New Mexico Football: First Look at the Texas A&M Aggies
The Lobos will hit the road to face Texas A&M in non-conference play. Here’s our early preview of what to know about the Aggies.
A tall task for UNM.
New Mexico Football: First Looks at Non-Conference Opponents
The New Mexico Lobos will head to SEC country on September 18 when they face the Texas A&M Aggies.
An upset bid will be a tall order against one of the country’s most complete teams, but A&M isn’t without some competitions to resolve heading into the fall and, for Danny Gonzales and company, finding every potential edge could make New Mexico a sneaky trap game on the Aggies’ non-conference slate.
Location: College Station, Texas
2020 Record: 9-1 (8-1 SEC)
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (fourth year; 26-10 at Texas A&M, 111-33 overall). When you’re in the same division as Alabama, they’re almost always the likeliest program against which you’ll measure your own successes. That could make 2020 a particularly bittersweet season to look back upon: A&M lost by four touchdowns in Tuscaloosa, but otherwise ran the table — including a road victory at Florida and an Orange Bowl win over North Carolina — in college football’s toughest conference, finishing 9th overall by SP+.
Is it the springboard the Aggies needed to reach new heights? They’ll need to break in a new quarterback and reload at a couple of positions, but it wouldn’t be a huge shock if they found their way to Atlanta for the SEC championship this winter.
DE DeMarvin Leal
If your NFL team looks like it might have a high draft pick in next year’s draft, Leal might be a very good reason for you to tune in to this game. He’s widely considered the Aggies’ best 2022 prospect after making 37 tackles and disrupting offenses to the tune of eight quarterback hurries, seven tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.
Highest graded returning Power 5 Defenders (200+ snaps)
1. Zach Harrison, Ohio State – 88.8
2. Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma – 88.4
3. DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M – 88.3
4. Haskell Garrett, Ohio State – 88.1 pic.twitter.com/cGEFGfwHTb
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 28, 2021
RB Isaiah Spiller
Once he saw the field, Spiller didn’t waste much time in becoming one of the SEC’s top running backs, rushing for 946 yards and ten touchdowns as a freshman in 2019 and then topping that with 1,036 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 2020. As you might expect, he’s already received a lot of buzz as a future NFL Draft pick and has been compared to at least one established Texas superstar.
TE Jalen Wydermyer
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Dickinson, Texas native has everything you could want in a tight end and, like Spiller, he’s proved it since cracking the Aggies’ starting lineup as a true freshman in 2019. Wydermyer became a Mackey Award finalist in 2020 after catching 46 passes for 506 yards and six touchdowns, so he’ll be a problem no matter which Lobos defender is assigned to slow him down.
LT Kenyon Green
Green is the third of A&M’s young offensive triumvirate that can already claim to be among the best players anywhere in the country. Unlike Spiller and Wydermyer, however, he became a consensus all-American by protecting Kellen Mond’s blindside and anchoring a unit which ranked fifth in the country in sack rate allowed.
DT McKinnley Jackson
Jackson might be the best of the next wave of Texas A&M talent after making the SEC’s all-freshman team in 2020. He only made one start last fall, but appeared in all ten games and only Leal ended up with more quarterback hurries, though he also pitched in with 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks, as well. All but guaranteed a starting role in 2021, the Lobos will be made aware of the 6-foot-3, 335-pound Jackson one way or another.
Texas A&M boasted one of the country’s most complete offenses last fall, ranking in the top 25 by offensive available yards percentage, points per drive, and yards per play. They could do it again, but it’ll depend on how quickly some new contributors can hit the ground running.
Replacing Kellen Mond, the program’s new all-time leader in passing yards, is the top priority though, as you might expect, the options on hand are all very well regarded. Sophomore Zach Calzada has received rave reviews for his top-shelf arm strength while redshirt freshman Haynes King can do damage with his legs, and it appears likely the job will fall to one of those two.
Revamping the offensive line is the other pressing concern as Green is established at left tackle, but the Aggies could have four new starters. As you’d expect, though, the ceiling is still high: Projected center Luke Matthews, for instance, is simply the latest in his famous family to contribute at A&M while guard Aki Ogunbiyi was a four-star recruit in the program’s 2020 class.
The Aggies managed to field a very strong defense despite a number of opt-outs, which bodes well for their ability to be both good and deep in 2021. The defensive line is the best example of this: Leal is the top pro prospect and Jackson is a young talent ready for a breakthrough, but Leal’s defensive end counterparts, Michael Clemons and Tyree Johnson, were equally disruptive in 2020 (10.5 combined TFLs, eight combined sacks) and Jackson could be outdone by senior star Jayden Peevy or fellow freshman Isaiah Raikes. Long story short, the Lobos could be frustrated up front early and often.
It won’t get much easier for opponents further back from the line of scrimmage, either. Linebacker Aaron Hansford probably could’ve jumped to the NFL but decided to return for one last go, while Myles and Jalen Jones lead a secondary that returns everyone from 2020.
This one won’t be close.
Texas A&M 52, New Mexico 10