The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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It’s time for this year to be ‘The Year’

Photo by Roger Zhang

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is entering his fourth season with the Aggies.

Let’s take a look at Kevin Sumlin’s track record since he became the Aggies’ head football coach before the 2012 season: one Cotton Bowl, one Chick-Fil-A Bowl, one Liberty bowl, zero division titles, zero SEC championships, zero playoff or BCS bowl appearances and zero national championships.

It’s brutal, especially in the SEC West, to expect to compete at the highest level every year. But ask most Aggie fans if their team has lived up to the challenge and they will act as if A&M has.

Sumlin earns a cool $5 million per year, matching Longhorns’ coach Charlie Strong for the highest-paid coach in the state of Texas. Yet, Sumlin hasn’t really  accomplished anything to warrant that paycheck.

Sumlin is like the rich boyfriend, and Aggie fans are the naïve girlfriend. After shaky defensive play and back-to-back sub-par, underachieving seasons, Sumlin is still riding the honeymoon phase with his girlfriend, getting her the latest John Chavis from Macy’s and buying a shiny new Kyle Field from Jared’s.

Don’t be fooled.

Sure, there are impressive accolades from Sumlin’s tenure with the Aggies. In his first season, A&M went 11-2 and produced the first freshman Heisman trophy winner. But, the Aggies have done nothing but decline since. Besides, Johnny Manziel’s award is just an individual award.

Every player starting on offense in Manziel’s second year has landed a spot on an NFL roster. However, those are individual achievements as well, and those players were recruited by previous head coach Mike Sherman. 

As a team, the Aggies have done just enough to stay relevant, remaining a blip on the national radar and sporadically gaining and losing national hype. But the end results merely kept the Aggies mediocre, never propelling the squad to the next level. That  shouldn’t be enough to satisfy A&M fans — it’s time for a winner’s mentality.

A&M was a top 10 team before the 2013-14 season, yet the Aggies underperformed and finished unranked at 9-4. Likewise, they began last year at No. 23, but finished unranked yet again with a final record of 8-5. 

Each year, the excuse for lack of quality seems to be that the team is young. The phrase, “we’ll get ‘em next year” gets tossed around Aggieland far too often. It’s time for this year to be “The Year.”

Unlike almost any team in the past decade, A&M won’t have to leave the state for any game during the first half of the season, and will do so just three times over the course of the year. The once vaunted SEC West seems poised for an uncharacteristically weak year. Alabama, Ole Miss and Auburn all lost their starting quarterbacks from last year. More than half of the teams in the SEC had competitions, Alabama’s being among five and Ole Miss’ among three quarterbacks.

The Crimson Tide returns only four starters on offense, while Mississippi State said goodbye to 13 total starters. The team that seems to have A&M’s number, LSU, will be making adjustments after the departure of Chavis, and the Tigers are benching their original starting quarterback, Anthony Jennings, to open the door for an unproven  Brandon Harris. 

The Razorbacks are likely without starting running back Jonathan Williams for the  entirety of the 2015-16 season due to a foot injury. The Rebels top receiver, Laquon Treadwell, is an unknown commodity after suffering a broken leg last season, while Auburn’s number one receiver, D’haquille Williams, missed a handful of practices in August because of an undisclosed “disciplinary issue.”  

A&M couldn’t have been any luckier in its draw of SEC East opponents. One of its three road games will be at Vanderbilt, who finished dead last with a solid goose egg in the SEC win column last season. South Carolina will roll into College Station on Halloween a year after the Aggies man-handled them last year, 52-28, behind a record-breaking performance from Kenny Hill.

The setup is perfect for Kevin Sumlin, and that’s why expectations should be higher than ever. A&M has seven 5-star players that are freshmen or sophomores, but youth is no longer an excuse — the results should be here now. Entering his fourth year, Sumlin can no longer hide behind recruits because, young or not, these will be the players he wants on the field. 

The cards are all in Sumlin’s hands, so let’s hope he doesn’t deal them “next year.” The time to go all in is now.

Carter Karels is a journalism sophomore and sports editor for The Battalion

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