A&M needs to get it together, because opportunity abounds
There is little doubt that Texas A&M is the most schizophrenic, annoying football program to watch in the United States right now. They crush UCLA at a top-5 level for 3 quarters, then play JV football for 15 and lose; they play like garbage for another six consecutive quarters against lesser competition before turning it on and trashing Louisiana-Lafayette 31-0 in the second half Saturday.
That's the sign of a team lacking identity and, honestly, a group needing a swift kick in the backside. But if they need motivation, they'd better seriously look at what's going on around them. As disappointing as this season has been so far, the second half ULL team (and certainly the first half UCLA team) can still win a lot of football games in the SEC. Take a look:
Arkansas is a mess. They were going to ride Austin Allen's arm this year, but they're 116th in passing offense and keep Allen upright -- they're 94th in the nation in sacks allowed. Add in a much less effective running game and they're in trouble.
Auburn struggled with Mercer (!) over the weekend and just kicked backup QB Shaun White off the team for a public intoxication arrest over the weekend. They're supposed to be run-first, but that's been below average so far. They don't look like the team that was supposed to give Alabama a run for its money.
Alabama is awesome. Next.
Florida is short-handed and offensively inept. Their defense should be really good, but isn't yet (100th), but they're 121st in total offense, 117th in rushing offense and 123rd in sacks allowed. That's bad.
LSU just got their clocks cleaned by Mississippi State. 37-7. A&M at least made a game of it when they played at Starkville last year.
Mississippi State looks dangerous. But so far they have played Charleston Southern, La. Tech and an LSU team that looked putrid Saturday. Nick Fitzgerald still doesn't throw well, and A&M's (maybe) improved rushing defense could be an issue. But Dan Mullen is making a strong statement in coaching circles. Ahem.
Ole Miss flat stinks. Horrible rushing offense, horrible rushing defense and Shea Patterson is turning the ball over a lot.
South Carolina got off to a good start, then lost Debo Samuel and then flopped to Kentucky at home.
So there it is. Is A&M a great team? No. But they could be a pretty darned good team if it gets its BLEEP together and plays 60 minutes for a change.
So THAT'S what they're for
Last year, the Aggies completed all of two passes to tight ends: one to Tanner Schorp and one (for a touchdown) to Kalvin Cline. That was it.
This year, the Aggies have already completed three times as many passes to the tight ends on the depth chart, with Aaron Hansford (3 for 39 yards) and Schorp (3 for 13) getting involved in the aerial game.
But the tight ends are doing a lot more than that. They've actually been a real part of the offense, not some kind of occasional appearance. And they've made an impact. Schorp, especially, has been a real positive in the running game. On Saturday, he made several key blocks for Kendall Bussey and Jacob Kibodi that sprung big runs. Unlike past tight ends, he's got the size and desire to get downfield and block someone.
Hansford, on the other hand, has shown signs of being a matchup problem for defenses. He ran a crossing route in the first quarter against ULL and ran past the linebackers and was up the field before the safeties could react. 29 yards later, he had converted a 3rd and long.
Noel Mazzone said he wanted to use the tight end this year, and so far he has. I wouldn't be surprised if you see a lot more Schorp Saturday as A&M goes right at Arkansas in the running game.
Mond's rapid maturity
When he went 3-17 against UCLA, Kellen Mond looked like the college game was moving way too fast for him. He couldn't make reads, held onto the ball too long and frequently took off instead of continuing his progression.
It's not the same level of competition, but the Mond we saw Saturday didn't look like the same guy. His stats (21-34, 301 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) didn't seem like the same guy either. ULL used some of the more exotic blitz schemes Mond will see all year, and by the third quarter, they were largely ineffective against him. He was finding his hot receivers, keeping his eyes downfield and making the right reads. His accuracy, on long passes to Damion Ratley, Christian Kirk and Jhamon Ausbon, was on the money.
Mond did make a really bad throw in the first half that led to a ULL touchdown in the first half, but when the Ragin' Cajuns tried the same blitz in the third quarter, Mond found his hot receiver and converted for a first down.
Mond has now completed precisely 50% of his passes (36-72), which means he has completed 60% of his passes since he left the Rose Bowl. That's a lot better than anyone could have anticipated after UCLA, and there's hopes he'll continue to improve.
With his 301 yards passing Saturday, Mond became the first true freshman Aggie quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game. Add in redshirt freshmen to the equation and it's only been done 5 times. The other four? All by the same guy, some fella named Manziel.