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Opportunity abounds for Texas A&M down homestretch, but Aggies aren’t looking past curious South Carolina

Here are five takeaways from Texas A&M’s weekly media availability.

COLLEGE STATION — Texas A&M is fresh off its second bye week and the Aggies start the homestretch of the season with their final home game in 2019 against South Carolina this Saturday.

Here are five takeaways from A&M’s Monday press conference:

‘Reload’ for the homestretch

A&M might’ve had last week off, but the Aggies called their bye week ‘reload,’ not relax.

“We don’t relax, we reload,” junior receiver Jhamon Ausbon said. “We got back and did good-on-good, competed. It was like sweaty fall camp all over again. … It was a grind, to be honest.”

After reloading, A&M enters the homestretch with abounding opportunities.

If the Aggies can get past South Carolina, they will likely be ranked ahead of facing top-5 opponents Georgia and LSU on the road. Ausbon said A&M coach Jimbo Fisher has emphasized what’s still on the table for the Aggies despite a 3-3 start.

“He’s been saying, ‘We’re 6-3 right now. We could finish the season 10-3,’” Ausbon said. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s not about the outcome, it’s about the process and how we got there. We’ve just been focusing on the fundamentals and the small details to get to that part of the season.”

Don’t overlook the Gamecocks

Before traveling to Athens for the first time as members of the SEC to face Georgia though, the Aggies will have to fend off South Carolina, who is the only team to take down the Bulldogs this season.

This Saturday’s game has a different mood for the Gamecocks, however, as they come off a tough 20-15 home loss to Appalachian State. Fisher made it clear, though: don’t be deceived.

“I know they’re coming off a tough loss this week, but it’s also a team that went to Georgia and won,” Fisher said. “They’re going to come in here guns blazing, ready to play, and we need to come out of this break these next three games playing the way we need to play, but we’ve got to start it off this week first.”

Players have taken note, too. Team captain and junior linebacker Buddy Johnson said players are understanding Fisher’s message: all games are important. The Gamecocks will have to win their final two games against A&M and Clemson to go to a bowl, too.

“He’s trying to tell us that every game is a big game no matter what they’re past is,” Johnson said. “Just come out fired up and ready to go because you never know what can happen. … This can change their season. I expect them to come out ready to go.”

Containing Bryan Edwards

One player of concern for the Aggies this Saturday could be South Carolina senior receiver Bryan Edwards.

Standing 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Jimbo Fisher noted the threat Edwards poses against the A&M secondary. Last week against App State, Edwards passed Alshon Jeffery to become the school’s all-time leading receiver.

“You’re talking about the leading receiver in school history at South Carolina, and they’ve had some dadgum good guys there, too,” Fisher said. “He’s big. He’s long. He’s physical. Can catch the underneath ball and run with it. Can catch the ball over the top. Can jump-ball it. He’s a punt return guy, yards after catch, physical to block. He’ll be a great pro. This guy’s going to be a great pro.”

Edwards might be tall, but he’s multi-faceted, too, something A&M junior safety Keldrick Carper took note of last week when studying South Carolina film.

“Bryan Edwards is a very talented receiver,” Carper said. “He’s tough, physical and they use him in a couple of different ways. They want to give him the ball in the pass game.”

Punters battle it out

Field position is always a key battle in any football game, but Saturday could provide an even tighter chess match.

Two of the nation’s top punters — A&M’s Braden Mann and South Carolina’s Joseph Charlton — will square off against each other. Mann currently ranks first in the nation in punting, averaging 49.0 yards per kick while Charlton trails close behind, blasting punts for an average of 48.3 yards per punt, which is fourth nationally.

Mann said he feeds off punter competition in the back of his mind, referencing his strong performance against Kentucky’s Max Duffy last season when Mann booted an 82-yard punt.

“Me and the special teams analyst have watched his film already,” Mann said. “He gets a lot of hang time on the ball. His distance is really good and his direction is good.”

Recruiting inside out

On Monday, A&M received a key commitment for its 2020 class from Florida 4-star defensive end Donell Harris.

With Harris in the fold, the Aggies now hold nine out-of-state commits for the current recruiting cycle. Jimbo Fisher noted the importance of working inside-out in recruiting, from your home state to elsewhere, in order to fill particular needs as the game evolves, too.

“You’ve got to work your home bases out,” Fisher said. “That’s what the game of college football is now, it’s a national game. And we have things that can attract folks here. When you see the facilities, the stadium, the commitment to excellence, where we’re going, how the program is, and the resources that A&M has for the education it has, your former students, the number of former students, how Aggies take care of Aggies, the Aggie Ring.

“When people start getting introduced to those things, it makes a big difference. This is a tremendous place to sell things to and people see what we’re doing here and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alex Miller, Texas A&M blogger. Alex Miller is a senior at Texas A&M University and serves as the Texas A&M blogger. A native of College Station, Alex has been featured in the San Antonio Express-News, The Eagle and The Battalion.

@AlexMill20

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