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

Advertisement
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Advertisement
Texas A&M starting pitcher/relief pitcher Emiley Kennedy (11) hands the ball to starting pitcher/relief pitcher Brooke Vestal (19) during Texas A&M’s game against Texas at the Austin Super Regional at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
Aggies’ comeback falls short in 9-8 loss to Longhorns
Luke White, Sports Editor • May 25, 2024

As the fifth inning drew to a close in Texas A&M softball’s Super Regional matchup with No. 1 Texas on Saturday, the Aggies found themselves...

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
Southern slugfest
May 23, 2024
Advertisement
Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
April 25, 2024
Advertisement
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The Battalion May 4, 2024

2023 A&M football offensive breakdown

A new season almost always provides an elevated level of optimism for every football program.
Fall camps provide hope and new learning opportunities for players and coaches as they try to better themselves on and off the field. Much is the same for the Texas A&M football team as it looks to rebound from a season where its offense let it down in close games.
How to maximize the offensive potential
Seemingly everyone asks this question; coaches, personnel staff, players and fans. In an offense-driven era of football, this will always be the most important question.
Previously we discussed what hurt the 2022 A&M offense from succeeding. With players and coaches having access to media availability during training camp, the excitement to prove themselves is bleeding into every corner of the internet and Aggie fandom.
Remember when coach Kevin Sumlin ran his version of the air raid at A&M? The air raid was trendy because defenses had to cover the width of the field. In an era where three or four linebackers on the field was the norm, the use of more, faster wide receivers provided mismatches for the offense.
This prompted every team running Nickel as their Base formations. Five defensive backs in the secondary became necessary, because even as teams increased their 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE) usage, every defensive back matched every receiver theoretically canceling the “advantage” the offense was supposed to have.
To put this into perspective: Arkansas runs a 3-2-6 (3 DL, 2 LB, 6 DBs) base; Ole Miss and Mississippi State are proud descendants of Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 base; Georgia and Alabama run a 4-2-5 base formation. A&M ran a 4-2-5 1-gap scheme under then-defensive coordinator Mike Elko before switching to defensive coordinator DJ Durkin’s 3-3-5/3-2-6 two-gap scheme (A move that should pay off soon).
Football is a fast game, so it’s imperative your fastest players are on the field!
However, if you haven’t been keeping tabs, football is a cyclical sport. Ground and pound football is back with a twist!
Defensive backs are faster, but lighter defenders. If you want to buck the trend, you have to course-correct. Beat speed with strength and use bigger bodies. We’re talking an extra offensive lineman, more tight ends, more running backs! (Actual running backs, not using graduate WR Ainias Smith as a hybrid player)
This also has made power running schemes incredibly relevant again (Down blocks and pulling linemen). I referred to the GH Counter above as a way of highlighting calling the wrong run at the right time. Here’s one at the right time!
Aligning all wide receivers and tight ends to one side forced the defense to respect the strength on the left side of the formation. With no alley defenders to worry about on the right side of the formation, the linemen pulled into space, and the rest was poetry in motion!
Unfortunately, you can’t spam the same call because defenses will adjust. But why prematurely self-correct? Here, a bunched, tight set invites more defenders into the box, specifically more second level defenders. What you’re left with is a minimal gain because No. 7, sophomore WR Moose Muhammed III, is unable to block the backside linebacker No. 44. The numbers matched; the personnel didn’t.
Again, if you want to play with power, play with powerful, tough athletes! Fisher calls for Lead with a fullback and Lane lines up as an H-back. By adding both near the line of scrimmage, it creates more gaps for A&M, hence more gaps South Carolina has to cover. South Carolina stacks the box but the left C gap Lead Run gives No. 42, senior TE Max Wright, and No. 60, freshman OL Trey Zuhn III, easy leverage blocks to make while No. 24, junior RB Earnest Crownover, can favorably wham block defensive back No. 27. Junior RB Devon Achane did the rest!
A great coach understands how to maximize his personnel. Last season, A&M had various talents but no clear identity of their roles within the team. With the team seeing favorable roster turnover in the last year, there is greater clarity going into the new season.
A&M can be a more versatile running team. Wright and sophomores Jake Johnson and Theo Melin Ohrstrom compose a deep tight end room with ample athletic upside and size. (Green would have been a nice boost if not for the season-ending injury) A dynamic running game that teams are required to respect gives you good looks to complete long play action passes. All of a sudden the offense has different levels of dynamism.
Michigan has adapted and has beaten Ohio State in consecutive seasons. Georgia’s offense leveled up when they ran 2 TE sets with juniors Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington. Baylor won the “Air Raidy” Big 12 in 2021 by playing tough man football. A&M can have a better offense in 2023 with the same structure.
Picking the right QB
Sophomore QB Conner Weigman, that selection was cut and dry… Only it isn’t?
Weigman can start Week 1 versus New Mexico and likely plays well because New Mexico simply doesn’t have the caliber of athlete to match up with A&M.
But what happens after that?
His starting debut against Ole Miss was awesome! 300 passing yards and four passing touchdowns!
But why is junior QB Max Johnson still a better option?
Two words: Arm strength
Weigman does a lot well at this point in his career. He’s a competitive player with good processing and has quick twitch and pocket mobility to maneuver the pocket and run in the scramble drill.
But that arm strength … It’s kind of a problem. Weigman’s zero interceptions from the 2022 season is a bit deceiving. He had his fair share of contested passes that went his way, and betting on volatility is bad business.
This offense, for years, has struggled to separate against man coverage especially when the team stretches the field. We can split every A&M wide receiver from the Fisher era into two categories: those with good short area quickness and those who can make contested catches. The first group has players like Smith and Muhammad and former players Lane, Quartney Davis and Cameron Buckley. The second group has names like Kendrick Rogers, Jhamon Ausbon, Jalen Preston and Chris Marshall. Fortunately, sophomore Evan Stewart features as an outlier; with recent reports from camp so might Noah Thomas.
Unfortunately, the offense has struggled to separate against man coverage the deeper it tries to push the ball down the field. Last year, this team faced a lot of third and longs. If you’re picking up what I’m putting down … it’s not great!
Weigman’s game log from last year suggests a similar story. South Carolina and Auburn play a heavy amount of Man-Type coverages. His stats in these games compared to others are … noticeably different!
If you want to push the ball down the field, but your receivers can’t consistently generate separation quickness, you inevitably run into a ton of tight window throws. The quick fix is arm strength!
While you might not realize it, accuracy in tight windows is dependent on anticipation and ball velocity. A quarterback has to know his receiver will be open in the right spot, in the same way the receiver has to know the quarterback can get the ball to him accurately with control. A quarterback not having the right arm strength can force overthrown and underthrown balls because the passer is focused on ball velocity instead of correct placement.
Max Johnson anticipates well, showing aggression to throw over the middle of the field with his strong arm and good accuracy. Give Weigman time to fix his looping mechanics and wide base and then unleash the beast!
How did A&M beat Alabama in 2021? Unheralded backup QB Zach Calzada threw the kitchen sink at Alabama’s defense connecting on every vertical passing concept in the book. Fisher’s vertical concepts constantly forced miscommunications with Alabama’s boundary defenders, allowing Calzada to rip the ball every time a receiver found a hole shot.
The formula is there, don’t overthink it!
Don’t get in the way
Speaking of not overthinking, offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino was hired to provide a new voice. While the move is very Fisher-like, it’s still a plus-addition on paper. To fully see the potential impact this move might have, don’t get in the way!
We can see the direction that Fisher wants to take the team, so allow the man you hired to help you realize your goals! While Petrino is often labeled as a disciple of the air raid, that’s actually very incorrect. Petrino’s offenses are very pro-style, but the way he picks and chooses his concepts (pass and run) is very dependent on personnel.
Fisher understood his deficiencies as a play caller and hired Petrino because he saw someone who can take this existing team and playbook and make it a more appealing product on the field. Petrino recently discussed his role within the program, highlighting “Jimbo is the boss. My job is to keep him happy and make sure everything works the way he wants it to work.” It’s a relatively harmless quote, but is still somewhat telling given Fisher’s high-strung nature.
With rumblings the offense is looking quicker, more efficient, and more explosive, that positive momentum should carry itself as long as it can. There’s no reason for anyone to overstep their boundaries if things truly are looking up for the program. Enjoy the moment as the head leader and don’t get in the way! Good leadership is about optimizing the functionality of the group you’re working with; trying to unnecessarily flex control over a certain aspect of your group is how you end up with last season’s offense.
With this “new look” offense starting to take shape, there will be no doubt that optimism will be flooding through College Station. The Aggies are never short on talent, but unfortunately if talent keeps tripping itself up over and over again, where does the line get drawn?

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Battalion

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas A&M University - College Station. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Battalion

Comments (0)

All The Battalion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *