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August 3, 2007

Rising programs: No. 6 Texas A&M

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    With fall workouts in the not too distant future, we continue our inside look at many programs around the country.

    In our latest series, we breakdown the nation's Top 10 Rising Programs.

    Though the top spot won't be unveiled until next week, we continue the countdown with a team that reached the Super Regional round in 2007 - Texas A&M.

    After guiding the Aggies to a less than impressive finish in his first season, second-year coach Rob Childress changed the dynamic of the program in '07.

    Not only did the Aggies put together one of the nation's best non-conference records, they also hosted a Regional for the first time since 2003.

    Rising Programs: No. 6 Texas A&M
    Why are they rising?
    After suffering several setbacks in his first season at Texas A&M, second-year coach Rob Childress turned the tide in year two. Not only did the Aggies enter 2007 with renewed confidence, they also brought in the necessary talent to compete at a high level. With a new look and attitude, the Aggies didn't disappoint in Childress' second campaign. In their first weekend of action, the Aggies defeated Rice and Houston, while dropping a hard-fought contest to hard-hitting Arizona State. A&M proceeded to impress during the rest of its non-conference schedule, while putting together a .500 record in conference. With possibly two of their best players returning and a talented incoming freshman class, the future of Texas A&M baseball appears to be strong.

    2007 Year in Review
    The Aggies had a season to forget in Childress' first year in College Station, Texas. However, the 2007 campaign was a different story. Though some picked the Aggies to finish near the bottom of the conference standings, they still entered the year with high expectations. Not only did the Aggies want to compete at a high level during non-conference and conference play, they also wanted to make a statement by reaching the NCAA Tournament and advancing to the Super Regional round. In the postseason, the Aggies defeated Louisiana-Lafayette in the College Station Regional. But their season came to an end at Reckling Park, as they were eliminated by nationally-seeded Rice. In just two seasons, Childress has the Aggies headed the right direction.

    What the future holds
    If the Aggies continue to progress at the same rate as 2007, that success could be the tip of the iceberg. While A&M must find a way to replace ace right-hander Kyle Nicholson next season, they could still be in great shape if veteran left-hander David Newmann decides to return in the fall. Additionally, the Aggies welcome back Scott Migl, Kyle Thebeau, Jordan Chambless, among others. While Texas A&M's pitching situation should be good next season, they have several holes to fill at the plate. Not only did the Aggies lose talented shortstop Brandon Hicks, they must also replace Parker Dalton and Craig Stinson. On the flip side, the Aggies could get a huge break if veteran utility player Blake Stouffer decides to return in the fall. With the return of a few key cogs and the entrance of a talented freshman class, A&M has a bright future.

    Kendall's analysis
    Even after a frustrating first season, Childress refused to subscribe to the three or four-year building process. Instead, he was looking for the immediate fix. Though some questioned his motives, Childress did what was best for his program by bringing in new faces and attitudes. That move certainly paid off, as the Aggies went from goats to glory in just one season. With a Super Regional berth under their belts, the Aggies won't be sneaking up on anyone in 2008 and beyond. However, the stage has been set and the future of the A&M program appears to be bright. Looking back at 2007, I thought the Aggies did a great job of maximizing their talent. They also did an impressive job of increasing their production from the previous year.

    Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at kendall@rivals.com.