threatened by the Aggies' move to the SEC and spoke out in the media in an attempt to marginalize the impact of the move.
Sumlin took over the football program and had immediate success in the new league. Sumlin's spread offense coupled with the playmaking ability of Manziel resulted in an exciting brand of football that grabbed the attention of college football fans across the nation.
Sumlin and the Aggies finished 11-2 in their first season in the SEC and capped it off with their first top five ranking in over 50 years. Dodds' gamble had failed. The Aggies have succeeded in the SEC at a level not seen in College Station in decades.
Meanwhile in Austin, the Longhorns were struggling in a four-loss season that featured a second consecutive route to Oklahoma. The Aggies' move to the SEC was supposed to allow for an easier path to a BCS game for Texas.
Instead the Aggies were excelling while the Longhorns were floundering in mediocrity. Texas was always able to hang their hat on the fact that Brown could recruit well.
Sumlin flipped wide receiver Thomas Johnson to the Aggies before he ever coached a game. After the 2012 season, Sumlin reeled in a top-10 class while Brown's class was most notable for the players who reneged on their Texas commitments and then went elsewhere.
Wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones and defensive end Daeshon Hall both signed with Sumlin and the Aggies after previously making verbal pledges to Brown and Texas. Brown had lost his mojo on and off the field.
Sumlin has continued to recruit at a high level with the 2014 Aggie class currently ranked in the top five. The Aggies have verbal pledges from five of the top 20 players in Texas in the 2014 class, compared to three for the Longhorns.
Looking To The Future
Both the Aggies and the Longhorns struggled to 8-4 records in 2013. The youthful Aggies lost four games in the toughest conference in the country and ended the season ranked No. 21.
The Longhorns featured a senior-laden lineup that according to Brown was capable of winning every game on the schedule. Texas' four losses were by an average of 21.3 points and included a home loss to Ole Miss. The Aggies beat the Rebels 41-38 in Oxford. The Longhorns finished the season unranked.
Brown's failure to capitalize on a team made up of upperclassmen was the last straw for a fan-base that had seen Texas fall behind A&M and Baylor in the football pecking order in the state. Brown stepped down so Texas could find the next coach to lead them into the future.
Sumlin was not the only reason that Brown had to retire, but he was the straw that broke the camels back. He was able to take the offensive talent that Sherman left for him and mold it into an explosive offense. Sumlin's ability to relate to young people has caused a shift in power in recruiting in the state.
With each passing day, Texas was falling further behind the Aggies on and off the field. A change needed to be made and that change was Brown stepping down.