Ten Keys To Success - 2012 Aggie Football

With just 50 days until the opening kickoff to the 2012 season, Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a look at the ten keys to success for the 2012 season. Can a QB step up to replace 1st round pick Ryan Tannehill? Will the defensive line hold up to the weekly pounding in the SEC? Who will emerge at outside receiver? We look at the possible answers.

With the start of the 2012 season just 50 days away, the Texas A&M football team has more questions heading into a new season than any in recent history. Not only must the team replace its signal caller, number one running back, the nation's top kicker, and a trio of senior contributors on the defensive line, but the team is also installing a new offensive scheme and base defense under a new coaching staff in a new power conference with a more physical style than the Big 12.

So while many uncertainties exist going into 2012, we do know that for this Texas A&M team to be successful and compete well in the SEC, several players in different roles must step up to fill holes and weaknesses in the team. The Aggie Websider takes a look at the top ten developments that must occur for the football team to exceed expectations. These are ranked in order of importance.

1. Showers Emerges as a Solid QB

I'm not discounting the quarterback competition this fall between Jameill Showers and Johnny Manziel, but in my humble opinion I think Showers emerged from the spring as the best QB. I fully expect all four signal callers to improve during the offseason and it will result in a fierce competition. But considering that Showers is the veteran and the leading candidate heading into the fall workouts, I think A&M's best chance of winning in 2012 is for Showers to have a strong fall and continue to stay in front of the other three while the group as a whole improve. Basically, A&M needs Showers to perform at such a level that he quickly wins the job and establishes himself as the clear leader of the offense. I think the close battles between Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill for a couple of seasons hurt the team chemistry. A team needs to know its trigger man and its team leader well before the first week of the season. While there are a lot of Johnny Manziel fans out there (for good reason), but I think the healthiest situation is for the veteran and quasi-incumbent Showers to convincingly win the job quickly. If not, it's an indication that Showers came back to the pack in the fall and under any circumstance that's not good. Sure, the Aggies can win with Manziel at the helm, but the best scenario for the team's psyche is for the favorite to bust out of the gate and take control of the race in the first turn and never looks back.

2. Mathis and Ennis Stay Healthy

It's no secret that Texas A&M is paper thin at defensive line, especially at the interior spots. The line actually has some talent and depth at defensive end, but nothing would be worse than seeing the two starting veterans Kirby Ennis and Jonathan Mathis go down early in the fall. Just an injury or two will force not only a true freshman into action, but likely an undersized true freshman going up against the SEC mammoths along the offensive line. It's a fact that one or more of these true freshmen will have to provide depth, but an inexperienced, smaller lineman can still hold the rope taking 8-10 snaps a game. If you force a fish to handle 30+ snaps a game, then A&M's defense will have problems remaining competitive in the trenches.

3. Steven Campbell Stays Healthy and is Productive

The expectations have been high for Steven Campbell ever since he flashed greatness at the safety position with his combination of athleticism and ability to lay the big hit. He is the one athlete at safety that matches up well with the physical SEC offenses….if he's healthy. That has been his byline at Texas A&M. He's been saddled with foot problems that has taken away most of the past two seasons and kept him out of spring practice. He'll go into fall practices healthy, and if he stays that way, he could be special. If he pulls up lame, then A&M will once again rely on a considerably lesser overall athlete at his position.

4. Mike Evans Emerges as an Outside Weapon

A&M fans saw how much the offense stumbled when the outside receivers struggled. When defenses no longer feared Jeff Fuller and Uzoma Nwachukwu, that tighten the windows of opportunity for Ryan Swope and the inside receivers. The Aggies are in a similar spot this season with a plethora of capable inside pass catchers but question marks on the outside. One young player that really made a surprising move up the depth chart this spring was 6-foot-3 Mike Evans. Reviews remain positive this summer, so there's optimism that he could emerge as a weapon on the outside. If that happens, look for a big season from Ryan Swope, Kenric McNeal, and one of the freshmen (Sabian Holmes, Thomas Johnson). Without him or another receiver on the outside to distract the opposing secondary, sledding could be tough for the passing game in 2012.

5. Christine Michael Remains Healthy

For now, we'll assume Brandon Williams has to sit for a transfer season. Christine Michael is one of those special playmakers…when he's healthy. The aggressive running back takes a lot of pounding with his high-energy style and that has led to a couple of season-ending injuries the past two seasons. Michael is back 100% and he's looking as impressive as ever physically. He's a guy that can break the big, explosive plays needed in the competitive SEC. Trey Williams is coming into the program with similar accolades to Michael, but he is a freshman and while running back is the best position for first-year players to contribute, young runners also have a tendency to make mistakes in blocking and securing the ball. Given a new offense and a new, power conference, the Aggies can use a playmaking senior toting the rock and taking care of business.

6. Demontre Moore Becomes a Defensive Leader

Historically, Texas A&M's defensive performance from season-to-season has relied on having a pass-rushing playmaker at defensive end/outside linebacker. Demontre Moore has been his own worst enemy in his A&M career after having a breakout freshman season. However, various issues contributed to a lackluster and inconsistent sophomore season, so A&M lacked that go-to defensive playmake after Von Miller's graduation after the 2010 season. Moore has the physical ability and the experience to be that playmaker if his head is on straight.

7. Shayvion Hatten Becomes a Quality Contributor

See #2 above. The Aggies must have their starting defensive tackles stay healthy, and the few veterans in the pipeline must step up and become quality contributors getting 30-40% of the snaps. By default, 300-pound redshirt freshman Shayvion Hatten must become that quality guy in the DL rotation. Why? Because if he doesn't step up, the staff must rely on a former offensive tackle or an under-sized true freshman to plug a very big hole in the rotation.

8. Continued Development of Ogbuehi and Harrison on OL

Both Cedric Ogbuehi and Jarvis Harrison havethe potential to be future all-SEC offensive linemen. Both are big, athletic linemen that have shown a lot of promise early in their careers. Ogbuehi has already nailed down one guard spot (as well as being the backup tackle). Harrison has NFL talent, but the injury bug stopped his development during his sophomore season and held him out of spring drills. If he comes back strong in the fall and wins the other guard spot, the Aggies could have one of the best offensive lines in the SEC and college football.

9. Kaser Improves Consistency

The punting game is one of the most underrated aspects of football. A&M fans have painfully learned this after the past couple of seasons of really poor performances at the position which puts a lot of pressure on the offensive and defensive units in lost field position. In the spring, sophomore Drew Kaser teased observers with his powerful leg that boomed impressive long punts with excellent hang time, but he also shanked his fair share as well. If he can get more consistent and the team can start relying on his boomers, that will help both units with field position.

10. Brandon Williams Granted Immediate Eligibility

It became clear quickly in the spring that Brandon Williams was everything and more when the five-star RB transferred from OU. The summer reviews are even better. He is a difference maker and if he is granted a hardship waiver and plays in 2012, he gives A&M a much needed physical presence with home run ability in the backfield. He also provides insurance in case Christine Michael once again struggles with the injury bug.

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