Texas A&M Football: Impact of SEC Early Draft Declarations on Aggies
The Texas A&M football team is losing two of its best players with the declaration from Luke Joeckel and Damontre Moore that they will give up their senior season of eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL draft. The Aggies are one of multiple teams in the Southeastern Conference who will be negatively affected by early defections into the NFL.
The Aggies were one of five SEC teams to end the season ranked in the top 10. All five of the teams suffered significant early defections to the NFL draft.
These defections will have a major impact on the SEC in 2013 and will impact Texas A&M's conference and national title hopes. This is a look at how the early defections will impact the Aggies in 2013.
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The Aggies will lose their top offensive lineman in left tackle Luke Joeckel and top defensive player in defensive end Damontre Moore to the 2013 NFL draft. The offensive line should be able to withstand the early departure of Joeckel without missing a beat.
Right tackle Jake Matthews decided to turn down the NFL and return for his senior season at A&M. Matthews will move over to Joeckel's left tackle position. Matthews is one of the best offensive tackles in college football and should do a solid job protecting Johnny Manziel's blind side in 2013.
Moore is one of the top pass-rushers in the nation. He was the one defensive player that opposing offenses had to formulate their game plan around. Moore will be missed in Aggieland.
The 2013 version of the Aggies will have more depth on the defensive line than they did in 2012. They will not have a pass-rusher like Moore. It will be up to A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder to put an effective defense on the field with the pieces that are left behind.
The Aggie defense in 2013 will feature a more experienced secondary than they had in 2012. Snyder should be able to use the secondary as a foundation for his defense. With an improved secondary and better depth on the defensive line, the 2013 defense should be a good one.
The loss of Moore will have a greater effect on the Aggies than that of Joeckel. If Snyder can put a quality defense on the field, then the Aggies will compete for the SEC and national title in 2013. If they cannot produce a consistent pass rush, then they will fight to win nine or 10 games.
LSU DE Barkevious Mingo vs. Ole Miss
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No team in recent memory has had as many early entrants to the NFL draft as the 2012 LSU Tigers. The Bayou Bengals had 10 juniors declare for the 2013 draft. Former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu also declared for the draft. Mathieu would have been a junior on the 2012 team had he not been kicked off the team for drug use.
LSU has as much talent on their roster as any team in the country. They routinely lose juniors early to the draft and simply reload and keep on playing at a high level. However, even the Tigers will have issues replacing 10 juniors.
LSU will lose Michael Ford, Spencer Ware and Chris Faulk on the offensive side of the ball. Faulk is their best offensive linemen but missed all but the season opener in 2012 after suffering a knee injury.
The Tigers struggled on offense for much of the season, but their offensive line was solidified when they inserted freshman Vadal Alexander at right tackle and Josh Dworaczyk at left tackle. With Faulk's departure and Dworaczyk's graduation, there is a big hole at left tackle.
Tiger fans should expect Alexander and redshirt freshman Jerald Hawkins to fight it out for the starting spot at left tackle.
Ware and Ford fell out of favor at running back as the season wore on and it became clear that freshman Jeremy Hill was the best ball-carrier on the team. Neither Ford nor Ware are a big loss as the Tigers have a lot of depth at the position.
The early entrants on the offensive side of the ball will only affect the Tigers' depth. That is not the case on the defense.
With Barkevious Mingo, Bennie Logan and Sam Montgomery leaving LSU early, that means the entire starting defensive line from 2012 will have to be replaced.
Mingo and Montgomery formed one of the best defensive end duos in the nation. Logan and senior Josh Downs were the starting defensive tackles in LSU's 4-3 scheme.
All four will be in the NFL in 2013. It does not matter how well you recruit, no team can lose all four starters on the defensive line and not suffer a deleterious effect. Montgomery had two seniors behind him on the depth chart so the Tigers are losing their top three players at right defensive end.
The Tigers are also losing middle linebacker Kevin Minter, safety Eric Reid and cornerback Tharold Simon to the draft.
Reid and Minter were both All-SEC performers in 2012. Minter's 130 tackles and 15 tackles for loss led the Tigers. Simon had 45 tackles and led LSU with four interceptions.
LSU is losing more talent on defense than any team in the country. This is important because Les Miles has built LSU into a national powerhouse by playing elite defense and limiting mistakes on offense.
The 2013 version of the Tigers will not have the talent on defense to be elite. They will have to rely on an inconsistent offense to carry them.
The Aggies' 2013 football schedule features eight home games. Their toughest road games will be at LSU and at Ole Miss. With these monumental personnel losses on defense, the Tigers will struggle to keep the Aggie offense in check.
LSU's losses to the NFL draft increase the odds of the Aggies winning the SEC title. No team can recover from the loss of 10 juniors without it negatively affecting the program. The Tigers' early defections into the NFL draft improve the odds of A&M playing in Atlanta for the SEC title in 2013.
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Texas A&M does not play Georgia during the 2013 regular season. The Bulldogs won the SEC East in 2011 and 2012 and will be a favorite to win it again in 2013. If the Aggies manage to win the SEC West division, then they will likely face Georgia in Atlanta.
For this reason, the Bulldogs' early entrants into the NFL draft may affect the Aggies' 2013 season. Georgia had three players declare for the draft, all of which were on the defense.
Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was one of the top defensive players in the country in 2013. He accumulated 24.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks to lead the conference. He will not be easy to replace.
Linebacker Alec Ogletree missed four games due to suspension, but still led the team with 111 total tackles. He may be a better all-around linebacker than Jones.
Senior nose tackle John Jenkins graduated from Georgia, leaving a huge hole in the middle of the defense. That hole was expected to be filled by junior defensive tackle Kwame Geathers. That plan was thwarted when the 6'6", 335-pound Geathers declared for the 2013 draft.
The Bulldogs are losing three major pieces of their front seven on defense. That is significant for a defense that struggled to stop the run in 2012, allowing 182 rushing yards per game.
The Bulldogs return only four starters on defense in 2013. They do have one of the best offensive backfields in the country with Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall returning. Georgia will have to outscore teams while they hope defensive coordinator Todd Grantham can build a solid defense.
On paper UGA does not have the defense to slow the A&M offense down. The Bulldogs always have talent, and everyone is going to have to wait and see what Grantham's rebuilt version of this defense looks like.
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Like Georgia, the only time A&M will face Florida in 2013 would be in the SEC title game. The Gators had four juniors declare for the NFL draft.
Tight end Jordan Reed was the Gators' leading receiver with 45 receptions for 559 yards and three touchdowns. He is a talented athlete that was a mismatch for any opposing defense.
Sharif Floyd declared early for the draft and the interior offensive linemen in the SEC breathed a sigh of relief. Floyd is one of the top defensive tackles in the nation. He had 45 tackles with 13 tackles for loss and three sacks despite being double-teamed all season.
Floyd is a freakish athlete at defensive tackle and will be a first-round selection in the 2013 draft. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins was the second member of the Gators front seven to declare.
He played in nine games in 2012 and had 29 tackles with five tackles for loss and two sacks. It was a disappointing junior campaign for a player expected to compete for national position awards.
Safety Matt Elam declared and should compete with LSU's Eric Reid to be the first safety selected in the draft. Elam was second on the Gators with 76 tackles. He also rang up 11 tackles for loss and grabbed four interceptions. Elam was first-team All-SEC and one of the best safeties in the country.
Florida loses some great players in Floyd and Elam, but they had a relatively young team in 2012. With Georgia's massive personnel losses, the Gators should enter the 2013 season as the favorite to win the SEC East.
The Florida juniors entering the draft should have little effect on A&M. They are not significant enough on defense to negatively affect the Gators' chances at ending up in Atlanta.
Eddie Lacy runs the ball in the BCS title game against Notre Dame
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Alabama had three juniors from their 2013 national championship squad declare early for the NFL draft. The Crimson Tide reload every year and will still enter the 2013 season as the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
Right offensive tackle D.J. Fluker bypassed his senior season for the draft. He will likely end up as a guard in the NFL. It would be surprising to see him get selected in the first round.
The real issue with Fluker declaring is that two other members of the 2012 starting offensive line are graduating. That means that the Tide will only return left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and right guard Anthony Steen as starters in 2013.
The Aggies play Alabama in the Tide's second game of the season on September 14. The Aggies will have a tremendous opportunity to catch the Tide before their offensive line can gel.
Running back Eddie Lacy declared for the draft after leading the Tide with 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns. For any other program, this would be a huge loss, but Alabama will simply reload.
T.J. Yeldon returns at running back after rushing for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman. He will be joined in the backfield by blue-chip recruit and Steven Jackson clone Derrick Henry. The 6'3", 240-pound Henry will replace Lacy as the power back in Alabama's offense.
Dee Milliner declared for the draft after an All-SEC and All-American junior campaign. He will be a first-round selection in the 2013 draft.
Alabama returns two starters in their secondary, which is fine for a squad that only returned Vinnie Sunseri in 2012. Sunseri was not a starter at the end of the season but will get another chance to earn a starting spot at safety in 2013. The Alabama defense will still be excellent in 2013 behind the play of their three returning junior linebackers.
The Tide's losses on the offensive line are significant. That may be enough to help the Aggies squeeze by Alabama at home on September 14. If the Ags can get by Alabama, then LSU and Ole Miss on the road are all that would stand between them and a date in Atlanta.
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The 2012 version of the Arkansas Razorbacks was a great example of how off-the-field issues can submarine a talented football team. They had top-five talent, but ended the season at 5-7 after losing their head coach before the season started.
Two juniors decided they did not want to wait around to see what Bret Bielema's vision of the program was and declared for the draft. Running back Knile Davis and offensive guard Alvin Bailey both made themselves eligible for the 2013 draft.
Davis is one of the more physically gifted running backs in the nation. He struggled tremendously in 2012 while trying to recover from a left ankle injury that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season.
Davis rushed for only 3.4 yards per carry and two touchdowns in 2012. He will need to have an excellent showing at the combine and in individual workouts to slip into the top half of the draft. Davis should have returned for his senior season.
Bailey is a good offensive lineman and should expect to be drafted. Bielema could have used him to help solidify a young offensive line in 2013.
Texas A&M has to go on the road to play Arkansas, so that will be a tough game. The reality of the issue is that these two early entrants have no impact on the Aggies' season. Davis may have been an impact player in Bielema's offense that emphasizes the running game, or he could have struggled like he did in 2012.
Arkansas' success or failure on the season will not depend on those two players. If Texas A&M is going to compete for an SEC title in 2013, then they should be able to beat the Razorbacks on the road.