<
>

Why Texas A&M will -- or won't -- make a New Year's Six bowl

7/9/2015

Texas A&M enters its fourth year in the SEC. The Aggies have made some splashes since joining but haven't come close to winning an SEC title, coach Kevin Sumlin's primary goal.

More than $500 million in facilities renovations will be completed this fall when the new Kyle Field opens. The Aggies made a big offseason move on their coaching staff when they backed up the armored truck to hire former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis to repair a struggling defense.

After seasons of nine and eight wins in 2013 and 2014, respectively, expectations are rising in College Station, Texas. One step forward for the program would be making a New Year's Six bowl this season. As we begin to wind down our tour around the SEC examining each team’s future, we supply reasons why the Aggies will -- or won’t -- get it done.

Why Texas A&M will make a New Year's Six bowl:

John Chavis: The Aggies' most glaring weakness the past two seasons was their defense. In 2013 and 2014, Texas A&M finished last in the SEC in yards allowed per game and rushing defense. So the Aggies decided to hire one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the country, with two decades of SEC experience, to make it better. Will Texas A&M be a top-25 defense in 2015 under Chavis? That's likely asking way too much. The unit should, however, make enough improvement under "The Chief" to turn some of their losses into wins paired with its high-powered offense.

Offensive skill players: Texas A&M has a wealth of talent at its offensive skill positions. Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray -- the No. 1 ranked quarterbacks in the past two recruiting classes -- will compete for the starting quarterback job. Receiver Josh Reynolds returns after a breakout first season when he caught 13 touchdown passes, as does dynamic pass-catcher Speedy Noil, who showed flashes of brilliance in his true freshman campaign. Ricky Seals-Jones could be on tap for a breakout season. Leading rusher Tra Carson is back and will be part of a solid duo with sophomore James White.

The schedule: The Aggies received some good fortune from the schedule-makers this season. Texas A&M plays only three true road games -- at Ole Miss, at Vanderbilt and at LSU -- and the Aggies don't have to leave the state of Texas until Oct. 24 (Week 8) when they visit Oxford. Their season opener, though against a tough opponent (Arizona State) is a stone's throw from College Station at Houston's NRG Stadium. They meet Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the Aggies host their toughest SEC opponents at Kyle Field this season -- Alabama and Auburn. That's a favorable schedule for the maroon-and-white.

Why Texas A&M won't make a New Year's Six bowl:

Defensive depth: Though adding Chavis is nice, it's not like he was allowed to bring LSU players along with him. The Aggies still have depth issues on defense and question marks in key areas, particularly at linebacker (where virtually none of the projected starters practiced during spring football because of injury) and cornerback. When news emerged that running back Brandon Williams was getting work at cornerback, that raised eyebrows, making it clear the Aggies either need more depth at the position or aren't happy with their current crop. There are a few young potential future stars on defense, like defensive end Myles Garrett, safety Armani Watts and linebacker Otaro Alaka, but there are still a lot of uncertainties.

Youth: There are still a lot of key players on this team who are young. The Aggies will be young at the most important position -- quarterback -- with either Allen or Murray starting (Allen has five starts under his belt, Murray will be a true freshman). Noil and Reynolds will be in just their second years on campus; true freshman Christian Kirk could find his way onto the field, too. Texas A&M is also young at safety and linebacker. The defensive line, though experienced, has a few young players as well -- at defensive end in particular. More could join the lineup, like true freshman defensive tackle Daylon Mack. That can be tough for a team that wants to contend in a league like the SEC.