Texas A&M was a popular early season pick. Phil Steele and Athlon had them going to BCS Bowls and we aren't guilt free either as we projected them at #10. Come mid-season we had them listed as one our of most overrated teams. Was it bad coaching, an over estimation of talent or a little of both? When it came down to it, A&M made the decision to fire Mike Sherman as their coach after 4 years of 25-25 football.
Sherman had shown improvement every year in his first three years. This was supposed to be his year to break through but instead the Aggies underperformed finishing the regular season just 6-6 and 4-5 in the conference. Some of the different names linked as possiblities for the A&M job were Tommy Tuberville, Charlie Strong, Kirby Smart and even Georgia's Mark Richt. When the dust settled the Aggies went with Houston's Kevin Sumlin.
Sumlin is an interesting choice because of his lack of Head Coaching experience at the highest levels of college football. Sumlin is from the South (born in Alabama) and has coached in the Pac-12 (GA at Wazzu), Big Ten (WR Coach at Purdue, QB/WR Coach at Minnesota) and Big 12 (OC at Texas A&M, TE/ST/WR Coach at Oklahoma). He definitely has the assistant coach resume as he's been around the block and has seen and done alot in the upper regions of college football. As a Head Coach his first gig was at Houston where he went 35-17.
One question we have is how good of a coach will Kevin Sumlin be without Case Keenum? Keenum was a soph in 2008 when Sumlin took over and kept the starting job through this year leading Sumlin to records of 8-5 in 2008, 10-4 in 2009, 5-7 in 2010 and 12-1 in 2011. Wait, 5-7 in 2010? That was the year Case Keenum got injured in the third game of the season.
Sumlin has a strong background as an offensive mind at Texas A&M, Houston and Oklahoma and should be able to field a good offense at Texas A&M if he can find a QB to replace Ryan Tannehill. The Aggies lose Jeff Fuller and Cyrus Gray but Christine Michael, Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu are all juniors this season. The problem for Sumlin might be that he hasn't gone up against defenses like LSU and Alabama (at least recently) and he will have the tall order of playing against them and the likes of Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State in year one in the SEC so he will have to match wits with the likes of Nick Saban, Les Miles, Bobby Petrino and Dan Mullen right off the bat.
Sumlin is described as a good recruiter but against the odds at Houston he didn't fair so well. At Houston, Scout.com ranked his 2011 class as #75 in the FBS which put him way behind another in-state C-USA team SMU (which finished 45th). That also put Houston behind Memphis, Tulsa and Toledo. Obviously he will have a lot more to sell at Texas A&M then he did at Houston but it is at least a little concerning that he couldn't out-recruit the likes of Memphis or two teams going after some of the same players like SMU or Tulsa.
Another concern is the defense at Houston. Despite going 12-1 Houston gave up 386 yards per game this year which ranked them 64th in the Nation. Houston did see a significant increase (or decrease in this case) in points allowed as they allowed 23.1 this season after allowing more than 30 points per game in Sumlin's first three seasons.
With question marks in recruiting and defense and the fact that Sumlin is jumping head first into the shark infested waters of the SEC West, he is going to have to go out and get a strong staff of work-a-holics. He needs a staff full of young and hungry go-getters mixed with just a couple of old vets that call help steer him in the right direction when it's needed. Overall, I think this can be a good hire. Sumlin is young and energetic and if given time he can succeed at A&M. But it might be the right hire at the wrong time. Will the A&M fanbase allow Sumlin time to get his feet under him? They just experienced a disappointing season after expecting to be a Top 10 team. Now they are trading the Big 12 for the SEC and they want a strong first season in the SEC so they don't get the "I told you so's" and the finger pointing from their in-state neighbors. Texas A&M is a really good job. Sumlin is a good coach. Only time will tell if this match is made at the right time and if it will pay off for both of them in the end.
Texas A&M Fan Take from Jeremy Hicks
So just finished listening to the Kevin Sumlin press conference for Texas A&M. It pretty much went as expected, thought he handle every question well, especially one in regards to being the first black head coach at Houston and at Texas A&M. So far, so good.
Personally, I think he's far from a safe hire. I think he's a high risk, high reward guy...and the other side of that token? He could go down in flames in two and half years. I find myself rather neutral on the hire, I definitely don't feel any ire toward it and I think a young, aggressive head coach is what this program needed. That's what we just got, so it should be an interesting lead up to signing week as well as off-season.
What I believe is the biggest area for excitement is watching him mold our offense and play calling around our personnel. In my opinion, each of the three quarterbacks we have on the roster at the moment: Jamiell Showers (3 star), Matt Joeckel (4 star), and Johnny Manziel (Parade All-American and Offensive Player of the Year last year in high school) will be better than Ryan Tannehill. We return our entire offensive line. We return Ben Malena, Christine Michael, and bring in 4-star RB Marion Grice out of Blinn Community College right outside of college station. We have Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu at the receiver positions. We'll have great personnel to keep a great offensive moving, so seeing what he does with all of those weapons and potential is exciting considering his track record with Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma and Case Keenum at Houston.
Overall, I think he'll do okay his first year. Considering we'll play Ole Miss and a few other beatable SEC teams, 8-4 isn't out of the question. But, just as there is a big reason for excitement, our defense is a big reason for concern. We all saw how putrid our pass defense was. Granted, our offense was often putting our defense in terrible spots in the second half, Sumlin is going to have to work with coach DeRuyter to get the right personnel in place on both sides of the ball and have a conditioning program that gets our boys ready for the rigors of SEC football.
Bottom line: he's got everything he needs to be successful. Now, let's see if he can get the job done.
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