Keys to the Game - Sam Houston

Keys to the Game - Sam Houston

The Aggies will likely win this game even though the Bearkats are one of the best FCS teams in the country. But this is a very important game in the big scheme of things as Texas A&M gets ready for the showdown with Alabama next week that could determine the success of the 2013 campaign. Here are the keys to the game.

I think we all know that the Aggies will likely win this game handily even though the Bearkats are one of the best FCS teams in the country. But this is a very important game in the big scheme of things as Texas A&M gets ready for the showdown with Alabama next week that could determine the success of the 2013 campaign. Here are the keys to the game.


1. Productive Game for Johnny Manziel

I don't think any of us expect Manziel to struggle, but it is important for Johnny to get into a rhythm and get comfortable with when he needs to run and when he stays in the pocvket. It's obvious that the staff has worked with him to use his escapability to buy him more time to find a receiver, but in the brief time he played last week, I felt he waited too long to run on a couple of plays. But primarily, Manziel needs live snaps and regardless of the score I would play him to the end of the 3rd quarter. He needs the live work. Remember, he doesn't have the option to run in practice. In fact, I wouldn't be against playing him into the fourth quarter even if the Aggies have the game well in hand.


2. The Defensive Front Comes Together

I never felt that Coach Snyder found the combination of players and schemes he liked along the defensive line. He'll have another game to get that rotation finalized for the Alabama game. It all starts with Kirby Ennis. He's the most experienced and best interior DL, but he also missed spring practice and he missed the first game. Just as I said with Manziel, I would try to stretch Ennis just a little bit to get him ready for the Tide because the defense will need him extended number of snaps next Saturday in the heat. Second, I'd like to see more four-man fronts and I's like to see more of Jay Arnold to see what he can bring to the table after flashing in a limited number of snaps last week. Also, I think Isaiah Golden will need quality snaps as I think he is also critical next weekend given his size and physical presence. The defensive end rotation is up in the air, and it doesn't help that Daeshon Hall will be out in the first half. Keep an eye on Tyrone Taylor. If he can come on strong, he could be a big answer, and Julien Obioha needs to show that last week was simply knocking off the rust after missing spring practice.


3. Brandon Williams Emerges as a Weapon

A&M fans have been hearing about OU RB transfer Brandon Williams and his big play ability for over a year now. It's time for him to add another element to this offense and this running game. Ben Malena is the workhorse between the tackles. Trey Williams is the jitterbug who can make things happen in space. Tra Carson is the hammer. Add in Brandon Williams who is your big-play, take-it-to-the-house homerun hitter and this becomes an elite running attack to go along with the passing game. I don't see how defenses can stop this offense if Williams emerges as that asset. A&M needs to see evidence of that ability today.


4. Fear the Raven

Floyd Raven sat out last week, and he's been in a battle with Clay Honeycutt for the starting job during fall camp. I thought Honeycutt did a solid job, but he does lack some of the length and athleticism you'd like to see at that position. Raven does have that athleticism and the length to be that physical presence at the safety spot. Historically, Raven's issues have been more mental than physical. He can find himself out of position and he'll miss an assignment from time-to-time. Today's game will be a good barometer of where he's at in terms of the mental part of the game. If he can settle in and avoid the big mistake, he'll be a huge asset for this defense…just in time for when his athleticism is needed next weekend.


5. Find Answers at Linebacker

Well, A&M won't get all of their questions answered against Sam Houston because the team's best linebacker, Steven Jenkins, is slated to miss today's game because of suspension. But what was concerning last week was the lackluster play of veteran Donnie Baggs who was counted on to bring much needed stability to a young linebacker corps this season. If Baggs doesn't show inspired play on Saturday, then the staff must rely on a couple of true freshmen to perform in the middle of this defense with a daunting SEC schedule looming. Thus, Darian Claiborne must continue to develop and build upon his promising season opening performance. If he can quickly emerge as a stable option, that changes the outlook for this position. Also, Jordan Mastrogiovanni brings much needed physicality to the linebacker position, but his first game was a bit inconsistent as he missed a couple of tackles. He'll need to step-up his game because his size will be needed when Alabama's big boys roll into College Station next week.

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