The defense of Texas A&M is not the unit that gets all of the attention for Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies, and rightfully so. Johnny Manziel and the A&M offense have done great things so far in 2012. We’ll talk more about that unit later this week.
Let’s take a look at the Texas A&M defense that Gene Chizik described as “exotic” in his Tuesday press conference.
Chizik says Texas A&M uses "exotic" blitz packages. Not in the Bible Belt, they won't!— John Zenor (@jzenor) October 23, 2012
Interesting choice of words by Chizik, but it is a valid statement.
Scot Loeffler described the Aggie defense in a similar fashion, “He's (defensive coordinator Mike Snyder) going to fire-zone you. He's aggressive, aggressive, aggressive. It's not necessarily exotic, but it's very dynamic. He's going to attack your protection schemes." (Jay G. Tate, Auburnsports.com. Subscription required)
The Aggies rank 45th in rushing defense, 62nd in total defense, 38th in scoring defense and 86th in pass defense. These defensive rankings are not bad numbers for a team that runs an up-tempo attack on offense. It’s a common theory that up-tempo offenses hurt the defense due to the amount of plays that the defense is on the field.
With Auburn’s struggles on offense in 2012, any defense should be licking its chops to get their shot at the Tigers. Auburn has only scored more than one offensive touchdown in a game twice this season (ULM and Ole Miss).
Let’s take a look at some things the Texas A&M defense showed LSU last weekend and what we can expect to see this weekend in Jordan-Hare Stadium against Auburn.
Clint Moseley (probable starter) will see a lot of this early on in the game. The Aggies will be very aggressive and put a lot of men near the line of scrimmage to stop what Auburn is best at: running the ball.
In the play right after the one above, Texas A&M looks to bring pressure on an obvious passing down-and-distance (3rd-and-7). Auburn has not been good in 3rd-and-7 or longer situations this year.
The Aggies indicate that they will bring pressure from the middle and left side of the defense. Only three of the four defensive linemen have a hand on the ground. This probably looks pretty confusing to LSU QB Zach Mettenberger.
The LB nearest the Aggie DT appears to be heading towards the A-gap to the left of the LSU center.
Instead, the DT and LB are going to stunt. The LSU center decides to take the stunting LB over the DT. This is probably the right call with the LB most likely having more speed. This opens up the left A-Gap because the LSU LG must take the other Aggie DT.
The stunting Aggie DT has a shot to get good pressure on Mettenberger if he can get by the LSU RB who looks to have a good chance to put a helmet on the DT.
This is what Loeffler is talking about when he alluded to the protection schemes being challenged.
The LSU RB was not able to pick up the block fast enough. Mettenberger is forced to rush the throw. It winds up being an incompletion and LSU is forced to punt.
Here is one more. Texas A&M is not even bringing extra pressure on this play, but both sets of the defensive linemen will stunt.
This causes a little confusion among the offensive linemen of LSU.
The speed of the DE is too much for the LSU offensive lineman, and Mettenberger is forced to stop looking downfield and scramble out of the pocket.
He is sacked for a short loss.
Player to watch on the Texas A&M defense:
I had not watched much of Texas A&M before its game against LSU. The player on defense that jumps out on both the stat sheet and the TV is No. 94, DaMontre Moore.
The junior defensive lineman is leading the nation in sacks, averaging 1.36 sacks per game. Moore has eight sacks on the year and 14 tackles for loss. Surprisingly, the only game that he did not record a sack in was a 58-10 blowout of Arkansas.
What Auburn has to do:
In order for the Auburn offense to be successful against the Aggies on Saturday, it will have to attempt to loosen up the A&M defense by taking shots downfield early in the game. Much like it attempted against LSU when Kiehl Frazier looked for Sammie Coates downfield early in the game, when Coates dropped a near-perfect pass.
If Auburn is successful in doing that, it will force the Aggies to not be as aggressive as they would like and should open up some holes for Tre Mason.
If Auburn is able to establish the running game it can begin to neutralize the aggressiveness of the Aggie defense with play-action.
Auburn Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and running backs coach Curtis Luper will have their hands full when preparing their men for the blitz packages that Texas A&M will throw at the Auburn offense. The ability to pick up the blitzes and make the right reads will be critical if Auburn wants to keep this game close on Saturday.
The Auburn offense and it’s play-calling has been head-scratching on a number of occasions in 2012. What sometimes we think makes the most sense from the fan’s perspective does not always make the most sense to offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
One thing is for sure: if the Auburn offense continues its regression against Texas A&M on Saturday, Gene Chizik may be forced to make a decision about his offensive coordinator prior to the end of the season.