After the Aggies completely dominated the Southern Methodist Mustangs Sunday night on Fox Sports Southwest/Fox Sports Houston, there are plenty of good things to take away for No. 9 Texas A&M.
First and foremost, the offense performed about as well as could be expected. More than that, Cyrus Gray proved why he managed to wrest control from Christine Michael as the starting tailback. He not only was quick and explosive in breaking long runs, but he also got plenty of hard yards. That's the part of Gray's game that we didn't know about and his transformation into a guy who can run in between the tackles has been great to see. If A&M has thoughts of being a Top 10 team, it needs a feature back.
Another big part of the offensive equation is quarterback Ryan Tannehill. There has been a sort of curse for Aggie senior quarterbacks in the past decade. Going back to Mark Farris, these seniors lost their job to someone younger during the season, either due to injury or ineffectiveness. Farris gave way to Reggie McNeal, who gave way to Stephen McGee, who gave way to Jerrod Johnson, who gave way to Tannehill last season. I'm pretty sure Tannehill will stay in the starting lineup this season (unless he gets hurt), but I did have concerns about the way he finished the season. This was a good first step towards having a solid season.
The defense had a big game, but excelled in the one area that had some question marks: rushing the passer. Would the Aggies be able to rush without All-American Von Miller? If last night was any indication, that worry was overblown, as defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter's scheme consistently pressured the SMU QBs. DeRuyter brought extra defensive backs on blitzes, linebackers and got great pressure from its front three. Heck, Eddie Brown literally bulled his way through the center to get a sack in the second half.
All that pressure led to another positive sign: turnovers. The Aggie defense was able to capitalize with two interceptions before the first quarter had ended. As good as cornerbacks Coryell Judie and Terrence Frederick can be, the safety spot is a little bit of a concern. After popping onto the scene in a big way his freshman season, Trent Hunter has failed to progress and isn't very good in pass coverage. The other safety, Steven Campbell, could be a dynamic playmaker and is just scratching the surface of his potential. All four players looked good against SMU with Dustin Harris playing some key roles as a nickel back.
If there was a downside to this game, it was the special teams. Two blocked extra points? A kickoff that went out of bounds? Those are unacceptable. While punter Ryan Epperson wasn't bad, he averaged less than 40 yards on two punts. One was downed inside the 2, but all phases of the special teams unit need to perk up or A&M will have big problems against the likes of Oklahoma State in a few weeks.