Year Two Finally Upon A&M

<b>Kansas City, MO --</b> It couldn't get much worse for Texas A&M's football program last season. Not only did the Aggies lose six of eight Big 12 games and finish well short of a postseason bid, but they were beaten convincingly during a number of contests. A once proud defense called the ‘Wrecking Crew' was shredded for an average of nearly 432 yards and 39 points per game in Dennis Franchione's first season.

Fans of a program rich in success and tradition hope Franchione's second go-around is a lot easier than the first.

"Year two is much easier than year one," said the former Alabama and TCU head man. "Having done enough year ones in my life I knew it would be that way. It's so much easier. We've been full cycle through a season. Last year everything was new.

"Those are pluses going into this year. I believe we'll have a better football team, but three of our first four opponents are ranked in the top 20. We'll find out a lot about our team. Certainly our opening schedule is tough."

Franchione has preached that message throughout A&M's summer banquet circuit and it's clear fans are still behind him.

"The Aggies have been great," he said. "The support, warmth and understanding. They have a great understanding of the game, where you're going, and what needs to be done. We need to put the things together to improve. We need to continue to upgrade our facilities. There are a number of areas that have been key components. The support has been about as good as someone could ask for."

Just how much has A&M improved from one season to the next? That question could be answered as soon as week one of the Big 12 campaign when it hosts defending champion Kansas State in College Station. The stretch run won't get any easier, either, as they play Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Texas in the month of November.

But first thing's first, and that's just making it to November.

"I think it's a great opportunity to play the Big 12 champs first," said free safety Jaxson Appel. "I've always said that to be the best you've got to beat the best. It's better for our team to play the teams that have proven themselves in the past and that will help make us better in the future."

Defending decision on redshirts

Franchione defended his decisions last fall to redshirt various newcomers that could have made contributions during a horrendous campaign, saying that the program is in much better shape now because of it.

"I've been through this process before, maybe in rebuilding," he said. "I don't think our redshirts would have made a big difference last year, but I think they will as we continue to build this program. There is always a day or two at practice where you look at them and get excited. Last year we wanted to build a program that would perpetuate itself as we go along.

"I always say there's one great thing about freshmen, and that's they will become sophomores. I think they've brought an enthusiasm level and effort level to our team. It's probably uplifted and pushed everyone. You have to be thoughtful of how you put things together."

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