2013 Texas A&M Preview –Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Texas A&M Aggie Defense
Preview 2013 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder changed things up last year to a more conventional scheme, and the results were good enough. The pass rush might not have been as dominant as it was in the Big 12, but the secondary stopped giving up so many big plays. The front seven is loaded with athletes and should be able to get into the backfield on a regular basis, and the results will show for a defensive backfield that might not be full of stars, but will be solid. The key will be versatility, with lots of room to play around with both the linebacking corps and the secondary, and if nothing else, everyone will get around the ball without a problem.
Star of the defense: Senior LB Steven Jenkins
Tackles: Steven Jenkins, 79
Sacks: Steven Jenkins, 2
Interceptions: Deshazor Everett, 2
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore DT Alonzo Williams
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Tyrell Taylor
Best pro prospect: Jenkins
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jenkins, 2) S Howard Matthews, 3) NG Kirby Ennis
Strength of the defense: Athleticism, Versatility
Weakness of the defense: Proven Pass Rush, Veteran Depth
Step One is to replace Damontre Moore, who led the team with 85 tackles with 12.5 sacks at the Rush end position, and now it'll be up to junior Tyrell Taylor to work in the hybrid position. A natural linebacker, he's a very fast, very disruptive force who'll look like he's shot out of a cannon. It's asking a lot for the 6-4, 230-pounder to be Moore right away, but the tools are there to be a statistical star after making six sacks with a sack and three quarterback hurries in his limited role. He'll be backed up by his brother, 6-3, 240-pound redshirt freshman Tyrone Taylor, who's a bit bigger and has just as much upside. A great recruit last year, he's more like a defensive end than a linebacker.
The Rush end is the team's glamour position up front, but 6-4, 255-pound sophomore Julien Obioha could be the star all-around defender after rising up as a true freshman starting 12 games with 25 tackles with a sack and six broken up passes. More of a tough tackler than a pure pass rusher, he moves well and is tremendously strong, holding up well against the bigger, stronger blockers. He'll only get better as his body continues to mature. He'll be backed up by 6-4, 270-pound junior Gavin Stansbury, a big, 3-4 end-like defender who had problems staying healthy early on his career thanks to a knee problem, but with his size and quickness he has the potential to do far more after making 11 tackles as a part of a rotation.
Needing to hold up in the interior is 6-4, 300-pound senior Kirby Ennis, a big presence inside who made 24 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. He's not going to get into the backfield on a regular basis, but he proved last season that he could be a bit of an anchor, even if he's not a massive space-eater. He showed this offseason that he's ready to take on a bigger role and be a key part of the defensive front.
Next to Ennis will be 6-4, 280-pound sophomore Alonzo Williams, a tremendous prospect out of Long Beach, California who had his choice of Pac-12 schools to go to but will be a part of the Aggie interior. A pass rusher who'll be too quick off the ball for most guards, he's built to be a 3-4 end but as long as Ennis does his job on the nose, he'll get a chance to rumble free in the interior after making five tackles in a few games of action as a freshman.
Watch Out For … the new defensive tackles. The receiving corps is loaded with great new prospects, but the biggest and best prospects in the 2013 class is at tackle where Justin Manning, Isaiah Golden and Hardreck Walker all are top options who should be outstanding with a little bit of time. Meanwhile, 6-3, 260-pound end Jordan Points will be tried out right away behind Williams in the interior. However, he's more of an end, while the 6-1, 270-pound Manning and the 6-2, 320-pound Golden are going to quickly become stars. Manning is more of a pass rusher and Golden is more of the prototype SEC interior defender.
Strength: The pass rush. Moore provided most of the production, and Sean Porter helped at linebacker, but the Aggie line is built to get to the quarterback on a regular basis. Tyrell Taylor and Obioha look ready to rock.
Weakness: Backup tackle. Will Kimo Tipoti work on the offensive line or at tackle? Will the coaching staff have to rely on true freshmen right away? Ennis and Williams should be terrific, but they'll need help in the rotation.
Outlook: There's excellent upside and potential, and the overall production should be better than the parts. Loosing Moore is a problem, and there aren't any massive bodies in the interior, but everyone should get behind the line and the production against the run should be excellent.
Unit Rating: 7.5
The linebacking corps has to replace Jonathan Stewart in the middle and Sean Porter on the strongside, but 6-2, 220-pound senior Steven Jenkins returns on the weakside after taking over the strongside gig two years ago and making 61 stops. Dominant at times in practices, he showed he could handle himself without a problem in a full-time role making 79 tackles with two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss with a pick despite missing time after being suspended for violating team rules. A guided missile to the ball, the former JUCO transfer needs to be a tone-setter.
Looking to replace Stewart in the middle is 6-1, 230-pound junior Donnie Baggs, a big hitter and good pass rushing prospect who got one start and saw time in 11 other games making 27 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss with a pick. Quick and with great range, he has the tools and the upside, and now he's getting the opportunity. Working behind him will be 6-2, 244-pound junior Shaun Ward, a former star recruit who came to A&M with all the talent in the world, but in desperate need of proper conditioning. He got everything right and has the ability and versatility to play anywhere in the linebacking corps, but now he needs to fight his way in for a job after making seven tackles and a sack in eight games.
6-2, 215-pound junior Tommy Sanders is built more like a safety than a linebacker, but he needs to be able to hold up and be disruptive in place of Porter on the strongside after coming in from Butler CC in Kansas. A dangerous all-around force, he came up with 71 tackles with eight sacks and 20 tackles for loss last year at the lower level, and even though he was wanted by Ohio State, South Carolina and others, he chose A&M and should be an instant statistical dynamo. He'll work in a rotation with 6-4, 225-pound senior Nate Askew, a former wide receiver who moved over to the defensive side after catching nine career passes for 95 yards and a score. He might need time and work, but he has he burst to be a dangerous situational pass rusher.
Watch Out For … Darian Claiborne, the best of a big lot of new linebacker prospects. The 6-0, 225-pounder doesn't have much room to get bigger, but he doesn't miss a stop and should be able to crank out big numbers on the inside in the near future. Not just a strong high school defender, he was also a dual-threat quarterback, bringing the quickness, athleticism and smart to the defensive side at the next level.
Strength: Quickness. The Aggie linebackers can move. It might be a bit of a concern to find the right rotation and the right three guys for the starting spots, but there's more than enough athletes to go around. Swarming around the ball won't be a problem.
Weakness: Experience. There's going to be a learning curve. While there are options to play around with, there aren't many sure things. Whenever you have to rely on true freshmen to play roles, there's a problem.
Outlook: The linebackers should take a step back without Stewart and Porter. Baggs has to rise up and become fantastic, and Jenkins has to stay healthy and be a star to work around. It'll be trial by fire, and there will be times when this group dominates by outrunning weaker opponents, but it'll get powered on by the better SEC ground games.
Unit Rating: 6.5
The secondary will have to reshuffle a bit, but the results should be solid if Deshazor Everett can have a strong season at one corner and can get past off-the-field allegations regarding an assault charge. Versatile, he could see time at safety if needed but he's far more natural at corner with 6-0, 185-pound size and excellent recovery speed. A good tackler, he came up with 56 tackles with two picks and seven broken up passes, and now he'll take away the opposing No. 1 target. 5-10, 175-pound De'Vante Harris will get the call on the other side in place of Dustin Harris after seeing time as a spot starter making 30 tackles with a pick and three broken up passes as a true freshman. A baller, he's very smart, very talented and very promising. He might get shoved around a bit, but he'll stay with his man without a problem.
6-2, 190-pound junior Floyd Raven will make the move from corner to safety, and he should shine after a great offseason as long as he doesn't have problems after allegedly being involved in the same assault charges that Everett is dealing with. Now at free safety in place of Steven Terrell, he's a good tackler who didn't come through as expected, but he saw a little time making 16 tackles with a sack, a pick and 2.5 tackles for loss. Versatile, he could move around if needed, but he should find a home with his range.
Back at safety is junior Howard Matthews, a big, talented 6-2, 200-pound hitter who started five games and finished with 58 tackles with six broken up passes. He's not great in pass coverage and is more like an extra linebacker than a free range safety, but he's a tone-setter who can bring the big pop. He'll be backed up by senior Toney Hurd, an excellent veteran who can play any safety position of could shine as a nickel and dime defender, finishing fourth on the team with 67 tackles with a pick and four tackles for loss. He's like a fifth starter in the defensive backfield.
True freshman Alex Sezer got to school early and he'll work at corner, likely behind Everett. The 5-9, 180-pounder is one of the team's fastest defensive backs and could be used in dime packages to see if he can chase down a few fly balls. Fellow recruit Tavares Garner will quickly become a big part of the corner rotation with 6-0, 175-pound size and a natural gravitation to the ball – it always seems to find him. He has shutdown corner talent, but he might need a year or two to show it. These two are good, but …
Watch Out For … Noel Ellis, the team's best defensive back recruit. The New Orleans native has fluid skills and is electrifying whenever he can get the ball in his hands. While he's a good tackler, he's at his best when the ball is in the air. If nothing else, he might be an electrifying punt returner.
Strength: Versatility. With Raven moving around and other veterans like Everett and Harris able to play anywhere, the coaching staff can play around with the parts without a problem. There are enough good players to make sure the right guys are in the right spots depending on the scheme.
Weakness: Shut down pass defense. Teams had to bomb away to keep up the pace set by the Aggie offense, and while the two losses came in the games when the secondary gave up the fewest passing yards – allowing 165 against Florida and 97 against LSU – everyone else threw without a problem. The Aggies gave up 200 yards or more nine times.
Outlook: The secondary will be fine. As long as there are a few picks here and there, legal concerns don't become an issue and the big plays are kept to a minimum, the defensive backs will do their job. It's not going to be like life was in the Big 12, but SEC teams showed they could throw a little bit last year, too, and A&M will have to live with giving up at least 200 yards a game.
Unit Rating: 7
It didn't really matter that sophomore Taylor Bertolet struggled – he hit his only field goal attempt in the three point loss to Florida and was 3-for-3 in the 59-57 win over Louisiana Tech and hit his one kick in the 30-27 win over Ole Miss – but he has to be better. Only 5-9 and 174 pounds, he's not big but he has a massive leg with 60-yard range. He nailed 3-of-4 kicks from beyond 50 yards including a 54-yard bomb against Louisiana Tech, but he got one blocked and missed eight other attempts going a horrific 1-of-6 between 30-and-39 yards.
Ryan Epperson put together a terrific year for the nation's 15th-ranked punting game averaging 42 yards per kick with just one touchback and 13 put inside the 20 – the Aggies didn't punt all that often. Now it'll be up to 6-3, 220-pound sophomore Drew Kaiser, an Ohio native with a massive leg and tremendous upside. A great recruit two years ago, he'll step in and be more than fine averaging 45.5 yards on his two kicks in 2011.
De'Vante Harris needs to shine in place of Dustin Harris, who averaged 12.7 yards per punt return. De'Vante Harris has the quickness and should grow into a nice corner, and he'll be decent. Running backs Trey Williams and Brandon Williams will combine forces as kickoff returners. Trey was terrific averaging 22.3 yards per try, but the rest of the options last year struggled.
Watch Out For … Bertolet. He's the X factor. With his leg he has the potential to bail the offense out of jams from time to time with a bomb, but he has to hit everything from inside the 40. The team likely can't get away with another inconsistent season from its kicker.
Strength: Kaser and the punting game. He might not have any real experience, but he has the talent to be terrific with a little bit of time. The punt coverage team allowed just 5.4 yards per try.
Weakness: Bertolet's consistency. He has to prove himself. The talent is unquestioned, but he has to be reliable.
Outlook: The special teams will be a plus with huge-legged kickers and speedy returners. The coverage teams were outstanding allowing just 18.6 yards per kickoff return to go along with the production on punts.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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