2009 Texas A&M Preview - Defense
Texas A&M S Jordan Pugh
Texas A&M S Jordan Pugh
Posted Jun 28, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Texas A&M Aggie Defense

Texas A&M Aggies

Preview 2009 - Defense

- 2009 CFN Texas A&M Preview | 2009 Texas A&M Offense
- 2009 Texas A&M Defense | 2009 Texas A&M Depth Chart
- 2008 A&M Preview | 2007 A&M Preview | 2006 A&M Preview

What you need to know: Defensive coordinator Joe Kines wanted to generate more pressure, come up with more sacks, and create a more aggressive defense. However, with no talent to work with, the Aggie defense was awful, even by Big 12 standards, finishing last in the league in scoring D, allowing 37.4 points per game, and 114th in the nation in total defense. The big problem was a line that did absolutely nothing, but that should change with the move of linebacker Von Miller to a hybrid end position called the Jack. The line needs the backup tackles to shine to provide a bit of beef to a front four that was shoved around all over the place. The linebackers are suspect and need several true freshmen to play key roles, but the secondary will help the cause with safeties Jordan Pugh and Trent Hunter strong enough to clean up a lot of messes.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Matt Featherston, 94
Sacks: Von Miller, 3.5
Interceptions: Trent Hunter, 3

Star of the defense: Junior DE Von Miller
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore DT Eddie Brown
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore SS Trent Hunter
Best pro prospect: Miller
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Miller, 2) FS Jordan Pugh, 3) CB Terrence Frederick
Strength of the defense: Youth & Athleticism, Safety
Weakness of the defense:
Production, Linebacker

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
This should be fun. Junior Von Miller might only be 6-3 and 214 pounds, but the linebacker who made 44 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss is physical with defensive lineman size and cornerback speed and athleticism. The freak of athletic nature will play in the hybrid Jack position, where he'll work as a pass rusher extraordinaire and occasionally see time as an outside linebacker. He should be a terror into the backfield.

Working on the other side will be Matt Moss, a 6-3, 253-pound senior who made 15 tackles with two broken up passes in a limited role.
The key transfer is 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. He needs to clean up with all the attention paid to Miller on the other side.

Sophomore Eddie Brown has to hold up on the inside after starting twice last year making 25 tackles with a tackle for loss. While he's woefully undersized at 6-0 and 265 pounds, he makes up for it with a motor that's always going 100 miles per hour and has bulked up enough to see more time. He can play at tackle, but he's built to work more on the nose.

6-5, 256-pound sophomore Tony Jerod-Eddie was thrown into the mix in spring ball and came through well enough at tackle to get the long look at tackle going into the fall. A great athlete who'll be asked to get into the backfield on a regular basis, he's also strong enough to hold up against the run after making 20 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss in his first year. Now that he knows what he's doing, he's expected to be far better. He needs to be.

Projected Top Reserves: While Miller will get the most attention at the Jack position, just as big a move will be the likely switching of Matt Featherston from middle linebacker, where he started every game last year, to a backup end spot. The 6-3, 235-pound senior tied for the team lead in tackles with 94 tackles with three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He's not the greatest athlete, but he fits on the end and could be a major pass rushing force if he can hold up when occupied by big tackles. He could end up moving back to linebacker if needed.

Is this when Cody Williams starts to come up big? At 6-4 and 262 pounds, the junior brings some desperately needed size to the line, working at end behind Moss. He made four tackles in his limited role, but with all the ability with excellent quickness to go along with his size, he has to put it all together.

A pair of big redshirt freshmen will be key pieces to the tackle puzzle bringing more size to the equation. 6-1, 305-pound Rod Davis got in good shape over his year off and now should be a key part of the rotation. In a perfect world, he grows up and becomes the anchor of the line, with the consistency to match his raw skills, but it might take part of the year before it happens.

6-2, 297-pound Adren Dorsey was all set to make a big push for a starting job, but he got hurt. With his talent and upside, he'll be a starter very soon. While he'll be a tackle, he'd make an ideal end in a 3-4 with a burst that could make him a solid pass rusher.

At 6-1 and 280 pounds, top recruit Chris Henderson has the bulk to play inside. With tremendous quickness and basketball player athleticism, he could be a key factor on the end. Wherever he lines up he's expected to be a whale of a pass rusher, and he'll be thrown into the fire the second he appears to be close to ready.
Watch Out For ... The Jack. If this works like it's supposed to, the Jack will be the star of the defense with the top pass rushing production expected to come from the spot. Miller has all the ability in the world to blossom into a statistical powerhouse, while Featherston will have to see time in the rotation as much as possible.
Strength: Quickness. Especially until Dorsey and Davis are ready on the inside, the starting foursome will be extremely fast off the ball. There's exceptional quickness, even if it's at the sacrifice of size, at all four spots, and there can't help but be more production into the backfield. However ...
Weakness: Production into the backfield. The line couldn't do anything right last season generating a mere 16 sacks, 57 tackles for loss, and helping the D finish last in the Big 12 in run D. The line did absolutely nothing.
Outlook: The line needed several young prospects to rise up and shine from out of the blue, but it never happened. This year's line, at least early on, will be undersized, but it'll be quick and it should be more disruptive be sheer aggressiveness. Good running teams will have their way with this group, but compared to last year, the line will be the Steel Curtain.
Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters
With Matt Featherston moving to the line, there's a glaring hole in the middle of the linebacking corps, at least for the moment. He could move back, but if he doesn't, former safety Garrick Williams might get the first look. He started five games over the first half of last year on the outside and finished with 36 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. A mere 6-2 and 217 pounds, the sophomore isn't built for the middle, but with his experience he might be the best option early on. Lost at times last year, he knows what he's doing now.

Being thrown into the fire will be Kyle Mangan, a 6-2, 222-pound redshirt freshman who can move. A great recruit coming into last year, he was able to spend his first season learning in practices, but he appears to be ready to make a big impact on pure athleticism alone. While he'll be good against the run, he should be one of the team's strongest pass defending linebackers.

6-2, 215-pound Ricky Cavanaugh made seven tackles in his five games of time. While he hasn't seen that much of the field yet, he packs a big pop in practices and has the range to be all over the field and into the backfield. While he's not built for the job on either outside linebacking position, he's a good enough all-around player to put up big numbers.

Projected Top Reserves: Expected to be a strongside star early on in his career, Anthony Lewis got pushed out of a spot and then struggled last season with his overall conditioning. The 6-2, 254-pound senior brings some desperately needed size to the outside, but he's a bit too big and would be better at around 245. A tone-setting hitter, he'll be good against the run when used in the rotation with Mangan, but he's not nearly the same athlete. He made 17 tackles with two tackles for loss last season.

Just like several other positions on the team, true freshmen will be expected to play a big role. The best of the bunch is Jonathan Stewart, a 6-4, 221-pound ready-made producer who was one of the team's top recruit with phenomenal range to go along with his size. A natural for the middle, he'll get his shot at the job right away and could be the team's best linebacker from day one.

6-2, 211-pound Malcom Johnson is a speedster who plays like a big defensive back and should be a blur into the backfield when he gets his chance. 6-3, 215-pound Michael Lamothe is an extremely smart player who should figure out what he's doing from the second he gets into the mix. 6-2, 205-pound Sean Porter is a hitting machine who might be undersized at linebacker, but makes up for it with his physical style. Aaron Arterburn is likely going to take a year off to bulk up, but the 6-2, 215-pound junior moves extremely well and will upgrade the athleticism.
Watch Out For ... the true freshmen. There's a better-than-even chance that the starting trio of A&M linebackers for the season opener weren't done with their high school proms when spring ball was happening. The recruiting class brought in a major talent upgrade, and the coaching staff might utilize the new toys right away.
Strength: Athleticism. This is an undersized group, partly because all the key freshmen haven't spent a year in a college weight room, but everyone can move. It'll be like having three safeties on the field when it comes to all-around range and athletic ability.
Weakness: The starting trio. To be fair, the linebackers could be a major strength if Matt Featherston played middle, instead of at the Jack position on the line, and Von Miller would be a superstar in a full-time outside role. However, they're up front, and the linebackers, while potentially great, need a lot of time and a lot of seasoning.
Outlook: The 2009 recruiting class is extremely heavy on linebackers, and with good reason. The projected starting trio will get its shot to hold down jobs, but there might be a major shakeup once everyone figures out which true freshmen can play. Williams, Cavanaugh, and Mangan have to be good enough to let the new guys develop.
Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
Sophomore Terrence Frederick stepped in as a true freshman and locked down a nickel back job finishing with 33 tackles, 27 solo, with a sack and three broken up passes. At 5-10 and 170 pounds he's not all that big, and he's not going to win any races among the Aggie defensive backs, but he's as polished as they come considering how young he is. He's more of a football player than an athlete who happens to be playing football.

On the other side will be sophomore Justin McQueen, a 6-0, 183-pound bolt of lightning who was a track star in one year at Houston before coming to A&M. While he'll need time with his technique and saw a little time making ten tackles and forcing a fumble, no one will out run him.

Moving over to free safety after starting every game last year at corner is Jordan Pugh. He made 45 tackles with a pick, a sack, four tackles for loss and four broken up passes. An excellent tackler, probably the best in the A&M secondary making 90 stops two years ago, he should be better with the move with more space and range to move. It'll be a shock if he's not one of the team's top tacklers.

Stepping in at strong safety, or the Rover, will be Trent Hunter after finishing third on the team with 65 tackles and a team-leading three interceptions at free safety. He's a tremendously strong 5-10, 185-pounder and should be able to handle the full-time job without a problem. He should also be one of the leaders in the defensive back seven with quarterback-of-the-secondary type of attitude.

Projected Top Reserves: Tried out at safety last year was Jordan Peterson, who made 26 tackles and a pick as a spot starter who got the nod in the first three games. The 5-10, 185-pound junior will move over to corner where he'll most likely be a key backup behind McQueen and a factor in nickel and dime packages. A great tackler, he's a try-hard type who's always working.

5-11, 185-pound JUCO transfer Coryell Judie is almost certain to push for a starting job right away at corner. A phenomenal athlete, possibly the best in the entire lot, he's a speed defender who'll make his biggest impact in pass coverage. While he might be a willing tackler, he won't light anyone up.

Steven Terrell has the potential to be a top tackling corner and a playmaker. While he hits like a safety, at 5-10 and 176 pounds, the true freshman has the quickness and the potential to be a major factor right away at corner. He might not have been the team's top recruit for the defense, but he could turn out to be one who makes the most immediate impact.
Watch Out For ... Hunter. Pugh moving to safety is a good thing, but it's Hunter who has the all-star potential on talent, and not just statistics. He'll make his share of mistakes by being overly aggressive, but he's a good one who'll be a key piece of the puzzle for the next three years.
Strength: Safety. The corners have the better backups and the best upside, but the combination of Pugh and Hunter should provide a steady tandem to rely on as a last line of run defense. They'll combine for over 150 tackles.
Weakness: Interceptions. The Aggies haven't done much to pick off passes in years and came up with a paltry eight last season. The secondary didn't get any help from the pass rush, what little there was, but it's not like the secondary made things happen when it had the chance.
Outlook: This might be the most talented aspect of the defense by far and it could be on par with the receiving corps and the running backs as a team strength. The numbers aren't going to show it in a pass happy Big 12, unless there's a big change in the pass rushing ability of the defensive front, but this is a good group that will have its moments. The secondary will be better than the statistics will indicate.
Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Sophomore Randy Bullock stepped in midway through last year and turned out to be a major find hitting six of his seven field goal attempts with his one miss coming from 49 yards. He was steady from short range and he has just enough of a deep leg to be tried out from just under 50 yards out. He nailed a 46-yarder against Texas Tech.

Gone is Justin Brantly, a special punter who averaged a whopping 45.7 yards per kick with 18 put inside the 20. Senior Jeff Wood is part backup quarterback and part backup wide receiver, but he won't see any time on offense. He's big with a big leg, but it's asking way too much to replace Brantly.

Safety Jordan Pugh never got going as a punt returner last year, but he'll get his chance again despite averaging just 5.5 yards per shot. On the flip side, RB Cyrus Gray is an elite kickoff returner who averaged 23.9 yards per pop helped by a 98-yard touchdown. 
Watch Out For ... Bullock to be a difference maker. The Aggies didn't play a game decided by fewer than four points, but they lost to Arkansas State by four thanks to two missed short-range field goals from Richie Bean. Bullock will win at least one game for A&M.
Strength: Gray. It's not like the team will need field position, considering part of the idea is to hit home runs with the passing game, but Gray will help. He'll start the offense out at the 40 time and again.
Weakness: Brantly. The offense might not need field position as much as most teams, but the defense will. Brantly was one of the nation's best punters and Gray will have a hard time matching the consistency, much less the production.
Outlook: The punt coverage team needs to be far better, after allowing 14 yards per try and two touchdowns, and there's a big question mark with Gray, but the special teams, for the most part, won't be an issue. If Bullock is as good as he was over the second half of last year, the special teams might be a strength.
Rating: 7