Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has always been at the forefront of offensive innovation. His teams at Houston were high-scoring, heavy-passing teams that seemed to blend together elements of the Air Raid, West Coast and spread option offenses.
Johnny Manziel became, on the field anyway, the perfect triggerman for what Sumlin’s offense could do at its best. It allowed a talented running quarterback to use his legs and escape the pocket or throw the ball in planned spread schemes.
Sumlin now is trying to make his offense take the next step in its evolution. He wants his team to play even faster.
Sumlin told Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated’s Campus Rush the plan is for the Aggies to play more up-tempo than they have before:
“CR: So you had been conditioning more up to your tempo and keeping guys in shape. Is this a philosophical change conceding that to keep up in SEC West you need to be big and strong?”
“Sumlin: Yeah, and you got to recruit to that, too. The last couple of years we have recruited guys [that way]. The five O-linemen that we signed are big guys. Some of the guys that played last year: Daylon Mack at 330 as a freshman, Kingsley Keke, two freshmen defensive tackles were 312, 310 coming in here, and not 290, which gives them opportunity with bigger guys to get them in shape and increase their mass and strength instead of trying to get guys to 310. They’re already there, now let’s work on them.
“Being a tempo team and doing those types of things, your body types change a little bit. But obviously we’ve got to be able to hold up later on in the year, and I think whenever you’re in this position, you’re always looking at, all right, what are the issues? And what are we looking to do to fix them? Instead of just saying, Oh, that happened. There’s been a concerted effort across the board in different areas to address those problems, and like I said, it’s a work in progress, but I like where it is right now.”
Much of the spring for the Aggies was spent working on their conditioning and slimming down the offensive line while maintaining the power in preparation for a more up-tempo offense.
It is not like Texas A&M did not play fast before. According to Football Study Hall, Texas A&M was 29th in the nation in adjusted pace. The Aggies were already a team getting a lot of plays in on offense and getting them in relatively effectively.
This year’s Aggies squad will have questions, though.
Texas A&M had a lot of attrition at quarterback, losing three guys who started games for them since the end of the 2014 season. The Aggies are hoping that graduate transfer Trevor Knight can be the answer at the position in 2016, and he showed flashes of greatness at Oklahoma.
There is also the transition that will occur with new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. Mazzone spent the last six seasons in the Pac-12 with Arizona State and UCLA. His Bruins were 39th in adjusted pace last year, according to Football Study Hall. He too can run an up-tempo offense like Sumlin wants.
It seems the focus this spring for Texas A&M was picking up that pace even more.