BY RYAN BLACK | firstname.lastname@example.org
“The excitement level is really, really high,” Sumlin said. “What we have had to do with our football team is separate ourselves from our fans, not from a closeness standpoint, but from a reality standpoint.”
Sumlin had no problem with students and alumni of the university allowing themselves to dream big and ponder the prospects in front of the Aggies this season. Sumlin’s more worried about making sure his team doesn’t rest on its laurels after an 11-2 season in 2012, which included handing national champion Alabama its only loss and routing former Big 12 rival Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
“As a team, we have to set the reset button,” he said. “We signed 31 new players, 31 guys over the last year that are going to come in. Many of them are going to have to help us this season as true freshman. That’s quite a large number when you have 85 guys on scholarship.”
Sumlin cited last season’s success as a key factor helping the team on the recruiting trail. But the good vibes from last season haven’t just helped the Aggies on the field, as the coach noted it has led to a rise in applications to the university as well as more donations from donors. On top of a $450 million expansion to Kyle Field, Texas A&M has made plans for multiple other facility upgrades.
This includes a player development center with a new weight room, a nutrition center named after former Aggies coach R.C. Slocum and an expansion to the lobby at the team’s football facility.
“You add all those up, the new player development center was about $9 million, lobby expansion $5 million, nutrition center (was) $12 million,” he said. “That’s (all) donor-funded. We haven’t borrowed a dime for that.”
Sumlin: Aggies ‘solidified’ offensive line in spring, have question marks in secondary
Despite the loss of Outland Trophy winner and the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft in Luke Joeckel as well as center Patrick Lewis, Sumlin said the offensive line is set heading into the fall.
“We’ve rotated some guys in there and we were able to get through spring football with what I think is a solidified starting five,” he said. “We’ve created a little more depth there.”
The same can’t be said of the team’s back end on defense, as the starters in the secondary are still up in the air.
“Our secondary has a lot of moving parts,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of capable guys. We have more depth back there, more experience, but the key will be to get those guys in the right place.”
Kingsbury ‘a very, very talented individual’
One of the biggest pieces of the Aggies’ success last season was offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who called the plays for the conference’s top-ranked offense. However, when his alma mater, Texas Tech, came calling at the end of last year, Kingsbury couldn’t turn down the opportunity. Sumlin said of all the accomplishments in his coaching career, having his assistants — which includes West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen and Nevada head coach Brian Polian — move on and take over their own programs is something he takes great pride in.
“I think we’ve developed a culture and a mind-set and really helped guys become head coaches,” he said.
There was no doubt in Sumlin’s mind that Kingsbury will do great things in Lubbock, Texas.
“He’s a very, very talented individual,” Sumlin said. “He’s a guy that understands the game of football, understands the politics of the position.”
It didn’t hurt Kingsbury’s career that he’s had a mentor in Sumlin, either — and he made the most of it, as the 33-year-old coaching wunderkind was constantly jotting down notes during their talks.
“(It) kind of bugged me because he was writing stuff I was saying all the time,” Sumlin said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes. He’s been able to talk a bunch of times to me about things that happened. There’s no handbook for this job. Things come up that you don’t realize (will) come up that are outside of football.”