Camp start: Monday
Opener: Rice in College Station (ESPN at 1 p.m.)
Fun fact: Texas A&M's 7-0 record away from Kyle Field last season represented the program's first undefeated road slate since 1939.
Coming Friday: Vanderbilt
Jake Matthews, the son of NFL Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews, has moved from right tackle to left tackle for the high-octane Aggies.
Jake Matthews knew that he and Luke Joeckel were comprising a respected offensive tackle tandem last season at Texas A&M, but where better to prove their worth than inside Bryant-Denny Stadium?
With the Aggies decided underdogs against top-ranked Alabama, Matthews and Joeckel helped provide quarterback Johnny Manziel enough time in the pocket and enough running lanes to befuddle the Crimson Tide. Manziel completed 24 of 31 passes for 253 yards and rushed 18 times for 92 yards as Texas A&M pulled a 29-24 upset.
"There is a lot of pride when it comes to playing on the offensive line," Matthews said at SEC media days. "You're protecting your quarterback, and you're doing everything you can so he can go out and do his thing. Going there and playing such a great team in a wild environment really just showed us what we're capable of.
"We went out there and couldn't hear each other, but we communicated. It was special, and it was memorable."
There were a lot of special and memorable aspects to Texas A&M's maiden voyage in the SEC, as the Aggies capped an 11-2 record with a 41-13 pummeling of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Manziel accounted for an eye-popping 5,116 total yards and became the first freshman, true or redshirt, to win the Heisman Trophy.
Matthews and Joeckel were the All-SEC first-team tackles, with Joeckel winning the Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman. Joeckel played left tackle but decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and was the No. 2 pick in April's NFL draft, so Matthews will move from the right to left side in his final season.
"Luke and I are real similar in our work habits and how we prepare for games," Matthews said. "We worked out together and watched film together all last year. We want to go out there and be the best, so we were always pushing each other.
"He was a great player on the left side. I'm going to be someone different, but I think I'll do a good job."
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Matthews learned through working from Joeckel, but most of his tips came from his father. Bruce Matthews was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2007 after a 19-year career with the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans.
Bruce has three sons who have suited up for the Aggies - Kevin was the starting center in 2008-09 and Mike played in seven games last season as a true freshmen.
"My dad is my biggest fan, and I really appreciate all the things he does for me," Jake said. "He was a great player, and I would love to do half the things that he did. He was one of a kind, and I'm just really thankful to have him in my life. He's like a second coach when I go home or if I'm worried about something or I don't understand something."
Bruce Matthews played every position on the offensive line during his time in the NFL, and he earned 14 Pro Bowl invitations. He retired in 2001 after playing in 296 career games, which was a league record at that time for a position player.
Jake occasionally has experienced the pressure of living up to his father but said it hasn't been too bad.
"I'm trying to go out there and do my own thing and be the best player I can be," he said. "It was fun, though, growing up around football your whole life. Going to games all the time will be something I'll always remember."
Now it's Bruce going to games, with the biggest one looming for the Aggies being Alabama's visit on Sept. 14.
"We definitely have that game circled," Jake said. "Last year's game was a special game for our university, and it showed what we're capable of. We wanted to get this program on top to where everyone would recognize us.
"I think we've done a good job of that, but we need to keep grinding and raising that level."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.