Imagine you’re the next big thing. Everyone is singing your praises as the future of your job field. Then, suddenly, you become an afterthought.
That’s what’s become of Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. Two years ago, Sumlin was the top young coach in the SEC.
His Aggies enjoyed an 11-2 debut season after jumping from the Big 12 during conference realignment. His quarterback, Johnny Manziel, became the first redshirt freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and the most polarizing figure in college football.
Texas A&M was the only team to defeat eventual BCS Champion Alabama in a 29-24 upset in Tuscaloosa. The Aggies — like Sumlin — were the new sensation in the SEC, but have since lost their luster.
The team has lost more games in each season since 2012. Texas A&M went 8-5 (3-5) and finished sixth in the SEC West in 2014.
While Sumlin’s star power has dimmed in recent years, new coaches have emerged in the spotlight. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullin and Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze were two of the most talked about young coaches in the SEC last year. Tennessee’s Butch Jones and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema enter the 2015 season as coaches with rising stock.
Still, Texas A&M fans should remain optimistic of Sumlin’s time in College Station. While expectations have increased, they come from the Aggies’ surprising early success.
No one predicted that Texas A&M would contend in its first SEC season. Instead, the team nearly played spoiler to Alabama’s title run an tied for the second-best conference record.
Sumlin has also dominated the recruiting trail. The Aggies ranked in the 247Sports Composite top-10 twice and have finished in the top-11 in each of the past three years.
Texas A&M will also benefit from giving young talent early playing time in 2014. Returning sophomores such as Speedy Noil and Myles Garrett are expected to be two of the conference’s best players. Kyle Allen has also gained plenty of preseason hype as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks and will benefit from making several prior starts.
Sumlin’s teams have always been productive on offense. However, Texas A&M ranked last in total defense, allowing 450.8 yards per game in 2014.
Enter John Chavis, one of the SEC’s most revered defensive coordinators. Chavis provides the struggling Aggies with a veteran presence that should see an immediate impact. A&M has talent and speed on defense and “The Chief” should be capable of getting the most out of his players.
Sumlin could see a turnaround in 2015. The coach is still one of the conference’s best and should regain his spotlight with a successful season.