The 2012 Texas A&M football team shocked the nation and the Southeastern Conference with their 10-2 record. Whether or not the Aggies are able to repeat or improve on that success in 2013 will depend on the defense.
The defense was solid in 2012 but did not play at a championship level for an entire game. The defense had little depth in 2012 and will lose a lot to graduation. How well the coaches are able to restock the defensive depth chart will define the 2013 season for the Texas A&M football program.
The Ags have big holes at each level of the defense as they head into the 2013 offseason. This is a look at how the defensive dept chart will look when the 2013 season starts.
Damontre Moore vs. Mizzou
Starter: Brandon Alexander
Backup: Tyrone Taylor
With Moore gone, the Ags' starting strong side DE Julien Obioha will get a look at the weak side. The Aggies need to find an end who can get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Obioha has not yet displayed the quick twitch, explosive get off needed to be an elite pass rusher. He may be better suited for the strong side.
Brandon Alexander is 6'6" 245 lb redshirt sophomore from Brenham, Texas. Alexander spent the summer of 2012 in Louisiana instead of working out with his teammates. He allegedly fell out of favor with the coaches and did not play in 2012.
There are rumors coming out of Aggieland that Alexander has bought into the program and has been working hard in the weight room. He has the natural size and speed to be an elite defensive end in the SEC. The only question is whether he is properly motivated or not.
Tyrone Tayor redshirted during the 2012 season and will be a redshirt freshman in 2013. He entered the program at 6'3" and around 220 lbs. Taylor should be around 240 lbs by the time spring practice rolls around. He has an elite first step and should be able to help A&M in passing situations in 2013.
If Moore moves on to the NFL then the weak side defensive end position will go from a position of strength to a real question mark entering 2013.
Starter: Julien Obioha
Backup: Polo Manukainiu
Obioa started at defensive end in 2012 as a true freshman and did an outstanding job. He started all 12 games and registered 25 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack on the season. He held up surprisingly well for a freshman in the SEC.
Manukainiu redshirted during the 2012 season. He is 6'5" and currently around 265 lbs. With a spring spent in Larry Jackson's strength and conditioning program, he should report for Fall camp at around 270 lbs.
Manukainiu will also see a lot of action at defensive end when the Aggies go to their three man fronts in the 3-4 and 33-stack formations. His length should be a great asset to the Aggies' defensive line.
Kirby Ennis celebrates vs. SCSU
Starter: Kirby Ennis
Backup: Isaiah Golden
Ennis was the starting nose tackle for every game in 2012 save the Alabama game. Spencer Nealy moved over the nose tackle for the Alabama game and was a major factor in the Ags defeating the Tide. Ennis responded to the move to defensive tackle with the best game of his career. He had seven tackles against Alabama.
Because of his success at the weak side defensive tackle position, do not be surprised to see him possibly move over there in 2013. Ennis had 22 tackles with two tackles for loss and a sack in 2012. Right now he is the Aggies' best option at nose tackle.
Golden is an all-world defensive tackle recruit out of Carthage (TX) High School. He is currently 6'2" and around 320 lbs. If he keeps his weight in check then he will see playing time immediately upon arriving in Aggieland.
He has the size and strength to play right away in the trenches in the SEC.
Starter: Alonzo Williams
Backup: Justin Manning
The Ags are losing their emotional leader with the graduation of starting defensive tackle Spencer Nealy. The former walk-on was surprisingly effective in 2012 at the defensive tackle position. He is a solid college football football player who will be remembered by the fans for playing with fanatical effort on every play.
Alonzo Williams is currently a backup defensive end for the Aggies. At 6'4" 270 lbs he will need to add some weight before the 2013 season. He should be around 280 to 285 lbs when Fall practice begins in August.
Williams had five tackles in his five games of action in 2012. Expect him to move inside to defensive tackle in 2013.
Justin Manning is one of the top defensive tackle recruits in the nation. He is 6'2" 280 lbs and quick enough to play in the SEC right away. He will provide immediate depth on the interior of the defensive line when he arrives in College Station.
Starter: Tommy Sanders
Backup: Michael Richardson
Sean Porter led a linebacker corps that was the heart and soul of the Aggies defense. They covered up for some deficiencies on the defensive line with their outstanding play. Porter was a four-year starter for the Aggies and will move onto the NFL in 2013.
Tommy Sanders is a 6'2" 220 lb linebacker from Butler (KS) Community College. He has tremendous speed and should step in for Porter as the starter.
Richardson was Porter's backup in 2012. He suffered a cracked vertebrate in the Sam Houston State game and his status for 2013 is still up in the air. Richardson had nine tackles in nine games played as a true freshman.
Starter: Steven Jenkins
Backup: Kenny Flowers
Steven Jenkins will be expected to lead the linebacker corps in 2013. He is the only returning starter at linebacker, and should be a defensive leader. He had a very good junior season with 70 tackles and five tackles for loss with two sacks. Jenkins should compete for all-conference honors as a senior.
Kenny Flowers is a junior college linebacker who is an early enrollee. He will be on campus in January and will participate in spring practice with the Aggies. Flowers is 6'2" 225 lbs and like Sanders, has very good speed.
He will give the Aggies some immediate depth at the linebacker position. He will also get a look at the weak side spot during the spring.
Starter: Donnie Baggs
Backup: Reggie Chevis
Jonathan Stewart was outstanding for the Aggies in 2012 at middle linebacker. He will graduate and take a shot at the NFL in 2013. Stewart's absence will leave a vacancy in the middle.
Donnie Baggs was very solid as Steven Jenkins' backup in 2012. He had 27 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss and an interception in his 12 games of play. He started against Louisiana Tech when Jenkins was suspended.
Baggs will likely move inside to middle linebacker in 2012. Expect him to remain on the field when the Aggies go to the nickel.
Chevis is a freshman recruit who will be an early enrollee and will participate in spring practice. At 6'2" 240 lbs he already has the necessary size to play linebacker in the SEC. He should be a solid run stuffer for the Aggies. Expect to see him when the Ags go to their goal line defense.
Jordan Richardson redshirted during the 2012 season and will compete for playing time at the position also.
Starter: Deshazor Everett
Backup: Tavares Garner
Starter: De'Vante Harris
Backup: Tramain Jacobs
Both Everett and Harris started the 2012 season at corner. Harris lost his starting position after struggling against Ole Miss, and was replaced by Dustin Harris. After a year in the strength and conditioning program, De'Vante Harris should add some good weight and be a stronger player in 2013.
Everrett is one of the best football players in the A&M program. He can play both safety and cornerback for the Aggies effectively. He started all 12 games in 2013 and registered 47 tackles with three tackles for loss and two interceptions.
Everett is a future All-SEC player and will play in the NFL.Tavares Garner will be a true freshman in 2013. He is 6'0" 170 lbs and has the size and speed to play immediately in the SEC.
Jacobs played extensively as a backup in 2012. He registered 22 tackles with one interception during the regular season. Jacobs should be much better in 2013 now that he has made the transition from junior college to SEC football.
Howard Matthews vs. Alabama
Starter: Howard Matthews
Backup: Floyd Raven
Starter: Tony Hurd Jr.
Backup: Kameron Miles
Howard Matthews has started four games in 2012 and ended the regular season with 49 tackles and six passes defensed. He has gotten better as the year has gone on against the pass. Matthews has always been very strong against the run.
Tony Hurd Jr. was the Ags' nickel back in 2012. He has a tendency to come up with big plays when the Aggies need them the most. Hurd Jr. made the interception to win the Ole Miss game. For the season he had 58 tackles with four tackles for loss.
Raven has been a backup corner for the past two years. At 6'2" 190 lbs he has the size and speed to be a starting corner in the SEC. He did not play within the scheme in 2012 so he was relegated to a backup spot. He will get a look at safety in 2013.
Kameron Miles is an incoming freshman from West Mesquite high school. Physically he is as ready to play in the SEC right now. He should offer the Aggies depth at safety and play extensively on special teams in 2013.