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Monday, Dec 11, 2023 | Latest Print Edition

Behind enemy bylines: Texas A&M Aggies

Before Auburn takes on Texas A&M on Saturday, The Auburn Plainsman's sports editor, Jacob Waters, sat down with TexAgs student reporter, Kay Naegeli, to ask some questions about this weekend's contest.

Waters: How has starting quarterback Conner Weigman played so far?

Naegeli: "I would say he's thoroughly impressed and lived up to the hype Texas A&M fans had. Started in four games last year towards the end of the year, had a big win against LSU. And then fared pretty well through these first three games. Offensively bringing in Bobby Petrino, him and Weigman have really clicked. He's No. 2 in quarterback rating in the country right now, so really pleased with what we're seeing. I mean a year ago Texas A&M did not have an offense that averaged 44 points, and now Texas A&M does. So, it's definitely good to see the passing game is really getting going, and overall thoughts and movement have been great so far."

Waters: What happened a couple weeks ago in the loss to Miami?

Naegeli: "I would say unlike a year ago, it definitely wasn't an offensive issue. It seemed like every time Miami punched, A&M punched straight back offensively. However, there were a lot of defensive miscues just some missed tackling, got dusted on a couple routes. Miami has some really good receivers, so ultimately, it was just issues in the secondary. I think it's a little bit we're still in D.J. Durkin's second year, still getting things going with the defense, so trying to basically execute. I know Jimbo [Fisher] preaches executing better, but it was definitely a defensive issue. It wasn't a will to fight or score or anything like that. Just definitely just led up some big plays."

Waters: What do the fans think about defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin?

Naegeli: "It's hard. The jury's still out right now, I would say, after Miami, Texas A&M fans weren't very pleased with him at all, especially giving up however many yards they did. I would say I think this is his year in the SEC to prove it, especially when you have an offense producing like you do. Every time your offense goes down and scores, you want to know that your defense is going to be able to hold strong and not let points on the board. So, I think this is his prove it year. I didn't think I'd be saying that. I honestly thought I'd be saying about the offense this year, but we'll just have to see. You have a lot of experience back there, so they'll just see if they execute."

Waters: What would be the Texas A&M fan opinion if Jimbo loses to Auburn on Saturday?

Naegeli: "Not very good. It's your sixth with Jimbo Fisher, and it's time to produce a pretty good winning season. Years past we've lost to Auburn last year, and then those Mississippi schools get Texas A&M every year it seems like for whatever reason. Jimbo has all the tools, the resources, facilities, athletes to have a great winning season at A&M, but if a loss to Auburn came on Saturday that would definitely, his seat it's already warm, but it would just get a little bit warmer."

Waters: Who are some other players on offense and defense Auburn fans should be looking out for?

Naegeli: "Offensively Conner Weigman like we talked about. Going to make some plays, and everyone on offense has really rallied around him as QB one which is good to see. And honestly, Texas A&M hasn't really had a quarterback like that, somewhat with Kellen Mond, but then you can go all the way back to Johnny [Manziel]. Offensively, wide receiver room, just naming some names, the wide receiver room in my opinion is completely stacked. Evan Stewart, Ainias Smith, Moose Muhammad, Noah Thomas, Jahdae Walker, that's five guys. Not that all are going to start, but you're definitely going to see them rotating in, making plays. Tight ends you got Jake Johnson. We lost Donovan Green, our starting tight end, to an ACL injury this past offseason, and then got some new and old faces on the offensive line. So, kind of a combination of things there.

And then defensively, we have a lot of veterans. Edgerrin Cooper returning, Demani Richardson, and then you have some new guys like Taurean York as a starting freshman linebacker. Bryce Anderson, he played quite a bit last year, been getting those second reps. And then secondary, we've been kind of thinned out. Tyreek Chappell has been a good producer, but he was facing an injury last week. So, I think he will be back, and then as well as on the other side, Josh Deberry transferred from Boston College. Put up a really good game against New Mexico, but got kind of burnt against Miami. So, we'll see what kind of performance he puts up in the SEC."

Waters: What are some weaknesses for Texas A&M?

Naegeli: "Definitely secondary and tackling. Like I said, against Miami, it just seemed like Miami had every single big play that they wanted to have. Another, not that this is a major issue, but people just have slight questions about A&M's running game. Haven't been able to get it going quite as much as they would like to have a trio of Le'Veon Moss Rueben Owens and then Amari Daniels. So, they're pretty much getting all equal reps, I would say. So, whoever decides to step up there, I think any one of them could be really, really promising, but I would say main issues are just not getting the running game going so far, which obviously the passing game has been performing to up to its standard. And then, obviously, it's A&M's secondary."

Waters: This game is at 11 a.m., do you think that has any importance for this matchup?

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Naegeli: "Obviously, Texas A&M fans will show up no matter what time it is. Kyle Field, anytime I've been in it, there's 100,000 fans regardless of opponent, regardless of time. You can have the game on a random Wednesday at midnight, and there would still probably be 100,000 fans there. It's definitely, I would say, more of a challenge just to wake up, get going, all those sorts of things like logistically, but as far as fan turnout, absolutely not. Kyle Field is going to be absolutely packed on Saturday."

Waters: Your prediction for the game?

Naegeli: "I'm favoring A&M, just because Jimbo in year six definitely needs to get this one done... Let's go 42-20. I think it'll be somewhat in reach for Auburn nearing halftime. Conner [Weigman]... Miami was the only full game he's played in up to this point. So, having Connor in, he's gonna put up some stats. Some of these stats have been, not as true as they could be because he's been taken out of the game. I think he's definitely going to perform and get a win in SEC play."

Jacob Waters | Sports Editor

Jacob Waters is a senior majoring in journalism. From Leeds, Alabama, he started with The Plainsman in August, 2021.

Twitter: @JacobWaters_

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