All of the components are in place for sixth-ranked Texas A&M to challenge for a Southeastern Conference title, and perhaps even aspire to heights beyond a league crown.
The Aggies are set to open a season of great promise by welcoming Kent State on Saturday in College Station, Texas. The Aggies feature nine preseason All-SEC honorees, including a trio of juniors on the first team: running back Isaiah Spiller, tight end Jalen Wydermyer and offensive tackle Kenyon Green. Junior defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal joined Green, Spiller and Wydermyer on the AP preseason All-America Team, with Green and Leal named to the first team.
Leal is one of nine defensive starters returning for the Aggies (9-1, 8-1 SEC in 2020), whose wealth of experience justifies their preseason ranking. Texas A&M does have to replace Kellen Mond at quarterback, with redshirt freshman Haynes King having just been named the starter over sophomore Zach Calzada.
“We’re going to have balance,” Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’re going to try to throw it, we’re going to run it, we’re going to be all the things necessary (to succeed). You’ve got to give guys an opportunity to find out who you are, and then you’ve got to hope that those things you saw in camp carry over when those lights on the scoreboard come on and put people in the stands.
“We’ll find out as we go. I think we’re evolving into that. But right now, it’s still not time yet because we’re still evolving and evaluating players. Hopefully, after that, we’ll evolve into it.”
Kent State returns 18 starters from last season’s COVID-19-abbreviated campaign, one in which the Golden Flashes finished 3-1 to complete consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1976-77. The foundation for the Golden Flashes’ success is their “FlashFAST” offense, which paced FBS in total offense (606.5 yards per game) and scoring (49.8 points) in 2020.
The Golden Flashes have become increasingly prolific under fourth-year coach Sean Lewis, who signed a contract extension through the 2025 season in August. Kent State nearly doubled its scoring output from 12.8 to 23.9 points per game in 2018, its first season under Lewis, and then topped 5,000 yards for the first time since 2012 while qualifying for a bowl game in 2019.
Kent State set a program record for rushing touchdowns (10) in a 69-35 victory over Akron on Nov. 17, 2020, and with so much experience on tap, opens this season as the preseason favorite in the Mid-American Conference East Division — a program first. The Aggies will present a formidable challenge, but the Golden Flashes appear ascendant under Lewis.
“I’ve said from the beginning how special this place is, and we are just getting started,” Lewis said. “We have an amazing staff and a special group of young men here in our locker room.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done to realize all we’re capable of doing.”
–Field Level Media