Preview 2008 - Defense
2008 CFN Texas A&M
2008 Texas A&M
2008 Texas A&M
2008 Texas A&M
2007 CFN Texas A&M
2006 CFN Texas A&M
What you need to know: After
an awful 2005, Gary Darnell had turned things around and made
the Aggie defense respectable over the last few season, but it
was a tentative, read-and-react D that didn't do nearly enough
to get to the quarterback and dictate the action. That all
changes under Joe Kines as the defense is going to be far more
aggressive and will try to generate far more pressure after
finishing 104th in the nation in sacks and 90th in tackles for
loss. The problem is the talent level; it's not all that high,
and there's not a lot of starting experience on the front seven.
However, the linebacking corps will go from lumbering to sleek
and fast, and there are plenty of veterans in the secondary to
count on. The line has to be better, and it should be if
everyone stays healthy. However, the tackles will be an issue
outside of Kellen Heard.
Jordan Pugh, 90
Cyril Obiozor, 3.5
Interceptions: Devin Gregg, Jordan Peterson, 1
Star of the defense: Junior DT Kellen Heard
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman LB Garrick
Best pro prospect: Heard
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Heard, 2)
DE Cyril Obiozor, 3) LB Matt Featherston
Strength of the defense: Defensive back experience, quick
Weakness of the defense:
front seven starting experience
The line hasn't come up with a pass rush for a few years, but it gets
leading sacker Cyril Obiozor back. The 6-4, 264-pound senior, the
only returning starter to the line, made 39 tackles and 3.5 sacks with
9.5 tackles for loss after slimming down and getting in better shape.
He's not a natural, sure-thing pass rusher, but he's good enough to
produce here and there if he has help around him.
Taking over on the other side, in place of Chris Harrington, will be
senior Amos Gbunblee, who'll be a part of rotation but could
quickly become the team's best pass rusher. The 6-5, 250-pounder played
in every game making 13 tackles and just half a sack, but he managed to
be in the backfield throughout the off-season.
About to blow up and become an All-Big 12 star is junior Kellen Heard,
a 6-6, 345-pound wall on the inside who made 37 tackles with a sack and
4.5 tackles for loss. He played in every game and started the bowl game
against Penn State. Keeping his weight in check is the key, but if he
can get in even better shape, he should be a presence in the backfield
and the anchor against the run.
Sophomore Lucas Patterson needs to become a star. The 6-4,
297-pounder saw a little bit of work last year making 24 tackles with
1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss, including a start against Penn
State, and while he was decent and should be fine going into this year,
he needs to be more productive. He's decent against the run, but he's
not going to fly into the backfield too often.
Projected Top Reserves: While Gbunblee is a
promising new end, he might give way to senior Michael Bennett
early on. The 6-4, 261-pounder made 43 tackles with a sack and six
tackles for loss, and while has the size and the experience, he needs to
be a better pass rusher. He also needs to get to the classroom on a more
regular basis after missing spring ball. If he wants it, he'll be a
JUCO transfer Matt Moss
got to school early and turned into a possible answer for the
pass rushing problems. He's a very quick, very active all-around
end who was considered one of the nation's top JUCO recruits
coming out of Grossmont CC in California. While he's not huge at
6-3 and 252 pounds, he's tough.
The line desperately needs depth at tackle meaning 6-4,
269-pound senior Chris Smith needs to be a presence. He's
not going to dominate anyone and he'll get pushed around way too
much, but he has a little bit of experience making six tackles
Watch Out For ... more of a pass rush. The coaching
staff is making a concerted effort to bring more pressure, and
it needs the ends to provide it or else the scheme will start to
get a bit quirky.
Strength: Potential on the end. Obiozor isn't
special, but he's a serviceable veteran. Gbunblee and Moss are
promising, and Bennett, if he decides he wants to be a star,
Weakness: Tackles. Heard will be an All-Big 12
star. That's about it. Patterson and Smith need to surprise,
while 292-pound David Tafuga has to bring more than just
Outlook: This could be a problem unless several
prospects surprise. Outside of Heard, there's no star power
whatsoever and there needs to be someone who can get into the
backfield on a regular basis. On the positive side, last year's
veteran group didn't produce jack squat when it came to getting
to the quarterback while the run defense was mediocre. In other
words, the lost starters are replaceable.
Projected Starters: The linebacking corps will revolve around
junior Matt Featherston, who'll take over for
second-leading tackler Misi Tupe in the middle. While the 6-2,
235-pound junior isn't all that athletic and he isn't going to
show too much range, but he's a pure player who makes things
happen. A good run stuffer, he made 33 tackles last year, but
he's not going to do much when it comes to getting into the
Stepping in for Mark Dodge, who led the team with 117 tackles,
will be Garrick Williams on the strongside. The 6-2,
217-pound redshirt freshman went from being considered a top
backup to one of the team's new star defenders. While he's built
like a safety, he's tough and has a great ability to find the
way to the ball.
Starting on the weakside will be sophomore Von Miller, a
6-3, 214-pound speedster who has more ability than anyone in the
linebacking corps, but he has to turn into a playmaker both
against the pass and as a pass rusher. He'll be turned loose in
the more attacking scheme, after making 22 tackles and two sacks
with four tackles for loss, and he'll have to work through his
mistakes by being aggressive.
Projected Top Reserves: The strongside job was
supposed to go to Anthony Lewis before Williams turned
into a major prospect. Able to play inside or out, and likely
start out the season in the middle behind Featherston, he'll be
like a fourth starter as he moves in and out of the lineup. The
top recruit of a few years ago is 6-2, 254 pounds, and strong
against the run making 22 tackles last season.
6-1, 216-pound junior Will Harris has been a special
teams star and a defensive back, and now he'll work on the
strongside to get more speed and quickness into the corps. While
he's not big, he can move.
Watch Out For ... this to be the team's breakthrough
unit. After dealing with the read-and-react style of the old
coaching staff, this year's group will bring the noise and bring
the funk. There will be plenty of mistakes, but they'll be
flying all over the field.
Strength: Speed and quickness. By design, this
year's group will be full of very quick, very athletic
linebackers who'll fit the new style perfectly. This group is
the exact opposite of last year's corps.
Weakness: Sure things. There's a lot of promise
and plenty of potential but there are plenty of concerns
among the three starters, much less the backups. The coaching
staff is going to need a little while to mold this group.
Outlook: Defensive coordinator Joe Kines is a
linebacker coach who'll demand perfection out of his corps.
Unlike last year's big, lumbering threesome that was put
together to hold up against the run, this year's smallish,
lighter corps will be used to wreak havoc. It'll be a whole
bunch more fun, and the stats will be there, but this is still
the team's biggest question mark (even bigger than the O line).
The corners struggled last year, but at least they return with
plenty of experience. The key will be the health of Danny
Gorrer, the 6-0, 173-pound senior who made 30 tackles and
broke up a pass before going down for the year with a knee
injury. While he missed all off-season, he's expected to be back
early this fall at close to 100% bring some of the best wheels
in the secondary.
On the other side will be junior Jordan Pugh, former
weakside defender, starting every game last year in a hybrid
role in the 4-2-5 alignment. While he was a great tackler,
making 90 stops, he was also one of the team's best pass
defenders breaking up six passes. At 5-11 and 191 pounds, he has
decent size and is physical.
One of the big changes this spring was moving junior Jordan
Peterson, after being inconsistent in coverage as a corner,
to free safety where he should be far better. The 5-10,
184-pounder is an excellent tackler, making 18 tackles with an
interception in the rotation, and now he should be one of the
team's best playmakers in a more natural position.
Working at strong safety will be senior Devin Gregg, the
starter in every game at free safety last season where he made
74 tackles with an interception and three broken up passes. A
strong veteran who'll be the leader of the defensive backfield,
he should be far better now that he can concentrate more on the
run and won't have to do quite as much when the ball is in the
air. Even though he's a phenomenal athlete, he's more of a
strong safety than a free safety.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 174-pound
senior Arkeith Brown stepped in and started over the
second half of last season finishing with 51 tackles and eight
broken up passes. While he's a big-time athlete who'll see time
in several spots, he had problems against speed, deep-ball
receivers and he didn't come up with an interception. At worst,
he'll be a key nickel and dime defender.
Sure to be in the mix somewhere at some point is Alton
Dixon, the team's fourth leading tackler with 77 stops, two
sacks and five tackles for loss. Likely a backup at strong
safety, the 5-11, 197-pounder hits like a ton of bricks, but is
inconsistent in pass coverage.
One of the stars of spring ball was junior Chevar Bryson,
a 5-11, 182-pound special teamer who saw a little time on
defense making 16 tackles. A great hitter for his size, he'll
make a big push for one of the safety spots, possible strong
safety, and will see far more time as a defender.
Watch Out For ... a lot of shifting around.
Johnathan Baston moved from corner to free safety, Gorrer
might not be 100% until right before the start of the year, and
the strong safety job could be a revolving door with several
options to play around with.
Strength: Corner potential. They got no help
whatsoever last season from the pass rush, or the lack of one,
and now there should be more of a push from the front four.
Gorrer, Brown, Pugh, and Marcus Gold aren't good enough
to keep teams from throwing the ball, but they should grow into
a solid foursome.
Weakness: Interceptions. This has been a problem
for the last few seasons. There were only eight last year, and
four came from Marquis Carpenter, the one defensive back gone
from the mix. The corners have to do far more when the ball is
in the air.
Outlook: This was a decent secondary last season
that got little help from the rest of the defense. While there
aren't any all-stars, there's more experience here than anywhere
else on the defense and it should be one of the few areas the
coaching staff won't have to worry about too much. Now there has
to be more production in all phases.
There should be a battle for the placekicking job with Matt
Szymanski returning after hissing 15 of 25 kicks. He
struggled with his consistency enough to allow senior Richie
Bean to step in and possibly be the new main man. With a
bigger leg, he should at least show more range.
One of the team's top players, and an All-America candidate, is
junior Justin Brantly, who led the Big 12's best punting
game netting 39.17 yards per boot. Brantly followed up a season
with a 44.3-yard average by bombing away again for 44.2 yards
per kick putting 16 inside the 20. He's a weapon who'll be a
godsend for field position.
Randle Jackson will take over the punt return duties, and
things can't be much worse after the Aggies averaged 5.4 yards
per try. Pierre Brown and E.J. Shankle will return
kickoffs as they take over for Kerry Franks. Brown averaged 21.5
yards per try, and the team average 23.5 yards per try.
Watch Out For ... Bean as the new placekicker. The
offense needs to know it can close of decent drives with points,
and Bean should be able to increase the overall range of the
Strength: Brantly. On the short list of top
options for the Ray Guy Award, he's arguably the team's best
defensive player because of what he can do to bail the offense
out of jams.
Weakness: Certainty at placekicker. The kicking
game didn't lose games for the Aggies last year, but it wasn't
much help. Someone has to step up and take the job.
Outlook: There are some fantastic parts, like the
punting and kickoff returns, mixed in with some sore areas, the
placekicking and punt returns, but the coaching staff is paying
special attention to the special teams and are making them a