Leading up to the start of the college football season, The Red & Black will preview each of the 13 teams Georgia plays alongside in the Southeastern Conference. Today, The Red & Black takes a look at the Texas A&M Aggies.
7-6 (4-4 SEC); 5th in SEC West
Summary of last season
Texas A&M led UCLA 44-10 late in the third quarter of the Aggies’ opening game of the 2017 season. While victory seemed certain, the Aggies melted down and lost 45-44, putting then head coach Kevin Sumlin firmly on the hot seat. Texas A&M would win five of its next six games, with the lone loss coming in a competitive loss to Alabama. But the Aggies would melt down late in the year, as had happened in previous years under Sumlin, and the group finished 7-6. Sumlin’s crew did pick up a solid win against South Carolina in Week Five, but blowout losses to LSU and Mississippi State led Sumlin out the door after six seasons.
Jimbo takes the reigns
The Aggies made the biggest splash of the college football offseason by luring Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State to become the Aggies’ new head coach. The school gave Fisher a colossal 10-year, $75 million contract in December, underlining the school’s national championship expectations.
Fisher is a man with an elite background. He went 83-23 in eight seasons as the head coach of the Seminoles, including a 14-0 national championship season in 2013. But 2017 was a bit of a disaster at Florida State, and he resigned before the regular season finale with the Seminoles sitting at 5-6.
Fisher’s salary brings high expectations, and he has gotten off to a strong start on the recruiting trail. But, as things currently stand, the Aggies appear a couple of years away from legitimate SEC or national title contention.
Key returning players
Trayveon Williams, running back - Over his first two seasons at Texas A&M, Williams has rushed for 1855 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. The speedy junior also packs some weight onto his 5-foot-9 frame and could benefit greatly from offensive expertise of Fisher. He has also been durable, playing in 25 games over his first two seasons. Now heading into his third season, Williams could be the focal point of the offense with the Aggies’ quarterback battle between Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond still playing itself out. Also, Fisher has shown to produce great running backs in the past, as he coached NFL stars Devonta Freeman and Dalvin Cook at the collegiate level.
Landis Durham, defensive end - Durham exploded onto the scene as a junior in 2017. After playing sparingly in his first two seasons, Durham racked up 10.5 sacks and emerged as one of the premier pass rushers in the SEC. As Fisher looks to change the culture in his first year, he can lean on Durham on defense to be an anchor.
The Aggies have an absolutely brutal 2018 schedule. They will go on the road to face Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State while also hosting Clemson in Week Two. Fisher will have a tough go in his first season but he is a good enough coach, and the Aggies have enough talent, to be an interesting team. They will also have a chance for a program-building win against LSU at home in the regular season finale, something that could carry momentum into next season. Eight wins for the Aggies would be a successful benchmark in 2018.