Texas A&M was the surprise of the SEC during its debut season in the conference. The Aggies won 11 games, defeated eventual national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa and quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy, the first freshman to achieve such a feat. All in all, it was a pretty solid first year for head coach Kevin Sumlin.
Thanks to all the success in 2012, expectations going into 2013 will be impossibly high. Just about everyone in College Station will be looking for a season equally as good as the last, and many will be clamoring for a national title run of their own. The schedule isn't terrible, as the Aggies have LSU on the road, but get Alabama at home. Plus, they miss the top teams from the SEC East, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Add a boatload of returning and incoming talent, and you certainly have a recipe for a championship-caliber season.
Yes, A&M has plenty of weapons, but the Aggies will have to deal with a couple of big losses from the 2012 team. Offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury is gone, and so is All-American offensive lineman Luke Joeckel. Since Sumlin's team wins with its offense, it's hard to get a read on this year's team until the Aggies show how well they've filled those holes. But, if it's able to make a smooth transition, A&M should be in the thick of the BCS discussion.
Year 1 was great for Sumlin and the Aggies. But in the modern world of SEC football, a great season can be forgotten pretty quickly -- ask Gene Chizik. Now, the question is: What can A&M do for an encore?
Spring practice start date: March 2
Spring game date, location, TV info: April 13, 3:30 p.m. CT, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
Approximate returning starters: The Aggies return six players on both offense and defense. Obviously, the biggest name coming back is Manziel. Just a sophomore, he is coming off a Heisman Trophy win and one of the best seasons in college football history. Manziel will be aided by the return of three offensive linemen, including Jake Matthews, who passed up a chance to declare for the NFL Draft after his junior season.
Biggest addition: True freshman wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones could be an immediate impact player for the Aggies. A&M only returns one starting receiver, and at 6'5, 230 pounds, Seals-Jones has the size to be a weapon for Manziel on the outside. He was a consensus five-star, the No. 2 athlete and No. 2 player from Texas in the Class of 2013, according to 247Sports.
Biggest loss: On the field, it has to be Joeckel, the offensive tackle who left for the NFL after his junior year. The O-line was a big reason Manziel had so much success last season, and Joeckel was the best player on that line. On the sideline, the biggest loss is at offensive coordinator in Kingsbury, who left to take over as head coach at his alma mater, Texas Tech. Just how much of a role did Kingsbury play in A&M's offensive success? We'll find out soon enough.
New players? The Aggies will welcome eight early enrollees for spring practice: wide receiver JaQuay Williams, linebackers Tommy Sanders, Brett Wade and Reggie Chevis, tight end Cameron Clear, athlete Alex Sezer, defensive end Jordan Points and offensive tackle Jeremiah Stuckey. A&M brings in 23 players from the Class of 2013 for fall camp, including Seals-Jones.
New coaches? Three new additions join Sumlin's staff for 2013: special teams coordinator Jeff Banks, quarterbacks coach/co-offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, running backs coach/co-offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney. Banks takes over for Brian Polian, who left to become head coach at Nevada. Spavital and McKinney have the unenviable task of replacing Kingsbury.
New schemes? The Aggies may be replacing Kingsbury at offensive coordinator, but Sumlin's fast-paced attack shouldn't look much different in 2013. In fact, the only thing that can stop it may be Manziel's -- ahem -- social life.