<
>

Drops plague Aggies' passing game

Even though Texas A&M graduated three starters from its receiving corps (for the second consecutive season) -- including a first-round NFL draft pick (Mike Evans) -- few would have considered the position an area of concern coming into the season given how much young talent the Aggies have stockpiled there thanks to their recent recruiting hauls.

And while it remains one of the deepest position groups on the team in terms of talent, consistency has been another story, especially in the Aggies' past two games. Drops have crept up as an issue for the unit in its win over Arkansas in Week 5 and its drubbing at the hands of Mississippi State on Saturday.

The 48-31 loss to the Bulldogs was particularly rough in the dropped pass department: The Aggies had nine drops officially, according to ESPN Stats & Information, which is the most in a game for a Power 5 conference team in the past four seasons.

A casual perusal of the incompletions showed that while the Aggies were credited with nine drops, one could have easily credited them with double digits in the category.

"I guess it's one of those days," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said after the game.

Officially, the Aggies have recorded 13 drops in the past two weeks. That number more than doubles the total the Aggies had in the first four games of the season (10).

For the season, the Aggies' drop rate is 8.4 percent (23 drops on 274 targets), which ranks 110th nationally and it is the worst drop rate among Power 5 teams in the country. The past two weeks alone the Aggies have dropped passes at a 12.6 percent clip (13 drops on 103 targets), which -- if extrapolated for the entire season -- would only be better than three other FBS teams (Ball State, South Alabama and Eastern Michigan).

The Aggies aren't the only SEC team ranked below 100 in the statistic this season. Florida (7.1 percent, 101st), Missouri (7.4 percent, 105th) and Auburn (8.1 percent, 108th) are also in the bottom 30 in the category. Interestingly, those teams' combined record is 17-3.

Saturday's loss to Mississippi State saw a variety of drops from passes placed accurately that appeared to be catchable, routine balls to an array of throws that were less catchable and seemingly misplaced or otherwise a higher degree of difficulty. The timing of the drops were also a source of frustration for the offense. At least three of them came on third downs, contributing to the Aggies 5-of-17 showing on the down. The previous week vs. Arkansas, two of the four drops were on third downs.

The issue seemed contagious as numerous different receivers, including Sabian Holmes, Boone Niederhofer and Ricky Seals-Jones struggled at one time or another. Even the usually sure handed sophomore, Edward Pope, wasn't immune to it Saturday.

The blame isn't solely on the receivers; it can be shared between the receiving corps and sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill. Asked after the loss what he could have done better, Hill acknowledged he could have thrown some better balls, too.

"Accuracy," Hill said. "Decision-making. I probably could have stepped up and been a better leader."

Speaking of leadership, the Aggies missed one of theirs on Saturday, senior receiver Malcome Kennedy. The team's leading receiver this season and stated vocal leader, Kennedy sat out nursing a separated shoulder he suffered vs. Arkansas.

"It doesn't take a coach to see that Malcome Kennedy is a pretty important player for us, not just from a playing standpoint but from a leadership standpoint on the field," Sumlin said. "We certainly missed him [Saturday]."

Answers were hard to come by in the aftermath but confidence was not. Hill vowed that the issues, whatever they are, will be "easy to fix" and will be evident soon.

"Just keep throwing to them, just completing a lot of passes in practice," Hill said of what the Aggies can do to address it. "Just keep throwing and catching balls. Most of these receivers have been playing since they were little kids. They know how to catch the ball. It's just one of those things. We had an off day."