What you need to know ... The Aggies struggled through a lot
of youth playing key roles and a lot of mistakes. A lot. Despite
the possibility of eight sophomore starters, this is an
experienced group that should be a little better in all phases
after allowing 406 yards and almost 33 points per game. The
biggest improvement is needed in the secondary where Terrence
Washington will look to get back his all-star form and sophomore
brothers Josh and Caleb Taylor need to perform like veterans.
Finding a replacement up front for pass rushing terror John
Chick will be a problem, but the front seven should be solid up
the middle with tackles Brian Soi and E.J. Reid and linebacker
Tackles: Jake Hutton,
Brian Soi, 4.5
Interceptions: Terrence Washington, 2
Star of the defense: Senior FS Terrence Washington
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
DE Ben Calderwood
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore SS Caleb Taylor
Best pro prospect: Washington
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Washington, 2) LB Jake
Hutton, 3) DT Brian Soi
Strength of the defense: Experience, safety
Weakness of the defense:
It's solid in the middle and questionable on
the outside after losing pass rushing superstar John Chick and solid
number two man Jarom Fano. Brian Soi has to build on a great freshman
season and be the star inside, while E.J. Reid has to take another step
up in his production at the other tackle spot. Ben Calderwood and Frank
Maile are good-sized ends, but it'll be asking a lot to replace the 12.5
sacks left by Chick. Being stronger against the run will be important
early on with the pass rush developing as the season goes on.
The key to the unit: Get production out of the ends and hope for
the tackles to be more productive against the run.
Defensive Line Rating: 4.5
- DE Ben Calderwood, Soph. - 15 tackles, 1 TFL
It'll be Calderwood's job to be the main pass rushing force on the end
now that John Chick is gone. He signed with the team back in 2001 before
going on a church mission, and now should use his athleticism and skills
to be one of the line's top new playmakers.
- DT Brian Soi, Soph. - 31 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL
The 298-pound sophomore is a strong interior pass rusher and showed
great potential in a fantastic first season after getting in better
shape. He's big against the run and surprisingly quick. It'll be a shock
if he's not an All-WAC performer by the end of his career.
- DT E.J. Reid, Jr. - 25 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL
The former offensive lineman switched back to his natural spot on the
defensive line and became one of the team's most productive defenders.
He's a physical defender with a little bit of quickness.
- DE Frank Maile, Jr. - 9 tackles, 5.5 TFL
The 24-year-old junior is a big right end at 261 pounds. He has been a
reserve over the last two seasons and now needs to use his size to be an
effective run stopper as well as a consistent playmaker in the
backfield. While not fast, he always finds a way to make plays behind
- DT Kerry Shepherd, Sr. - 4 tackles
Back after missing most of last season, the former linebacker and
defensive end has bulked up to 273 pounds and will push for time on the
inside. He still has linebacker quickness and should be a factor as an
interior pass rusher.
- DT Ben Childs, Jr. - 5 tackles, 1 sack
A true tackle, the 5-11, 264-pound junior has good leverage and a little
bit of experience. He's undersized and won't be a starter unless
- DE Michael Martini, RFr.
A pure pass rusher, the rangy 6-4, 248-pound redshirt freshman will be a
situational pass rusher early on behind Frank Maile on the right side.
It's a young, young, group with four
sophomores and a redshirt freshman playing the most prominent roles.
Fortunately there's a little bit of returning experience after suffering
through some major growing pains last season. Jake Hutton is a potential
All-WAC star moving from the outside to the middle. Devon Hall and
undersized Daryl Fields are quick all-around defenders on the outside,
while Clay Swan, Josh Anderson and Steven Downs are bigger options than
the starters they're behind on the depth chart.
The key to the unit: The undersized corps has to hold
up against the run and use the overall quickness to be more disruptive.
Linebacker Rating: 4.5
- Daryl Fields, Soph. - 14 tackles, 2 TFL
Possibly the nation's smallest linebacker, the 5-7, 190-pound sophomore
will get the first look on the outside after scrapping his way as a
backup and on special teams. Quickness isn't a problem, and he's
certainly tough. Now he has to prove he can hold up against the run.
- Jake Hutton, Soph. - 87 tackles, 7.5 TFL
The true freshman was the hit of spring ball last season and was even
better come fall finishing as the team's leading tackler and growing
into a major disruptive force on the outside. The 220-pound sophomore
will move to the inside to take over for Matt Wiser. As one of the
team's bigger linebackers, he has to be even more physical than last
- Devon Hall, Soph. - 44 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 interception
Hall had a nice first season after being thrown to the wolves early on.
At 6-3 and 209 pounds, he's a safety-sized defender starting again on
the strongside where he's able to use his speed as a good pass defender
as well as a pass rusher.
- Clay Swan, Soph. - 2 tackles
Swan should play a far bigger role after only seeing time in five games
as a redshirt freshman. He's healthy and needs to push for the starting
job on the weakside as a far bigger option than Daryl Fields.
- Josh Anderson, Jr. - 5 tackles
The 233-pound junior is the team's biggest linebacker and the oldest of
the players in the mix. He signed with the Aggies in 2001 and then went
on a church mission. Over that time he bulked up should be a solid
reserve behind Devon Hall on the strongside.
- Steven Downs, RFr.
A potentially strong pass rusher with the quickness to be a potential
top player in the middle. While he has no chance of taking over the
starting role from Jake Hutton, his emergence could allow Hutton to move
back to the outside.
The secondary wasn't awful by WAC standards,
but it still stunk allowing 262 yards per game and finishing 107th in
the nation in pass efficiency defense. The biggest key is getting more
big plays after generating only seven interceptions. It'll be up to a
slew of sophomores and star senior Terrence Washington to get more
improvement and tighten things up. Losing corner Jarrett Bush is the
biggest problem is Josh Taylor doesn't play like a star right away.
The key to the unit: Stop the short to midrange
passes on third downs and come up with more game-changing plays.
Secondary Rating: 4.5
- CB Josh Taylor, Soph. - 21 tackles, 1 interception
Taylor started over the final four games of last year and now appears
ready to be a solid cover-corner on the left side. At 6-0 and 173
pounds, the former quarterback is one of the team's biggest corners and
should be better after spending a year learning the position.
- FS Terrence Washington, Sr. - 60 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2
broken up passes
Expect Washington to be back to his earlier form after spending last
year getting back in the mix after a bad knee injury. He had a nice
season finishing as the team's fourth leading tackler, but he wasn't the
all-around playmaker he was before getting hurt. When right, he's a
premier ball-hawker with great range and the ability to play either
- SS Caleb Taylor, Soph. - 19 tackles
Joining his brother Josh in the defensive backfield, Caleb didn't get
the same starting experience, but he saw enough time to be ready to step
in for Andre Bala. While not as fast as his brother, he has similar
athleticism and is much bigger.
- CB Marquise Charles, Soph. -
30 tackles, 1 interception, 3 broken up passes
One of the team's fastest players, Charles got the start from day one of
his freshman year before missing the final few games. He's only 5-8 and
169 pounds, so his next-level speed has to help him generate more big
- SS/FS Antonio Taylor, Jr. - 65 tackles, 2 broken up passes
Taylor will find a spot somewhere in the starting mix with his
big-hitting ability and experience. He can play either safety spot and
be one of the team's leading tacklers. He finished third last season
despite only starting in seven games.
- CB Drew Pearson, Jr.
Back after missing all of last year, the former JUCO star
has top end speed and range. What he doesn't have is size at only 6-0
and 166 pounds, but he'll still play a prominent role behind Josh Taylor
on the left side.
Tony Pennyman and Kevin Robinson are two of the nation's
elite return men and will once again be threats to take it the distance
every time they get the ball in their hands. The kicking game is another
story with Justin Hamblin ditching his punting duties to hopefully be
more consistent on field goals. Darryl Wheeler will get the first look
at punter, but he doesn't have a lock on the job.
The key to the unit:
The kicking game needs more range and far more
consistency, and the coverage units have to be night-and-day better.
Kick return stars Tony Pennyman and Kevin Robinson have to be Tony
Pennyman and Kevin Robinson again.
Special Teams Rating: 6
- PK Justin Hamblin, Sr. - 6-14 FGs, 19-20 extra points
Hamblin spent last year taking care of the placekicking and punting
duties, and he didn't do well at either one. He nailed a 50-yard field
goal, but he went 0-4 from 40-49 yards and was way too inconsistent all
- P Darryl Wheeler, RFr.
The punting game was mediocre last year and could use
more pop. Wheeler has to boost the team's net average up several yards
after finishing 73rd in the nation with a 33.15-yard average.