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Texas A&M Football: 2022 Aggies Season Preview and Prediction

Ainias Smith, Texas A&M Aggies Football

Ainias Smith and the Aggies are ranked No. 5 in Athlon Sports' Top 25 for the 2022 college football season

The visions of grandeur Texas A&M enjoyed when it hired head coach Jimbo Fisher may be finally coming into focus. Two seasons ago, the Aggies beat every opponent but Alabama. Last season, they defeated Alabama. Next, they aim to finish ahead of Alabama in the grueling SEC West Division race.

Obviously, that's easier said than done. Beating Alabama once is rare. Doing it in back-to-back seasons is almost unheard of.

But receiver Ainias Smith, All-America defensive back Antonio Johnson and 2021 Freshman All-America offensive linemen Bryce Foster and Reuben Fatheree II head a good nucleus of returning starters. Furthermore, A&M gets an influx of elite talent from a recruiting class that experts regard as perhaps the best ever.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022

Previewing Texas A&M's Offense for 2022

Injuries compromised the Aggies' offense last season. The costliest was to quarterback Haynes King, who sustained a broken leg early in the second game. Replacement Zach Calzada excelled in the upset of Alabama but largely struggled against other Power 5 opponents.

Though Calzada transferred to Auburn, King isn't guaranteed to reclaim the starting job. He's vying with transfer Max Johnson, who threw 27 touchdown passes and just six interceptions for LSU last season, and five-star prospect Conner Weigman.

Whoever wins the quarterback competition will throw to a good group of receivers with potential to be great. Smith has had 90 receptions and 12 touchdowns catches over the last two seasons. He can turn short-to-medium passes into big gains. A bona fide deep threat is desperately needed, though. Five-star freshman Evan Stewart could fill that role. He had an excellent spring and figures to make an immediate impact. Sophomore Muhsin "Moose" Muhammad III came on strong last year and may be ready to break out.

Junior running back Devon Achane may also break out. That is, assuming he hasn't already broken out. A world-class sprinter, Achane rushed for 910 yards last season as a backup. His carries should spike in the featured role.

He'll run behind an offensive line that should be improved at four of the five positions. Fatheree and Foster were excellent as freshmen and should be even better as sophomores. Junior guard Layden Robinson should be better, too. He played through injuries in 2021 but is now healthy. Redshirt freshman Trey Zuhn, once a high four-star prospect, will replace departed Jahmir Johnson at tackle. The biggest task is replacing two-time All-America guard Kenyon Green. Aki Ogunbiyi, who started four games, or four-star freshman Kam Dewberry are likely to replace Green.

Previewing Texas A&M's Defense for 2022

Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin supervised top-15 units at Florida in 2013 and '14 and at Michigan in '15. He aims to do the same now at Texas A&M. Durkin has a lot of talent with which to work, especially in the Aggies secondary, where four starters return.

Durkin's most difficult task might be deciding where to play junior Antonio Johnson. Johnson earned All-SEC and All-America honors as a nickel back in 2021, but he seems a perfect fit to replace Leon O'Neal at safety. The Aggies could have one of the best safety tandems in the country if he joins fourth-year starter Demani Richardson.

Johnson figures to make that move because the Aggies appear well stocked at cornerback. Starters Tyreek Chappell and Jaylon Jones return but face challenges to retain their starting roles.

Super senior Myles Jones, a starter in 2020, is back from an injury that forced him to miss almost all of last season. Sophomore Deuce Harmon flashed potential as a true freshman. Five-star prospect Denver Harris may be too good to keep off the field.

The Aggies project to be just as deep and talented up front. Defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson has been a productive part-time starter. He may be dominant in a full-time role. Jackson will have plenty of help in junior Isaiah Raikes, sophomore Shemar Turner and a quartet of five-star prospects headed by No. 1 overall recruit Walter Nolen and Floridians Shemar Stewart and Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy. A&M could be so deep inside that Turner may shift to end to join sophomores Fadil Diggs and Donell Harris.

Linebacker could be an area of concern. The Aggies allowed 62 running plays of 10 yards or more last season. That total has to drop. Sophomore Edgerrin Cooper showed promise and speed and had the fifth-highest tackle total as a true freshman. He'll join senior Andre White Jr., who made nine starts as a junior.

Related: SEC Football 2022 All-Conference Team

Previewing Texas A&M's Specialists for 2022

The return teams are explosive with Achane on kickoffs and Smith on punts. Achane averaged 33.4 yards. Smith averaged 11.3. Punter Nik Constantinou led the SEC with a 46.6-yard average. A replacement is needed for placekicker Seth Small. That could be Caden Davis, who kicked three field goals, including a 52-yarder, in the spring game.

Final Analysis

The Aggies might be a year away from a major challenge to win the SEC West. By then, they will have an experienced quarterback and more players from their celebrated recruiting class ready to contribute. But if injuries are avoided and key freshmen make immediate impacts, the Aggies could mount a challenge this year. They at least should contend for 10 wins.

National Ranking: 5

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