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Texas Tech Opponent Prospectus :: Texas A&M Aggies

2010 Texas Tech Opponent Prospectus

Game 1: SMU Mustangs (9.5.10) :: Game 2: @ New Mexico Lobos (9.11.10) :: Game 3: Texas Longhorns (9.18.10) :: Game 4: @ Iowa St. Cyclones (10.2.10) :: Game 5: Baylor Bears (10.09.10) :: Game 6: Oklahoma St. Cowboys :: Game 7: @ Colorado Buffaloes (10.23.10) :: Game 8: @ Texas A&M Aggies (10.30.10) :: Game 9: Missouri Tigers (11.06.10) :: Game 10: @ Oklahoma Sooners (11.13.10) :: Game 11: Weber St. Wildcats (11.20.10) :: Game 12: Houston Cougars (11.27.10)

General Information

Opponent Texas A&M
Nickname Aggies
Location College Station, TX
Enrollment 48,702
Conference Big 12
Head Coach Mike Sherman
2009 Record 6-7, 3-5
Starters Returning 8 Offense : 9 Defense
Blogs I Am The 12th Man : Spence Park Soap Box
Links Post-Spring Depth Chart

Join me after the jump for a closer look at the Aggies.


Statistic Texas A&M Texas Tech
Pass Offense 281.62 (16) 386.77 (2)
Rush Offense 184.15 (30) 84.00 (115)
Total Offense 465.77 (5) 470.77 (4)
Scoring Offense 32.85 (19) 37.00 (7)
Pass Efficiency 136.02 (38) 143.79 (19)
Sacks Allowed 2.23 (74) 2.38 (87)
Pass Defense 254.69 (106) 225.62 (73)
Rush Defense 171.62 (90) 126.77 (38)
Total Defense 426.31 (105) 352.38 (49)
Scoring Defense 33.54 (105) 22.46 (41)
Pass Efficiency Defense 134.45 (81) 117.38 (35)
Sacks 2.69 (18) 3.09 (4)
Tackles For Loss 6.23 (41) 6.46 (34)
Turnover Margin -0.15 (106) -0.46 (94)

Top Returners

Category Player
Rushing Christine Michael :: 166 Rushes : 878 Yards : 10 TD
Passing Jerrod Johnson :: 296/497 : 3,579 Yards : 30 INT : 8 TD
Receiving Uzoma Nwachukwu :: 40 Receptions : 708 Yards : 6 TD
Tackles Trent Hunter :: 56 Solo : 38 Assists : 94 Total
Sacks Von Miller :: 16 Solo : 2 Assists : 115 Yards : 17 Total
Interceptions Terrence Frederick : Kyle Mangan (2 each) :: 4 INT : 46 Yards : 0 TD

Key Losses and Returning Impact Players

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert on the opponent, but I try my best. If I have something wrong, please let me know and I'll correct or revise as necessary.

Key Losses:

C Kevin Matthews, T Michael Shumard, T Lee Grimes, WR Howard Morrow, TE Jamie McCoy and S Jordan Pugh

Impact Offensive Player :: QB Jerrod Johnson:

With TAMU returning almost all of their skill position players in receivers Nwachukwu, Tannehill and Fuller and runners in Michael and Gray, it's going to make Johnson's life that much easier. The only question for Johnson will be improving on his 59.6% completion percentage and I tend to think that improving this will be dependent on improved offensive line play.

Impact Defensive Player :: LB Von Miller:

Miller is pretty darned good, and I think he's slotted to play the Joker position for the Aggies. If it's similar to what Texas Tech has had in the Joker, it's that Miller will primarily be a pass-rusher and he'll have the opportunity to line-up in different spots along the line. Miller's 17 sacks last year led the NCAA and just about everyone is projecting Miller to be one of the more highly rated NFL prospects.

Coach Speak:

Head Coach Mike Sherman talks about the spring game:

"We’ve had a few players out and some others who were limited today, but I was pleased with the competition on the field," Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "I like the competitive spirit of our team. Each and every play has an opportunity to be rewarded for positive results, but also to face the consequences of a negative play taking points off of the board. We have utilized this system throughout our spring drills."

Spring Chatter:

  • New Defensive Coaches: Head coach Mike Sherman hired four new defensive coaches during the offseason:
    Sherman had to revamp his staff despite a significant two-win improvement last season. A porous defense and misfiring special teams led to lopsided losses and seven setbacks on TV. That didn't give the season a feel of success then, nor now.

    Sherman brought in four defensive coaches. He had to. Improving nine spots in total defense to 105th in the country really wasn't improvement. As for special teams, the Aggies were 91st in kickoff return defense, 98th in punt returns and 104th in net punting. That's unacceptable.

  • Making Practices Count: Sherman utilizes a scoring system for each play to grade each practice during the spring:
    Sherman uses a point system in each practice to promote even more competition between the offense and defense, with the loser having to run.

    It's hard to keep the units balanced, though, with several key players being held out of spring drills with injuries. A&M had 10 healthy offensive linemen Sunday, which forced them to use a defensive lineman at guard.

    "It's kind of a hodgepodge [at certain spots]," Sherman said. "[But] to equate success of what happens, I want each play to count. We grade each play by a scoring system."

  • DeRuyter's Defense Makes Progress: New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter talks about the defense after the spring game:
    "Probably a little bit better (than anticipated), to be honest with you," DeRuyter, Texas A&M's new defensive coordinator, said Saturday afternoon.

    The Aggies had just wrapped up their annual Maroon & White game, and DeRuyter said afterward he's happy with the way his 3-4 defense has come along, with two spring practices remaining next week.

    "We've tried to force feed our guys," DeRuyter said. "I wasn't sure how much they could handle."

  • Most Improved: BCS-Eagle's Robert Cessna talks about a handful of players, including his most improved:
    Cyrus Gray — he’s accepted the competition from Christine Michael.
    Lucas Patterson — he was a force in the middle.
    Terrence McCoy — he had a few practices where he matched last season’s seven catches.
    Hutson Prioleau — he could fill voids at fullback as an H-back along with developing as a tight end.
    Lionel Smith — he finally was able to use his speed to make plays.
  • Barrera Switches Sides: Offensive lineman Stephen Barrera switches sides to defensive end:
    "It's not a knock against him as an offensive player, but he's a pretty good athlete," Sherman said after practice. "He's strong. I want to make sure we're making the right decision with him, and keeping him at the right spot."

    Barrera (6-5, 302), who earned three early starts last year at left tackle as a true freshman, played on the defensive line at Clear Lake High.

    "He might go back, or he might stay where he is, depending on how well he does on defense," Sherman said. "I'm trying to get him in a position where he can play. We're trying to get him on the field."

  • Tannehill Talks Receiver Depth: WR Ryan Tannehill did a Q&A with FoxSports and addresses the receiver depth:
    "It’s good to know that you have a lot of guys out there. They have to cover all of us. It’s not just one guy they have to focus on, double one guy. When you have weapons all over the field, they have to cover us throughout the whole field. Just about all the time there is going to be at least one guy open. I think it’s great to have some variability in your offense."

vs. Texas Tech:

I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't completely intrigued with the Aggies. In fact, I think that they're a lot like Texas Tech has/is in the sense that they've got some fantastic skill position players and a high-flying offense, but a defense that is really holding the team back.

We'll take a look at the defense first, but take a look at the defense from last year. The stats look awful, and the defense gave up 47 points to Arkansas, 62 to Kansas St., 35 to an offensively challenged Colorado team, 65 to Oklahoma, 49 to Texas and 44 to Georgia. And although points allowed isn't indicative of the performance of a defense, it's a place to start in the sense that the Aggies were 105th in the nation in points allowed.

But it's a new season and the Aggies hired Air Force's defensive coordinator, Tim DeRuyter, and every Aggie that I've talked to have said that they think that DeRuyter is going to be great, but he may not be around very long as they see him being a head-coach candidate when the current Air Force coach takes a better job. I know that it's hard to compare stats across conferences, DeRuyter's Air Force defense was the 11th best defense (this is total defense) in the country last year. Of course, the caveat of this thought is that the coordinator can only make so much of an impact. Perfect example, James Willis was the co-defensive coordinator for an Alabama team that was 2nd in the nation in total defense. That certainly doesn't mean that you can expect the same type of success at Texas Tech and I think it's unrealistic to expect similar results if you're TAMU. You can hope for and expect improvement, but going from 105th to the top third in the country is going to be tough.

The defense obviously starts with OLB Von Miller, who led the BCS in sacks last year with 17. As an aside, and this doesn't make any sense to me, but Miller only had 39 tackles for the year. Really? He had 17 sacks but only 39 tackles? How does that happen? The rest of the defensive line is relatively young. DT Lucas Patterson should man one of the DT spots and he's been fairly productive, but on the Aggie two-deep, three of their top 6 linemen are sophomores. The linebacker group is a good mix of experience and youth and if you take a look at their depth chart, their mix of linebackers is similar to Texas Tech's in that their inside linebackers are in the 6-0/225 range, a 6-2/240 outside linebacker and the other outside linebacker is in the 6-1/210 range (more safety than linebacker, i.e. Julius Howard or Daniel Cobb).

Three of the four in the secondary return and this unit was very young last year and are still relatively young. Again, taking a look at TAMU's depth chart, of their top eight in the secondary, four of them are sophomores. As the stats played out, the defensive effort wasn't exceptional and the Aggies did lose Jordan Pugh, who was a big part of the secondary for a couple of years.

As mentioned above, the offensive skill positions are tremendous for the Aggies. Starting with the running backs, Christine Michael (844 yards and 10 TD's) and Cyrus Gray (757 yards and 5 TD's) were both really good on the ground and then signed three 4-star running backs last year in Ben Malena, Mister Jones and D.J. Jones.

The receiving corps is almost entirely intact, except for the loss of TE Jamie McCoy and WR Morrow, but does return some real play-makers in Uzoma Nwachukwu, Ryan Tannehill (I wish we had signed this guy) and Jeff Fuller. All three of those players caught over 40 passes and Nwachukwu had over 17 yards a catch last year. But the offense really starts with Jerrod Johnson. I've claimed that I think that Johnson and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert are probably the best quarterbacks in the Big 12 and I still think that's true. Skin Patrol pointed to the fact that Johnson's biggest fault is his completion percentage and he's right, that is the one spot that Johnson needs to improve. After thinking about it, TAMU's offense does like to throw the ball deep more than some of the spread teams in the Big 12 and that completion percentage isn't a huge worry.

However, what is a big worry is the offensive line. There are three returning starters coming back (I think) at center (Matt Allen), right guard (Patrick Lewis) and left guard (Evan Eike), but it's the tackles that are the biggest question marks for the Aggies. I will say that Sherman, a former offensive line coach, does know offensive line play and I do think that a lot of the issues that the Aggies have had over the years was due to the poor talent evaluation and/or recruiting by Fran, but there's a possibility that Sherman could start two true freshmen, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews (both were 4-star recruits). Joeckel was in College Station during the spring and Sherman had nothing but praise for his true freshman. I have no doubt that both are talented, but last year, the Aggies were 74th in the nation in sacks allowed, were pretty darned good running the ball and despite the talents of both players, there are going to be situations where both players won't be as consistent as a veteran might be just like Texas Tech (Terry McDaniel and LaAdrian Waddle). It's tough to expect young players to perform at critical positions at a high level on a consistent basis for the entire year.

So my thoughts on this game is that it's going to be tough. I know, you'd love for me to tell you that it's going to be a cake-walk, but if I'm being honest, I think that TAMU and Texas Tech are similar teams. I don't think the Texas Tech defense is going to be as bad as they were last year against TAMU (not adjusting for an entire game can be frustrating), but I do think that the TAMU can be that explosive. The offense never clicked against the Aggies last year, and whether you chalk it up to starting a right tackle that was a true freshman, a quarterback that couldn't get it going and was eventually replaced by a redshirt freshman, etc. It will be interesting to see where the TAMU defense is by this time and if they've made significant improvements over last year then I think this is a pretty darned close game.

I still believe that the problems that plagued Texas Tech last year are correctable problems and I don't think that the Aggies are 20 points better than Texas Tech. My worry level for this game is about a 3 and the offensive line should have time to gel once the Red Raiders travel to College Station. I'll certainly be watching to see how the Aggies perform against Missouri and in particular, how the Aggie tackles handle MU's Aldon Smith, one of the premier pass-rushing ends in the Big 12. That may give Texas Tech fans some insight on how TAMU good the Aggies can be.