The last two years in Texas A&M history haven’t been the most successful, but hell, they’ve been the most fun. That’s because Johnny Manziel was there, tearing up the SEC, stealing the headlines, winning a Heisman, and giving heart attacks to every head coach and defensive co-ordinator he faced. He made head coach Kevin Sumlin into a God and himself into a NFL first-rounder. Well, he’s gone now, and we see what A&M’s going to do in 2014 without him.

LAST SEASON

While the Johnny Football offense continued to be fun (5th in the country in scoring) and tight, the defense really wasn’t. We’d dare to say that if it wasn’t for Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans’ heroics, Texas A&M probably wouldn’t have gone to a bowl game this year. And defensive co-ordinator Mark Snyder would be out of a job. Anyway, the Aggies finished 9-4. They lost close games to Alabama and Auburn, and tough road games at LSU and Missouri. The ‘D’ was so goddawful that the highlights of their season was a bowl game win (and Johnny masterclass) victory over born-again Duke and beating Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

RECRUITING

We love you, Kevin Sumlin & team. The Aggies had another banner year for recruiting, bringing in the No.1 DE recruit in the nation in Myles Garrett, No. 1 ATH Speedy Noil, No.1 Pro-Style QB Kyle Allen, No.6 ATH Nick Harvey, the No.9 DT DeShawn Washington, and the No.11 WR Frank Iheanacho. Oh, and he also got the No.1 JUCO OG Jermaine Eluemunor – and he’s a Brit, too – and No.4 JUCO OT Avery Gennesy. More’s the case, Sumlin pretty much rubbed Texas’ face in it, which pissed off Longhorn fans the world over. http://espn.go.com/college-sports/football/recruiting/player/_/id/189525/frank-iheanacho

OFF-SEASON

Two words: Fulmer Cup. Up to the time of writing, Texas A&M had TEN players arrested. TEN. Everything from fights to weed to shoplifting. Anyway, Coach Sumlin isn’t screwing about, because he booted starting LB Darian Claiborne, starting DT Isaiah Golden, redshirt freshman S Kameron Miles, and DL Gavin Stansbury‘s has ‘left the team to attend personal issues’ to, after he was arrested earlier in the year for pouring beer on a Rice University student and punching him in the face. Oh, and one of his top offensive weapons for 2014, WE Ricky Seals-Jones, was arrested on charges of disorderly contact, and would-be starting QB Kenny Hill was found passed out in a flower bed, and arrested for public intoxication.

Oh, and Johnny Manziel’s had quite an entertaining off-season, too. He’ll be playing in Cleveland next year, and could well be the starting QB for the Browns.

ANYWAY, OUR TOP QUESTIONS/STATEMENTS FOR THE 2014 SEASON

WHO WINS THE QB BATTLE?

Now that Johnny Football’s gone, it’s an embarrassment of riches for Texas A&M. Kenny Hill was a God in high school at Texas HS powerhouse Southlake Carroll, and he’s excellent on his feet. Kyle Allen has a better arm. We think this goes down to the wire. Allen’s probably a shoo-in to start the South Carolina game after Hill’s arrest, but we could see both QBs start. In other words, we really don’t know….but the future’s rosy. People will be hoping for the QBs NOT to make the mistakes that Manziel made, too.

IS THERE LIFE AFTER MIKE EVANS?

The receivers are going to have to replace the 7th best passing offense in the country. If you believe the Aggies patter, Speedy Noil is one heck of a WR, and the 12th Man (WAIT?! SHOULD I HAVE CALLED THE AGGIES MARKETING OFFICE FOR PERMISSION TO SAY “12TH MAN” WITHOUT THEIR EXPRESSED WRITTEN CONSENT?) is drooling at the lips to see him partner Seals-Jones. If Seals-Jones avoids the arrest charge, then him and Noil could be a powerful 1-2 punch for A&M – especially in Game 1 against some inexperienced Gamecocks corners. Oh, and Malcome Kennedy‘s a stud too. That’s three, Aggies fans.

HOW SOLID IS THE OFFENSIVE LINE LOOKING?

We had to say goodbye to Jake Matthews (he’s going to play in the NFL), but this O-Line is good, folks. OG Jarvis Harrison is excellent, center Mike Matthews, other OG Germain Ifedi and OT Cedric Ogbuchi, and we expect Gennesy to slot into the other OT spot. He may share time with the ultra-athletic Eluemunor. You know, if they stay out of jail. So in other words, the offensive line’s looking fine, folks.

AND THE RUNNING BACKS?

It’s funny, because after seeing Johnny Manziel throw the ball about and Evans catch it, people weren’t really aware that A&M had a rushing offense. And certainly not one that put up 185 yards per game and ranked 45th in the country (although a lot of them were thanks to Manziel and Ben Malena). Now, Tra CarsonTre Williams and Brandon Williams come to games expecting more carries, bearing in mind the inexperience at QB.  The three put up over 1,000 yards and 15 TDs combined last year.

OH MY GOD IN HEAVEN (Or: “THE DEFENSE”)

In the 2013 season, the nicest thing I wanted to say about Texas A&M’s defense is that DC Mark Snyder should have been fired. Seriously, they were terrible. We knew this when they struggled against Rice, and we kept on knowing it all year long. It was dreadful. Stats-wise, they were 96th in points given up, 111th in rushing defense, 97th in passing defense, 111th in total yards given up. And thanks to an off-season that’s seen two starters booted (Claiborne and Golden), and the D-Line looking a lot worse with DE Gavin Stansbury departing the program. The Aggies front seven lost six possible players from their front seven (only 1 due to graduation, and 1 due to injury), which means the Aggies aren’t going to be very deep in a nastily physical conference. Step up, Freshman LB Jordan Mastrogiovanni, TCU transfer A.J. Hilliard brings with him 11 games of playing experience with the Frogs, and DE Julien Obioha. And at DT? We’ll just have to wait and see. There’s still a month until the start of the season. The rest of the team could be arrested by South Carolina game. The good news is that a shredded front seven gives Snyder enough wiggle room to stay in a job ’til 2015. Although, as we’ve mentioned once or twice, he should have been fired at the end of the 2013 season.

And the secondary? Well, they’ve got four starters back. The problem? QBs threw all over them in 2014, so will a few months make a lot of difference? CBs De’Vante Harris and Deshazor Everrett, and safeties Howard Matthews and Floyd Raven: Aggie Nation is depending on you. Frosh CB Cedric Collins will provide some depth – especially as Miles was dismissed. So deep breath: They are going to be better than 2013. But not by a lot.

THE SCHEDULE: INCONSISTENCY REIGNS

Aug. 28 – at South Carolina
Sep. 6 – Lamar
Sep. 13 – Rice
Sep. 20 – at SMU
Sep. 27 – vs. Arkansas @Arlington, TX
Oct. 4 – at Mississippi State
Oct. 11 – Ole Miss
Oct. 18 – at Alabama
Nov. 1 – Louisiana-Monroe
Nov. 8 – at Auburn
Nov. 15 – Missouri
Nov. 27 – LSU

We don’t like to be forecasters of nasty, but we see A&M losing their Thursday opener to South Carolina, before reeling off 4 straight wins, which includes beating Arky in JerryWorld. Then, we see them losing at Mississippi State before beating Ole Miss, losing to Alabama, beating ULM before losing at Auburn, beating Missouri before losing a Thanksgiving war to LSU. The final record? 7-5. Which actually won’t be that bad considering the ‘Johnny Factor’ and the ‘D Factor’.

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