As the offseason approaches, we'll begin looking at the key questions facing each team in the league. We started this morning with Vanderbilt; now we turn our attention to Texas A&M:
How will Kevin Sumlin fix the Aggies' second-half slide problem?
This has to be priority No. 1 for Sumlin. For three consecutive seasons, the Aggies have won their first five or six games. All three seasons, they finished 8-5. Clearly, something is wrong there. Depth is part of the issue -- a 2013 recruiting class that was ranked in the top-10 at the time of signing has had little impact on the field -- but inconsistency at the quarterback position and multiple coaching staff changes also had an effect. The school recently posted a job listing for a head football strength coach, which suggests that Sumlin is moving away from Larry Jackson, his longtime friend and colleague who has been his only head strength and conditioning coach in his nine-year head coaching career. What direction Sumlin goes in there will be interesting and important for the program's future. Whatever the problem is, it must be fixed; otherwise the Aggies are destined to continue finishing in the middle of the SEC West as they have in recent years.
Who will be the quarterback in 2017?
This is an important one: Trevor Knight is graduating and only one quarterback who has thrown a collegiate pass returns (Jake Hubenak). While Hubenak, who will be a senior, has the most experience, the odds are the Aggies will look to the direction of either redshirt freshman Nick Starkel or true freshman Kellen Mond. Starkel, who stands 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, was given rave reviews by the coaching staff for his work in practice during his redshirt season and they like his arm strength. Mond, a four-star prospect who is ranked No. 58 overall in the ESPN 300, is a 6-foot-3, 202-pound dual threat who would likely allow the Aggies to run an offensive attack similar to the one they did with Knight, whose strength was running the football out of the read option.
How will the Aggies replace their best defensive players?
The Aggies lose their two best defensive players as safety Justin Evans graduates and defensive end Myles Garrett enters the 2017 NFL draft. They were significant parts of any defensive success the Aggies had the last two seasons and they aren't the only key losses: The Aggies also graduate defensive end Daeshon Hall and linebacker Shaan Washington, both of whom were senior multi-year starters. As great as Evans was at A&M, the depth the Aggies have in the secondary make him easier to replace (starting safeties Armani Watts and Donovan Wilson return, as does sophomore-to-be Larry Pryor, who started in the place of an injured Watts down the stretch). Garrett, who was second in the FBS in sacks over the last three years (32.5), and Hall will be the tandem that is difficult to succeed. Seniors-to-be Qualen Cunningham and Jarrett Johnson have received plenty of playing time the last two years, often on run downs to give Garrett and Hall a breather, so each knows what it takes. But are they capable of producing at the level Garrett and Hall did, or will the Aggies have to look to their younger ranks for an answer?