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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

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New-look offense in Aggieland

Photo by Cameron Johnson

Junior RB Bladen Reaves (35) avoids a tackle during the Maroon & White Spring Game at Kyle Field on April 9, 2022.

On Saturday, Sept. 3, Texas A&M is set to face the Sam Houston State Bearkats in its 2022 home opener. With a newly announced starting quarterback, a star-studded offensive line and multi-functional, established receiver core, hopes and opinions sit high for the No. 6 Aggies as they face off against a defense coming off an 11-1 2021 season. 

“Well, we’re going to get a very good opponent,” head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’re gonna get one that’s only had one loss in two years, and a coach who’s won multiple national championships and has played in multiple national championship games. They understand how to play, how to win.”

The biggest faceoff between the maroon and white offense and the Bearkat defense will come between A&M’s offensive line and the aggressive Sam Houston rushers. The Bearkat defense, historically, focuses on the movement and activity on the line and rushing the quarterback rather than the backfield. The Aggies had an influx of freshman offensive linemen join the team in the 2022 recruiting class who sit to fill in spots left by starters such as tackle Kenyon Green who entered the NFL Draft. So, the pressure sits on offensive line coach Steve Addazio to pull a line together capable of holding Sam Houston back.

“Defensively, [Sam Houston is] very multiple on their fronts,” Fisher said. “A lot of stem and movement up front, blitz packages and, in things they do, they’re aggressive, physical with multiple coverages.”

Additionally, the matchup against the Bearkats marks the first start for redshirt sophomore quarterback Haynes King this season. King’s only other full-game performance with the Aggies was the 2021 season opener against Kent State. From King’s performance against Kent State and in the Maroon & White Spring Game, he plays with a fluid adaptation of his position — he is capable of throwing the ball down the field, but he is also comfortable with using his legs. With the Bearkats emphasis on rushing, the game will be a pressure test on King’s ability to throw the ball and move down the field.  

“It’s a multitude of things on a daily basis [that make King standout] — on the field, off the field, throwing, running, reading, checking … but as I said, it took a while because you had guys matching each other,” Fisher said. “Guys played very well off each other, kept pushing each other. But we had to make a decision for the first game. We feel very comfortable with Haynes [King], we thought he had a great camp.”

The last cog of the maroon and white’s offensive machine is their receiving core and running back depth. 2021 standouts senior receiver Ainias Smith and junior running back Devon Achane will return in the 2022 season, however, with running back Isaiah Spiller’s entrance into the 2021 NFL Draft, the lane sits open for Achane as the starter. Additionally, junior receiver Chase Lane returns to the field following his season-ending injury late in the 2021 season. The expectation heading into the 2022 season is that both the Aggie receivers and running backs have a large boost in overall speed, which should help the maroon and white break through Sam Houston’s front seven.

“I wouldn’t say [our speed is] just getting hyped up,” Smith said. “You can definitely tell there’s lot of speed on the field at all positions, from the running back and receiver room, even the defensive backs. Everybody’s just playing faster. It seems like the game is slowing down for a lot of these guys, you know what I’m saying? People are making a lot of plays.”

Despite the pressure and questions still left on the table, Fisher and his offense are focused and excited to finally return to the field after long months of waiting.

“We’re very excited for the opportunity just to get on the field and play in front of the fans,” junior offensive lineman Layden Robinson said. “It’s big. See the fans lining up outside, sleeping in tents as you’re going by to class, and you just say, ‘Wow, [it’s] really here.’ We couldn’t be more excited for it. We[’re] just excited for our opportunity to play in front of this great fan base that we call our family … When you actually hit the stadium, you just see the crowd after months and months of waiting. It’s a different feeling. It’s like, wow, I’m finally back where I belong. That’s what that feels like.”

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