This Saturday’s game at Kyle Field was already the most anticipated game of A&M’s recent history, but the cancellation of last week’s scheduled season opener managed to ramp it up another notch or two. Now, the Kevin Sumlin makes his SEC debut, his Kyle Field debut, and his A&M head coaching debut all in the same game. This week, Sumlin talked with the media about their opponent, the Florida Gators.
Saturday will be Kevin Sumlin's debut at Texas A&M in more than one way.
“We’re playing an SEC team, a top 25 team, I don’t know what the rankings came out today, but that’s the team we saw last week,” he said. “Fast, athletic, good offensive line, guys on defense that can run, an excellent kicker.”
Sumlin said that the Aggies coaches think Florida was holding back from a gameplan perspective last week against Bowling Green in an effort to get a better feel for their personnel. After all, the Gators went into their first game with a quarterback battle on their hands.
“From our standpoint, knowing both coaches, knowing Will (Muschamp) and his days and his aggressiveness on defense and knowing Brent Pease for a long time, for me they were extremely vanilla in their approach,” said Sumlin. “I think Coach Muschamp talked about that, wanting to be able to run the ball and throw play action of that and get explosives and they did that. I think it was a way for them to evaluate their program and their players, and they won the game. So for us it was really a chance to just look at talent level. Because I think, just like he said and I said right after the game, they didn’t show very much as far as scheme.”
Pease is known as anything but vanilla when it comes to his usual scheme as offensive coordinator. Texas A&M has been watching film of his teams at Boise State to get a feel for what the Gators might have up their sleeve for Saturday.
“Anybody who’s watched Boise the last couple of years knows Brent has been extremely creative using personnel, tight ends, shifts, wide receivers in the backfield, anything goes. Trick plays, jumping around, hiding, running power football, running deep play action off of that, he has the whole arsenal,” said Sumlin. “Double passes, reverse pass, he’s been a friend for a long time and I have a lot of respect for what he’s done. Who knows?”
He also added that he doesn’t think there’s any chance that the Gators will be intimidated by the atmosphere at Kyle Field. Though their players have never been there, Pease himself has having coached at Baylor previously.
“Like I said, we have a team coming in here that’s a top 25 team that’s been in big ball games and big stadiums. They’re not going to be intimidated by anything that they’re going to see coming into Kyle Field,” said Sumlin. “They’ve seen that. I think this program has had Gameday more than any other program ever, all of this stuff is old hat to these guys, they’re coming in here to play football and there’s nothing around here that’s going to intimidate them.”
One thing the Aggies don’t expect to change from last week for Florida is their dedication to the run game. Sumlin talked about Florida’s backs Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown.
The A&M coaches think Brent Pease and the Gators had a vanilla game plan in game one.
“I think (Gilislee’s) a good back. He and Mack Brown did a nice job last week. Gillislee showed some power, showed some moves, he really finished off the game for them. Gave them some pop when they needed to in a game where everybody towards the second half knew ‘Hey, guess what? These guys are going to run the ball.’ When you have a running back and an offensive line that say you know they’re going to run the ball and he can still make the yardage he made, and finish off the runs the way he ran them, he’s a tough guy,” said Sumlin.
“Like I said guys, we’re playing Florida, they’re going to have good players, they’ve always had good players, they’re going to continue to have good players. It’s not like they’re doing a bad job of recruiting. Whoever they put back there is going to be a capable running back, more than capable, he’s going to be a good player.”
If this game is as close as many expect it to be, the difference could come down to special teams. If it does, the advantage would seem to be to the Gators.
“It’s going to be a big factor, (Caleb) Sturgis is a good kicker. This guy’s been around for a while now and has done some nice things. You watch him kicking the ball, he’s a solid guy. How they’ve handled it, their kicking game really helped them win games last year,” he said.
“When they struggled offensively they blocked kicks, they returned, they’re really really good in the return game. I just think they have good team speed. That’s where you see teams that are really athletic, that’s where it shows up. In special teams when you have guys that are returning kicks for touchdowns, it’s more than just the return guy. A lot of guys are able to block people in space, when you talk about schemes and athleticism, they’ve been able to do that. Create extra possessions or points through special teams, whether it’s return game, blocked kicks, blocked punts, or turn over the field with their punting. Special teams, in any game that’s like this is going to be a big deal.”
Despite all of the talk about Florida, Sumlin says the biggest factor for his team is keeping control of their sideline, something he thinks the team lacked last season. Texas A&M, like Florida, was among the most penalized teams in college football a year ago.
“We talk a lot about paying attention to what we’re doing, regardless of opponent and worry about us,” he said. “Based on our performance last year as a football team, there’s a lot of things that we have to fix internally that don’t have anything to do with the opponent. Tempo has something to do with that, attitude has a lot to do with it, the ability weather adversity and handle it, that has nothing to do with the opponent, that’s all internal. As you said, one of our problems is that we’ve worried more about what’s going on across the field than what’s going on on our sideline. Whether that’s good enough to win or not, I don’t know all the time, but that’s one thing that we need to fix and we’ve worked very hard on. I’m anxious to see how we handle it. I don’t know if that changes over night, but I know that it’s something internally that we’ve talked about at length and something we’re working on addressing, that’s why we’re anxious to play a game.”