By all accounts, the 2018 season on the gridiron was highly successful for the Texas A&M Aggies. The program welcomed Jimbo Fisher as the team’s new leader and the former Florida State Seminoles head coach went right to work bringing a new look and physical element to the style of play on the field. The squad posted a 9-4 season making a two-game jump in the win column and setting the tone for years to come.
Breaking down the Aggies' 2018 season, two of the losses were to Clemson and Alabama, the top two teams in the country. The other two losses came at the tail end of a grueling three-game road trip, falling to tough teams in Mississippi State and Auburn. Some dramatic things changed for A&M leading to the new winning ways, an improvement in yards per game (472 vs. 407 in 2017) going from a spread attack to a pro-style set and a defense that improved dramatically, from 78th in the nation (409 ypg) all the way to 32nd (349).
With a talented squad returning, there are lots of reasons for optimism in College Station as the fans look to the 2019 season with the Maroon and White Game scheduled for April 13.
1. Year 2 under Jimbo Fisher
Fans have to be optimistic about the amount of talent returning to the team in 2019 with a year in Fisher's offensive and defensive schemes to lean on. The team lost four players (Tyrel Dodson, Erik McCoy, Trayveon Williams, and Jace Sternberger) early to the NFL draft but should have six starters back on offense and six back on defense to provide balance and leadership. The 2018 recruiting haul landed 13 four-star players and the 2019 class is currently ranked third in the SEC with two five-stars and 13 four-star signees. The Aggies will have top talent to reload in 2019.
2. Kellen Mond
Fisher has long been regarded for his work with quarterbacks, and a look at Mond's numbers in 2018 only enforces this notion. Mond improved his completion percentage (from 52 to 57), while more than doubling his passing yards (1,375 vs. 3,107), and tripling his touchdown passes (8 vs. 24). When Fisher had Florida State at its height in 2013-14, Jameis Winston threw for 4,057 yards and 40 scores followed by 3,907 and 25. One might not expect Mond to do exactly the same, but if he can throw for 430 yards and three touchdowns without a pick against Clemson in just his second game in Fisher’s offense, there is hope that he will be able to play at such a high level consistently.
Life in the SEC is tough, especially in the West where the slate is unrelenting and one extended grind. But Texas A&M does catch a few breaks with its schedule this fall. The Aggies' three toughest games may be road contests against Clemson (Sept. 7), Georgia (Nov. 23), and LSU (Nov. 30). The back-to-back games with the Bulldogs and Tigers could decide the SEC West. Eight of A&M's 12 games will be played in Texas, including the annual Southwest Classic in Arlington against Arkansas (Sept. 28). The Aggies also get a bye ahead of hosting Alabama (Oct. 12). If A&M can split the Clemson-Alabama showdowns and the Georgia-LSU games, a two-loss season could be possible. If the Aggies pull off an upset (more like three) along the way, then it's possible a trip to the SEC Championship Game and/or spot in the College Football Playoff could be in the mix.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.