Tired of finishing in the lower half of the SEC West, Texas A&M bid good-bye to Kevin Sumlin and turned the reigns over to Jimbo Fisher. He did not come cheap ($75 million over 10 years), and the expectations are clear based on what Fisher was able to accomplish at Florida State - win a national championship. It probably won't happen this year, as Fisher looks to put his stamp on the Aggies, especially with the offense. He has pieces to work with but the offensive line is very much a work in progress. Fisher hired Mike Elko away from Notre Dame to improve a defense that gave up more than 30 points per game last season. Besides having to get acclimated to a new conference and go head-to-head with the likes of Alabama, Auburn and LSU, Fisher's debut in College Station also includes a visit from a familiar foe in Clemson.
Previewing Texas A&M Football's Offense for 2018
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A year ago, Texas A&M's offense was at times explosive, at times stagnant. The Aggies scored at least 44 points in three of their first four games but mustered fewer than 20 points three times in October. Perhaps coach Jimbo Fisher's pro-style scheme will foster more consistency. If not, maybe the fact that sophomore quarterbacks Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond now have a year of playing experience will.
Starkel closed last season as the starter and passed for 1,414 yards and 11 touchdowns in the last four games. However, Mond had good moments, too, and is a better runner.
No one on the roster runs better than speedy junior running back Trayveon Williams, who has rushed for more than 1,800 yards in his career and has seven touchdowns that have covered between 22 and 89 yards.
A&M is seeking a similar big-play threat to emerge at receiver. Jhamon Ausbon caught 50 passes as a true freshman. He averaged 11.4 yards, but that figure could spike as his role grows. Sophomore Camron Buckley showed flashes that he could be a deep threat, too. The Aggies also have big hopes for incoming freshman Jalen Preston, a four-star receiver who was one of the most coveted recruits in Texas.
Major improvement is needed in the line, where only junior center Erik McCoy has job security. Carson Green shows great promise at right tackle, but there are questions everywhere else. Sophomore Jared Hocker figures to unseat oft-injured senior Connor Lanfear at right guard. Koda Martin, the projected left tackle, transferred to Syracuse.
Previewing Texas A&M Football's Defense for 2018
Though A&M allowed at least 35 points in six games last season, there actually is great optimism that the Aggies will make giant strides under defensive coordinator Mike Elko.
Elko, hired away from Notre Dame, has material to work with. Senior end Landis Durham posted 10.5 sacks a year ago. Junior linebacker Tyrel Dodson and sophomore safety Derrick Tucker appear to be rising stars. Defensive tackles Kingsley Keke and Justin Madubuike are proven. Safety Donovan Wilson returns after missing almost all of last season because of injury.
The chief concerns are depth at defensive end and upgrading the play at cornerback, where inexperience with freshmen Debione Renfro and Myles Jones was frequently exploited last season. Clifford Chattman is expected to be the solution at one corner. He was lauded as the best on the roster before being ruled academically ineligible in '17. If Renfro, Jones or junior Charles Oliver makes progress, the secondary could go from liability to area of strength.
Previewing Texas A&M Football's Specialists for 2018
Placekicker Daniel LaCamera aims to build on a strong sophomore year in which he converted 17-of-20 field goal attempts and hit from 52 yards. The departure of Christian Kirk to the NFL leaves a big void in the return game.
Weary from four consecutive seasons with eight wins or fewer, A&M pulled off a major coup and lured Fisher to College Station. The Aggies have bet $75 million over 10 years that Fisher can duplicate the success he had at Florida State, where he won the 2013 national championship. Fisher inherits 15 returning starters and some top-flight talent. But the Aggies have lacked the physicality and depth to compete for championships in the rugged SEC. If significant strides are made in those areas, A&M could make a run at exceeding the eight-win plateau. Competing immediately for an SEC championship may be asking for too much too soon.