With summer in full swing we are taking a look at where Clemson’s P5 opponents stand for the 2019 season. Over the summer we’ll be conducting Q&As with the SB Nation sites for opposing teams as well as providing our own scouting report. We continue with Week 2 opponent: Texas A&M. Rush Roberts at Good Bull Hunting was more than willing to answer our questions.
STS: After years of fading down the stretch every year (including a three year bowl losing streak), the Aggies won their final four games of last season to finish 9-4, with two of those losses coming to the #1 and #2 teams in the country. I assume Aggie fans are pretty pleased with Coach Fisher thus far. The schedule gets even tougher this season as Georgia joins Clemson, Alabama, and LSU on the docket. What are realistic expectations in year two?
GBH: In short, yes. Nine wins is respectable in year one, especially closing with that huge game against LSU and a very strong bowl performance against a decent ACC team. Realistic expectations for 2019 would probably dictate the same result: nine wins including a nice bowl game. But “realistic” and “expectations” are reluctant partners at best in college football, and by August, it’s possible that many Aggies will be disappointed with anything less than double-digit wins. With four top ten teams on the schedule, and as much production that we’ll need to replace on offense, it’s possible to win the same number of games as last year and still be an improved team. Nine wins in 2019 is not a given, therefore it’s a good target.
STS: Overall, how did Spring Practice go? Where there any injuries or surprising developments?
Spring practice went great! All the newcomers are making waves! The veterans are really stepping up to fill leadership roles! And the coaches haven’t been this excited in a very long time! In other words, spring practice went how spring practice always goes: it gave everyone a last little bump of football fever before the long and brutal homestretch between now and late August.
STS: QB Kellen Mond threw for 430 yards against Clemson last season. He came back to earth after that, but had a really solid sophomore season throwing for 3,107 yards (6th in the SEC behind Tagovailoa (UA), Ta’amu (Ole Miss), Lock (Mizzou), Bentley (U of SC), and Shurmur (Vandy)) with a 24-9 TD-INT ratio. He ran for 474 yards and 7 more TDs. Most of his receivers return, but he loses All-American TE Jace Sternberger. What level of progress do you expect in his junior season? How does he stack up in this year’s crop of SEC QBs?
GBH: He’s not going to stun or wow you like a Manziel or Mayfield, but he’s a very talented QB in his own right. He’s a seasoned, solid starter and Jimbo has made it clear that he’s the guy at the helm. His improvement from 2017 to 2018 was very impressive, and there’s not much reason to think that he won’t continue to broaden his game in his second full year in Fisher’s system.
STS: Texas A&M was solid on defense last year, but not spectacular (#21 per S&P+). They only return only four starters on defense. What are your primary concerns with the unit and how do you see Clemson trying to exploit them?
GBH: Linebacker is very thin. Elko is only returning one player with any starting experience in Buddy Johnson, so the other positions are wide open for someone to step up. I’d expect Clemson to exploit this with a relentless intermediate passing game mixed in with a healthy dose of Etienne.
STS: The Aggies go to Clemson, Georgia, and LSU and host Alabama. Against which do you think A&M has the best chance to win? Can you share some early thoughts on how the Aggies match up against a Tiger team that should have a much better offense, but rebuilding defense compared to last time they faced off?
Uhhh...possibly LSU? Having that extra boost of confidence from finally beating them last year will help when we roll in there for a night game the last week of the season. The Clemson matchup should be interesting since our teams are rebuilding corresponding elements (the Tiger defense vs. the Aggie offense.) Georgia will be a very physical matchup, and I’m glad we’re getting them after a full year of Fisher’s system has been in place. Alabama is at home, so hopefully it will be within a couple of touchdowns. Roll Tide.
STS: A big thanks to Rush Roberts and Good Bull Hunting. We’ll be answering questions to be posted on their site when we get closer to the season!