As the Texas Aggies prepare for their second consecutive road trip in SEC league play, let’s take a quick look back at last season to gain some additional perspective.
The 2012 season was nothing short of phenomenal, especially the last six games. It’s been written about and diagnosed but the Aggies were firing on all cylinders and looked as though they could beat any team in the country, on any given Saturday. They were certainly considered legitimate national title contenders for the next season once the final seconds elapsed off the clock at the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
Flash forward to 2013 and the Aggies are 4-1, a record prognosticated by most at this juncture. One would assume immense jubilation from the Aggie faithful, as the only loss has come from the No. 1 team in the nation, the Alabama Crimson Tide, and it was a closely contested game at that.
However, as with all great expectations there also come harsh realities. The reality of 2012 was we were not playing cohesive, assignment football by the fifth, sixth or even seventh games — even though we were a senior-laden squad. Let’s take a look at some of the specific offensive and defensive areas of concern.
The much heralded offensive line had difficulty transitioning from a 3-point-stance to the 2-point stance of the ‘Air-Raid’ style. Many questioned why the line looked so shaky early on; however, it’s not too complicated if you look at it in plain terms. In a three-point stance, the linemen fire out, taking a step forward. In a two point stance, the first step is backwards. It doesn’t seem like a huge transition, but it took a veteran squad four to five games before they began to look like one of the better units in the country.
Why am I bringing this up now? If it takes a veteran unit 4 to 5 games to pick up a new scheme, how long might it realistically take for an inexperienced player to pick up a new position, technique and responsibility?
On the defensive side of the ball, there were high expectations for 2013. After all, first year Defensive Coordinator Mark Snyder took what was thought to be the weak link — the defensive line — and molded it into a major strength. If he was able to accomplish this with former 2-star players like Spencer Nealy, what might he do with 4-star standouts? I must admit I had high expectations and believed we would not miss a beat. But then I saw the defensive line against Rice this season and reality set in.
After the initial shock subsided, I looked at the film and objectively saw the truth; we are lacking experience in all but two or three positions on defense.
Defensive underclassmen gaining experience
It’s well known by now the Aggies are playing a number of true freshman and underclassmen with little or no game experience. They have truly experienced baptism-by-fire in Mark Snyder’s complex, multiple set, defensive philosophies.
Not only have these younger players been forced to adjust to the overall speed of the game, but they have also had to face new responsibilities each week. Every offense they have seen this season has been markedly different in its approach. The players’ responsibilities and keys change so rapidly that it’s easy to understand why they appear to lack aggressiveness or sometimes look lost, altogether. It’s referred to as “learning on the job.” Tackling fundamentals have been noticeably absent. That, too, can be attributed to indecision that comes from not having played many games.
Understandably, most fans don’t want to hear excuses; they want improvement, and they want it yesterday. However, fans need to keep this in mind — it is not the players; it is not the coaches; it is not the caliber of player being recruited. It is simply a lack of experience, similar to what the offensive line had to face last season. It may take seven or eight games before we notice major strides on defense, but rest assured it will happen. It already has, to a small degree, through five games this season. Next year’s defense will likely meet this year’s expectation with relative ease.
This week Texas A&M and their explosive offense will take on Ole Miss, a team they have never lost to going 5-0 all time, followed by a home stand against Auburn where Texas A&M football tickets are averaging $236.