Texas A&M Football: What Will the Aggies' Defense Look Like in 2014
The Texas A&M football team had one of the worst defenses in the nation in 2013. The 2014 version of the defense will have a completely different look, as increased depth and experience will lead to better play on the field.
Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin was forced to go with a youth movement on defense in 2013 because of injuries and an overall lack of depth. The Aggies played 10 true freshmen on defense and special teams in 2013.
That Aggies will be paid back for dealing with those freshmen's growing pains in 2013. In 2014, the Aggies will return a bigger, stronger and more experienced unit on the defensive side of the ball.
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder had to scale back his defense in 2013 because of the inexperience on the unit. In 2014, he will be able to use his full package on defense.
This is a look at what the 2014 Texas A&M defense will look like.
The Aggies' defensive tackle position suffered a blow halfway through the season when senior started Kirby Ennis was lost for the year with a knee injury. Ennis' injury forced true freshman defensive tackle Isaiah Golden to move into the starting lineup.
Golden had a solid season, with 30 tackles and three tackles for loss as the starting nose guard. He has excellent strength, but he needs to improve his technique and learn how to split a double team.
Alonzo Williams started nine games at the other defensive tackle spot before an injury cut his season short. Williams had 24 tackles with 2.5 sacks on the season. Do not be surprised to see Williams move outside to strong-side defensive end in 2014.
Williams is a solid defensive tackle. He could be an exceptional defensive end on the strong side. Williams would excel at holding the edge against the run which is something the Aggies' struggled with greatly in 2013.
True freshmen Hardreck Walker and Jay Arnold both saw time at defensive tackle in 2013. Look for Walker, Arnold, Justin Manning and possibly Jordan Points to compete for the starting spot at defensive tackle in 2014.
Manning and Points spent the 2013 season redshirting. Points may stay outside and play strong-side defensive end. He played defensive tackle during the 2013 spring season, but he lost some weight over the summer and moved outside during Fall camp.
The starting interior of the defensive line on opening day against South Carolina will be Isaiah Golden at nose guard and Justin Manning at defensive tackle. Walker will back up Golden at the nose, and Arnold will be the second-team defensive tackle.
Junior Gavin Stansbury and sophomore Julien Obioha were the starting defensive ends for the Aggies in 2013. They produced the most anemic pass rush the Aggies have had in recent memory.
The inability to get pressure on the opposing quarterback was one of the main contributors in the Aggies' poor defensive showing in 2013. Stansbury was the Aggies' most effective pass-rusher with three sacks on the season.
Obioha was the starting weak-side defensive end and produced five tackles for loss and one sack on the season. That is a very poor performance for a weak-side defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.
True freshman Daeshon Hall saw action at strong-side and weak-side defensive end in 2013. He registered 25 tackles with three tackles for loss and an interception. Hall was pushed around because he is still very lean for a defensive end in the SEC.
Hall should be able to add some good weight to his 6'6", 243-pound frame during the offseason. He will report for practice in the Fall at around 260 pounds and ready to take on SEC offensive tackles.
The defensive end position will look completely different in 2014. Hall will be the starter at weak-side defensive end. Alonzo Williams will be the starter at strong-side defensive end.
Incoming freshman Myles Garrett will back up Hall on the weak side. Jordan Points and Obioha will back up Williams on the strong side. Stansbury will provide depth where needed.
The linebacker position began the season as a huge weakness, but it improved as the season wore on. Donnie Baggs, Steven Jenkins and Tommy Sanders were expected to be the starters at the beginning of the season.
A suspension kept Jenkins out for the first two games of the year. Baggs was a complete non-factor at middle linebacker and was eventually moved back to his natural position outside.
The Aggie linebacker unit was undersized as a group. Sanders and Jenkins look more like SEC safeties than linebackers. The Aggies need to get bigger at the position in 2014.
True freshman Darian Claiborne took over in the middle for Baggs and developed into the second-best defender on the team behind defensive back Deshazor Everett. Claiborne has exceptional instincts and currently is tied for the team lead with 89 total tackles.
Shaan Washington was another true freshman who saw action in 2013. He backed up Baggs on the strong side and ended the season with 25 tackles and three sacks.
Washington is one of the Aggies' bigger linebackers. He will add some more muscle to his 6'3", 220-pound frame and will be a big part of the Aggies' linebacker corps going forward.
With Jenkins graduating, the weak side position will be open. If Tommy Sanders can add significant weight, then he may end up the starter there. Brett Wade spent the 2013 season redshirting, and he will be a factor there also.
In 2014, Claiborne will start the season as the starting middle linebacker. Freshman Brett Wade will back him up in the middle. Washington will be the starter on the strong side. Baggs will be the second-team linebacker behind Washington.
On the weak side you will see Wade get the start against South Carolina. Do not be surprised if Sanders starts games against passing teams like Missouri. If 2014 recruit Hoza Scott qualifies, he will be the starting weak-side linebacker by season's end.
The Aggies will have one of the better cornerback tandems in the nation in 2014. Sophomore De'Vante Harris missed the first couple games of the season with a suspension, and senior cornerback Tramain Jacobs filled in admirably.
When Harris was eligible for play again, he and junior cornerback Deshazor Everett made up a formidable duo against the pass. Harris made a quantum leap in his play from 2012 when he was not physical enough.
Harris made 53 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss, an interception and nine passes defended in 2013. Everett registered 68 tackles with two interceptions and seven passes defended.
True freshman Noel Ellis had eight total tackles with a fumble recovery in spot duty as a nickelback. He will be the started at the nickel in 2014. True freshman Tavares Garner had three total tackles in limited play at corner and on special teams.
Harris and Everett will start at corner in 2014. Ellis and Garner will be the second-team cornerbacks. Incoming freshman Nick Harvey will also fight for playing time at cornerback in 2014.
The safety position was an area of frustration for Aggie fans all season long. Injuries and poor play contributed to busted coverages in almost every game.
Expected starter Floyd Raven missed the first game of the season due to an incident off the field. Raven was injured during the second game of the season, which resulted in Clay Honeycutt starting against Alabama.
Honeycutt played so poorly that cornerback Deshazor Everett moved to safety to shore up the position. Everett stayed there until Raven recovered from his injury.
Howard Matthews started at the boundary safety spot for the Aggies for the entire season. He put up good numbers with 84 tackles and three interceptions, but he was the epitome of inconsistency.
It was a common occurrence to see an opposing running back run down the field wide open after Matthews blew the coverage on a wheel route. His inconsistent play was a constant source of frustration for Aggie fans.
True freshman Jonathan Wiggins spent most of the season playing special teams. He was simply not ready for meaningful playing time on the back end.
In 2014 there will be a complete overhaul at the position. Kameron Miles spent the 2013 season redshirting after an injury during the summer set him back.
Miles is healthy and will compete for a starting job in 2014. He, Wiggins and fellow 2013 signee Victor Davis will offer the Aggies some size and depth at the position that was not available in 2013.
When the Aggies open the season against South Carolina, Miles and Raven will get the start against the Gamecocks. Do not be surprised if 2014 recruit Dylan Sumner-Gardner works his way into the starting lineup before the season is through.
The Aggies will have more depth, size and speed at safety in 2014. That will lead to better performance overall for the Texas A&M defense.