Behind Enemy Lines: The Battalion’s Hannah Underwood previews Texas A&M

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Behind Enemy Lines: The Battalion’s Hannah Underwood previews Texas A&M

Photo courtesy of Hannah Underwood.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Underwood.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Underwood.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Underwood.

The Crimson White caught up with Hannah Underwood, the sports editor of Texas A&M’s student newspaper, The Battalion, to get some intel on the N0. 24-ranked Aggies.

Q: What are your thoughts on Texas A&M’s season so far? Has it lived up to expectations? 

A: The Aggies came into this season with extremely high expectations. Junior quarterback Kellen Mond played a large role in creating that, as he labeled himself the best quarterback in the SEC over the summer. So far A&M hasn’t lived up to those expectations, and the Aggies are facing struggles on all sides. A lack of offensive cohesion, a nonexistent pass rush and a plague of penalties have left A&M with a 3-2 season record heading into Bama week. 

Q: What does Texas A&M need to do to have success against Alabama’s defense? 

A: The offense will have to find some early momentum on Saturday, as A&M has suffered from some slow starts throughout the season. The Aggies have also struggled to get the run game rolling, as the losses of last year’s SEC-leading rusher Trayveon Williams to the NFL and sophomore Jashaun Corbin to a season-ending hamstring injury have left A&M’s ground game desolate. With A&M’s pass rush basically out of commission, Mond’s offensive line and receivers will need to step up against Alabama’s defense if the offense is to have any chance at success.

Q: Texas A&M comes into the matchup with the No. 26 total defense in the country, yielding under 300 yards per game. What has made that defense so successful? 

A: A&M’s defense has been a strength of the team over the past few years, and in its second season under Mike Elko, the unit has improved even more from last year. The secondary in particular started out the season strong, capturing five interceptions against Texas State and Clemson – a figure that is over half the number of interceptions they had all of last year. In conjunction with the front seven, led by junior defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, A&M’s defense is its most sound piece. Though it has struggled in A&M’s past two games against Auburn and Arkansas, it will be critical for the defense to rebound and get back to that early-season dominance.

Q: Kellen Mond said at SEC Media Days that he was one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC and has shown glimpses of it. What has led to his success this year, and what does he need to do to improve going forward? 

A: Mond’s statement at SEC Media Days was uncharacteristically bold of the junior, who usually has a more laid-back demeanor. His confidence in July is evidence of Jimbo Fisher’s effect on the team, and that has created a positive change in Mond. The stats don’t completely back up his statement at this point in the season, though that can be attributed to a variety of factors that don’t all fall on Mond. The offensive line has allowed Mond to be sacked eight times. Receivers haven’t been able to make big plays – specifically in critical moments in the red zone. Most recently Mond was 6-for-7 in the first quarter against Arkansas; his one incompletion was to Kendrick Rogers for what probably would have been a touchdown, but it appeared that Rogers slowed down on his route, and the ball slipped just over his hands. Mond is going to need help from the rest of his offense if he is going to live up to his bold words from Media Days.

Q: In the Aggies seven-overtime victory over LSU last year, the nation saw how explosive Texas A&M’s offense can be on any given week. What offensive playmakers stand out to you, and what do they need to do to have success against Alabama?

A: Freshman wide receiver Ainias Smith hasn’t seen much playing time thus far this season, but he has shone in his few moments on the field. Against Arkansas he was second on the team with 80 receiving yards on five catches. In tandem with freshman running back Isaiah Spiller, who has had two 100-plus yard games so far for a season total of 255 rushing yards, the duo will help Mond to get the offense rolling. 

Q: What is your score prediction? 

A: 45-21, Alabama. The Aggies have yet to truly find a groove offensively, and facing the No. 1 team in the nation for the second time this season, I don’t see them being able to do that on Saturday.