Coach: Kevin Sumlin (28-11, entering fourth season at A&M, 63-28 seven seasons overall)
2014 record: 8-5, 3-5 in Southeastern Conference; sixth place in West Division
Look back: The post-Johnny Manziel era produced fewer headlines, points and wins in College Station.
Without Manziel, the 2012 Heisman-winning quarterback, Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin’s offense did not miss a beat with Kenny Hill under center during a 52-28 season-opening rout of South Carolina. But A&M’s attack slowed down during the heart of SEC play and could not camouflage the Aggies’ issues on defense.
After a 5-0 start, A&M loss three straight games and five of six SEC contests to close the season. The Aggies defense allowed an average of 28.1 points — 39.8 during SEC losses — and was 109th in the nation against the run.
Sumlin did, however, find his quarterback of the future. Hill’s November suspension forced freshman Kyle Allen into the lineup. Allen threw at least three touchdowns in three games, including four during an MVP performance in the Liberty Bowl.
Offensive starters returning: 6
Offensive starters lost: 5
Defensive starters returning: 6
Defensive starters lost: 5
Key losses: OT Cedric Ogbuehi, WR Malcome Kennedy, CB Deshazor Everett, RB Trey Williams, QB Kenny Hill, K Josh Lambo
Top returnees: QB Kyle Allen, DE Myles Garrett, WR Josh Reynolds, C Mike Matthews, WR Speedy Noil, WR Ricky Seals-Jones, DT Alonzo Williams, S Armani Watts, P Drew Kaser
Strengths: Kyle Allen’s emergence at quarterback should give the Aggies’ one of the nation’s top passing attacks in 2015. A&M is absolutely loaded at wide receiver, with Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones.
Reynolds, a junior college transfer, set a school record with 13 touchdown catches and averaged 16.2 yards a reception despite playing with a bum shoulder that required offseason surgery. Noil also is a top return man coaches can move around to get touches in other ways on offense. He and Seals-Jones combined for 1,048 receiving yards and nine scores as first-year players. Add to the mix five-star recruit Christian Kirk, who enrolled early and shined during spring drills.
Sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett might be the most talented defensive player in the league and gives new defensive coordinator John Chavis a nice weapon to build around. Garrett set an SEC freshman record with 11.5 sacks and blocked a field goal the Aggies returned for a touchdown to upset Auburn.
Weaknesses: Questions abound at linebacker and cornerback. Sophomore linebacker Otaro Alaka capped his freshman season with defensive MVP honors in the Liberty Bowl against West Virginia. Senior cornerback De’Vante Harris will be a fourth-year starter looking to thrive in Chavis’ press coverage after three seasons of inconsistency.
Outlook: Once again, coach Kevin Sumlin should have a high-powered offense led by Allen and the SEC’s top receiving corps.
The Aggies hope to capitalize on a favorable schedule. Texas A&M hosts Alabama and Auburn and plays just three games outside the state of Texas — the first Oct. 24 at Ole Miss.
Sept. 5 Arizona State (in Houston)
Sept. 12 Ball State
Sept. 19 Nevada
Sept. 26 Arkansas (in Arlington, Texas)
Oct. 3 Mississippi State
Oct. 17 Alabama
Oct. 24 at Ole Miss
Oct. 31 South Carolina
Nov. 7 Auburn
Nov. 14 Western Carolina
Nov. 21 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 28 at LSU
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com