Breaking down the spring football outlook for Texas A&M:
Coach: Jimbo Fisher (9-4, one season at A&M; 92-27 overall, nine seasons)
Last season: 9-4 (5-3 SEC, T-2 in SEC West)
Returning starters: Eight offense/Four defense
Spring practice opens: March 20
Spring scrimmage: April 13
1. Looking for linemen. The defensive line has arguably been A&M’s deepest unit the last couple of seasons. That depth will be tested this year after three of the four starters are off to the NFL. With ends Landis Durham and Kingsley Keke gone, assistant coach Terry Price will be looking for a new starting edge rusher. Micheal Clemons could be a contender at one spot after missing all of last season with a foot injury. Sophomores Tyree Johnson and Bobby “Tre” Brown are two other candidates to fill the vacancies along with DeMarvin Leal, an early enrollee. Leal, a 5-star prospect, will miss the spring while he recovers from minor knee surgery.
2. Filling the middle of the defense. A&M leaned on Otaro Alaka and Tyrel Dodson as its primary linebackers the last two seasons. But after Alaka exhausted his eligibility and Dodson left before his senior year for the NFL draft, the Aggies need players to step up and fill the void. Sophomore Anthony Hines III, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, is expected to be the in mix along with fellow junior Buddy Johnson, who had seven tackles in last year’s Gator Bowl win over N.C. State. A&M can’t afford any injuries to this group during the preseason.
3. Searching for a playmaker. Since the Aggies joined the SEC, at least one offensive player has been capable of breaking the game open with a big play. With running back Trayveon Williams turning pro, A&M will be looking for someone to fill the void. It could be his potential replacement, sophomore Jashaun Corbin. Or that could fall to junior quarterback Kellen Mond. Mond has elite straight-line speed and can make big plays. If he develops as a passer, he could be the Aggies’ big-play threat this year. Of the 346 passes he attempted against “power five” teams, 11.8 percent were completions of 20 or more yards.