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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

The intersection of Bizzell Street and College Avenue on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024.
Farmers fight Hurricane Beryl
Aggies across South Texas left reeling in wake of unexpectedly dangerous storm
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Texas A&M LB Taurean York (21) speaks during the 2024 SEC Media Day at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, Texas on Thursday July 18, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M football is expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the conference this season, per the SEC football preseason media poll...

Bob Rogers, holding a special edition of The Battalion.
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Chancellor John Sharp during a Board of Regents meeting discussing the appointmet of interim dean Mark Welsh and discussion of a McElroy settlement on Sunday, July 30, 2023 in the Memorial Student Center.
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Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp announced Monday he will be retiring on June 30, 2025.  A figure notorious in state politics,...

Grading the Aggies: from the season opener to the off week

Photo by Photo by C. Morgan Engel

Freshman quarterback Kellen Mond has rushed for 266 yard this season. 

Over half-way through the 2017 season, Texas A&M is 5-2 and has played in one-possession games each week. Head coach Kevin Sumlin said the Off Week was a good time for his players and staff to have a mental break, but Aggies everywhere may be needing the same thing. Before A&M comes down the home-stretch of the year, here’s a look at how The Battalion Sports editors grade each position group:
Quarterbacks: B
Redshirt sophomore Nick Starkel’s injury against UCLA really pushed true freshman Kellen Mond into the spotlight. Mond has shown improvement since  his college debut against the Bruins. He’s made strides in the last few weeks to improve his game extending play. Still, Mond ranks in the bottom-half of the SEC in passing yards — hopefully we will continue to climb up the charts. 
Running backs: B
Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford exploded in the opening weeks, showing that the Aggies had a powerful ground attack. Each were dealing with small injuries, allowing backups Kendall Bussey and Jacob Kibodi to get meaningful reps. All four backs have shined bright at times, but A&M’s run game has been stagnant and held under 100 yards in back-to-back games.
Wide receivers: B
Junior Christian Kirk was one of two receivers coming back from last season and leads the team in receptions, which is no surprise considering that Mond has leaned heavily on the veteran. One of the biggest surprises to come out of the wide receiving corps is senior Damion Ratley, although he hasn’t had a receiving touchdown just yet, he’s had crucial catches in big time situations. Including a 42-yard catch against the Gators in The Swamp to keep the momentum going
Offensive Line: C
Position coach Jim Turner has done a subpar job trying to put the pieces together. Players have shuffled, but things have only worked out with the starting five. Behind the first team, a complete second group has struggled to emerge due to youth. The O-Line has still had trouble getting movement against top tier defensive lines, such as Alabama.
Defensive Line: B
The defensive line has by far exceeded expectations. Landis Durham and Jarrett Johnson had huge shoes to fill coming into the year with both Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall leaving to the NFL. But now half way through the season, Durham has a team 5.5 sacks and is ranked No. 22 overall in the country and Johnson has 3.5 sacks on the year. 
Secondary: B 
For as youthful as the position group is, they have played beyond their years. Senior Armani Watts, who leads the SEC in interceptions with four this season, has remained healthy and has served as a vital anchor on the back end of the defense. Inexperience has been susceptible to allowing big plays though, but for playing five true freshmen at times, the Aggies have played solid perimeter defense. 
Linebackers: A
This position group is by far the most improved on the team. Coming into the season, there were questions regarding the group, but in the last few weeks they’ve really been able to hold the opposing rush offense. Tyrel Dodson has emerged as one of the Aggies’ biggest play makers. Dodson has 4.5 sacks and three interceptions, and leads the teams in tackles. Junior Otaro Alaka is ranked No. 36 in the entire country with five sacks thus far. However, the group will have to keep the level up heading into the second half of the season, which has been notoriously troublesome for the team. 
Special Teams: A
Shane Tripucka, Daniel LaCamera and, believe it or not, Cullen Gillaspia have been some of the biggest difference makers on special teams this season. Gillaspia may have made one of the biggest and most exciting plays of the season when he blocked a punt in the end zone against Alabama forcing a safety and cutting their lead. LaCamera made the game winning field goal in his home state of Florida to send A&M back to Texas with a win, which rarely happens in The Swamp. Tripucka averages 46.2 yards a game and out kicked the No. 1 ranked punter in the nation last week in A&M’s win over Florida.
Coaching: B
Sumlin seemed to be a dead man walking after A&M’s tumultuous loss at UCLA. However, since then Sumlin has steered the Aggies ship straight, guiding them to a 5-2 record. He has done so by completing four comeback wins while facing second-half deficits. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone continues to transform Mond, while John Chavis has exceeded expectations on defense, particularly in the front seven. The move from the coaches box to the sideline and the mid-game adjustments have paid for Chavis and the defense. Things have been far from perfect and A&M has made questionable decisions, but the bottom line is this staff continues to adjust and win games when the odds seem stacked against them.

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  • Sophomore running back Trayveon Williams passed 1957 Heisman Trophy winner John David Crow on the Aggies’ career rushing list.  Williams ended with 38 yards for the night.

    Photo by Photo by: Kevin Chou
  • Junior wide receiver Christian Kirk caught his fifth touchdown of the season Saturday night. Now with 21 receiving touchdowns during his college career, Kirk currently ranks No. 4 on the Texas A&M all-time receiving touchdowns list. He will need 13 more touchdowns to tie current leader Jeff Fuller. 

    Photo by Photo by C. Morgan Engel
  • Junior guard Connor Lanfear and sophomore center Erik McCoy survey the defense before the snap.

    Photo by Photo by C. Morgan Engel
  • Junior defensive end, Landis Durnham, had two sacks in last weeks win against Arkansas. 

    Photo by Photo by C. Morgan Engel
  • Senior safety Armani Watts had two interceptions, one of which was during Louisiana’s opening drive of the second half.

    Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker
  • Sophomore linebacker Tyrel Dodson finished the game against No. 1 Alabama with a team leading 16 total tackles, one sack and two-and-a-half Tackles for Loss. He also was able to land two quarterback hits on Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.

    Photo by Photo by C. Morgan Engel
  • Junior linebacker Cullen Gillaspia celebrates after blocking the Alabama punt for a safety.

    Photo by Photo by: Kevin Chou
  • Coach Kevin Sumlin reacts to the targeting call. 

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