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Blogger Q&A with Good Bull Hunting: What to expect from the Aggies under Jimbo Fisher

Lucas Jackson and the great folks at GBH answered a lot of questions for us in anticipation of this pivotal SEC West showcase

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Northwestern v Texas A&amp;M

Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

This week’s Q&A comes courtesy of Lucas Jackson and the outstanding folks at Good Bull Hunting. Drop by and say hi to peep some A&M analysis and discussion. You can check them out on Facebook and Twitter too — their videography and creativity is unparalleled amongst the SBN college sites. If the mood strikes you, you can also harass Lucas directly on Twitter at @CoolHand_Lucas.

1 . I think most outside of College Station (and perhaps even moreso in College Station) cringed when we saw that Kellen Mond had been named the A&M starter. Nick Starkel seemed to be the better option of the young QB group. Well, slap my ass and call me Malzahn, the doubters have been proven wrong so far. It’s not flashy, but Mond comes into this one with a 6:0 TD:Int ratio, completing 63% of his passes, at a healthy 9.3 YPA clip. He lit up Clemson’s secondary for 3 scores and 430 yards, though it’s been vanilla in the two paycheck games. What’s different this year? Is it the scheme? Reps? More help from the ground game? The throws he’s being asked to make?

It’s simple: It’s evident that Kellen Mond completely bought in to Jimbo Fisher’s program from day one. While Nick Starkel was definitely ahead at the end of last year, the spring game showed how much ground Mond gained in a very short time. He’s physically matured and willingly accepted the mantle of leadership. I swear it’s like seeing Michael B. Jordan in The Wire and then waking up the next day and he’s Killmonger. The physical talent has always been there, but he’s immersed himself in the scheme and protections. This is his team, and he wants it to be his team. He’s a quarterback.

2. When you look at the list of recent A&M coaches, they run the gamut from Bland Game Managers to Swagga Marketers to Corporatist CEO types. But, Jimbo feels like he just belongs there, moreso than he ever did at FSU. He may be the most ornery, back-country SOB to don Maroon since R.C. Slocum. From an Aggie perspective, does it seem as though A&M has finally found the right mix of temperament, background, and talent to succeed at one of the nation’s most eccentric programs?

Jimbo is a great fit because he WANTS to be a great fit. The man is a salesman. He doesn’t run from our weird and thirsty fan base, he embraces them. Most importantly he understands what fans want. Fans want a team that will stand up to the baddest boys on the block and go punch for punch, even if it kills them. Gimmicks and gadgets and swagger are nice, but fans really crave a physical, cohesive team that will outwork their opponent and leave it all on the field. When you meet Jimbo it’s obvious that the man is rejuvenated and that he eats, sleeps, and breathes football….and enjoys it. Press conferences and glad-handing isn’t a chore to him, it’s almost fun.

3. Related to that, what would qualify as a success in Fisher’s decade-long contract? Money may not matter quite as much to A&M, who alongside Alabama, is one of the Top 5 wealthiest CFB programs. But, since A&M is known for its school of economics, there will come a time when we have to analyze the return on investment. Obviously the expectations in Year Six will differ from Year One. But, what do you want to see out of the program in both the short term and in the long run to be able to say “that was worth $7 million a year?”

Don’t lose a winnable game, and win a game against Auburn/LSU/Bama in year one. Major bowl within 3 years. Win a conference championship within 5 years. Win a national title in 10 years. Take a Top 20 program and move it into a Top 10 program with some skins on the wall. That’s the difference between paying Sumlin $5 million and Jimbo $7.5 million.

4. So, far so good up front. The A&M run defense has looked significantly better the first 3 games of 2018, surrendering just two rushing touchdowns and allowing under 4 YPC to FBS opponents. Who should ‘Bama fans be watching on the defensive line? And how has A&M improved its ground defense so quickly? Or, given the teams it’s faced, do we not really know enough to grade their improvement?

I attribute this to a change in scheme. Chavis and Sumlin wanted to go fast and shock teams by scoring points in bunches with touchdowns bookended by turnovers. Fisher is methodical. Again, no gimmicks. This team is going to learn to play fundamentally sound murderball. That means running the ball more, longer offensive possessions, keeping the defense off the field. Also, A&M has a deep defensive line, particularly in the middle. The Aggies rotate out different defensive linemen for different downs and situations. It’s evident that Elko has focused on better run fits, with fewer blitzes. The line is good enough to get pressure on its own.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Clemson v Texas A&amp;M

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

5. It is probably the secondary that makes you dyspeptic. A&M is allowing opponents to complete 56% of their passes and has generated just one turnover as opposed to surrendering 4 scores through the air. Is this a function of losing Armani Watts? New scheme? Trying to find the right mix of the 16 DBs on the roster? A Jimmies and Joes deficiency? Or, is it that some of the best DBs are sophomores just taking a while to blossom into playmakers?

Probably a combination of new scheme and opponents. Elko & Co. didn’t show very much against Northwestern or ULM, and aside from one drive in each game, played fairly well. Charles Oliver is a bit undersized, and has had a bit of bad luck. Debione Renfro has the size, but his technique isn’t as polished. Fifth year man Donavan Wilson has been as advertised, but Derrick Tucker has missed some tackles due to headhunting. Tucker has the potential to be a star, and tackled much better against ULM.

6. Both of these teams are pretty sloppy, with Alabama and Texas A&M averaging 7 penalties and over 60 yards per contest. What do the Aggies need to do to clean it up?

Just get better calls. Two of the holding calls in the ULM game were just…not holding. So much of officiating is the crew working your game. The team discipline looks fine to me, some procedure issues on offense but that will smooth out over time.

7. Forcing turnovers is a defense-wide problem. Texas A&M has generated just one turnover its first three games, and comes into this game at -2 on the season. Why is A&M struggling to get the ball back?

See above. The defense hasn’t been forcing the issue, and our opponents just haven’t made any mistakes. The turnovers will come if the Aggie defense keeps playing sound football.

8. Both teams are outstanding in converting third downs (and limiting opponents 3rd down conversions). What is A&M doing to have success on 3rd down: shortening the chains? timely conversions? ball control passing?

Improved focus on running the ball, no negative plays, and better third down play calling. Last week I spotted three separate 3rd and short plays where A&M lined up in I Tight and just ran the ball to move the chains.

Also, it really helps if 2 out of 3 games are against weak opponents.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Louisiana Monroe v Texas A&amp;M

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

9. Talent has never been Texas A&M’s problem: development, consistency, and discipline were the concerns under Kevin Sumlin. What matchup is the most favorable for the Aggies as they travel to Tuscaloosa on Saturday? And how can A&M exploit it to put themselves in position to spring the upset?

You say talent isn’t the problem. You’re not wrong, but context is needed. A&M has Top-15 talent. The problem is that it is arguably the 4th most talented team in the SEC West. That is a problem.
I don’t believe A&M has a talent edge at any position on the field Saturday. But they can draw even at defensive tackle. To have a chance to win, A&M has to control the LOS, contain Harris on the edge, and force Bama to throw. If A&M can prevent Bama from converting 3rd and longs, get the ball back and control it, and get some turnover/special teams luck, they can win.

10. Conversely, what Alabama mismatch must Jimbo try to mitigate in order to have success?

Same as Clemson: keep the offensive line from being overwhelmed by the opponent’s defensive line. The Aggie Maroon Goons have made great strides this year, but are still a work in progress. Mond is certainly going to get hit, but keep him upright long enough to allow A&M to stretch the field vertically and attack the least experienced part of the Bama defense.

11. Everyone knows Saban’s penchant for bullying his former assistants -- he is undefeated in his career, and most have not been particularly close. Even if you buy there’s something to that, Alabama as a four-touchdown favorite seems out of whack, doesn’t it?

Yes it does. The A&M defense is salty enough to slow down the Tide and Fisher will want to run the ball. Bama should certainly be favored, but not by more than 3 touchdowns.
(I’m chosing to ignore the fact that Bama’s average margin of victory against SEC foes under Saban is +20)

12. College football is a billion-dollar industry. So, what’s dumber with all of the money available and at stake: Not having a decent camera angle at the pylon or granting possession to the other team when the ball goes out of the opponent’s end zone?

The pylon cam running down the goal line isn’t needed because you have two officials standing on opposite sides of the line for 99% of plays. A sideline cam would be hampered by all the coaches leaving the box. Let’s save that money and get a better announcer than Gary Danielson.

13. Any significant injuries to report?

A&M’s best offensive lineman, center Erik McCoy was dinged up last week, but he is expected to play. Linebacker Anthony Hines is out for the year, so the Aggies are precariously thin at linebacker. Also, PK Daniel Camera is questionable, but backup Seth Small looked outstanding last week.

14. Finally, Texas A&M has come to town for a four-hour CBS slog, and the Aggies have upset the Tide. How have they done so, and who’s the A&M MVP?

Composure. Stay in the game and go punch for punch. Limit mistakes and big plays and execute perfectly on special teams. Get some turnover luck. You know, the basic recipe for winning.