High Stakes For the Aggies in 2009

Scott McDanielCorrespondent IJune 27, 2009

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Quarterback Stephen McGee #7 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates his touchdown with Joey Thomas #81 during a game against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium November 24, 2006 in Austin, Texas. The Aggies defeated the Longhorns 12-7.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Why is it so important for the Aggies to pull out of this slump?  The Aggies do not want to take Baylor's place as the whipping boy of the Big XII. 

It is pivotal for Texas A&M to right the ship because they are going to fall further and further behind the rest of the Big XII South.  The most important issue is the recruiting battle between the South schools for the top high school players in the South.

Since the good ole' days of the Southwest Conference are long gone, the Aggies are finding the gap narrowing between them and schools like T.C.U., Baylor, and Oklahoma State.

Without the recruits, which correlates to future success against Big XII South opponents, the Aggies can bet on struggling through the next few seasons.  Since 2002 the Aggies have gone a combined 13–22 against the South Division of the Big XII, with nine of the only 13 wins coming against Baylor and Oklahoma State. 

Since R.C. Slocum's departure after the 2002 season, the Aggies have only managed a combined four wins against Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma. If that doesn’t scream mediocrity, I don’t know what else does.

Every offseason always seems to have elevated expectations in College Station, whether the Aggies are coming off a 4-8 season or a 9-4 season.  Aggie fans are always delusional in their optimism.  The Aggies can be 0–11 heading into the Texas game and still think that they have a great chance to win.

The list of impact players for the upcoming 2009-2010 football season grows by the day if the Aggies want to have more success than was experienced last season.

Kyle Mangan, a redshirt freshman, has taken over the starting position at linebacker.   He claimed the spot over three-year letter-man Anthony Lewis, who has been a disappointment to his four-star rivals rating, and hasn’t lived up to his size at 6’2”, 254 lbs.

Now onto Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill; this duo is going to have elevated expectations next season after last season's success.  Jerrod Johnson has played quarterback all of his life, but he had to learn a brand new west coast style offense from Coach Sherman.

Ryan Tannehill set a record in both receptions and receiving yards for a freshman receiver at A&M, and whether he is under center or flanked out wide, he will provide a much-needed spark for an inconsistent offense.  Jeff Fuller will also be expected to carry a majority of the offensive load after.

Von Miller has been highlighted on ESPN on his move the new “Jack” position on Kines 4-3 defense.  The Jack position is a hybrid position that allows a defender to line up as a defensive end, outside linebacker, or another linebacker/corner to drop back into coverage.  The position was created to take advantage of Miller's quickness and speed.  However, Miller is undersized to be playing defensive end at 6’3”, 215 lbs.

The offensive line has to be the big focal point for the Aggies this season.  The line averaged 2.9 per carry and allowed more than three sacks a game.  If the Aggies can assemble some resemblance of a unit, their offensive production and efficiency should sky-rocket this next season.

Trent Hunter is expected to make a huge impact on the defensive side of ball.  Hunter was honored with All-American Freshman honors last season.  Senior Jordan Pugh has moved back to the safety position to provide some much-needed leadership and experience for a secondary that gave up almost 3,000 yards.

Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael have big shoes to fill from the departure of Mike Goodson to the Carolina Panthers in the fourth round of the NFL draft.  Michael does not arrive on campus until August, but it is expected that will be competing for immediate playing time.  Cyrus Gray can only get better after averaging 4.8 yards a carry last season with a poor offensive line opening holes for him.

Coaches that have to be feeling the heat and pressure are Mike Sherman and Joe Kines.  Sherman has the daunting task of improving an offensive line that gave up 39 sacks last season, yet despite their inability to block, Jerrod Johnson still threw for a school record 21 passing touchdowns.  Just imagine what he could do if he had an offensive line that actually protected him and gave him time.

Defensive coordinator Joe Kines faces the challenge of improving a squad that finished 114th in total defense, a team that gave up an average of 460 yards a game, and allowed an average of 37.4 per game.  On the upside, this will be the second year that the team will have to improve on their new 4-3 defense and a pro style offense.

So, what can we expect from this young A&M team?  My prediction...will have to wait until August!  Until then, continue to dream of Saturdays in the Fall and all-day football marathons!