Texas A&M 2012: Kevin Sumlin Good for Offense, but Defense Is the Key in the SEC
Ever hear the old adage in golf, "drive for show, putt for dough"? If you were to apply it to football in the SEC, it would be "offense for show, defense for dough."
We all know you need both offense and defense—and don't forget special teams—to win in football. It's just true that teams put extra emphasis on defense in the SEC. We truly believe that defense wins championships in the Southeastern Conference.
Now we have established that you need all of it. But in the SEC, there is a long history of slick offenses being trumped by a superior defense.
So, a word to the wise, coach Kevin Sumlin, you must get this Texas A&M defense fixed, and soon. Also, for some reason, it appears to have been left in a mess last season.
Former head coach Mike Sherman hired Tim DeRuyter from Air Force to fix the A&M defense in 2010. In 2009, the Aggie defense was porous, allowing 33.5 points per game on average.
DeRuyter had transformed the Air Force defense in his three seasons there. By 2009, the Air Force defense was averaging less than 16 points per game to opponents—an outstanding number in any league.
In his first year with the Aggies, DeRuyter dumped the 4-3 they were running and installed his 3-4 scheme. That season, Texas A&M went from an average of allowing opponents 33.5 points per game down to less than 22.
Their overall record jumped from 6-7 in 2009 to 9-4 in 2010. During the same period of time, the offense actually scored about two less points per game.
After the season ended, DeRuyter interviewed for—but didn't take—the head coaching job at Tulsa. The incredible job he did on the defensive turnaround both at Air Force and A&M had made him a hot property. Schools looking for a head coach wanted to talk with him.
That may or may not have led to what happened next. It is a good news/bad news story.
The good news is Coach DeRuyter is now the head coach for the Fresno State Bulldogs.
The bad news is his Texas A&M defensive team all but disintegrated in several games in the 2011 season. They blew double-digit leads in five games throughout the year.
As a result, the points per game allowed shot back up over 28. This during a year where many had picked the Aggies to win as many as 12 games. But they ended the season at 7-6, and head coach Mike Sherman was fired.
The Aggies return eight players from the defensive group of 2011. Many of these were also on the defensive team in 2010.
The way the games were lost last season clearly indicates a defensive unit that lost faith in the coaches, schemes or both.
The good news is new defensive coordinator Mark Snyder and co-coordinator Marcel Yates have some quality athletes to work with. Given the background of these two quality coaches, you can safely predict significant improvement over the crash from last year at A&M.
A good goal for the first season of Kevin Sumlin's Aggies would be to have similar offensive and defensive numbers to 2010. If so, year one of the SEC wars may contain several pleasant memories.
This team is capable of being bowl-bound if they get the defense to perform as well as 2010.
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