Texas A&M Aggies
The 2010 Texas A&M season could be divided in two sections a season ago. Part one was when the Aggies started 3-3 and looked dead in the water but part two was a surprisingly hot 6-1 finish although the team did lose to LSU in the Cotton Bowl. It was no coincidence that the team was ignited when Mike Sherman replaced Jerrod Johnson with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. With a successful finish to 2010 the question is can Tannehill take this team to the next level with a full season at the helm. Of course the fans are expecting nothing less so the bar has been set.
Tannehill was solid behind center with over 1,600 passing yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions and could approach elite status with a full year and a bevy of talent around him. The rushing attack was dealt a blow when Christine Michael broke his leg half way through 2010 while finishing with over 840 yards but Cyrus Gray (1,133 yards) was there to carry the load and with both back this season the ground game has the potential to be special. Tannehill has a full compliment of receivers back in the fold led by Jeff Fuller (72-1,066) who is destined to play on Sundays. Fuller forms a formidable pass catching tandem with Ryan Swope (72-825) to give Texas A&M one of the best receiving corps in the country. The key to the passing attack however could be how the offensive line performs after a suspect 2010 in which the Aggies in the bottom third nationally in sacks allowed and 11 th in the conference. With four starters back the talent and experience is in place to improve significantly in this area and keep Tannehill upright.
The obvious difference in the Texas A&M defense in 2010 was a switch to a 3-4 alignment and the impact was immediate. Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter (Air Force) implemented the change that took the Aggies from allowing 170 yards on the ground in 2009 to 130 a season ago. The front three will feature more size if the addition of JUCO transfer LaMarc Strahan (365 lbs) comes about. If not, the line still has good size and should once again be tough to run on. Their weakness has been rushing the passer and that job will fall on the line backing crew, however with the loss of Butkus Award winner Von Miller the Aggies must replace 10.5 sacks and 17.5 TFL. Damontre Moore replaces Miller and has the potential to approach some of those numbers with his great speed but he has off field distractions could effect his playing time. Sean Porter is another player to watch with 74 tackles (3 rd ) in 2010 and is not only a threat in the pass rush but also is a reliable cover man. Garrick Williams flew under the radar a bit with Miller grabbing the headlines but he was second on the team with 112 tackles. The secondary returns all four starters but the problem is at cornerback where Coryell Judie is coming back from a knee injury and shoulder issues while Terrance Frederick is banged up as well. Not an ideal situation if both are hindered against some potent Big 12 passing attacks.
Randy Bullock hit 18 of 26 field goals and isn’t great from long range but has the job for one more year. The Texas A&M punt situation is a worry with Ryan Epperson averaging less than 38 yards but does kick them high and most are not returnable. Kenric McNeal returns punts once again but the strength of the return game is Coryell Judie and his whopping 30.2 yard average with a pair of touchdowns in 2010.
With the most starters back in the conference Texas A&M is loaded on both sides of the ball. The schedule also has the Aggies at home against Oklahoma State, Texas and Missouri which are pivotal to just how far this team goes this season. If the cards fall right than the Aggies could match or surpass last season’s win total and make the Sooners work for the Big 12 title.