Kevin Sumlin is known for high-octane offenses. With an upperclassmen at quarterback and a fleet of wide receivers at his disposal, 2016 may be his best offense since Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans left College Station.
The fifth-year head coach at Texas A&M caught lightning in a bottle when the Aggies entered the SEC in 2012, scoring 44.5 points per game under offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury while riding the wave of talent that was Manziel at quarterback.
That offense averaged 558.5 yards per game en route to an 11-2 record and No. 5 ranking in the final AP poll. Manziel alone ran for 1,410 yards, throwing for 3,706 more on his way to becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, while every starting member of the offense eventually went on to find a home in the NFL.
Since then, the Aggies offense has produced fewer yards per game each year, down to 427.5 at the end of the 2015 season. Kingsbury now coaches Texas Tech, while Manziel remains in headlines for all the wrong reasons. Just a few short months ago, the national narrative indicated Sumlin’s program was in shambles and the offense was the weakest link.
So just what is it that suggests 2016 will break the spiraling trend rather than continue it? Can the 2016 offense top what Manziel and company accomplished in 2012?
Football is a team sport, and the roster has never been more complete during Sumlin’s tenure. This is particularly true on defense from both a player and coaching standpoint. In 2012, the Aggies allowed 21.8 points per game, just a fraction under the 22 points per game given up by John Chavis’ unit in his first year as defensive coordinator.
While the 2012 defense was stout, the depth and high-end talent for 2016 should be considered superior. If this year’s defense can patrol the field as well or better than the 2012 squad, it will allow the offense to not only stay in games, but have a much wider range of options on how to attack the opposition. A strong defense keeps its offense on the field and in the midst of plenty of opportunities to score.
Kingsbury wasn’t guessing with his decisions during his tenure at A&M, but he likely would admit that he was constantly learning even throughout his success. Like Manziel in 2012, the amazing moments outweighed those that left you head scratching, but both still existed.
That will be tapered this year thanks to the experience from offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and graduate transfer quarterback Trevor Knight. While there may not be as many ultra-extended plays featuring tons of scrambling and improvisation in this offense compared to 2012, the consistency on every play could make up for the lack of fireworks.
In addition to the improved defense and experience at leadership positions on offense, the receiving corps has a chance to make this offense Sumlin’s best at Texas A&M. Filled with NFL talent, size, and speed, the Aggie receivers can hold their own against any secondary in the country.
Manziel had some great receivers, including an NFL first-round selection in Evans, but the top-to-bottom depth of the 2016 squad is much better overall.
While 2016 may not contain the excitement and gigantic plays of 2012, it does have the potential to be the best Texas A&M has had to offer since its arrival to the SEC.