Scarborough: The Aggies are in a tough situation, adjusting to a new league, a new coach and a new starting quarterback at the same time. How has the transition been thus far and what do you feel are reasonable expectations for this coming season?
Kahn: So far the transition has been smooth. There has been a lot of "new" around campus in addition to the things you mentioned: a new athletic director , a new, huge weight room and new uniforms. The fact that Kevin Sumlin brought a large portion of his offensive coaching staff with him from Houston makes for some continuity, but there's also transition in that the defense is moving to a 4-3 alignment under new coordinator Mark Snyder, and of course the offense will move towards a higher tempo under Kliff Kingsbury, an Air Raid disciple. Looking at the schedule, it's reasonable to expect a 6-7 win season. There will be some bumps in the road in making the transition (especially at quarterback), but the Aggies have enough talent to get to a bowl game.
Scarborough: It's not just the quarterback that needs to be replaced, it's the lead running back as well. Who is poised to step in at both positions, and what kind of players do you think they're capable of being?
Kahn: While Sumlin and Kingsbury declined to name a starter coming out of the spring, reports seemed to indicate that redshirt sophomore Jameill Showers had the lead in the quarterback competition against redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel coming out of spring ball. (Manziel's case wasn't helped after his arrest last month). Showers backed up Ryan Tannehill last season and appeared sparingly in four games. At running back, Christine Michael is back for his senior season and he has been productive when healthy but has had his last two seasons cut short by season-ending injuries. Showers has plenty of ability, but there's no substitute for game experience. Michael is a proven back, a true talent and if he can stay healthy, look for the Aggies to lean on him quite a bit.
Scarborough: Tell me about Kevin Sumlin. What's his style and what is he saying about the team he inherited? Are they picking up the new schemes both offensively and defensively?
Kahn: Sumlin is a players' coach. His personality meshes well with his athletes and of course, he's known well for the type of high-powered offenses he has been associated with, particularly the last four years at Houston and as an assistant at Oklahoma. The first and perhaps biggest priority for Sumlin is to improve their strength and conditioning, which is why he brought director of sports performance Larry Jackson over from Houston. Jackson had a significant impact on Houston's program under Sumlin and since high-tempo is a signature of Sumlin's preferred offensive scheme, it's important that Jackson have an impact at Texas A&M. All you have to do is see how many games Texas A&M lost with leads last year to know that the Aggies could benefit from performing better in the fourth quarter, and Sumlin is betting that Jackson will help A&M do that.
Scarborough: From strictly a talent basis, how is Texas A&M set up for this season, as well as the future? Has the move to the SEC paid dividends in recruiting?
Kahn: Texas A&M isn't hurting for talent, especially at skill positions. Mike Sherman recruited well in his tenure and Sumlin has been strong since arriving. The Aggies already have the majority of their 2013 class verbally committed (25 and counting). The move to the SEC has paid significant dividends in recruiting; many of their commitments have cited the Aggies' membership in the SEC as one of the top reasons for picking A&M, if not reason No. 1. The fact that they are the only school in the state of Texas that competes in the SEC gives them a selling point that they haven't had before.
Scarborough: Give me your argument for the Aggies coming to Tuscaloosa and upsetting Alabama.
Kahn: If Showers progresses quickly and the offense starts to show the kind of production that Sumlin's Houston teams were known for, they'll be in every game. Because the tempo is so high, it's hard for opposing teams to simulate. Also, the running game factors into the offense more than is perceived and more often than not. If Michael and Malena can get it clicking, hey, you never know. But it would be a tough task, especially on the road.
Scarborough: And, now, what are some obstacles that might keep that from happening?
Kahn: Defensive line depth is a concern (as evidenced by the five defensive linemen already committed for 2013) and that doesn't bode well against Alabama's running game and offensive front, so stopping the run could be an issue. And no matter who is starting that game at quarterback, it will be someone who hasn't before played a game in front of a full house at Bryant-Denny Stadium against the caliber of team that Alabama is, and there's no way to simulate that.