In "By the Numbers" we've already looked at how Christine Michael could cement himself as one of A&M's best backs of all time, and how Ryan Swope is on the verge of being the best receiver ever at A&M. But they aren't the only players on the offense that are among A&M's all time greats.
Could Luke Joeckel make the jump to the NFL after this season?
On the field...
Kevin Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury probably shed a tear and hugged each other when they popped the tape in of the A&M offensive line in 2011 and not only saw their success, but how many of them return for 2012.
Last season the A&M offense finished 18th in the nation in total passing yards, attempting over 530 passes on the season. In fact, only eight teams threw the ball more times than the Aggies. However, despite the frequency with which they threw the ball, they allowed just nine sacks all season. You don't need a calculator to figure out that that's less than one sack per game, or one sack per 60 pass attempts.
Those numbers speak for themselves, but perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the A&M offensive line will head into this season having gone ten straight games without a holding penalty. Another sign of the success of the offensive line last season was their red zone efficiency. The Aggies ranked second nationally in that statistic.
The real good news for A&M fans is that the A&M offensive line essentially returns intact from a season ago. Tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews return as juniors to again anchor the outside of the line. In fact, with good seasons there's a chance that one or both of those two could potentially make the jump to the NFL. On the inside, Patrick Lewis is back for his senior campaign, but there could be some movement a the guard position. Shep Klinke, Jarvis Harrison, and Cedric Ogbuehi are battling it out for the guard spots, but all saw playing time last season.
All of that said, the A&M offensive line faces a new monster this season in SEC defenses. Were the stats of last season a mirage, or is this A&M offensive line really among the nation's best? We'll find out in 2012, when the Aggies face three of the nation's top ten defenses from a season ago.
On the sideline...
Jake Matthews is also already being predicted as an early pick in 2013 if he makes the jump.
The wildcard in all of this of course is the switch to a new offensive approach. The linemen talked all spring about switching their style and working on playing almost exclusively out of a two point stance. The other factor is that sacks are as much a product of the quarterback as they are the offensive line, and the Aggies won't have a veteran in the backfield this season. Learning to get rid of the ball in a hurry and, more important, to learn when to throw it away is going to be a big key for the young quarterbacks. Both Jameill Showers and Johnny Manziel held on the to the ball too long this spring.
New offensive line coach BJ Anderson has a tough task. That's to take a talented offensive line, perhaps the nation's best, that was built around zone blocking schemes and turn them into an offensive line built for a spread offense. Quite frankly, a lot of teams run the spread offense precisely because they don't have strong offensive lines, it's a system built on getting the ball out of the backfield as quickly as possible. So it's going to be interesting to see how they take advantage of the group they do have.
However, At Houston, their offensive line was also among the nation's best statistically. While they don't show it from pure stats like sacks allowed (Houston gave up 19 last season, which puts them just outside the top 30), they would have ranked much higher in pass attempts per sack (Houston led the nation with over 680 pass attempts on the season.)
Overall, it's going to be one of the more interesting aspects of this season to see what exactly the A&M offense looks like behind the talented offensive line.