Texas A&M Breakdown: 5 Key Questions

We sat down with David Sandhop of AggieWebsider.com and asked him some questions about Texas A&M. Come inside to see what he said.

1. Were you impressed with Johnny Manziel's first start last Saturday? What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Given the national ESPN spotlight of the game with so much emphasis and emotion put into that first SEC contest, the redshirt freshman had every excuse to come out tight and make freshman mistakes. Instead, he led the offense on three consecutive scoring drives to start the game and take a 17-10 halftime lead. So that was impressive from that standpoint. However, a few of his weaknesses were exposed once Florida's defense shadowed Manziel and took away his option to scramble and forced him into making plays from the pocket. If a defense doesn't contain in the pocket, Manziel's sub-4.5 speed and quickness will give any defense nightmares. Keep him in the pocket and a defense has a chance since he's still learning to read coverages downfield and his arm strength is average at best.

2. What kind of impact has Kevin Sumlin and his staff had on this team? What's the biggest difference between him and Mike Sherman?

The program operates much differently with Coach Sumlin. Under Mike Sherman, the team was managed like a business and the players treated like professionals. Kevin Sumlin and his staff actively motivate and use emotion to teach, develop, and push their players. That has shown up in offseason conditioning, where last season A&M withered in the second half and blew large double-digit leads due to conditioning issues. Sumlin's team stayed fresh physically throughout Saturday's game. In terms of schemes, Sherman ran a pro-style offense and a base 3-4 defense. Sumlin employs the "air-raid" spread offense and has implemented a base 4-3 defensive package. Sumlin has also placed a greater emphasis on special teams than his predecessor, and it showed on Saturday in better special teams play.

3.Texas A&M has quite a few play makers on offense. Who do you believe will have a big game against SMU?

Five-star true freshman running back Trey Williams from Spring Dekaney has made big plays throughout fall camp, and he was a shoelace away from taking his first collegiate rushing attempt the distance against the Gators. The A&M staff hinted this week that Williams will be more involved in the offense on Saturday. Also, Manziel's speed could cause problems for the SMU defense and he showed he's not shy of scrambling from the pocket. Redshirt freshman WR Mike Evans was a favorite target of Manziel's on Saturday so expect to see the 6-foot-5 receiver to get his fair share of receptions.

4.Has Texas A&M's defense improved from last season? Who are some key play makers that can wreck havoc?

The defense's performance against Florida was the most pleasant surprise of the game. Junior defensive end Damontre Moore racked up three QB sacks and 10 tackles while senior defensive tackle Spencer Nealy added two sacks. Moore earned SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors for his efforts. As a unit, the defense registered eight QB sacks, which leads the nation at this early stage. Senior middle linebacker Jonathan Stewart had 17 tackles to lead the team. Although inexperienced at cornerback, the Aggies are considered more athletic and deep than in recent years and did a nice job in pass coverage. Overall, the defense surrendered 304 yards of total offense, a solid effort against a quality SEC opponent.

5.The Aggie defense has obviously seen Garrett Gilbert before. How much do you think that will help and can they get inside his head? How do you believe Gilbert will fare on Saturday?

I don't think it will help much. We're talking about only a few veterans that played against him at the time. Gilbert is running a different offense for a different team, and Texas A&M is running a new defense under a new coaching staff. I doubt there will be much carry over from when they played a couple of years ago. Garrett Gilbert is a very talented quarterback, a trigger man that every college coach in the nation wanted out of high school. He also competed in the national championship game and was a long-time starter for a top national program at Texas. However, the Aggie defense has practiced extensively against its own spread offense in fall camp, so the team is confident they can match Gilbert's ability and force him into mistakes. Ultimately, the success of Gilbert will be on the backs of his offensive line. A&M proved they can rush the quarterback. If Gilbert doesn't have time to set-up in the pocket, it will likely be a long night for the talented veteran signal caller. If he does have time to throw, he'll be successful against the Aggies.

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