The Alabama game will mark a significant moment for Texas A&M's 2013 defensive unit. It will be the first game that no starters will be forced to remain on the sideline due to suspension.
During A&M's 52-31 victory over Rice two weeks ago, the Aggies' defense benched six starters, all of whom played crucial roles within an already youth-heavy unit. Starting in their place were mostly true freshmen, a majority of whom had only begun practicing with A&M late this summer.
The result: 509 yards of total offense and 31 points allowed to a veteran—but still only a Rice—offensive group.
Against Sam Houston State last week, the A&M defense once again was without many of its key players, with three sitting out another full game and one riding the bench for a half game due to a targeting penalty from last week against Rice.
The effects of missing veteran talent were not felt against Sam Houston State, but Alabama and its offensive weapons—AJ McCarron, T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper—will take quick advantage of the rusty defense.
With true freshmen filling in from defensive tackle to cornerback, the youngsters were able to gain invaluable experience, a factor head coach Kevin Sumlin said would be useful down the stretch of the season.
Still, the absence of many of the defense's veteran starters, such as cornerbacks De'Vante Harris and Deshazor Everett, safety Floyd Raven Sr., linebacker Steven Jenkins and defensive tackle Kirby Ennis adversely affected the defense, particularly in the first half against Rice.
According to senior defensive back Toney Hurd Jr., the defense just needs to focus on assignments now and allow the coaching staff to handle the suspensions.
As a team, we have a lot of things we can work on. As a defense, just getting into our gaps and reading our assignments. Things like that are the difference between a big win and a bad loss. It’s easy to watch the field after the game and make those adjustments. It’s much harder during the game. As a team, I feel like we’ll get those things fixed.
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.