Most Recent Posts
- D.J. Eliot understands coach Mark Stoops “very well” can bring new ideas to UK defense
- Swiss Cat Part 2: Larry continues his adventure in Switzerland
- Brumbaugh understands junior college talent, feels he can bring JUCO players to UK
- Volleyball training, personality will both help Marcus Lee at Kentucky
- UK coach Mark Stoops was patient with Neal Brown because he was “all-in” on hiring him
- UK signee Marcus Lee overcame early education struggles to succeed in academics, athletics
- No. 12 Kentucky and No. 5 Arizona State to start best-of-three NCAA Super Regional set Saturday at 10 p.m. ET
- Stoops: Hiring Neal Brown to run Kentucky offense was a “no-brainer for me”
Would you rather be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond? Within a year’s time new Texas A&M Head Coach Kevin Sumlin has been on both ends of that fishing pole, so to speak. Gaining notoriety last season with his offensive attack at the University of Houston and leading them to be ranked 6th overall in the nation and competing for the conference USA championship he was reaping the rewards. However, Sumlin is not swimming in a small pond these days but rather in the ocean that is the SEC – but he’s not backing down.
Texas A&M officially joined the SEC on July 1, and with the move came high hopes from Aggies’ fans for the future of the program. On Tues, July 17th, The Circus began with the opening of the 2012 SEC Media Days. Of course the focal point was on the two newbies to the league in Mizzou & A&M.
Coach Sumlin of A&M opened the show for the coaches’ press conference of the day and his message was loud and clear that we know this won’t be a cakewalk. “I was just out in the ESPN bus. They said, Do you realize you play the playoff six defending national champions? That’s about the fourth time somebody asked me that. We knew that when we took the job. We understand the challenges that are ahead of us. We understand that it’s going to be a difficult but exciting year.”
The Aggies Inaugural year schedule is not walk in the park , what a way to be welcomed into the SEC to say the least. They start the season in non-conference play on Sept. 1st vs McNeese followed by the highly anticipated 2nd home game SEC conference opener vs. Florida. The series will then take the Aggies on the road to play SMU ,Arkansas &Ole Miss. They will return back to Kyle Field mid Oct to face the Bayou Bengals. They will close October and start November on the road to play Auburn, Miss. St, & Bama! They will wrap up the regular season back in College Station vs fellow newbie Mizzou! It’s going to be a hell of ride for the Aggies this first year of play not just being in the SEC but being in the SEC West and having to play Bama, Auburn, Miss. State, and Arkansas on the road is going to be a long journey physically and mentally.
So with that said what does this mean for the SEC longevity of the Texas A&M? Well Sumlin made it pretty clear on the podium at media days, “What’s my assessment? It’s a pretty damn hard league. How is that? That’s my assessment (laughter). You look at that, you see the talent level. I think the combination, somebody we were just talking about, the main difference that I see is the combination of size and speed. I’ve been a part of some pretty fast football teams over the last few years. Our speed level at Texas A&M is pretty good. I think the combination of size and speed, particularly in the west, but in the SEC, is the difference-maker, and the depth in the front. You add up those three things – size, speed and depth – over the course of the 12 ballgames, injuries and attrition matter”
Well we have got a coach’s perspective but I thought I take it one step further and get a player’s perspective on the transition to the SEC and if the Aggies can play with the elite of the SEC! Well we all know that the SEC is known for its elite defenses to stay the least. However the two newbies are going to bring a new look on offense that we all know in the Big 12 but will be another thing we SEC opponents will have to adapt to.
So I decided it be fitting to enlist the help of one of Texas A&M Aggies former standout OL/OT Travis Schneider. His 6’8’ft frame was something of rarity on many offensive lines not just in the Big 12 but the SEC during his career in 2004-2008. Though his first year he redshirted and following year saw limited action. 2006-2008 he proved to be an impact player for the Aggies trials and trimuphs periods. In 2006 he got his break Started nine straight games after the season-opener in place of the injured Yemi Babalola … helped the Aggies generate 397.4 yards of total offense per game, including a Big 12-best 206.8 rushing yards per game … the Aggies’ also led the Big 12 in time of possession, third-down conversion percentage and had the fewest turnovers in the conference … offensive line gave up only 1.5 quarterback sacks per game…. In his final seasons with the Aggies Travis, Started seven games at tackle on the Aggies’ talented offensive line … physical blocker used his 6′-8″ frame to handle the talented defensive ends of the Big 12 … helped lead the Aggie offense to the country’s 13th best rushing attack at 211.6 yards per game … Schneider and the other offensive linemen cleared the way for three different Aggie rushers to rack up 700-plus yards on the ground … behind the stellar offensive line play the Aggies racked up 5,161 yards of total offense (397.0 pg) and scored 363 points (27.9 pg) … the Aggies’ offensive front allowed only 16 sacks in 376 pass attempts.
This is only the small scope of what Travis was able to do for the Aggies during his tenure at A&M as well as playing in the Big 12. So here’s Travis’s take on A&Ms place in the SEC.
As a former players for the Aggies what do you think A&M will need to do to make it in the SEC?
The first thing that the Aggies will need to do to be competitive in the SEC is recruit, recruit, recruit. Hopefully with our move, this will help open the door for the Aggies to pick up prospects that would normally leave the state to play in the best conference in college football. Keep in mind too, that we’re also through the growing pains of the first year with a new coaching staff. Typically the first year or two with a new staff on campus leads to less than stellar seasons.
Do you think it was a good move for the Aggies to go to the SEC?
Yes I do. Of course money was the biggest issue of all, but I believe in the long run we will benefit from this. I believe we fit really well into the culture of the SEC. We have a strong fan base that travels well, out student body is second to none, and we have a first class academic institution. Also as I stated above in the first answer, I also think it will help us be more competitive in the recruiting arena for various sports.
What’s the toughest challenge in football for them come the fall?
I believe the toughest challenge of all next season will be the coaching change and dealing with having a new staff on the sidelines. New offense, new defense…it can lead to a stressful spring/fall camp where you have such a huge learning curve. Another thing is that I hope the Aggie fan base has some patience next season and will be ok with the growing pains that we will be going through. Not only are we now going to be playing in the toughest conference on the country, but we’ll also be in the toughest division of that conference. Time will tell…I just hope those maroon tinted sunglasses don’t turn into blinders.
So we see how the Aggies feel about their place in the SEC, but of course what does this mean for the Cats? Well, like any new addition to the fraternity that is the SEC there are going to be advantages and disadvantages for the existing members. The Aggies might not be on the schedule for the cats this season but lordy they will have a lot of food for thought to feast and famine from the Aggies and Tigers joining the SEC. The two biggest concerns I see for the Cats are defending a new type of offense and recruiting.
Well Joker and company might want to get out the ole Hal Mumme & Mike Leach tapes of their air raid spread offense because that’s how those Texas teams like to play ball on offense. The concern is not so much that the power in the defense in the SEC can’t defend this new look they will face,but like anything you can watch film and know the general concepts of this offense. However, when you’re not used to playing that offense day in day out it becomes a component where teams like A&M and Mizzou create a means to catch a team off guard and create the chance to capitalize on the unfamiliar territories that is the spread offense. Too many in the SEC the spread offense has an obscure and mysterious ambience, but a place like the big 12 , the spread offense has developed into staple of Saturday afternoons, with more and more coaches shifting their playbooks to a variant of the spread. But in a place like the SEC this could be to the advantage of A&M and Mizzou to maximize and execute the offense because to them it is still as mystifying and misunderstood as it was a decade ago.
During Tuesday’s coaches press conference the other popular questions where on recruiting in the state of Texas. With the exception of the Ole Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier who adamantly stated they South Carolina would not expand recruiting to the state of Texas. Other coaches are eager to have a new recruiting footprint in the state of Texas. What this means for the cats is that Pat Washington might be able to extend and create some relationship ties that will improve the UK brand in the state of Texas, But don’t hold your breath BBN it’s going to be a tough sell to take in state players form A&M so fast on merely the idea of playing in the SEC. Also with the addition of 2 new teams it’s going to even put more of strain on recruiting in the South and other close regions the cats actively recruit in! That makes the pickings slim if we don’t act more aggressively in recruiting and promoting the UK Brand
We will all come to our own opinion on what A&M will bring and how the Cats will respond to both Mizzou and A&M. But these additions have only brought more opportunity for the ongoing success of shaping the SEC into the powerhouse it is not just as an athletics conference but for the institutions members. It will allow us to grow and have a chance to exchange new innovations. As Commissioner Mike Slive stated in his opening SEC Media Days address,” Winston Churchill said, “to improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.” Our focus on the future will echo that sentiment.” Texas A&M is an instrumental part of the Next Era for the SEC and how other existing institutions like UK will be both a mentor and student of each other’s traditions and culture in order to create both a comradery and healthy competitive spirit amongst each team. At one point or another each team has been the big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond but we all find ways to transition, adjust and adapt to make it through the SEC gauntlet.