5. Aggies beat Clemson in South Carolina
Now we’re getting really bold. Even though this may be a bold prediction, the Aggies almost beat the eventual National Champions in 2018. Granted it was at home and the Tigers had not really figured out how to use super-talented quarterback Trevor Lawernce yet, but that Aggie team was more similar to what we are going to see this year and the Tigers have lost a lot of talent.
For starters, the monster defensive line that Clemson had last year has been drafted. The pressure got to A&M last year, causing one of the biggest turnovers of the Aggie’s season. There is no doubt that they will have talented guys to fill the roles on the d-line, but it will not be near the same.
Secondly, highly intelligent and talented Hunter Renfrow has departed for the NFL as well. Sure, he only racked up 59 yards and four catches against the Ags in 2018, but it was his presence and leadership abilities where he struck most. The Burlsworth Trophy winner was a sense of security and a symbol of stability for the Tigers.
Him departing may not seem like much on the surface, but losing a beloved leader takes time to recoup from. If this matchup was any later in the season, it would make little difference. But this games this early in the year are where teams have to find their identity. Renfrow, while not overly impressive on the stat sheet, was a defining factor to the Tiger’s character.
One must consider the loss of Kelly Bryant as well. Against the Aggies, Bryant was a force, racking up 205 passing yards and a touchdown plus another TD on the ground. Bryant certainly was not what Trevor Lawrence was or will be, but he was still a nuisance to defenders.
With him off to Missouri, the Aggies can center their focus on studying film on just one quarterback. Sure, Lawrence can still get outside the pocket and even scramble when he needs to, but refined arms like his want to stay in the pocket, allowing the Aggies to focus more on the pass coverage.
But what of the Aggies?
What may make the biggest difference, though, is what A&M has been able to accomplish in regards to personnel. Let’s not forget that the Aggies had a pretty large turnover rate too, but they have also brought in a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. The offense could see three true freshmen get solid playing time in Baylor Cupp, Isiah Spiller, and offensive lineman Kenyon Green.
In most cases, when a freshman starts it can mean disarray. Not with these three; they’ll have what it takes to play starting day one. Plus, the returning skill players on offense are going to be even dominant behind the improved offensive line. The loss of Eric McCoy to the New Orleans Saints is a tough one for the Aggies, but the quickly improving Ryan McCollum will is going to fill in nicely.
The defensive front seven took the biggest hit at the end of last season, losing the vast majority of starters to the NFL. The only consistent starter that remains is defensive lineman Justin Madubuike. But with a young corps of big boys stepping up to take the roles of those who have left, the future is bright for the Ags. Our third bold prediction went into how good the defensive front may really be. The talent is certainly there; it will just come down to putting it all together.
The biggest improvements may actually be seen in the secondary. The return of Leon O’Neal is as exciting as anything, continuing A&M’s dominance at the safety position. Plus, with the addition of Elijah Blades, the Aggies may have finally found the lockdown corner they have been looking for for so long.
True freshman and 5-star recruit Brian Williams will likely have an impact as well. One of Jimbo’s earliest commitments, Williams shows the ability to be a ball-hawking safety that will make the deep ball tough to complete. Tackling does not seem to be an issue either for the Bishop Dunne graduate and with the Derrick Tucker chaos, a fair bit of playing time may be in store. With three flat out studs possibly starting for the Ags, their secondary will be as good as they have been in years.
This may be all that is separating the Ags from being a playoff contender. With the additions to the defense plus a deep offense with an ever-improving offensive line, the Aggies have all the pieces to compete, even with the reigning national champions.
The Aggies gave it their all last year and if it was not for a botched touchback call and a missed field goal, they likely would have won the game. This year’s squad may be even better than last year’s and Clemson will be missing almost every serious leader from last year’s team.
As long as the Aggies can maintain Trevor Lawrence and make as few mistakes as possible, the game will certainly be within their grasp. With a younger squad, this may be tough, but if we know one thing it is that Jimbo Fisher will develop this squad to the best of their abilities, no matter their age. Look for week two to be a thriller in Clemson, South Carolina.