Wednesday, at the monthly San Angelo A&M Club meeting, Aggie offensive line coach B.J. Anderson provided an inside scoop on the Manziel era, and gave much of the credit for consecutive winning seasons to Texas A&M Head Football Coach Kevin Sumlin's leadership style.
Anderson has worked under Sumlin since the winning seasons at the University of Houston, and together they have created another winning organization, against almost all odds, over the past three years, putting Aggie Football in the national spotlight.
Recent Aggie Football History for Newbies
Texas A&M left the Big 12 (and The University of Texas rivalry) to join the Southeast Conference, or SEC after the losing 2011 season. The move meant that A&M would face the very formidable teams of the Southeast Conference (SEC), and few gave the Aggies very good odds of finding success.
The alt-weekly Dallas Observer snidely reported in 2011, before the SEC move, “Five of the six teams in the SEC's Western Division — where A&M will land — are in this year's Top 20, and the SEC has produced college football's last five national champions in LSU, Florida (twice), Alabama and Auburn…” That was typical of the sports press in 2011, exhaling a collective laugh at A&M in the SEC.
But the Aggies got the last laugh after the 2012 season.
They were 10-2 at the end of the regular season, with its signature accomplishment of defeating #1 Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Then, with the win over former Big 12 foe Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, the Ags ended with a winning 11-2 record the first year in the SEC, ranked #5 and #6 in the AP poll and Coaches Poll respectively. Last year, 2013, the Aggies were 9-4, ending the season with an impressive win over Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, and ranked #18 in both polls.
The last year in the Big 12 Conference, in 2011, under a different Coach Mike Sherman, the Aggies weren’t even ranked nationally at the end of the season.
The quarterback phenomenon Johnny “Football” Manziel was much of the equation for the winning seasons, no doubt. But that’s not the whole story.
“We have to adjust with who we have. It depends on who our quarterback is,” Anderson said. “We didn’t run the same offense with Johnny Manziel that we did with Case Keenum [the quarterback during Sumlin’s and Anderson’s winning tenure at The University of Houston]. We won’t run the same offense with Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen [the two candidates for the starting quarterback in 2014] as we did with Johnny Manziel. We’re going to find out what they are good at, what they’re confident with. Our job is to move the chains and put one more point on the board than our opponent,” he said.
“That stuff we did with Johnny? I’ve never done any of that stuff. There’s stuff we made up. I mean we’d sit around late and night and just make it up! I’ve never had a guy like that, you know? And we didn’t know that he was that guy – I know some of you are wondering why we didn’t know this the summer before… I didn’t know Johnny Manziel was Johnny Manziel until we were in front of 100,000 people playing the University of Florida. Nobody knew. We didn’t know what we had. So when we figured out what we had, we built our offense around Johnny,” he said.
Manziel had help. It was an organization that adapted its play to enhance the quarterback’s chances of success, according to Anderson. For having the flexibility to do that, Anderson credited Sumlin’s leadership style.
Sumlin’s Secret Sauce
“We don’t vote a lot in our building,” Anderson quipped, referring to Coach Sumlin’s leadership of Aggie Football. But Anderson revealed Sumlin’s secret sauce, and the Aggie Football world isn't a dictatorship.
“I can tell you as a guy who works for him. I think a lot of head coaches feel like they are the CEOs and they see these guys below them and when someone below him messes up, he pounds on the guy. Kevin is not like that at all.
“Let me give you an example. In the world of college football recruiting, there is a catastrophe every single day. It is always messed up. Everyday. I can’t explain it. I wake up every morning and cringe when I look at my phone. [For example] there’s a high school coach that’s upset about something, there’s a high school recruit upset about something, or there’s a mom and dad upset about something. Or, there’s a player that you’re coaching that’s upset about something. It’s just always something.
“With Kevin, instead of that being my problem, it’s our problem. So as I’m down here [in the chain of command], and he’s up there, and I’m down here scratching and clawing and fighting with swords, you look right next to you and Coach [Sumlin] is doing the same thing.
“What happens is that we are all in this thing together: The bad days, over the years we’ve had some rough days. And over the years we’ve had some great days too. But he’s waist deep in there with you. I think that really wraps up his leadership style,” Anderson said.
Anderson was in town participating in the Angelo State University High School Coaches Football Clinic that ended Wednesday.