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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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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Players to watch: Alabama

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Photo by CJ Smith

Sophomore TE Jake Johnson (19) runs through two Auburn defenders for a first down catch during Texas A&M’s game against Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 at Kyle Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

The game that has been circled on Texas A&M football’s calendar for months is finally here.
Just two years removed from a game-ending field goal and one year from a near-upset victory for the Maroon and White in Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama returns back to College Station for a pivotal SEC West matchup.
Since last season, many faces have stepped into the limelight for the Crimson Tide and the Aggies. Here are a few names to look out for.
Kool-Aid McKinstry, DB (Alabama)
With possibly the best NIL deal in all of college sports, McKinstry has also made headlines with his play. While his numbers may not jump off the page, it’s hard for a cornerback to rack up stats when the other team refuses to throw the ball towards him.
The Birmingham, Alabama native only has nine solo tackles and four pass deflections on the year, but has helped the Crimson Tide to a top-25 passing defense in the country. McKinstry will be lined up against a deep A&M wide receiver room, and he will be paired up against wideouts like sophomore Evan Stewart and graduate Ainias Smith come Saturday, Oct. 7, offering his biggest challenge so far this weekend.
Walter Nolen, DL (Texas A&M)
Truthfully, any one of A&M’s defensive linemen could be on this list, as the Aggies’ front has been on a tear the past few weeks. After another 15-tackle for loss performance, the Maroon and White became the fourth team in the last 20 seasons to have 15 or more TFLs in a two-game span. The Aggies are also tied for second in the country in total sacks and fifth in total defense.
Nolen, a part of the historic 2021 recruiting class, has been a defensive bastion this season. The Powell, Tennessee native ranks third in the team in total tackles and is tied for second in sacks and TFL with three and 6.5 respectively.
Alabama’s offensive line matches up poorly with the Maroon and White’s defensive front, as the Crimson Tide ranks 126 in sacks allowed and 119 in TFL allowed. Nolen and the Aggie defensive front are set up for another big game for a third week in a row if they can exploit Alabama’s offense up front.
Jase McClennan, RB (Alabama)
The Crimson Tide’s offense has looked quite different from the Bryce Young-led team of last season. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Milroe has stepped into the starting role and has struggled at times this season.
This is why it is impertinent that Alabama establishes a run game with McClennan against A&M’s defense.
In last week’s game against Mississippi State, the Crimson Tide rushed 42 times, only attempting 12 passes all game. Despite this, McClennan only rushed for 63 yards but still leads the team in rushing yards with 326. In Alabama’s biggest win of the season, the Aledo native had his only over-100 yard rushing performance against Ole Miss.
To have success against A&M’s defense, Alabama will need to find success on the ground, as the Aggies are No. 9 in passing yards allowed. This is only slightly easier said than done, with the Maroon and White also sitting at No. 20 in rushing defense.
Jake Johnson, TE (Texas A&M)
A&M has a plethora of options on the receiving front, but a big X factor going into this matchup is the starting QB’s little brother.
After tight end Donovan Green went down with an ACL injury, Johnson has stepped into the starting role and has come into his own the last few weeks. Still, after catching his first touchdown against Auburn, the Athens, Georgia native has yet to truly have a break-out performance this season.
With the Crimson Tide’s secondary squaring up against A&M’s wide receivers, Johnson should find himself in a bigger role this weekend and could prove vital to the Aggies’ passing attack against Alabama. If the Alabama linebackers get too focused on A&M’s wideouts, this could be Johnson’s biggest game yet.

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