August 22, 2018 7:03:14 AM
Let's just say I don't anticipate that plaque with the empty national championship year for Jimbo Fisher being edited to say 2017.
Trayveon Williams is awesome. Jhamon Ausbon is promising. Aaaaaand.......?
Williams is one of the best running backs in the SEC: he ran for 798 yards last year and it was a regression. Ausbon was impressive as a freshman, catching 50 passes as a clear No. 2 behind Christian Kirk. Those are nice weapons for a quarterback -- whoever that is.
The two options -- Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond -- both showed some good signs last year and their battle is dead even, according to reports out of College Station. Starkel ended the season with a 60 percent completion percentage; Mond had some times where he looked good early, such as completing 62.4 percent of his passes over a four-week span that included Alabama. Both threw six interceptions; Starkel had six more touchdowns on 22 fewer attempts than Mond.
At wide receiver, there are options, but they are all young and unknown commodities. Klyde Chriss, Jalen Preston, Camron Buckley and Roshauud Paul are some names to watch as Texas A&M tries to find perimeter playmakers. There's also a brand new tight end position on campus now that Jimbo Fisher is in the fold, and that will be manned by two new additions: Arizona transfer Trevor Wood and Kansas/JUCO transfer Jace Sternberger.
At least there's a few good returning pieces on the offensive line in Colton Prater, Erik McCoy and Keaton Sutherland. The problem: all of those guys are in the interior, or at least they have been in the past. The Aggies have to figure something out at tackle.
The strength of this defense might be the coordinator, Mike Elko. The Aggie defense dropped some under John Chavis, who is now at Arkansas trying to get his mojo back, and Elko has quite the track record of success coming into this.
He also has some pieces to work with. That is most obvious at linebacker, where Tyrel Dodson and Otara Alaka return after being the team's top and third-best tackler, respectively. They combined for 23 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks and were perfectly useful in pass coverage, too. There are also two really good returning defensive linemen, Landis Durham on the end and Kingsley Keke on the inside. Normally returning two starters on the D-Line would be great, but this is an off year in terms of Aggie defensive line depth. There are options -- Justin Madubuike, Michael Clemons, etc. -- but not quite the level they had in the last three years or so.
In the secondary, the biggest help might be the return of Donovan Wilson, who missed last season while injured and will likely be asked to do big things right away. They'll need him to do so given the youth at corner.
Texas A&M gets yet another year of Daniel LaCamera at placekicker. It does have to replace excellent punter Shane Tripucka, though.
The big story here is the loss of Christian Kirk, who may have been the most talented return man in the conference last season. Granted, Trayveon Williams and that large group of young wide receivers gives the Aggies plenty of options, but it's still a large void to fill.
There are a lot of cases when a program takes on a coaching change with drastic changes in ideology, and all of this happens as the program is seeing a bit of a changing of the guard personnel-wise. To borrow the Bill Connelly term, this can known as a Year Zero, a year that shouldn't really count against a coach's record given all the things going on.
I don't see this being a Year Zero. I don't see this being a huge statement of a Year One, either, but this should be far from a complete disaster.
There are enough pieces here to make opponents worry, such as those guys in the defensive front and Trayveon Williams. It most likely won't be enough to win in Starkville, but it will be enough to force MSU's full attention.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson