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Texas A&M Football

Wild Cards: Texas A&M and the curious case of Donovan Wilson

April 19, 2016
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Any card shark knows a wild card can be a tremendous advantage. That is, if it is used correctly.

Junior safety Donovan Wilson is Texas A&M’s wild card. The correct way to use him may be fodder for discussion until the Aggies open the season on Sept. 3 against UCLA.

Actually, it may be a prime topic of discussion throughout the 2016 season.

Wilson is such a big-play threat on defense that Defensive Coordinator John Chavis paid him perhaps the ultimate compliment and once compared him to Tyrann Matthieu, who starred for Chief at LSU.

Wilson is fearless. He has excellent coverage skills. He can tackle. In 2015 he led the Aggies with five interceptions, was fourth on the team with 63 tackles and forced three fumbles.

A guy like that has to be on the field. That may be a problem because the Aggies have one of the nation’s best pairs of safeties in Armani Watts and Justin Evans.

In most cases, the solution would be easy — just start all three safeties to get the 11 best players on the field.

Chavis may indeed take that approach.

Alex Parker, TexAgs Putting Wilson on the field would give Texas A&M its 11 best players, but it would also remove a linebacker. Is it worth the trade?
But that would likely require sacrificing a linebacker from a unit which desperately needs to upgrade its defense against the run. A&M has ranked no better than 108th nationally against the run in each of the past three seasons.

The Aggies won’t be a serious contender for an SEC championship until they can consistently play effective run defense.

There are reasons to think they will.

Shaan Washington has gotten bigger. Otaro Alaka is back from injury. Richard Moore and Claude George have more experience. Incoming freshman Tyrel Dodson looks the part of an SEC MIKE.

Indeed, coach Kevin Sumlin indicated at the end of spring football practice that he anticipated improved linebacker play this year.

“Just looking at it today, in the second level we look different with Shaan Washington at 240 (pounds) and Otaro Alaka (back from injury),” Sumlin said. “(Claude) George has got to keep getting better. But with Alaka back and Shaan Washington at 240 that gives us an opportunity.”

However, Sumlin also pointed out that Wilson has gotten bigger and that added size figures to enable him play the run more effectively.

“He’s able to cover slots and be effective and he’s a playmaker,” Sumlin said. “He looks great. He’s 205 (pounds) right now and he’s getting stronger and just more experience there.”

A bulked up Wilson should help, but will it be enough to bolster the run defense?

The obvious plan is to start Wilson against teams that are greater passing threats and use three linebackers against the opponents that figure to run more.

However, that plan would seemingly take Wilson off the field.

A&M’s will face just three FBS quarterbacks who threw for at least 2,200 yards last season – UCLA’s Josh Rosen (3,670), Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs (2,291) and Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly (4,042).

Meanwhile, the Aggies will face Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd and LSU’s Leonard Fournette, among other rushing threats.

Hurd rushed for 1,288 yards last season despite sharing the load with Alvin Kamara, who rushed for nearly 700 yards. Fournette rushed for 1,953 yards last season and will be a Heisman Trophy contender again this season.

Alex Parker, TexAgs With the opposing offenses on the Aggies' schedule, John Chavis must get creative — but also doesn't have much room for error. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"With the opposing offenses on the Aggies\u0027 schedule, John Chavis must get creative — but also doesn\u0027t have much room for error.","MediaItemID":68084}
Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough only rushed for 104 yards in ’15, but does anybody doubt the Crimson Tide will have a strong running game? Wouldn’t the same be expected from Arkansas even if true freshman Devwah Whaley is the Razorbacks’ featured runner?

Auburn is now without 1,000-yard rusher Peyton Barber, but it was Jovon Robinson who torched the Aggies for 156 rushing yards last season. He’s still around.

Even UCLA’s Soso Jamabo, who rushed for 403 yards in a reserve role as a true freshman, projects to be a greater running threat as a sophomore.

It will be intriguing to see Chavis’ strategy to contain them.

The plan here would be to play a 4-2-5, which would keep Wilson on the field. He’s too good to be on the sidelines.

His big play and coverage abilities will be needed against the passing threats that UCLA, Tennessee and Ole Miss present.

In the other games, put eight men in the box — Wilson included — against an array of inexperienced and unproven quarterbacks. Dare Arkansas’ Austin Allen, Auburn’s John Franklin, Alabama’s Blake Barnett, South Carolina’s Perry Orth, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald to prove they can beat you with passes over the top.

That’s the way I’d play it.

However, the next four months will allow ample time to speculate and debate how Chavis will play the wild card.
Discussion from...

Wild Cards: Texas A&M and the curious case of Donovan Wilson

10,195 Views | 7 Replies | Last: 4 yr ago by texag86
Olin Buchanan
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Wild Cards: Texas A&M and the curious case of Donovan Wilson
BQ05
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Bones!!
Aggie MHA
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AG
We put in the nickel package in several times last year in situations that wouldn't normally make sense based on down & distance. This guy changes the game.

If the LBS can't prove themselves, run the 4-2-5, stack Wilson behind Will at 45 degree angle, few yards back, shift LBS couple feet to stong side... let the man play a hybrid nickel/SS/LB. At 205 he's bigger than some of our LBS were previously...
Class of '10. A&M Undergrad '09 & Masters '12. GIG EM
Amazing Moves
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Yep. Got to have that guy on the field. The Ags should create a lot of turnovers also.
StickTogetherAgs
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Love you OB!
AzAg80
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Barring LB injury (like that would never happen), I would use Wilson mostly in passing situations and get our younger LB's (Moore, Dodson, etc) some playing time. We can't continue to not play 3 LB's because we may not have 3 outstanding players...it's a vicious circle that perpetuates the dilemma and probably does not make A&M look like a good landing spot for LB recruits. We have had recruiting issues with RB's and TE's also because the perception has been we don't use them.
Mr. Black
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Donovan's a playmaker, just like Mathieu (Honey Badger) was for Chief, no doubt about it. You find ways to get guys like that on the field as much as possible. I wish he was about thirty pounds heavier so that we could just play him at LB.
texag86
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quote:
Donovan's a playmaker, just like Mathieu (Honey Badger) was for Chief, no doubt about it. You find ways to get guys like that on the field as much as possible. I wish he was about thirty pounds heavier so that we could just play him at LB.


Agreed!
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