Aggies have high hopes for 2021

By George Slaughter, Special to the Katy Times
Posted 8/27/21

Texas A&M senior kicker Seth Small tells a story that might serve as a metaphor for the Aggies and their prospects for the 2021 season.

Small played his high school ball at Katy. Near the Katy …

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Aggies have high hopes for 2021

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Texas A&M senior kicker Seth Small tells a story that might serve as a metaphor for the Aggies and their prospects for the 2021 season.

Small played his high school ball at Katy. Near the Katy High natatorium is a pole with a rope. All the Katy football players are challenged to climb it. When they reach the top, they find a bell, which they ring and holler, “State!” Small said it’s an exercise to help the players keep their focus.

When he first tried climbing the rope, Small said he had a hard time pulling himself up. He didn’t reach the top. But he kept at it, worked his way up the rope, and rang that bell.

The Aggies hope to reach the top and ring their bell this season. Last year, they finished 9-1 and defeated North Carolina in the Orange Bowl. This year’s schedule, at first glance, appears favorable. The Aggies have seven home games, starting with the Sept. 4 season opener against Kent State.

Among the other teams visiting College Station this season is defending national champion Alabama, the only team to beat the Aggies last season.

“We feel confident in ourselves,” Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Me sitting here saying that doesn’t mean it. We want to beat them. They want to beat us. Who can do the most work and become the best football team until then is what’s going to make the difference.”

The Aggies return four offensive starters. They must find a quarterback to replace Kellen Mond, who is now in the NFL. Competing for the job are freshman Haynes King and sophomore Zach Calzada.

“When you talk about those two guys, Zach is a very talented man, can throw the football very well, but everybody gets caught in his arm,” Fisher said. “Zach is a really good athlete and can run around. I think Zach is an NFL talent. I think Haynes King is an NFL talent. Haynes can really throw the football. He’s smart, he’s competitive, he can run, just like Zach is.”

Fisher said he was pleased with both quarterbacks during spring drills.

“They have great knowledge of what we’re doing,” Fisher said. “They can get the ball to all parts of the field, deep, short, understand what we’re doing, understand protections. They have e will es on capability. They have creativity.”

The running game looks to be solid, as All-SEC running back Isaiah Spiller returns. Spiller, a junior, had 1,036 yards on 188 carries, which was third highest in the country. He scored nine touchdowns.

The Aggies must also find four new offensive linemen. Despite this, Fisher said he was confident in the returning linemen, who he described as very talented.

“We lost some linemen,” Fisher said. “We had one come back, one of the best ones in the country, if not the best, in (junior tackle) Kenyan Green on that side.”

Defensively, the Aggies return seven starters, leading some observers to draw comparisons to the “Wrecking Crew” defenses of Texas A&M football lore. Senior linebacker Buddy Johnson, who led the team with 86 tackles, returns, along with senior linebacker Aaron Hansford, who had 49. Yet when considering comparisons with the Wrecking Crew-era teams, sophomore defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal, who had 37 tackles last season, said it’s a new era.

“I have all respect for the Wrecking Crew, and I would say that this generation is different,” Leal said. “So I would say taking their name, that’s not something we should do. It’s a new generation. It’s a new full tour. It’s a new Aggieland. So I would say that there is a name that we’re going to come up with, but it’s not The New Wrecking Crew.”

Fisher said he was also excited about the Aggie special teams. Small returns as kicker, and sophomore Nik Constantinou returns as punter.

“Our specialists returned,” Fisher said. “Our returners returned. We’ve got a great job of stepping, kicking, punching, all returning. We got a great group of great guys that can affect the football game and a lot of ways over there.”

Expectations are high in Aggieland. So is the pressure, which Fisher said he tells the players is a privilege. But time will tell if the Aggies get to ring that proverbial bell.

“It means that what you do matters and that you’re playing at the highest levels, and you learn to embrace those things,” Fisher said. “The way you deal with pressure is create day-to-day habits that allow you to deal with that.”

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