While Texas A&M lost offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and receiver Ryan Swope to the NFL this offseason, the biggest concern for the Aggies headed into the 2013-14 campaign is on the defensive side of the ball.
With defensive end Damontre Moore and outside linebacker Sean Porter gone, they've left two gaping holes on the roster.
But there are some potential up-and-comers on defense, including a receiver-turned-linebacker. Here's a look at some players who performed well in the spring who figure to make an impact on defense next season.
Nate Askew, LB
Senior Nate Askew has impressed during the spring in his transition from receiver to linebacker. At 6'4", 225 pounds, he's not going to be the greatest player against the run in the SEC, but he could be an excellent weapon as a pass-rusher on passing downs and against pass-heavy teams like Missouri and Ole Miss. He has the quickness and athleticism to make an impact for the Aggies with Damontre Moore no longer with the team.
Michael Taglienti of Bleacher Report wrote in April:
Nate Askew has made big plays in every single scrimmage. He lined up in a 5-technique outside of Jeremiah Stuckey and ran untouched around Stuckey to sack the quarterback.
Tyrell Taylor, DL
Junior Tyrell Taylor had two sacks during the Aggies' spring game in April, displaying the ability to get around the edge and disrupt the pocket. That will be needed in the absence of Damontre Moore.
Taylor is going to be expected to step up this season after not getting much playing time so far for the Aggies. He needs to add more bulk to avoid getting pushed around in the SEC, but he has the skills to be an asset for the team.
Floyd Raven, FS
With Steven Terrell departing, the Aggies need someone to step in at free safety. Floyd Raven has been a pleasant surprise in the spring.
The 6'2", 190-pounder has the size and athleticism to naturally move from cornerback to safety. Coach Kevin Sumlin reportedly considered moving him to safety last season, but wanted him to get more comfortable at the position first, per Chris Low of ESPN.com.
Sumlin told Low:
He’s a physical guy who just needed to learn the position and has tremendous range and the right size and the right attitude to be a really, really good safety. For him to get all the reps he got this spring really helps us.
Raven has to go through a learning process at the position, but he has the ability to step in for Terrell. It would be a huge sigh of relief for the Aggies' coaching staff if he enters the season sharp.