SEC Country is breaking down each of Texas A&M’s position groups as the entire 2016 roster reports to College Station.
Continuing with the series, we take a look at the offensive line. Dave Christensen departs as coach, giving way to the return of Jim Turner to Aggieland. Will it be enough to make up for a largely inexperienced line?
Names you need to know: Avery Gennesy (senior), Keaton Sutherland (sophomore), Erik McCoy (redshirt-freshman), Jermaine Eluemunor (senior), Koda Martin (redshirt-sophomore)
On the way: Kellen Diesch, Austin Anderson, Riley Anderson, Ryan McCollum
Analysis: Despite having a good amount of individual talent, the 2015 Texas A&M offensive line as a unit was less than impressive. Germain Ifedi, recent first-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks, was one of three starters to depart from the trenches for the Aggies after last season: Seniors Mike Matthews and Joseph Cheek also exhausted their eligibility in 2015.
After just one year on the job as offensive line coach and run-game coordinator, Christensen was also relieved of his duties. Run game production dipped, and quarterbacks were often chased out of the pocket and forced to operate under intense pressure from defenses.
Cue the return of coach Turner. During his last stint with the Aggies from 2008-2011, he helped to recruit a gaggle of future first-round picks for the Maroon and White that included linemen Jake Matthews, Luke Joeckel and Cedric Ogbuehi. Additionally, it was his eye that first fixated on a wide receiver in Galveston by the name of Mike Evans, a top weapon for former A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel during their time in College Station.
Turner followed former A&M coach Mike Sherman to the Miami Dolphins following the 2011 season, but won’t return to town with the cupboards as full as he left them.
The Aggies return just 19 total games of starting experience, with Gennesy claiming 13 of those by himself. Sutherland has started five for the Maroon and White, while senior guard Jermaine Eluemunor has received the starting nod in just one contest. Texas A&M received one early enrollee on the offensive line in the form of Colton Prater, the three-star offensive guard out of Bossier City, La., but must wait a little longer for the arrival of their other four offensive line prospects to begin working.
Gennesy operating at left tackle makes sense to start the season, with Sutherland by his side at guard. Coaches have raved about McCoy’s ability, and he’s the current best bet to start at center. Rounding out the projected offensive line is Eluemunor at right guard and Martin at right tackle. Sophomores Connor Lanfear and Tank Davis should see plenty of action, as will redshirt-freshman Trevor Elbert.
Key questions: As the popular question goes, Which is more important? The Xs and Os or the Jimmys and Joes? The Texas A&M offensive line should be a great test of that in 2016.
Bottom line: With a strong coaching mind and a large number of upperclassmen talent at virtually every other position on offense, the line won’t need to set the world on fire this season to be successful. Technique will be crucial, especially against larger and more experienced defensive linemen. The pocket will collapse quickly at times, and it will be up to senior quarterback Trevor Knight to be smart with the football and mitigate the learning curve.
Other positions in series: