Texas A&M is putting its perfect record on the line against a familiar coach when the Aggies welcome South Carolina at 3 p.m. Oct. 1 on the SEC Network.
The Gamecocks (2-2) are coached by former Florida head coach and Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin noted Muschamp’s experience, especially in the SEC where he was a defensive coordinator for Auburn twice in his career.
“Always going to be good defensively. Still trying to get an identity offensively,” Sumlin said. “Defensively there’s never been a Will Muschamp team that hasn’t been salty. Great place to play. Fans have a lot of passion. Loud. Place with a lot of pride. Anytime you go on road in this league better be ready to play.”
SC quarterback Brandon McIlwain has completed 47 passes for 533 yards and two touchdowns and has 40 rushes for 91 yards and two scores. Running back A.J. Turner has 47 rushes for 157 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Bryan Edwards has 17 receptions for 223 yards.
Offensively, Texas A&M is rolling thanks to quarterback Trevor Knight, who has completed 75 passes for 1,055 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions and has 38 rushes for 342 yards and five touchdowns.
But it’s the staple of running backs in Trayveon Williams (40-389-3 touchdowns) and Keith Ford (42-221-3) that has Sumlin encouraged.
“He’s got real explosiveness. For him to be where he is right now you didn’t know that. But he showed that,” the coach said.
Receiver Josh Reynolds leads the team in receiving yards that total 370 and three touchdowns on 17 catches. Reynolds wasn’t named to a preseason watch list, which was something Sumlin and the receiver discussed during training camp.
“Whether or not he likes it, I don’t know,” Sumlin said. “But wants to be an elite player. Very evident after bowl game when he came in and knocked on door and told me ‘I’m not happy with how I finished. I will come back next year and work harder and be best I can be.’ Great news for our team. Great news for him. For everyone. Will try and make most out of this senior year.”
Meanwhile, the Aggies defense has been rock solid. They are allowing 16 points a game, 3.2 yards per rush and 6.4 per pass.
“What has been interesting is flexibility of defense versus some different style offenses,” Sumlin said. “That’s the encouraging part. Key to this thing too is to stay healthy, keep our depth, keep guys playing.”
And he was especially encouraged that the defensive intensity remained at a high level against Arkansas when players were shuffling in throughout the contest.
As for injuries, Sumlin didn’t offer an update, which is his policy.
Sumlin credits the solid start to an offseason of changes that involved the coaching staff, nutrition and weight lifting. He acknowledges the results have been encouraging, but there are more games left to play.
For those concerned that they’ve seen an undefeated start to the season only to witness a finish below expectations, Sumlin said he has addressed that with the players, noting it was a topic of conversation during the offseason.
“Performance guarantees change,” he said. “Things we’ve done since January, by the numbers we can see a difference. Until you do that on Saturday, though, none of that matters. Where we are right now is where we are. Guys understand that. Have different perspective on that than maybe they did as freshmen and sophomores. Maybe they handle it little differently as juniors and seniors.”
Sumlin said the message doesn’t change from week to week.
“We want to get little bit better and want to be 1-0,” he said. “Guys have focused on that. This is our furthest road trip of year. For young guys, riding bus to Dallas little different. First week we went to Auburn had a few guys who hadn’t been on planes before. Lot of guys who have had play lot of football. Gaining confidence every week. Bring A game every week.”