Now this may come as a shock to you so do not say I did not warn you. Ready? Dennis Franchione does not control everything that happens in the Aggie universe. Really. There, I said it.
Reading the internet message boards since his hiring might lead some to believe he is in charge of sunrises, ring dunking and the timing of Reveille’s barks. However, I tell you, it just is not so.
What, then, is Fran in charge of? He is in charge of himself and all of Aggie football. Now some might argue that Aggie football is tantamount to the Aggie universe, but that is another discussion for another day.
I do not think we have ever seen Coach Fran with a hair out of place or a wrinkle in his wardrobe and that speaks volumes about the man. Expect the same, figuratively speaking, from his football team once it fully bears his imprint.
Much has been made of the circumstances the Aggie football team must deal with in this first year of the Coach Fran era. This team is short on experienced, accomplished veterans and drew a stacked deck from the schedule maker. Many considered that the kiss of death for this team even before the season began.
With the exception of Baylor and Kansas coming up later, the Aggies have played the easiest part of their schedule. And, if you were paying attention, that was not so very easy. Both Arkansas State and Utah tested A&M, each in different ways.
The road gets bumpy beginning in Blacksburg and does not smooth out often until the season finishes. I was wondering how this fits the Fran plan. I have an idea it fits quite well.
A team with much of its resources in freshman and sophomores does not figure to compete with teams tooled for the top of the Big 12. Of course, anything is possible, and Fran and company surely will not concede a thing. However, this is a program looking beyond this season as its planning horizon.
With Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and Texas Tech consecutively, A&M faces a brutal three week stretch against opponents ranging from solid to top shelf. Win, lose or even get blown out a time or two, playing this caliber of competition is how football teams get better. If you match your pony against a Shetland instead of Secretariat, you will never know if you have any more than a nag. You may be able to think of a team or two that fattens up on Mean Green then are stretched out stone cold when the other team wears crimson and cream.
This is a learning year for both Fran and the Aggie football team. The same can probably be said about the Aggie fans. Even with the 2–0 start, it’s safe to say the head coach is less than certain exactly what he has to go to war with. When this three game stretch is done, he will know volumes more about his team. Much more so than if he had lined them up against the likes of Rice and Tulane for example. So, regardless the outcome, this has to be a good thing.
This is a season the Aggie fans need to see the forest and not the trees. Whether the team finishes 6–6 or 7–5, it is progress, not so much results that matters most. Unless this team somehow rides a lightning bolt to something glorious it is more likely to take one step back, then two steps forward than overtake the frontrunners.
Remember Maryland from two years ago? They rode a thunderbolt to the BCS, but did not lay a totally solid foundation. Their season is probably done, as far as postseason standing, because the Terrapins were not strong enough to take care of Directional Illinois U. Is that where the Aggies want to be? Remember Tulsa? Remember USL?
I have a feeling Dennis Franchione is laying the foundation for something solid and something strong. I have a feeling young players like Justin Warren and Ervin Taylor will learn at this level what it takes to be champions. I have a feeling young players like Reggie McNeal and Jaxson Appel, to name just two, will learn what it takes to be leaders of champions. I have a feeling that when the next group of young men the Aggies are courting takes Kyle Field for the first time they’ll have a bit more bounce in their step and a little more accountability to themselves, to their coaches and to the other young men they’ll look to as leaders.
This season may not be easy and at times it may not be pretty, but I have a feeling that Fran does indeed have a plan. I don’t see it being a quick fix plan and trust that every decision will look at both today and the long term.
During the five years Aggie football has been in an almost imperceptible, yet undeniable, slide we have wanted more. With this season’s combination of youth, inexperience and the unfavorable schedule we may have to settle for a little less today to insure more tomorrow.