This article and the 2014 College Tour are presented by Spin Ultimate.
With the college season now in full swing, Texas A&M Dozen has kicked off 2014 in very familiar fashion. Last weekend they handily claimed their 3rd straight title at Big D in Little D, going undefeated in the process. The program has practically made a tradition out of their early season victories in Denton, Texas.
Dozen faces a quick turnaround, as they will be traveling to Tampa this weekend for Warm Up: A Florida Affair. In March they will return to Centex. While serving as opportunities to compete with fellow elite programs, these tournaments bring on another familiar topic. Just as last spring, Dozen will undoubtedly enter the gauntlet of their regular season with talk of bid allocation for the College Championships.
Playing shorthanded at both Stanford Invite and Centex in the 2013 season, Dozen played well (quality wins included eventual Championship runner-up Central Florida) but their 19th rank in the final USAU regular season standings meant just two bids for the South Central region. Texas TUFF would go on to win the region and Colorado Mamabird would advance by winning the backdoor game, leaving Dozen on the outside looking in. Now in 2014 they look to increase their win totals at premiere tournaments, but not for the sake of the bid allocation. According to Coach Jose Cespedes, there is no discussion of bids or algorithms within the Texas A&M camp.
“If we win it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day we still have to beat Texas and Colorado, no matter what, one bid or two bids. We just want to get better. We just don’t really talk about it,” stated Cespedes.
Co-Captain Dalton Smith is on the same page. He has bigger aspirations than simply securing a strength bid for his squad:
“We’re very confident. I think we’re going to be a really tough team to compete with. And I know we can compete with the top teams because of last year’s Regionals, and just from watching other [teams], I know that our team has what it takes if we come out with the intensity and the fire we show in practice. And when we plug it in we’ll see.”
Though a third bid for the South Central is obtainable, it is not necessary. Texas A&M has proven to be a worthy adversary to the likes of TUFF and Mamabird and remains a legitimate threat to shake up the pecking order in the region. If anything, the next two tournaments will not serve as a resume builder, but as a means to ready themselves for a run at the regional crown. As for the team’s confidence, their early performances have served as a sample size of what has them feeling good about their prospects. Granted a fair amount of the competition was not up to snuff, Dozen’s play demonstrated a certain preparedness for the nation’s best.
Dozen may benefit from some added variety to their isolation sets as the season progresses. Their use of defensive switches may concede more yards to more skilled throwers. We will also find out if they will be able to continue to protect the redzone and consistently grind down offensive lines in the final 10-20 yards.
Perhaps equally important to the tangibles, it is clear that this animated group enjoys being on the field and competing. Everything about the game seems fun to them, even when owning up to miscues or discussing schematic breakdowns. The right amount of that loose nature will be a part of the winning equation for Texas A&M.
The focal point for the team’s personality as well as gameplay is Dalton Smith’s partner in crime and co-captain Matt Bennett. Bennett is the engine for this team, acting as the steady hand and a guarantee to create offense where there is none. But despite a plethora of individual talent not limited to Smith and Bennett alone, this team is at its best when utilizing all seven players on the field. Mismatches are indeed seized when the opportunity presents itself, but they are fully capable of executing as one unit, and do so often.
No matter what level of concern Texas A&M has for bid allocation, there is no denying a consistently fuller roster will lead to a more promising season in general. Coach Cespedes emphasizes commitment to the entire schedule in order to garner the results they desire:
“Just having people keep coming out, keep coming to the tournaments. I know that was a big thing last year. We kept saying we didn’t have enough guys or some people didn’t show up, but this year everyone’s focused, they want to come out to practice, they want to come out to the tournaments, I think that’s really what’s going to take us to next level.”
That next level is very much within reach for Texas A&M. Throughout the course of the season numbers will be crunched, rankings revised and predictions made. All the while these young men will pay no mind to it and be better off for it. We can continue to push the third bid dialogue for another season if we like, but we would be mistaken to believe it motivates them so much as flat out being the best.