Back Texas A&M’s Youth Movement

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Texas A&M’s Youth Movement

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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It hasn’t always been pretty, although that probably shouldn’t be the expectation for a team littered inexperience, as the Aggies are.

Kevin Sumlin came into the year surrounded by a lot of hot seat talk. Typically, the sort of youth movement that has taken over in College Station does not bode well for a coach with questionable job security, but in this case, it’s going fairly well.

It hasn’t always been pretty, although that probably shouldn’t be the expectation for a team littered inexperience, as the Aggies are. The fact that, as this group continues to develop a sense of cohesion and maturity, they’ve already figured out how to win.

Sometimes it’s not much more than a win. Sometimes it should not have even been one. In retrospect, though, they all look like this: ”W”.

When Nick Starkel, a freshman, got hurt early in the season, he was succeeded by another freshman at quarterback, Kellen Mond. While Mond has had his ups and downs, struggling especially with his consistency as a passer, he has been a cool customer and reliable in crunch time.

Beside Mond, while senior Keith Ford is a reliable option as a ball carrier, sophomore Trayveon Williams is clearly the more dynamic back, between the two. Fellow sophomore Kendall Bussey, albeit with limited opportunities, has shown great promise as a similar runner to Williams.

Out wide, junior Christian Kirk, who should, and almost certainly will, go to the NFL after this year, and senior Damion Ratley are both key contributors, but freshman Jhamon Ausbon has been fantastic. And the depth at that position consists, exclusively, of other freshmen.

On top of that, the entire offensive line should be back next season. Both tackles, Koda Martin and Keaton Sutherland, are juniors. Another junior, Connor Lanfear, sophomore Colton Prater, and freshmen Ryan McCollum and Jared Hocker have all been in the primary rotation at guard, and sophomore center Erik McCoy is one of the best young blockers in the SEC.

Defensively, where they have been more consistently strong, there will be a bit more personnel attrition, particularly up front, however, after losing Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall, John Chavis has clearly shown the ability to adapt and thrive.

Starting on the edge, Qualen Cunningham and Jarrett Johnson are both seniors, but the leading sack artist on the team is junior Landis Durham.

In the interior, senior Zaycoven Henderson has been excellent this season, but Daylon Mack and Kingsley Keke have been good, too. Mack, currently, has a sack and five run stuffs, with a 0% allowed success rate.

Outside linebacker Otaro Alaka may be a candidate to leave early for the professional ranks, but other than that, everyone should be back, including rising star sophomore Tyrel Dodson, who leads the team in tackles, is second in tackles for loss and picks, and is third in sacks.

On the backend, everyone, starters and depth providers included, is an underclassman, with the exceptions of Armani Watts and Priest Willis.

Admittedly, as hard as it will be to replace Kirk on offense, it will be similarly so for Watts. However, with the amount of meaningful snaps the rest of the group is accumulating, they will be up to the task, inasmuch as that’s even possible, of doing so.

The point is, Texas A&M, on paper, should not be pulling out wins like it is. That’s supposed to be for older, more mature, experienced teams, right? Young players have to learn how to win in the SEC, right? Maybe this team is so green it doesn’t even realize it’s not supposed to be doing this.

There have been, and will continue to be, some bumps in the road. It won’t always be pretty, more often than not it will ugly, in fact.

Yet, when all the dust settles, Kevin Sumlin has a young team that has figured out how to do just enough to get that ‘W’. For now, that’s all that matters.

Behind the Aggies’ youth movement, the future is bright in College Station.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP