Big 12 Preview: Texas A&M

In conjunction with the Big 12 Football Media Days being held this week in Houston, Go Pokes will be publishing previews on each of the conference's schools.

Texas A&M Aggies
vs. OSU, Oct, 15, at College Station
Head Coach: Dennis Franchione (3rd year)
2004 Record: 7-5, 5-3 Big 12

With wins over three teams ranked in the top 25 when they played them, A&M showed they were competitive on a national level again in Dennis Franchione's second season in College Station. An upset loss to Baylor, and losses to Oklahoma and Texas in November, showed A&M still has work to do before it can reclaim a spot atop the Big 12 South. With 16 starters returning on offense and defense, A&M looks like it may have the experience to do just that.

Everything on offense started with Reggie McNeal in 2004, and that was both a blessing and a curse. If A&M is to take the next step and compete for a conference title, the Aggies need to show a balanced offense.

Helping to balance the attack will be running back Courtney Lewis, who battled through an injury-plagued season to finish with 742 yards rushing. Wide receiver DeQawn Mobley looks to improve on his numbers from last season (16 receptions), while wide out Earvin "Magic" Taylor has shown reliable hands and a penchant for big plays. Returning tight end Boone Stutz was a beast in the running game, consistently opening up holes for the backs.

The area of the offense that generated the most consternation last season was the offensive line. Senior tackle Jami Hightower is the most talented returning lineman. Look for Corey Clark to replace departed Geoff Hangartner, although don't be surprised to see some shuffling of assignments. The Aggies will be successful on offense if the offensive line gels, giving the skill position players in A&M's backfield space to produce.

On defense, this is Year 3 in Carl Torbush's system, and the team made great strides from Year 1 to Year 2. This is the year to expect to see a return to the defensive dominance Aggie fans are accustomed to. While A&M runs a multi-faceted defense, Torbush favors an over-under 4-3 scheme.

Defensive end Chris Harrington, nose tackle Red Bryant and defensive tackle John Jolly return to form the nucleus of the line. The linebacking group is talented and experienced as well, with strongside linebacker Archie McDaniel, middle linebacker Justin Warren and weakside linebackers Lee Foliaki and Renuel Greene all back.

Free safety Jaxson Appel is a run-stuffer that hits like a jackhammer. Ballhawk Japhus Brown lines up next to Appel, while Danny Gorrer looks to start at corner alongside Broderick Newton.

Overall, the defensive line depth is the difference this season, and a consistent pass rush will make the cornerbacks' jobs easier.

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