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Texas A&M Football

The New Guard: Pieces for a defensive turnaround

February 25, 2014
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Some disasters never will be forgotten — the Hindenburg, The Titanic, The Jamestown Flood, the 2013 Texas A&M defense.

You’d like to forget, but recurring nightmares probably won’t allow it. The defense was frequently burned like a flaming zeppelin. It quickly sunk in the national rankings. Opponents scored a flood of points.

The defense that was once known as the Wrecking Crew was more of a reeking crew.

Yet, former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum, a defensive mastermind who never endured a losing season, believes better times are coming soon for the Aggies, who begin spring football drills on Friday.

In fact, he believes the 2014 defense can conjure images of the old Wrecking Crew. It just needs a wrecking two.

TexAgs A&M's first step is bringing in difference-makers like Myles Garrett (pictured) and Nick Harvey. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"A\u0026M\u0027s first step is bringing in difference-makers like Myles Garrett (pictured) and Nick Harvey.","MediaItemID":33295}
“One or two good players can make a world of difference,” Slocum said last week. “One real good pass rusher makes a huge difference. If you have one real good corner you can put him on a guy and we don’t have to worry about that guy.

“You can get better in a hurry with guys like that.”

Hmmm … one good pass rusher?

The Aggies signed Myles Garrett, who posted more than 20 sacks as a high school senior and was rated by many as the premier defensive end prospect in the country. He could help that A&M defense immediately.

And … you need real good corner? The recruiting class also includes Nick Harvey, who is rated among the nation’s top 10 defensive back prospects.

Of course, both are mere freshmen. And you cannot expect too much from a true freshman.

Or can you?

“Reggie Brown started as a true freshman,” said Slocum, recalling a star linebacker from the ‘90s who became a first round draft choice. "Sam Adams (DE) came in as a true freshman and made us a better defense. (DB) Chet Brooks played a big role. Alex Morris (DB), as a true freshman, made several big plays. We put him in because of speed. At the time he didn’t know enough about the overall scheme, but he could come in there and blitz and really help us.”

Obviously, A&M’s defense needs a lot of help.

Last year the Aggies were heinous against the run. They didn’t mount much of a pass rush. They struggled on third down. Most importantly, they allowed an average of 32.2 points per game to rank 95th in the nation. Eight opponents scored more than 30 points. Two more scored at least 28.

Yet, if A&M, which finished 9-4, could have allowed just one fewer touchdown per game it would have beaten Auburn and went into overtime against Alabama and Missouri.

Expecting a defense to shave off a touchdown per game in one season might be asking a lot, but it’s not that uncommon. Just last season five teams — Arizona, Houston, Baylor, Tulane and Marshall — made remarkable improvement from the previous year. All were ranked among the nation’s bottom 20 in scoring defense in 2012 and were among the nation’s top 50 in 2013.

TexAgs The Aggies' sophomore and junior classes, now a year older and more experienced, should also contribute added strength and instincts. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"The Aggies\u0027 sophomore and junior classes, now a year older and more experienced, should also contribute added strength and instincts.","MediaItemID":34955}
Arizona allowed 35.3 points per game and ranked 102nd in ’12. Last year the Wildcats allowed 24.2 points and ranked 39th. Baylor was even more dramatic. The Bears were 110th with a 37.2 average in ’12 and improved to 36th with a 23.5 average in ’13. Consequently, they won the Big 12 championship.

But the most amazing transformation was Tulane, which was 115th with a 38.4 average in 2012. The Green Wave allowed 21.4 points to rank 18th nationally in 2013.

True, Tulane played a much easier schedule in 2013, but improving by 97 spots is impressive regardless of the circumstances.

Don’t count on A&M jumping into the top 20 national rankings in scoring defense next season, but there are reasons other than the arrival of Garrett and Harvey to believe the Aggies can be significantly better.

Defensive end Daeshon Hall figures to be bigger and better as a sophomore. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Justin Manning will be available. Senior defensive end Gavin Stansbury made progress last season and may continue to make strides. The same goes for senior defensive tackle Ivan Robinson.

Linebacker play figures to get better because it cannot get any worse. Jordan Mastrogiovanni at times was forced into the starting lineup at middle linebacker as a true freshman. He’ll be more physically and mentally competitive as a sophomore.

The same goes for Darian Claiborne, who projects to shift from the middle to the weak side. Of course, his arrest last weekend could create some question of his availability.

Likewise for sophomore nose tackle Isaiah Golden, who was also arrested. If Golden isn’t derailed by off-field issues, he legitimately could contend for All-SEC honors.

At some point next season, A&M’s starting defensive line may include Garrett and Stansbury at ends with Golden and Robinson or Manning at tackle. The Aggies then could bring in Hall at end and use Hardreck Walker and Alonzo Williams in a tackle rotation.

With that lineup, or something involving that combination, A&M suddenly could have a big, physical presence up front.

I’m much more inclined to have a young, talented guy than a three-year guy with not quite the ability to get it done. Give me a young guy capable of making big plays on the field. I think that’s what they will do. - R.C. Slocum {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"left","Quote":"I’m much more inclined to have a young, talented guy than a three-year guy with not quite the ability to get it done. Give me a young guy capable of making big plays on the field. I think that’s what they will do.","Author":"R.C. Slocum"}
“We’ve got to get more physical up front,” Slocum said. “We’re just not athletic enough and not big enough. And I think they’re (Kevin Sumlin and staff) addressing that. I think they have young guys that can play.

“I’m much more inclined to have a young, talented guy than a three-year guy with not quite the ability to get it done. Give me a young guy capable of making big plays on the field. I think that’s what they will do.”

Those young, capable players will better as they gain experience, too.

So, count on the Aggie defense to do a lot more wrecking and a lot less reeking.
Discussion from...

The New Guard: Pieces for a defensive turnaround

15,784 Views | 12 Replies | Last: 10 yr ago by SupaManu
Olin Buchanan
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S
The New Guard: Pieces for a defensive turnaround
Ags76
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AG
Sadly, it looks like the reeking will continue, just from another source!
cs69ag
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AG
Some of these guys seem to be "weeding" themselves out while our D goes up in smoke.
Win At Life
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AG
From Wretching Crew to Wrecking Crew in one offseason?
redjalapeno-87
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Hey bud, our inability to stop the run right down the hash has been chronic. The smoke draw is killing us.
Area51Ag
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AG
quote:
Some of these guys seem to be "weeding" themselves out while our D goes up in smoke.


Well played. No wonder we are suckers for the smoke draw . . .
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Baron de Bastrop
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AG
Reefing crew
texagg14
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AG
quote:
Reefing crew


Spark it up! Spark it up!
hunter2012
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AG
we should start playing "light em up" by fallout boy every time the defense hits the field. They will play out of their minds then...
KTXAG
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AG
quote:
Reefing crew


Sad but true
SupaManu
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