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The Battalion

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Texas A&M’s offense looking to continue previous success against Vanderbilt

Kellen+Mond
Photo by Meredith Seaver
Kellen Mond

Texas A&M football will kick off the 2020 football season at Kyle Field this Saturday as the Aggies face Vanderbilt. They are looking to win their eighth straight home-opener and will attempt to defeat the Commodores for a third straight time since joining the SEC in 2012.
A&M’s offense, in wins against Vanderbilt in 2013 and 2015, averaged 40 points per game to go along with a combined point differential advantage that sits at +57. The Aggies are expected to continue that success against a Commodore defense that gave up the second most points per game in the SEC last year with 31.8.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher has a lot to be excited about with his 2020 offense, which returns quarterback Kellen Mond and all five starting offensive linemen from a year ago that paved the way for 2019 All-SEC Freshman running back Isaiah Spiller.
The running back room overall is in a more stable situation entering this season, and won’t have to rely on Spiller as much with sophomore Ainias Smith making the transition from wide receiver to running back this offseason.
The room also has sophomore Earnest Crownover and three incoming freshmen, including the light-footed Devon Achane who is also a member of A&M’s track and field program. Expect to see some sort of rotation from the group against Vanderbilt as Fisher gets a better idea of which back does certain things best such as pass protection, one-cut runs and being a receiving threat.
Mond said he’s happy to have two returning rushers in Smith and Spiller and expects them to perform well this fall.
“I think [having Spiller and Smith return] is going to be huge,” Mond said. “It’ll definitely help out on the pass game and vice-versa. Obviously we have to take it one week at a time but I feel really comfortable with having Ainias and Spiller back there, and as far as the rushing game goes, I think they’re both going to have great seasons.”
Tight end Jalen Wydermyer will again be an integral piece of the offense this year after Baylor Cupp’s second season-ending injury. He’ll be looking to build on an All-SEC Freshman campaign that saw him have the third most receiving yards on the team last year behind Jhamon Ausbon and Quartney Davis.
The question with A&M that we will get more answers to this Saturday is which wide receivers will step up and make their presence known with graduations, injuries and opt-outs taking out a brunt of the receiving corps. Jhamon Ausbon, who led all A&M receivers with 872 receiving yards last year, decided to opt-out of this season to prepare for the NFL Draft while senior Camron Buckley suffered a season-ending injury in fall camp.
Fisher reiterated that he and the team support Ausbon and recent opt-out Anthony Hines’ decisions to not play this fall.
“You hate to lose those guys, but with everything going on out there today in this world and in recent times, there’s so many things that affect young men,” Fisher said. “You know we’d love to have them but at the same time we love and respect everything they do.”
That means junior Hezekiah Jones; sophomores Jalen Preston and Caleb Chapman; and RS freshman Kam Brown are likely to see the most snaps along with the highly regarded five-star freshman Demond Demas. Preston, Chapman, and Brown all saw time over the course of 2019, however they combined for just six catches for 65 yards. Jones did not see time on the field last season.
With that being said, Preston, Chapman and Brown faced an uphill battle to see time a year ago with Ausbon, Davis, Kendrick Rogers and Buckley leading the group in 2019. It will be exciting to see which of these young receivers steps up to the task against Vanderbilt, because they have all the opportunity in the world and have a great chance to prove what they can bring to this offense this weekend.
Fisher said he’s been impressed with the somewhat inexperienced group so far and trusts them to step up this Saturday.
“I think Jalen Preston’s had an outstanding camp, Kam Brown — I think our receivers have done a really good job,” Fisher said. “Caleb Chapman’s been really good, Chase Lane, Muhsin “Moose” Muhammad, Demond, Dylan Wright — all those guys have played and done well.”
While statistically their defense may have been poor last year, there is optimism for Vanderbilt on that side of the ball as they return 10 starters, including senior defensive linemen Drew Birchmeier and Dayo Odeyingbo, and return all four of their 2019 starting defensive backs led by junior cornerback Allan George. They also bring back senior linebacker and Texas native Dimitri Moore, who led the team in tackles a season ago with 99 to his name.
They have also brought in defensive coordinator Ted Roof to try and fix their issues, who led the Appalachian State Mountaineers to a fantastic 13-1 record in 2019 and was Auburn’s defensive coordinator during their 2010 BCS title run.
Vanderbilt’s head coach Derek Mason coached the Stanford defense under head coaching minds such as Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw from 2010-2014, a period of time in which the Cardinals won double-digit games each year and played in two Rose Bowls. Mason and Roof form a nice duo of experienced defensive coaches that hope the Commodore defense can lead the team to some conference wins this season and try to stall the A&M offense as best they can this weekend.

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