The schedules have been released. Fall practice has started. The much-desired, much-debated 2020 college football season is creeping closer and closer. Each day, teams grow and develop, building on last season’s progression, and refining certain aspects of concern. Right now, the slate is clean for every team. Everyone has a record of 0-0. To have a big season, can the Aggies uncover the missing key?
But as we inch closer to the start of the season, the perennial question reemerges from the depths of Aggie minds’ – who will this year’s team be? We know the roster, sure. And there’s at least a ball-park idea of what the depth chart will look like. Even though many starters are returning, some key players’ spot will need to be filled, (i.e. Justin Madubuike and Braden Mann). Just as in 2019, the current freshman class is an impressive bunch that will see the field a considerable amount. While there may not be many position battles early on, the team could look very different mid-way through the season.
Clearly, there are many questions to be answered. And it is the answer to those questions that will determine the answer to the ultimate one: what is the identity of Texas A&M football in 2020.
Texas A&M Aggies’ 2020 Identity
Front Seven Dominant
As has been the norm in College Station since the early 2010s, it will be their front-seven that will lead their defense in 2020. True sophomore defensive end Demarvin Leal finished the season on a hot streak after recovering from an injury. Bobby Brown III has done a formidable job plugging up the gaps between the tackles and has only gotten better going into his junior year. Although Justin Madubuike was taken in the third round of the NFL Draft in April, senior Jayden Peevy is set up for a great senior year. Not to mention, true freshman and 4-star recruit McKinnley Jackson will see some playing time as well. Needless to say, the Aggies continue to have depth and experience on the defensive line. Whoever they are battling in the trenches is in for a heck of a fight.
At linebacker, Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines III will captain this unit. Both have experience, and when healthy, are formidable players with NFL Draft potential. It is rumored that Hines III holds the record for the most offers ever received by a recruit. He’s battled injuries throughout his collegiate career but posted a solid 2019. With potentially two years of eligibility left, 2020 could be his breakout year. Buddy Johnson is looking to be an anchor of consistency his senior year. He seemed to find himself in 2019, and 2020 should be even better.
Whoever the Aggies decide to use as their “third” linebacker, (Aaron Hansford, Andre White Jr., etc.) their level of depth is comforting; the Ags should have no issue finding someone, or even a committee of players, to fill the role. You never really know what Mike Elko has hidden up his sleeve. But it’s no secret that the Aggies have an impressive group in the box this season.
Spread The Ball Around
Kellen Mond couldn’t ask for much more help his senior year, even if he wanted to. His favorite target from high school, Jhamon Ausbon, is also entering his fourth year in Aggieland with plenty of experience under his belt. The Friendswood, Texas native, Caleb Chapman is expected to play a much larger role in 2020. At 6’5”, he’ll have the height advantage on virtually every corner in the conference. Plus, the freshman class has a pair of receivers that are as explosive as they come in Demond Demas and Devon Achane.
At the tight end position is a pair of players that just might catch the majority of the Aggie’s passes this year. Baylor Cupp and Jalen Wydermyer will be a match-up nightmare. Wydermyer caught the team’s most touchdowns last season, and Cupp was supposedly the “better” of the two. Now that the shaggy-haired giant from Brock, Texas is back in action, Mond will have two excellent tight ends to pick from.
The buffet of offensive playmakers continues with the running backs. Isiah Spiller burst onto the scene last season as a reliable workhorse of a ball carrier. Due to a late-season transfer and an injury, Ainias Smith transitioned over from wide receiver to running back. The move proved to be worthwhile, and the new position will become his permanent home. Plus, Achane seems to have put on a lot of muscle, and, according to Coach Jimbo Fisher, has been working at running back too.
No matter how the Aggies want to move the football – run, pass, RPO, jet sweep, etc. – the list of who could carry/catch the rock is lengthy. Players like Smith and Achane can play multiple positions, and catch the ball from out wide or out of the backfield. Mond will have his options to throw to and a deep stall of running backs to keep the defense in check. Even if one player is having an off game, the Aggies will have plenty of mediums to work through.
Tough And Mature
There have been many talented teams in the past who have failed to succeed because they did not have an identity (i.e. Texas A&M circa 2015). They may have had weapons and depth, but could never really pick a persona that solidified who that particular team was. A lack of identity leads to indecision and it becomes hard to get in a rhythm and build momentum. In fact, it is often the team that knows their strengths and weaknesses more fully that is able to defeat a more talented squad.
It was tough in 2019 for the Aggies to really decide who they were. Sure, they were strong in the box, defensively. Few teams had any success running the ball against them. The passing game was fairly decent, but the offensive line was too inconsistent to really establish a true identity on offense. Multiple games were won in very different fashions. This certainly is not a knock on versatility. In fact, it is an argument in favor of. The more a team knows its own strengths and weaknesses, the more it is able to successfully accomplish and stay away from poor schemes.
Texas A&M Aggies’ 2020 Identity
This season, it appears the Aggies know who they are. They are tough and mature, with a solid front seven, and a plethora of options on offense. That’s their identity. The offensive line is as strong as it has been in a long while, giving their fourth-year-starter of a quarterback plenty of time to work through progressions. While their secondary is not as polished as Alabama’s or Ohio State’s, their front seven will take the load of their DB’s backs. That is who the Aggies are in 2020.
Their identity is one many teams would love to have, but not the only avenue of success. Still, the fact that they have an identity may be the last thing the Aggies need to take them from fringe dark-horse to perennial national contender.