Texas A&M Aggies
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
2018 Record: 9-4, 5-3 Conference
Bowl: 52-13 win over NC State at Gator Bowl
O/U 7.5 wins (O -120, U -110)
To Make Final 4: Yes +2500, No -10000
Texas A&M was moderately successful in its first season under Jimbo Fisher. It won nine games. It beat LSU. And on top of that, it finished No. 2 in the SEC West Division and ended a three-year skid in Bowl Games. All of that is solid progress, but this year could prove tougher for a number of reasons. The team is very young, and despite plenty of talent at the skill positions there are holes at a number of key positions at well; namely, running back, tight end, and the linebacker positions. The Aggies also have a really tough schedule that will cut them little slack in bettering last season’s win total. Vegas oddsmakers agree, setting the line for season wins at 7.5— a 1.5 game regression from last season’s relative success.
Quarterback Kellen Mond is hoping to take the next step as a big-time NCAA QB. Last year, he was No. 4 in the SEC in total offense with 3,581 yards, but he lacked consistency and that is what separated him from the true elite both in the conference and nationally. Texas A&M does return all its receivers, and Quartney Davis had 45 catches and seven TDs a year ago. Jhamon Ausbon and Kendrick Rogers are both big-time playmakers but have consistency issues. The loss of All-American Jace Sternberger to the NFL will leave a hole at tight end. True freshman Baylor Cupp will fill it, if not sophomore Glenn Beal. Beal is the lead for the job right now, but Cupp has more upside.
The Aggies have to replace All-SEC running back Trayveon Williams, too. Sophomore Jashuan Corbin is one of the options, while Cordarrian Richardson transferred from UCF and brings a lot of power running to the backfield. The offensive line helped Williams set a school record with 1,760 yards, and Dan Moore Jr., Carson Green, and Jared Hocker all return as proven weapons on that OL. Ryan McCollum moves from guard to center, as Erik McCoy is gone. The guard spots will be occupied by two of the following: Marcus Jenkins, Luke Matthews, and freshman five-star recruit Kenyon Green. The OL should be good and if the running backs are ready, they can feast on the holes it will create just like Williams did in 2018.
Mike Elko is attempting to keep his defense a top stopper of the run. The pass defense, however, needs a lot of work, after finishing No. 12 of 14 in the SEC. DT Justin Madubuike had 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, but he is the only returning starter of the front seven. The front four, however, should still be plenty strong with sophomore tackle Bobby Brown III poised to improve tremendously. Jayden Peevy is one of the best reserves at his position, as well. The defensive end issues abound, too, though. Michael Clemons is recovered from his foot injury and the 6’5” 272-pound junior was said to be unstoppable in spring workouts.
Tyree Johnson showed plenty of signs last season, as well. Demarvin Leal is another five-star recruit who should be an outstanding player from day one. Linebacker has some holes, but Buddy Johnson is the most experienced with his 47 career tackles. Anthony Hines III is attempting to return from a knee injury, but if he is ready that will be a major boon to the LB group.
Ikenna Okeke is another good player who converted from playing safety. The LB issues will be addressed in due time simply because of the outstanding recruiting, but it has yet to be seen just how good the group can actually be in the SEC. The secondary features CBs Debione Renfro and Charles Oliver, with safety Derrick Tucker attempting to come back from a lackluster 2018. Junior CB Myles Jones also will factor into the mix, and CB Clifford Chattman missed the last two years but is expected to add some depth to the secondary, as well.
Branden Mann made the All-American team as a punter while setting a number of NCAA records. Seth Small was not as great as a kicker, after hitting his first five field goals and then simply falling apart thereafter. Roshauud Paul is a good punt returner, and Corbin averaged 30.1 yards on kick off returns. Corbin’s role as the No. 1 back may limit his returns this year, though.
The Aggies could be a better team this year while winning fewer games. Thank a tougher schedule for that, as well as teams simply understanding the Aggies M.O. under Fisher far better. It might be a tough pill to swallow seeing the win total regress, but fans have to know this team is taking the steps in the right directions, even so.
Prediction: 8 wins (over)