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Secret Weapon: Why Texas A&M Will Need To Trust RB Devon Achane Against Arkansas

Devon Achane's ability to create mismatches might be key against Arkansas in Jerry World.

COLLEGE STATION - - A secret weapon can carry a team far. When neutralized, it can hamper a roster’s production.

Texas A&M’s ace in the hole is running back Devon Achane. Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher on more than one occasion has praised the junior’s ability as a weapon in all aspects of the game and a security net for a quarterback.

Prior to Saturday’s game against No. 13 Miami, Achane’s production had stalled to begin the year. A season ago, he was averaging 7.0 yards per run. This season through two games, he averaged 3.4 yards per play.

One performance isn’t enough to say the No. 23 Aggies (2-1) are trending in the right direction on the ground, but Achane said he could notice a difference after three weeks of live reps.

“We’ve been going day by day in practice, and we’ve just kept getting better,” Achane said Monday. “That’s the plan moving forward. We’re just looking to get better every week.”

Achane surpassed 100 total yards for the first time this season in A&M’s 17-9 win over Miami at home. He totaled 88 rushing yards off 18 carries and averaged 4.9 yards per run.

Fisher often has mentioned Achane’s reliability in the backfield in terms of receiving. That was on display as well Saturday in front of a packed Kyle Field. New A&M quarterback Max Johnson connected with Achane in the third quarter for a 25-yard touchdown to put the Aggies up by 14.

“You’re trying to find mismatches whether you find him out of the backfield, whether you’re swinging him or trying to line him up outside … you have to give him touches,” Fisher said of Achane. “Like the great backs I’ve been able to have in my past, guys that have [those skills,] you have to let them touch it.”

Achane will need to remain a focal point of A&M’s offense moving ahead into conference play. That starts Saturday in Arlington against No. 10 Arkansas in the Southwest Classic.

Despite sitting at 3-0, the Hogs have their weaknesses. The biggest as of now comes on pass defense. Arkansas currently ranks dead last among FBS schools in coverage, allowing opponents to average 352.7 yards per play through the air.

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Achane might be known for his ability to make defenders miss behind the line of scrimmage, but he’s more than a one-trick runner. Through the first three games, only senior receiver Ainias Smith and freshman Evan Stewart have more catches. As a pass-catcher, Achane is also averaging 9.3 yards per catch.

Johnson is expected to be the starting quarterback when the Aggies kickoff from AT&T Stadium Saturday evening. While he might not have the arm strength or deep ball accuracy of initial starter Haynes King, Johnson is consistent in terms of moving the ball downfield for positive points.

Achane said that with time, the game should slow down for Johnson even more. That’s the hope in College Station after lackluster showings early against teams such as Sam Houston and Appalachian State.

Entering Week 4, the Aggies rank last in the SEC in total offense at 313.7 yards per game. They also rank last among SEC programs in scoring offense, averaging 20.7 points per game.

“He was just getting his feet wet and [learning] to be comfortable,” Achane said of Johnson.

Kickoff from Arlington Saturday is set for 6 p.m. 

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