COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS
2006 RECORD: 9-4; BIG 12: 5-3
Lost Holiday Bowl vs. California 45-10
LOCATION: College Station, Texas
STADIUM: Kyle Field (82,600)
HEAD COACH: Dennis Franchione
OVERALL: 180-96-2 (24 seasons)
AT TEXAS A & M: 25-23 (4 seasons)
At College Station, we have a historically strong football school in the midst of a resurgence. Two years ago, the Aggies finished 5-6 and last season improved to 9-4, including a win over Texas in Austin as they made their second bowl appearance under Coach Fran. However, they did lose four games, including a blow out to Cal in the Holiday Bowl and squeaked by Kansas, Oklahoma St. and Army by a total of eight points in three of their wins. They may need to be better just to reach last season’s win total of nine. However, there is little argument that they are going in the right direction and if some of the youngsters are ready for primetime, the Aggies could even exceed expectations.
WHEN THE AGGIES HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Les Koenning (5th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 9
KEY LOSSES: L’Tydrick Riley, Chad Schroeder, Jason Jack
Under center for the Aggies is one of, if not the most underrated player in America in Stephen McGee. The junior signal caller may not possess the ideal skill set that pro scouts look for, however he knows how to play (and win) at the college level. McGee led an attack that topped 2000 yards in the air and on the ground, contributing to both. He is accurate and makes great decisions, which leads to very few costly errors. If his receivers step up, he can have an even better season, especially if immensely talented tight end Martellus Bennett has the type of year many are waiting for. On the ground, McGee, a capable runner himself, has all the help he needs in Mike Goodson and Jorvorskie Lane, if anything the coaching staff may struggle with getting each back enough touches. Lane is the quintessential short yardage back, excelling in the red zone and on converting third downs, with more dance in his step than you would think for someone of his size. Goodson is the burner, with the ability to take one to the house anytime he has the ball in his hands. The combination is impossible to stop…you try chasing down Goodson after taking a pounding from Lane or taking Lane head on after Woodson has worn you out with his extra gear. In addition, opponents will have to deal with A & M’s best offensive line in a few years.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Martellus Bennett (JR), 2) Mike Goodson (SO), 3) Cody Wallace (SR), 4) Jorvorskie Lane (JR), 5) Yemi Babalola (JR), 6) Corey Clark (SR), 7) Kirk Elder (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Gary Darnell (2nd Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 6
KEY LOSSES: Justin Warren, Melvin Bullitt
The pass defense jumped from 117th in nation two years ago to 44th last season and should be even better this year. A pair of sophomores took their lumps in 2006 and the dividends should pay off this season. Jordan Peterson remains at corner, while Jordan Pugh moves from corner to safety in the Aggies 4-2-5 alignment. Joining Pugh at safety are Devin Gregg and a third sophomore in Alton Dixon, forming a trio that has the staff at College Station very excited. At linebacker, they return a pair of solid seniors in Misi Tupe and Mark Dodge. Of the veterans, defensive end Chris Harrington is the most reliable, while tackle Red Bryant possesses the most potential. If he can have an All-Big 12 type season, disrupting opponents from the interior, who knows how far the Aggies can go.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Red Bryant (SR), 2) Chris Harrington (SR), 3) Jordan Pugh (SO), 4) Devin Gregg (SO), 5) Jordan Peterson (SO), 6) Misi Tupe (SR), 7) Henry Smith (SR)
The Aggies are confident heading into their fifth season under Coach Fran and with good reason. If that confidence is to translate into wins, they must handle four programs that have had their way with them the past few seasons. In addition to Oklahoma and Texas, Texas Tech has had a better run in recent years, while Nebraska of the Big 12 North has also taken care of the Aggies head-to-head. In their last five meetings against all four programs, A & M is 1-4, which is simply not good enough. Last season, in addition to their win at Texas, they lost to Tech by four, to Nebraska by one and to Oklahoma by one so they are getting closer. They play three of the four on the road, with UT coming to College Station with revenge on the mind. They also play at Miami for their first test of the season.
The development of their defense: In addition to the youth in the secondary, A & M could use the likes of ends Michael Bennett and Cyril Obiozor, as well tackle Kellen Heard to progress. Obiozor recorded 37 stops as a sophomore, ten more than Bennett, who made six tackles behind the line of scrimmage. At 6’6”/330 pounds Heard has the size to be an impact player and did break into the backfield for 2.5 sacks in his freshman campaign. At linebacker, sophomore Matt Featherston is more in the “Wrecking Crew” mold than the veterans are.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
I am a fan of the Aggies, especially McGee, who displayed moxie when making his first start as a freshman in Austin when subbing for an injured Reggie McNeal. He can make the plays necessary to win games, combined with backs Goodson and Lane -- they form a backfield trio as good as any in the country. There is enough ability to crack the top ten, especially if the afore-mentioned defenders, as well as some on offense, come through. Nevertheless, it is hard to see them passing both the Sooners and Longhorns, possibly one, but not both.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #19 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown