Editor’s note: With fall camp starting and the season speeding toward us, SEC Country is surveying a wide swath of SEC school records and evaluating which ones could be threatened or fall outright in 2016. First up: Texas A&M.
The Aggies have been enigmatic in their four years under coach Kevin Sumlin, going from cool new kid on the block to Stoop Kid from Hey Arnold! (sources tell us he is afraid to leave his stoop).
Stoop Kid was a flash in the pan whose one-episode spotlight is surrounded by a pretty unremarkable existence. Right now, the Sumlin era at Texas A&M is in danger of going the same way. Why? A quick glance at the record books reminds us of two things about this program:
- Mike Evans and Johnny Manziel were football robots built to rack up ridiculous yardage totals in Sumlin’s system (even if it turns out the Manziel model had some programming flaws)
- Few others in Aggies history have even come close to matching that caliber of offensive output
Timing is also very important here.
Around the same time Sumlin took over in College Station, a funny thing happened: The Texas Longhorns’ slow decline morphed into a complete collapse, and other programs — namely Texas A&M — began filling the recruiting void, snatching up Lone Star State blue-chippers by the bunches. And though Manziel and Evans are gone, along with three other elite quarterbacks who transferred out, immense talent still populates several position groups on the roster.
This is one of those windows in Aggies history decidedly not defined by Little Brother Syndrome. There is a foundation for success, but the results just haven’t been there. They have caught everyone’s attention, but they have not left the stoop.
It’ll be interesting whether 2016 offers us a reversal of their current downward trend.
On to the records:
Single Season All-Purpose Yards — Cyrus Gray (1,806 yards, 2010)
Threat Level: High
Christian Kirk came 18 yards shy of breaking Gray’s record as a freshman phenom last fall, so it’s certainly conceivable that Sumlin’s star wideout could finish the job with another offseason of training under his belt.
The big point of interest here is how involved Kirk will be in the return game this season. Speedy Noil, provided he’s healthy and out of the coaching dog house, could also factor in as a special teams ace.
Fun fact: Gray also owns the Texas A&M career mark of 6,423 all-purpose yards. Kirk might need four college seasons to break that one and, let’s be real, he probably would go pro now if he could.
Single Season Kickoff Return Yards — Gray (1,169 yards, 2008)
Threat Level: Medium
The aforementioned Noil will be at a disadvantage from the get-go after being suspended for the season opener. But the former 5-star prospect raced downfield for 645 yards as a freshman in 2014 — No. 3 on Texas A&M’s single-season list — and has always been sitting on elite athletic potential.
The X-factor here will be whether the defense truly improves in its second year under coordinator John Chavis. Topping Gray’s mark won’t be easy, but if the middle of the Aggies defense remains soft, opponents will keep scoring and Noil will keep fielding kickoffs.
Fun fact: Gray’s special teams numbers were a direct effect of being part of Texas A&M teams with some awful defenses. The 2008 squad allowed 37.4 points per game, a mark worse than 114 other FBS schools.
Career Receiving — Ryan Swope (3,117 yards, 2009-12)
Threat Level: Medium-Low
Senior San Antonio native Josh Reynolds sits at sixth all-time with 1,749 yards, so he has a big gap to bridge, and that’ll be made difficult by the number of other options Knight has at his disposal.
But with Kirk likely drawing most double teams, Reynolds topping 1,000 yards and getting close to Swope’s mark isn’t too crazy. After all, he recorded 907 receiving yards with a revolving door at quarterback last season. At the least, jumping up to No. 3 on the career leaderboard seems reasonable.
Fun fact: Reynolds already owns the single-season mark for receiving touchdowns after hauling in 13 scores as a sophomore.
Single Season Passing — Johnny Manziel (4,114 yards, 2013)
Threat level: Medium-Low
Here’s what Texas A&M’s top five looks like for this category:
- Ryan Tannehill (3,744)
- Manziel (3,706)
- Jerrod Johnson (3,579)
- Reggie McNeal (2,791)
Trevor Knight can be described in a number of ways. “Heisman Trophy contender” is not one of them.
But can the Oklahoma grad transfer crack 3,000 yards passing with one of the nation’s deepest receiving corps at his disposal? For the sake of College Station couch burners everywhere, I hope so.
The top five certainly is attainable for Knight, who is athletic enough to help mask an offensive line going through some major transition.
Fun fact: Tannehill attempted a Texas A&M record 531 passes during his 3,700-yard campaign in 2011. Manziel threw for 340 more yards on 102 fewer attempts in 2013.
Career sacks — Aaron Wallace (42, 1986-89)
Threat level: Low
If Myles Garrett weren’t already destined to become a top-five NFL draft pick — provided he makes it through this season healthy and intact — Wallace’s record would be in real jeopardy. But with 23 career sacks entering what almost certainly will be his last college season, breaking it is a tall task even for Garrett.
Maybe the freaky pass rusher proves even more incredible in his junior season, tops Jacob Green’s single-season sack mark of 20 and solidifies himself as the consensus top draft selection. That’s not completely impossible, given that a couple of other elite talents (Daeshon Hall, Daylon Mack) will command attention on the Aggies defensive line.
But to bet that Garrett actually records 20 sacks in one season seems a little brash. Everyone has their limits.
Fun fact: Defensive back Armani Watts recorded a whopping 20 tackles in last year’s loss to Ole Miss, but there are actually four other Aggies players who have topped the 20-tackle mark in one game. Larry Horton (1990) and Larry Kelm (1985) are tied for the record with 24.
Single Season Rushing — Darren Lewis (1,692 yards, 1988)
Threat level: Very Low
Sumlin’s system is all about pitch and catch. The Aggies will leave the fate of their rushing attack with Oklahoma transfer Keith Ford and junior James White (349 career rushing yards), so no career records are in any danger at all.
If anyone has a chance to come close to the Texas A&M record, it would be Ford, a former 5-star recruit. Departed starter Tra Carson managed 1,165 yards on the ground last year, which ranked sixth in the SEC and, surprisingly, seventh on A&M’s single-season list. Ford will definitely join that company if he can crack 1,200.
Fun fact: The Aggies only had three individual 100-yard rushing performances combined from the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Manziel accounted for two of those.
Any records of note we’re missing? Sound off in the comments.