Saturday, January 21, 2012

Viewing Texas A&M Through the Eyes of a Recruit

Now that the football season has ended, I thought this would be a good time to talk about something I enjoy talking about: recruiting. National signing day for recruits is a few short weeks away. Recruiting season is in full swing. The lack of success on the field over the last decade has led me to be perpetually overexcited for the incoming class of recruits. Each group seems to have the missing pieces that will lead Texas A&M back to glory. As we all know, that hasn’t quite panned out as hoped. But it still provides us with endless fodder for debates, as only speculating on the future can.  

I want to take a look at our university through the eyes of a highly sought-after recruit. Why would a star football player from the state of Texas choose A&M? Why would he rather play for the Aggies than the Longhorns, Tigers, or Sooners? What sets our school apart from the rest?  

I will focus on the following selling points of Texas A&M: coach, tradition, passionate fan base, SEC, facilities, good academics, the town of College Station, playing time and NFL opportunities. Each aspect will be ranked on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being the highest. This will be as unbiased as possible. Thumbs up, let’s do this.  

From everything I have seen, new coach Kevin Sumlin is one hell of a recruiter. I know he didn’t have any otherworldly recruiting classes at Houston, but c’mon, it’s Houston. If I had the chance to play at A&M, UT, or OU, I probably wouldn’t choose Houston. As referenced here before, Sumlin is a Bob Stoops protégé, which hopefully means Sumlin can recruit like Stoops. That is a good thing.
Rank: 4 stars

I am preaching to the choir here – 12th Man, Kyle Field, Wrecking Crew, Corps of Cadets, Yell Practice, etc. No explanation needed. If school tradition is truly what a recruit is looking for, then he may want to check out Aggieland.
Rank: 5 stars  

Fan Base 
On game day, the 12th Man becomes the loudest bunch of fans in the nation. Kyle Field has consistently been recognized as one of the most difficult stadiums for opponents to play in. There is no doubting the passion and devotion among the Aggies (any school that has students willing to wear overalls for an entire Saturday is fanatical). Unfortunately I haven’t seen anything like this yet at Texas A&M, but I will still give the Aggie faithful a high grade.
Rank: 5 stars   

Playing in the SEC 
The SEC is the best football conference in America. Six straight national champions is quite the claim to supremacy. If I am from the state of Texas and I’m choosing between playing in the Big 12 and playing in the SEC, it is an easy decision. With the chance to play on CBS, against top competition, in some of the best stadiums in America, the SEC simply offers more than the Big 12. The lone drawback for a recruit from Texas is the distance from home at away games. Texas families can typically travel to Austin, Waco, and Fort Worth much easier than Fayetteville, Oxford, and Tuscaloosa.
Rank: 4.5 stars
Kyle Field is obviously a great place to play… but not to look at. “The Tacklebox” will be renovated soon, but as it stands now, is horrible to look at. The indoor practice facility is state-of-the-art, and the Bright Complex is nice, but With the money and support our program has, our facilities are currently lacking in comparison to the likes of Alabama and Florida. Until the updates are completed, A&M falls short in this category.
Rank: 3.5 stars   

When I decided to attend Texas A&M, academics played a large role in my choice. The problem is I was a business major looking to join a fraternity, not a star athlete. Let’s be serious here. Everyone is well aware of the academic prestige at A&M, but I don’t think this significantly factors into recruits’ decisions. They care about football, not how challenging their Math 141 class will be. Instead of dreaming on the job opportunities the Mays Business School will offer them, recruits want a football program that gets them to the NFL.
Rank: N/A   

College Station
Let’s go through the list of attractions in College Station… Northgate, Northgate, and Northgate. Did I say Northgate? Anyone that has spent time in the town of College Station knows that there just isn’t much to do, other than drink beer. While this is certainly fun, recruits might be looking for a little more. I cannot deny the power of our rivals’ city of Austin – the state capital has the best Tex-Mex in the state, 6th street, and sits in the Texas’ most scenic region. College Station has Cheddars, Research Park, and roughly more churches per capita than any town in America. If that doesn’t fire you up, I don’t know what will!
Rank: 2 stars

Playing Time 
Without doing research, it seemed that under Mike Sherman the Aggies were not big on playing young guys (especially freshmen). But if a guy was a true playmaker and could handle the pressure as a youngster (see Christine Michael and Trent Hunter), he saw the playing field early on. Kevin Sumlin may employ a different philosophy, but it remains to be seen. With dynamic athletes like Trey Williams and Matt Davis coming down the pike, one must at least entertain the possibility of freshmen seeing significant playing time in 2012.
Rank: 3.5 stars  

Chances of getting drafted in the NFL 
Quarterbacks aside, the Aggies have a solid reputation for getting players to the NFL. Von Miller, Red Bryant, and Martellus and Michael Bennett are all recent Aggies playing in the NFL. The move to the SEC should further position the A&M football program as a launch point to professional football.
Rank: 4 stars  

Total rank: 31.5 stars out of 40 possible  

I was hoping for more than 31.5/40 stars from this totally speculative, arbitrary report card, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Obviously some of these factors have the potential to increase as we improve facilities and Kevin Sumlin wins national championships (right?), but at this moment I feel pretty confident in this report.  

In the end, I think recruits are ultimately swayed to attend Texas A&M because of something that can’t be measured. They might be impressed with Kyle Field. They could be thoroughly disappointed with the College Station lifestyle. But what draws everyone to A&M in the end is different from what you find anywhere else. Call it the Aggie Spirit, the power of the 12th Man, “AggSwagg” – call it whatever you want – but there is something special about Texas A&M, and we know it’s what separates us from the rest.

Monday, January 9, 2012

SEC Growing Pains?

What is better in life than a pro-Aggie rant? Very little I tell you. Trey Bahney subs in to explain why the constant notion of "A&M's SEC growing pains" is unfair and borderline ridiculous. As always we thank him for his thoughts and contributions. Enjoy!

I'm sick of it!

I'm sick of reading and hearing all this trash about how we will have "growing pains" in the SEC. How we should bring lots of patience and accept that we just won't win any football games for the first two decades. I'm sick of reading how we won't be able to adjust to their size and speed. How we think that an offensive team won’t survive in the defensive league. How players from Texas are good, but they just aren't the same caliber as the ones from SEC Country.

The thing is, we don't know. You can make the case that the SEC is the best conference in the nation, but you can also make the case that the Big 12 is the best, because it is subjective. No one knows; and when you look at the stats, many point towards the Big 12. The Big 12 had the #1 SOS while the SEC had the #2 SOS. The Big 12 went 27-3 (90%) against other conferences while the SEC went 42-6 (88%). Take out the third quarter of the Arkansas game and that would make it 93% for the Big 12 and 85% for the SEC.

Everyone was upset when we let Robbert Griffin III put up a school record 430 yards passing on us, but look at what he did after that game: 425 yards to #3 OSU, 406 yards to Mizzou, 479 yards to #5 OU, he single-handedly led BAYLOR to a 9-3 season, oh yea and won the Heisman. Don't get me wrong, I can't STAND Robert “#humblebrag” Griffin. He is a little too self-righteous for his own good (see his quote before the A&M game, "They don't like us, but we love them because we're Christians"), but his stats are impressive.

My point here is that the SEC is so well known for their defenses, but the case could be made that it is because their offenses are often so ordinary (except for Arkansas). The Big 12 stacks their best players on offense while the SEC stacks their best players on defense. Guess what, that means they don't have any good players on offense. Go ahead and bring up Tebow, Ingram, and Trent Richardson, I'll rebuttal with Bradford, McCoy (Colt, not Case), Griffin, Weeden, Chase Daniels, Blaine Gabbert, Broyles, Crabtree, Dez Bryant, and Blackmon. All of which have been terrorizing A&M defenses for years.

LSU won their biggest game of the season (in OT) by scoring a total of three field goals. OSU won their biggest game of the season by scoring 44 points in three quarters. The SEC is top heavy and they play one less conference game than the Big 12. Consider this, had the Big 12 stayed with their 8 game conference schedule, OSU wouldn't have had to play Iowa State. That's not to say it's an excusable loss (in double OT, hours after the tragic plane crash), but it's just one more opportunity to slip up that an SEC team didn't have.

Speaking of Arkansas, please stop bringing up how Arkansas had to go through "growing pains" 20 years ago when they joined the SEC. They came from the dying Southwest Conference; EVERYONE had growing pains after leaving that dump of a conference. Not to mention they completely cut off their Texas recruiting, which was 90% of their recruiting base. News flash: Arkansas is not in Texas, Texas A&M is.

We left the Big 12 because their leadership is failing the athletic programs and the universities as a whole, not because they have bad football teams. We left the Big 12 because it is a league of tag-along programs that are addicted to their own drug—Texas High School recruits—and will give up their dignity (see Ken Starr’s Perryman Report) and freedom of speech (does OSU even have an AD?) to keep getting their fix.

Even if I concede to the SEC being the better league (especially after we leave), we were stacked to make a run to a BCS game this year in the hands-down second best league. The games we lost were because of coaching, not talent. So we're getting a new coach, pulling in a top 10 recruiting class, expanding our stadium, and expanding our already top of the line facilities. We've made it clear now that Texas A&M will not settle for mediocrity.

I'm not saying we are going to the National Championship game next year, but I am saying that I'm sick of this defeatist attitude people have about the future of our program. We have the talent, the recruiting grounds, the fan support, the facilities, the brand, and the history to win in the SEC and win right away.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Next Chapter

Thanks to a solid win over Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last week, the Texas A&M Aggies officially finished the 2011 season with a record of 7-6. While the season was a major disappointment, the team at least finished with a winning record and a bowl win to build on for next season. The game marked the end of the Mike Sherman era, and the beginning of the Kevin Sumlin era. Writing for the Aggie Rundown has been a fun little project over the last few weeks of the season, but we are now look forward to the next chapter in the cycle of college football: the offseason. With the lack of games to write about, our content will shift mostly toward recruiting and what the future has in store for the Aggies. Thank you for your continued support of the Aggie Rundown. Please spread the word to friends and family who may be interested in reading what we have to offer. If you have any input or suggestions, please feel free to email us. As always, gig 'em!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thankful to be an Aggie

A week or so ago my perturbed friend Ben Berryman wrote an article ridiculing “bowl season” and its countless hollow games and matchups. Normally I would agree with his less than unique thoughts, but that was before I witnessed, first-hand, my beloved Texas A&M Aggies stick it to the Northwestern Wildcats (ok, they pretty much hung on for dear life in the 4th quarter, but still). You want to know why we have 30+ bowl games? So I can travel less than five miles down the road to Reliant Stadium and see the Aggies win the Meineke Car Care bowl. You won me over Mr. Meineke! In a season like the one we just endured… any reason to celebrate, is a worthy reason. The Aggies let me taste a semi-important victory again, and it tasted very nice. Thank you football team.

I honestly don’t have many comments on the actual happenings of the game. There were indeed larger themes to be revered (I will touch on those in a moment), and thankfully the Aggies were able to honor those with a victory. We played our normal strong half of football, stood around some in the second half, then made the ever-so-frustrating switch to what I will now refer to as the “Prevent [you from winning]” defense. That is neither here nor there, we won; and one week from now we won’t remember the specifics.

I would like to give a shout out to Ryan Tannehill for becoming the Texas A&M career leader in passing yards, rightfully taking the crown from our former fraud of a quarterback Jerrod Johnson. And for the record, I am definitely going to miss Tannehill. I honestly believe he was a great if not fantastic quarterback (maybe we will find out more when he goes to the next level); he could run, he could throw the ball in an accurate fashion, and most importantly he was able to instill hope into my constantly aching heart. As I have made it quite clear in the past, I was never a fan of McGee or Jerrod, but for some reason Tannehill never seemed to be the direct reason for my usual Aggie angst. Obviously, something went wrong in our many second half collapses, but in my opinion that had way more to do with play calling, our respective gameplans, and most noticeably our defense. I am nervous about quarterback situation for next year… but I will save those thoughts for another day.

Moving onto those larger forces that arose on the last day of 2011… rain or shine, win or lose, I am proud to be an Aggie. When Aggie football is discussed, my blood often boils, but Aggie football isn’t the reason I wake up in the morning nor my last thought before I fall to sleep. I thoroughly enjoy and value each day that is afforded to me, and that particular joy and sense of value has A LOT to do with the college I choose to attend. Texas A&M instills a sense of pride, not only in your school, but also in yourself. I encounter very few people that don’t describe their time in College Station in hyperbolic terms of elation. It is a contagious attitude that can’t be avoided while you are in that special place.

And one of the greatest themes of Aggieland is the respect for the fallen. Whether it is the monthly Silver Taps or the annual Muster call, Texas A&M does not let anyone fall between the cracks. And when tragedies like Joey V's accident occur, Texas A&M does a phenomenal job of not only honoring the lost, but also reminding everyone else to truly value the many blessings bestowed upon them, the greatest of which is life. Nobody expects nor wishes these tragedies upon anyone they know, but when these situations do occur, I consider myself extremely fortunate to be surrounded by Aggies. Football is fleeting. Thankfully, being an Aggie, is not.