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The Battalion

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

The Battalion

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Spavital should be appreciated, not bashed

Ask any Texas A&M football fan what they think about offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, and the responses are likely to be similar across the board — and not very favorable.

Many of the thoughts, mostly centered around his playcalling, are emotion-driven. When looking at his overall body of work, however, Spavital deserves more praise than disapproval from Aggie fans.

Spavital took over the play-calling duties prior to the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl, a game after which he lost Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans, arguably his two best players.

Despite losing one of the nation’s best offensive duos, the 30-year-old Spavital pieced together a nice season in 2014. Sophomore Kenny Hill came out firing and broke school records in his first game, but his Heisman hopes went freefalling after the Aggies ran into the thick of their SEC schedule. In the aftermath of the 59-0 debacle at Alabama, Hill was benched in favor of five-star true freshman signal caller Kyle Allen, who helped the Aggies upset Auburn and finish the year with an 8-5 record and a win in the Liberty Bowl.

2015 has been eerily similar, with a sophomore quarterback starting the season hot only to be replaced by another blue-chip true freshman quarterback in Kyler Murray.

Naturally, the finger is immediately pointed at Spavital for his inability to develop a quarterback, which is simply not the case.

During his first year at A&M, Spavital took Manziel under his wing and improved his game as a passing quarterback. Manziel saw his passer rating increase by nearly 20 points in 2013 and improved in nearly every passing category in his second season. That was because of Spavital and his ability to develop a passer.  

Poor coaching is not what has plagued Spavital’s offense — it is the youth. Last year, 13 of the top 15 FBS leaders in passing efficiency were upperclassmen, and in the three years prior to that, it was 11 of 15.

Simply put, it is incredibly difficult for a true freshman to thrive in today’s version of college football, especially in the SEC where stout defenses are simply a way of life. It takes time and experience to develop into an elite passing quarterback.

Both Allen and Murray were both highly-touted prospects coming out of high school, but they were also thrown into action with little to no experience. No matter the level of talent, performing at a high level is tough on a player who is just one year removed from playing on Friday nights against high school competition.

Johnny Manziel was a freshman when he won the Heisman trophy, but he was a redshirt, not a true freshman. Even Manziel sat out for a year and learned from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who now starts for the Miami Dolphins in the NFL. It takes time to become acclimated to the speed of college football.

Also, the normally stout offensive line for A&M is less experienced than others in the last few years. They have experience, but have lost a first round draft pick in each of the past three years – Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi. Replacing that kind of elite talent is no easy task.

Many also criticize his heavy use of screens and use of Tra Carson in the running game. It might not seem that way, but there is a method to his madness. The Air Raid offense, which has taken over college football, is centered around quick screens and passes, and with the talent A&M has on the perimeter, his offensive scheme and play calling fits their personnel the best.

This is exactly what they do with Christian Kirk, and Spavital has made a clear effort to get him the ball on offense. His offense is tailored to get the ball into your playmakers hands and let them to what they do best — make plays. It is never mentioned, but this has been something Spavital has done a good job of in 2015.

Kevin Sumlin has a terrific history of hiring offensive coordinators. He had current West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen and Kliff Kingsbury as his OCs at Houston. Since coming to A&M as head coach, he has had Kingsbury and now Spavital. This is an offense Sumlin has run for years, and he knows what to look for in an offensive coordinator. He hired Spavital for a reason.

When a team loses, the blame is immediately placed on the coaching staff. This year, Spavital has become the scapegoat for many of the problems with the team. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a star quarterback cannot be born overnight. It takes some patience and time, but Spavital deserves a chance to prove himself with an experienced signal caller.

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