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Texas A&M Q&A: Five things to know about South Carolina’s opponent

What Muschamp said about Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

USC coach Will Muschamp has longtime friendship with Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher.
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USC coach Will Muschamp has longtime friendship with Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher.

Brent Zwerneman, the Texas A&M beat writer for the Houston Chronicle, took time this week to answer a few of our questions about the Aggies as they prepare for Saturday’s game with South Carolina.

Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium. SEC Network will televise.

1. Six games in, what has surprised you most about the Jimbo Fisher era at Texas A&M?

Fisher’s ability to inject some toughness this quick into a program needing a heavy dose. Some of the longtime Alabama beat writers at halftime of the Aggies’ game at Bryant-Denny Stadium said this looks like a different A&M program from top to bottom – and they’re right. The players have bought in quickly, which doesn’t always happen.

2. South Carolina went 0-4 against the Kevin Sumlin-led Aggies. What are some notable differences with with the Fisher-led Aggies?

Their ability to control the clock. Sumlin wasn’t big on TOP, and his defenses occasionally paid the price. The Aggies are dominating TOP against opponents to date, in emphasizing a ground game – one led by a newfangled (but old school) fullback – that A&M rarely utilized to its potential under Sumlin.

3. As USC can attest to, holding Kentucky’s Benny Snell to 60 yards is no small feat. What kind of a statement did coordinator Mike Elko and the A&M defense make last week? Has Elko surpassed expectations to this point?

Elko has definitely surpassed expectations, considering A&M fans for the past 20 years have heard how the latest defensive coordinator (and the last was longtime SEC stalwart John Chavis) was finally going to change things with the gang once known as the “Wrecking Crew.”

Elko did inherit a solid line from Chavis, but it also took players like senior tackle Daylon Mack, a former five-star prospect, to go all in for the new approach to work. Halfway through the season, it’s working better than most anticipated, especially against the run.

4. Kellen Mond last impacted an SC team on Sept. 8 when he tossed for 430 yards in a narrow loss to Clemson. How would you evaluate his progress to this point?

Not as fast as some A&M fans would like, but it’s easy to forget he’s a sophomore who didn’t have the benefit of a redshirt year. Mond’s disposition is cool and collected, and that approach has helped him overcome potential disasters, like fumbling in the fourth quarter against Kentucky (and then the Aggies pulled out the victory in OT). His progress has been steady, although fans might have been thrown off by a superb showing against Clemson in the second game of the season.

5. What is A&M’s biggest strength? Weakness?

Strength: The ability to control the game, particularly in chewing up clock on offense, which has surprised plenty of folks around College Station (including yours truly).

Weakness: The secondary has shown dramatic improvement in the last two games, so this nod will need to go to the defense’s overall inability to create turnovers. A&M has caused two turnovers in six games, three less than anyone else in the league – making their overall defensive success that much more surprising to this point.

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