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Aggie Logic: A Discussion With A Texas A&M Fan

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Texas A&M is one of my favorite Big 12 schools to watch. Maybe its because their band could serve as a militia group and be mobilized for combat in less than 24 hours. Perhaps it’s their tradition and yells or maybe it could be because they helped OU win the Big 12 championship in 2006 by knocking off Texas in the final weekend of the season.

 

There is no doubt that Texas A&M has fallen on hard times recently but under first year head coach Mike Sherman the Aggies are seeing a glimmer of hope. I was able to visit with a Texas A&M fan who goes by the name, “Beergut” and publishes the Texas A&M fansite, I Am The 12th Man. Despite the current state of Aggie football he’s pretty upbeat and positive. Not just about the game this weekend but about the program in general. All of my questions are in bold followed by his responses.    

 

After losing three games in a row the Aggies have now won back-to-back games. Have they improved or are they benefactors of playing the lower tier teams from the north?

 

The one gratifying thing about this season is that we have improved game-by-game. Every time we're going out on the field, we're getting better, and when you're losing games like we have been, you need something to hang your hat on to stay positive, and we've been able to see improvement game-by-game.

 

Playing Iowa State and Colorado has no doubt been a nice respite from playing teams in the Big 12 South, but that is more a statement of the strength of the South than it is a comment on Iowa State and Colorado's weakness. When you have one division of a conference that has 4 teams ranked in the national top 10, playing outside of that division is always going to be preferred.

 

Our recent success is not due to playing mediocre competition, however. You will remember that we played Kansas State earlier in the season, and still managed to lose to them, despite the fact that they are not a very good team.

 

We're still learning to win, and the first part of learning to win is eliminating the things that cause you to lose, like turnovers. In our win over Colorado, we won the turnover battle, and won the game despite producing less than 100 yds of total offense in the first half. Our defense came up big for us and made enough plays to keep us in the game until our offense was able to get untracked in the third quarter. We wouldn't have been able to win that game at the beginning of this season, but that is part of improving as a team and learning to win.

 

The Jerrod Johnson era appears to have begun in College Station . Tell us a little about his strengths and weaknesses.

 

Strengths: strong arm, sees the field well, accurate passer (63% completion percentage) has the mobility to move in the pocket (very important since our offensive line is injury-riddled and spotty, at best, in blocking), has some size, so he can be difficult to tackle

 

Weaknesses: only started 7 games, has a bad habit of not always protecting the ball when running, so can be somewhat susceptible to being stripped

 

Texas A&M ranks 10th in the conference in points allowed per game at 32.6. What happened to the Wrecking Crew and what is their best chance to slow Oklahoma ’s offense?

 

Well, I would argue that we ceased to be the Wrecking Crew the minute Dennis Franchione arrived on campus. Whenever someone asks me what happened to A&M's defense, I ask them when we've had a good defense in the last 5 seasons (Fran's whole tenure)?

 

In a nutshell, we traded the speed that was the trademark of the Wrecking Crew for strength, which means while we're bigger, we're slower at getting to the point of attack, so we often arrive at the spot to stop the play a second too late, which means we give up a lot of big plays. This season, Joe Kines is working with a lot of the players Fran left him with, players who work hard but just aren't very fast.

 

We have a youth movement going on defense (see safety Trent Hunter), but it will be at least another season before we get the speed we need on the field on defense.

 

As for how to stop Oklahoma's offense, our best bet is to keep them off the field with our offense. Better defenses than A&M's have failed to slow or stop OU's offense, so I'm not too optimistic about our chances. I think the best chance to stop OU's offense is to get a strong push from the front four and put pressure on Bradford, but while Michael Bennett is doing a good job for us at DE, I don't think our DT play is strong enough up the middle to pressure Bradford. Our 1-techs don't consistently demand a double-team, which frees up an OG to help double Bennett.  Two true freshmen are seeing extensive time at NT and DT in Eddie Brown and Tony Jerod-Eddie, but both are undersized, Brown weighing 265 lbs and Eddie at 256 lbs. They are both going to be good ones for us, but they need to add some size and strength.

 

Mike Sherman seems to almost be in the same mold as Dennis Franchione to me. Tell me why I’m wrong.

 

 I don't think you could be more wrong in comparing the two coaches.

 

Sherman is honest and pulls no punches. He tells it like it is, and is honest with the students, fans, and media. This is a breath of fresh air when compared to Fran, who was big on marketing and motivational ploys, but often let his media flunky Mike McKenzie run interference for him whenever someone asked him the hard questions. Fran made excuses for everything that went wrong; Sherman refuses to make excuses and keeps working hard.

 

Two weeks ago, before the Texas Tech game, Sherman wrote a letter to the students, which was published in the student newspaper, The Battalion. In the article, Sherman reviewed the season to that point, broke down what was going on with the team, what went wrong, what needed fixing, and what they were going to do. He was brutally honest, pulled no punches, and even critiqued himself and his fellow coaches. I have NEVER seen a head coach do that. I can GUARANTEE you Fran didn't possess the character or self-awareness needed to pull that off.

 

One of the biggest differences between Fran and Sherman is the play of the team. Under Fran in 2003, his first season, we started out bad and got worse as the season went on. We never improved as a team, and a big reason for that was because Fran was adamant about redshirting most of his freshman class, and started walk-ons at key positions when injuries mounted. Fran was willing to throw away his first season, and the players never bought in to his program. As a result, we had a split team, no chemistry, and a 4-8 record that was a lot uglier than it looks.

 

Under Sherman, the players have bought into what he and his coaching staff are teaching. They believe and it is showing on the field. As the season has gone on, this team has improved by leaps and bounds. Sherman has pulled the redshirts off of many of our players, trying to get the best players on the field regardless of experience, and it trying to win NOW.

 

Also, one of the biggest complaints fans had about Franchione was the lack of halftime adjustments we would make during games. It often seemed that we had a game plan, and we were sticking with it, come hell or high water. With Sherman, it is obvious we make adjustments at halftime, and that has led to improved play and improved performance, and wins on the field.

 

College Station is one of the best venues in the country to watch a football game. How would you describe the game day atmosphere to someone who has never been there?

 

The best game day atmosphere in the nation, bar none. We have one of the loudest student bodies in the nation because they are constantly yelling and supporting the team all game long. Aggie fans are incredibly friendly and incredibly passionate about our football team. We take pride in being welcoming to visitors on game day, having them tailgate and have a good time with us in pre-game, yelling loudly for our team all game long, and then welcome them back to the tailgate for post game libations.

 

Any person visiting Kyle Field has to watch the students in between plays, just to watch them do yells, because it is quite a sight.

 

 I would also advise a visitor to remain in their seat during halftime, so they can watch the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band. Our game this Saturday is the final home game for the year, so it should be a terrific show as they send off the seniors in the Band

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If the Aggies win, stay to watch the Corps freshmen carry off the Yell Leaders, and follow them to watch them be dunked in Fish Pond, and then go to the YMCA Building to watch them lead the first yell practice for the next game. If the Aggies are outscored, watch the Yell Leaders lead the students in the singing of "The 12th Man", and then lead them in a yell practice after the game to prepare for the next game.