The Aggies are coming to Williams-Brice on Thursday, and TexAgs.com beat writer Olin Buchanan took time out to answer some of our questions about No. 21 Texas A&M.
1. Why did Kenny Hill win the starting job over Kyle Allen?
Throughout August, coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital insisted the quarterback competition was a dead heat because both were performing so well. Ultimately, Hill’s minimal college experience gave him the edge over the freshman. Hill has played in a college stadium, although not in the hostile environment he’s sure to face at Williams-Brice. He was accurate, though, completing 16 of 22 passes. Hill also played before big crowds and in big games while leading his high school team to a Texas state championship. Again, the stakes are much higher now, but you look for every edge you can find. He was a highly recruited quarterback. He played in a somewhat similar system in high school. He’s been in the A&M system longer and he has a very cool demeanor, perhaps inherited from his father, former Major League pitcher Ken Hill.
2. Is Speedy Noil the real deal?
We won’t truly know about Noil until he plays, but he’s been compared to Tavon Austin, who Spavital saw up close when he was coaching at West Virginia. Noil has drawn raves from coaches for his play in August as a receiver and on punt returns. He might even be used in a wildcat formation.
3. Do the Aggies believe a wide array of pass catchers is their biggest asset against a South Carolina team breaking in a new secondary?
The Aggies might have an advantage with their receivers. Malcome Kennedy is proven, Noil has exceptional speed and Ricky Seals-Jones is so big he could pose matchup problems. However, the Aggies also project to have an edge at the line of scrimmage. Their offensive line figures to at least be as good as last year’s unit. They might have an edge against the Gamecocks’ inexperienced defensive front.
4. Is there any reason to believe the defense has improved?
A&M’s defense should be improved because it just can’t get much worse. There is cautious optimism because there is more depth, more size and a little more experience. For example, last year DT Alonzo Williams played at about 270 pounds. He’s up to 300 and has held that weight. That will help him withstand those big SEC guards. Sophomore Daeshon Hall played at 225 last year and is up to 260. MLB Jordan Mastrogiovanni has added bulk and experience, too. DC Mark Snyder says he has more depth on the line and can have a legitimate rotation, which he did not have last year. The arrival of highly recruited DE Myles Garrett raises optimism, too. The Aggies are hoping he can have the same kind of impact Jadeveon Clowney had as a freshman.
5. How much Aggie flavor do you expect in Columbia on Thursday in terms of fans in attendance and making their presence known at Williams-Brice?
Aggies travel very well, and they’re loud. They’re very eager to make a first-time road trip to Columbia. They’re probably going to get drowned out by the Carolina crowd, but they will make their presence known.