2010 Texas A&M Preview – Defense
Texas A&M DE Von Miller
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Texas A&M Aggie Defense
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: There's excellent size up front, more than enough speed to fly all over the field in the back eight, and promising depth up and down the depth chart, but the results have to come for a defense that finished last in the Big 12 in yards, points allowed, and pass defense and next-to-last against the run and in pass efficiency D. Former Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter is coming in with the hope to take all the speed, all the athleticism, and all the experience, despite the youth across the board, to finally make the Aggie defense work. He'll implement a 3-4 alignment taking the nation's leading pass rusher, Von Miller, and moving him to a hybrid role called the Joker which should make him even more dangerous. Overall, to make the defense work, everyone has to be more physical, which wasn't exactly a part of the Aggie D over the last few years, and even more aggressive than last year when the defense was 18th in the nation in sacks (mostly due to Miller).
Star of the defense: Senior DE/LB Von Miller
Tackles: Trent Hunter, 95
Sacks: Von Miller, 17
Interceptions: Terrence Frederick, 2
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore LB Sean Porter
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Spencer Nealy
Best pro prospect: Miller
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Miller, 2) SS Trent Hunter, 3) CB Terrence Frederick
Strength of the defense: Speed, Pass Rush
Weakness of the defense: Playing Physical, Proven Pass Defense
Projected Starters: In the new 3-4 format the Aggies need a big season from an anchor for everything else to work. That means 6-4, 303-pound senior Lucas Patterson has to come up with another strong year after starting every game. The massive interior presence is a solid pass rusher who generates nice pressure both against the run and the pass making 23 tackles while collapsing the pocket more than his lack of sack stats might indicate. Steady with a great motor, he'll be better now that he gets to be a part in a rotation a bit more.
Sophomore Spencer Nealy got in the mix as a true freshman and did a decent job making 19 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. At 6-5 and 245 pounds he's a tall, rangy defender who has a great burst and fantastic toughness against the run. He might not be an elite pass rusher, and he's a bit too light to be a 3-4 end like the defense would like to use, but the son of former NBA tough guy Ed Nealy handles himself well.
Working more like another tackle rather than a true defensive end, 6-5, 300-pound junior Tony Jerod-Eddie will get the first look as a 3-4 end with great strength and just enough lateral quickness to become a bigger factor against the run. He made 23 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss, and while his job will be to hold up against the more physical teams, and not necessarily get into the backfield, he needs to be active.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Eddie Brown will get a few starts somewhere on the line, if he doesn't take over on the nose, but he missed time this offseason with a shoulder problem and will have to fight for the job this fall. At 6-0 and 288 pounds, he's built like a nose tackle with the ability to get good leverage and with a motor that's always going 100 miles per hour, but because of his size he gets beaten on. He started over the second half of last year and finished with 33 tackles and four sacks with seven tackles for loss, and even though he's built for the two-gap, he could move to end to do more to get into the backfield.
6-5, 302-pound sophomore Stephen Berrera was able to get a little time as a true freshman playing in nine games and starting three times … at left tackle. While he was mostly a special teamer, he still managed to come up with a decent year considering he was so green, but now he'll get moved to the defensive side where he can use his tremendous strength to work as a big end. He'll come in to spell Spencer Nealy in short yardage packages, and while he won't get to the quarterback, he'll be tough against the run.
Sophomore Kirby Ennis had a promising true freshman season making 13 tackles, but he suffered a knee injury in the bowl loss to Georgia and won't be ready to roll until the start of the season. At 6-4 and 265 he has a nice hybrid mix of size and athleticism to work as a smallish tackle or a big end. Once he's 100% healthy he should be a faster pass rushing option in a rotation with Tony Jerod-Eddie.
The coaching staff isn't afraid to use true freshmen, and that means 6-4, 252-pound prospect Ivan Robinson could see time right away. A nearly perfect 3-4 end for the A&M system, he's tough like a tackle with linebacker speed to become a dangerous all-around playmaker. How fast is he? He was a high school sprinter in the 4x100 relay.
Watch Out For … Nealy. He might be a bit rangy and would work better as a true 4-3 end, but he has the intangibles and the motor to fight as a 3-4 interior end. He'll need to be a part of a rotation, but he showed enough this offseason to think he can be one of the team's most disruptive players up front.
Strength: Size. Because the defense is taking out one defensive lineman, all of a sudden the Aggies are loaded with big bodies to form a nice rotation along the front wall. The D can line up three 300-pounders in Patterson, Berrera, and Jerod-Eddie and be tough to move around.
Weakness: Run defense. Even with all the sacks and all the noise from Von Miller and the other pass rushers, the Aggies were still miserable against the run. After struggling to do much of anything positive in 2008, the A&M front had its hand in the Big 12's second worst run D.
Outlook: While it would be nice for the front three to get into the backfield and make life tough for opposing quarterbacks, their main role will be to provide a brick wall against the run, or at least one without so many gaping holes, while letting the linebackers get all the glory. There are just enough good prospects, with several waiting in the wings, for form a nice rotation for all three spots. Now the line has to stop someone who wants to run the ball.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Projected Starters: Yeah, senior Von Miller led the nation in sacks with 17 and was fifth in tackles for loss with 21.5, to go along with 48 tackles with four forced fumbles and five broken up passes, but the All-America mostly lit up the weak and the sad while being kept under wraps by the teams with a pulse. He was shut out against Oklahoma and didn't get a sack against Oklahoma State, but he came up with two sacks against Texas Tech and one against Texas. Teams started to scheme against him and then the sack production tailed off with the sack against the Longhorns the lone tally over the final four games of the year. But for the first nine he was a holy terror, and he should flourish even more in the hybrid Joker position which allows the 6-3, 240-pounder to work partly as a pass rushing defensive end and partly as an outside linebacker. He was used in the same sort of role last year, but now he really will be more of a 3-4 linebacker and he should be able to do even more in space. With improved size to go along with his speed and closing ability, he'll get a long look from the next level types as a possible first rounder.
Working on the outside, and theoretically on the other side of Miller and the Joker position, will be sophomore Sean Porter, a 6-2, 213-pound safety-sized defender who might not look the part, but he tackles like a linebacker. He's still working to add the pounds and should fill out more over the next few seasons, but the key will be to not lose his burst and quickness. He was able to come up with 42 tackles as a key reserve, and while he only made one sack with four tackles for loss, he should be more disruptive with more playing time.
Von Miller might be the star of the linebacking corps, and the defense, but junior Garrick Williams should make a name for himself this year. The 6-2, 230-pound veteran finished third on the team with 74 tackles with a sack and 8.5 tackles for loss, and now he's about to blossom after an inconsistent start to his career. A bulked up defensive back, he still moves well for his size with great sideline to sideline range, but now he has to get in on every tackle and use his athleticism to come up with more big pops.
A surprise last year, senior Michael Hodges ended up taking over a starting job moving around in the linebacking corps finishing fifth on the team with 67 tackles. The 6-0, 226-pound former transfer from Air Force lacks the talent or the tools to be great, but his heart and his body are always in the right place. He's feisty, but he needs stronger players around him to operate and is at his best when he gets to come up with the assist more than the open field stop.
Projected Top Reserves: While he's not Von Miller, 6-4, 227-pound sophomore Jonathan Stewart will get to serve as the understudy in a backup role at the Joker position. He worked last year on the inside and out making 28 tackles in seven starts, and while he's not going to push Miller out of playing time, he's promising enough to get a spot somewhere in the linebacking corps if he can start to use his tools to get to the quarterback on a regular basis.
6-2, 231-pound sophomore Kyle Mangan started for most of last season and finished fourth on the team with 70 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. Very active and very good one on one, he made plenty of plays, but he was a bit raw and also missed a lot of makeable stops. He has a good blend of size, athleticism, and toughness, and he'll find a regular spot in the inside rotation if he doesn't grab a starting job once he's 100% healthy after suffering a shoulder injury.
Redshirt freshman Charlie Thomas will have to hold off a host of good prospects for the backup outside linebacking job behind Sean Porter, but he has phenomenal speed and looks like he's shot out of a cannon when he gets off the ball. Only 6-1 and 193 pounds he has work to do in the weight room, but his sprinter's speed makes up for his lack of bulk.
Possibly the team's most versatile backup linebacker will be sophomore Aaron Arterburn , a 6-2, 237-pound athlete who can play inside or out. A good pass rushing prospect with nice closing potential, he could end up in the Joker role soon after he starts out the season working with Garrick Williams on the inside. He made six tackles in a limited role, but he has the talent to be a factor.
Watch Out For … a battle between Hodges and Mangan for a starting job on the inside. If Mangan is healthy, the gig will likely be his as the season goes on, but Hodges is the type of linebacker coaches hate to leave out of their lineup. Mangan has the bigger upside, but Hodges is the steadier of the two.
Strength: Speed and athleticism. There's no shortage of quickness among the four spots. Not just a group of bulked up safeties, although there are some of those, the A&M linebackers can all move and they can all get to the ball. Getting into the backfield isn't going to be an issue.
Weakness: Manning up. It's a stretch and a slap to call this a finesse group, but there are way too many tackles being made down the field and not enough plays of impact. Yes, there will be some big sacks and a ton of tackles for loss, but holding up consistently against the tougher running teams will be a must.
Outlook: The main focus of the 2009 A&M recruiting class was at linebacker, and now the talent haul has to start to pay off in depth as well as options for all four spots in the new 3-4. Miller is the star of the show, obviously, but he's not the only one with the talent and skill to get into the backfield on a regular basis. This group has to be more physical and it has to get stronger against the run, but there will be times when all the speed and athleticism blends together to make the linebacking corps a strength.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: The pass defense was awful and the run defense had major problems, but junior Trent Hunter did what he could to pick up the slack with a team-leading 95 tackles. He didn't do much against the pass, breaking up just three passes, but the starting strong safety can hit for his 5-10, 187-pound size and he's always in the right position against the run. He's the leader and the tone-setter for the secondary, and he should be even better as long as he doesn't have to bail out the leaky front seven.
Junior Terrence Frederick became a factor from Day One making 33 tackles in a nice first year as the team's nickel back. He stepped in as the No. 1 corner last year and was one of the few bright spots in a secondary that got repeatedly torched. At 5-10 and 180 pounds he's not all that big, but he's not afraid to tackle making 61 stops with 45 of them solo, but now he has to do far more with the ball in the air after coming up with just two interceptions and five broken up passes.
After a rocky freshman campaign, 6-0, 168-pound sophomore Dustin Harris has to use his experience and his terrific cutting ability to be more of a playmaker. The skills are there and he's not afraid to tackle, making 40 stops with an interception and two broken up passes, but he has to be far more consistent. He'll have a battle on his hands once other corner prospects are either healthy or ready or both, but after starting 11 times he'll be allowed to keep developing.
Looking to replace longtime starter Jordan Pugh at free safety is Steven Terrell , an ultra-promising sophomore who made eight tackles in a limited role. Not huge at 5-10 and 188 pounds, he more than makes up for it with blazing wheels and unlimited range. He has to use his speed and quickness to become a playmaker against the pass along with a steady run defender. He's not going to be Pugh when it comes to physical play, but he could be more dangerous against the better passing teams.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Steven Campbell is nowhere near as fast as Steven Terrell in the fight for the starting free safety job, but he's a stronger tackler and a more physical presence. The 6-0, 195-pound hitter came up with 25 tackles, but he didn't do enough against the pass and might end up being used mostly against the better running teams. He's a popper.
Backing up Terrence Frederick at one corner while trying to get back from a knee injury is Coryell Judie , a one-time superstar JUCO prospect who has the speed to stay with the faster receivers, even after the injury, and the toughness to beat up the softer ones. Fortunately, the 5-11, 185-pounder got hurt right off the bat last year and has had time to heal, and now he appears ready to make an impact.
5-10, 190-pound sophomore Colton Valencia should be a solid free safety prospect, but he'll start out at strong safety. He has the range and he has the potential to be solid against the pass, but he's not the most physical run stopping prospect and he needs experience after coming up with just three tackles in his first year. With great athleticism, he's versatile enough to play in a variety of roles including as a nickel back.
Watch Out For … Terrell. If he's not the fastest player on the team, he's a hair behind and he needs to be a playmaker at free safety. He can fly to the ball and he has the potential to make a slew of big plays on speed alone.
Strength: Youthful athleticism. The hope will be that the lumps taken over the last few years will result in a great season from all the sophomores. Four sophomores and four juniors will handle the work, and there's enough experience to hope for more production.
Weakness: Pass defense. Despite the benefit of one of the nation's pass rushes to hurry opposing quarterbacks, the secondary got ripped apart allowing 250 yards or more seven times with 22 touchdown passes. Consistency hasn't been the norm for a secondary that finished last in the Big 12 allowing an average of 255 yards per game.
Outlook: The potential is there for a major turnaround and upgrade if everyone hits their peak at the right time. The defense as a whole will be even more aggressive, and while there will be several rocky moments, the secondary should have plenty of opportunities to shine and come up with game-changing plays. The speed is there, the experience is in place, and the rotation appears to have been created. Now someone has to step up and shine.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: Junior Randy Bullock stepped in midway through the 2008 season and his six of his seven field goal attempts with his one miss coming from 49 yards out. He was fine last year, but he connected on 12-of-19 shots with two of his longer attempts getting blocked. He only missed three kicks inside the 40. With decent range, he's fine anywhere inside 50 yards.
There will be an ongoing battle to find someone to make the punting game work. Sophomore Ryan Epperson will get the first look after getting 25 chances and averaging 35.2 yards per try with six put inside the 20 and forcing nine fair catches. Junior Jeff Wood was considered a backup quarterback and backup receiver, but he ended up doing the most work at punter averaging 38.8 yards per pop with seven put inside the 20.
RB Cyrus Gray might be a part of the kickoff return equation after averaging 23.8 yards per try, but he might be too important for the ground game to be used on special teams. Sophomore WR Ryan Swope will use his speed to try to do even more for the return game. Corner Dustin Harris will try to do more after averaging just 7.9 yards per punt return as the Aggies finished 98th in the nation.
Watch Out For … the battle for the punting job. At least two players will be fighting for the right to try to upgrade a punting game that was 104th in the nation averaging a pathetic 33 yards per try. The coaching staff tried out a few different options, and the gig is now there for the taking once again.
Strength: Experience. At least everyone is back. All the returners, all the punting options, and Bullock are all back with the hope to do more for the special teams that ranged from mediocre to disastrous.
Weakness: The punting game. The kickoff coverage stunk and the punt return game was miserable, but the biggest problem for a team with a lousy defense was the punting and field position. The D should be better, but the more help it can get, the better.
Outlook: Extremely rough over the last few years, the hope, like it is throughout the Aggies, is for experience to translate into production. A&M needs to improve here to win more close games.
Unit Rating: 5.5
- 2010 Texas A&M Preview |
Texas A&M Offense
2010 Texas A&M Defense |
Texas A&M Depth Chart
- Texas A&M Previews