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Photo by Lia Musgrave, TexAgs
Texas A&M Football

No Madubuike, no problem: Johnson, Hines expect defense to improve in 2020

August 24, 2020

On the surface, the concept is difficult to accept.

Texas A&M loses Justin Madubuike, an All-Southeastern Conference selection, and expects to improve on a unit that last season ranked 29th in the country in total defense.

Madubuike led A&M in tackles for loss, sacks and in tossing Georgia offensive linemen. He was the only player on the A&M defense to earn all-conference honors and was a third-round draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens in this year’s NFL Draft.

He can be replaced.

At least that’s the word from A&M linebacker’s Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines, who’d know as well as anybody. They play directly behind the defensive line.

“(Madubuike) was a different kind of dude,” Johnson said. “I’m excited to see what he’ll do at the next level. He’s a guy we’ll all miss.”

But not too much. It seems tackles Bobby Brown, Jayden Peevy and freshman McKinnley Jackson have made quite an impression on the linebackers during August camp.

“I would never say this is the best. All the guys have been good. The D-line has always been great. It’s fun playing behind them. Those guys play fast. I love it.”
- A&M linebacker Buddy Johnson

“We have a great D-line right now,” Johnson said. “I would never say this is the best. All the guys have been good. The D-line has always been great. It’s fun playing behind them. Those guys play fast. I love it.”

Hines echoed that sentiment.

“It just comes down to — each year — the next man has to step up,” Hines said. “I’m really confident in the guys we have now. Jayden Peevy, Bobby Brown, DeMarvin Leal … These are animals themselves. They’re really good players. They’ve been working their butts off this entire offseason. I’m really confident in their ability to take that step.”

If they take steps forward, the overall A&M defense likely will, too.

The Aggies’ defense was good in 2019.

A&M allowed an average of just 22.6 points despite facing three of the four highest-scoring FBS teams in the country (LSU, Alabama and Clemson). The Aggies ranked 30th in run defense and 41st in pass defense.

Their goal this season is to be better. Much better. Like championship level.

“That’s the goal,” Hines said. “In practice, we’ve really been focused on assignments … the little discipline things that it takes to be the best defense in the country. Beyond that, we have the talent. That’s never been the question. So we’re really trying to make those things mesh. We’re working toward that every single day.”

Johnson said he and his teammates understand the potential of the defense, and they’re making every effort to realize that potential.

“Guys are flying around. There’s a lot of energy going on. A lot of competitiveness out there,” Johnson said. “The energy is contagious. Guys are just playing fast. It’s just so fun. It’s the ‘want-to’ coach (Jimbo) Fisher is always talking about.”

There are a variety of reasons to believe A&M’s defense could improve.

Sophomore defensive end DeMarvin Leal is predicted to have a break-out year. The defensive tackle position remains sound. Leal and an influx of fast freshmen figure to boost the pass rush. There is more experience and speed in the secondary.

Perhaps the primary reason, though, could be the experience at linebacker. Last year was the first for both Johnson and Hines as starters. Also, Hines was coming back from a knee injury that forced him to miss most of the 2018 season.

Rey Romo, TexAgs
Anthony Hines enters 2020 another year removed from his knee injury and looks to improve on a productive 2019 campaign.

They both had solid showings. Johnson registered 77 tackles with 9.5 for losses. Hines had 73 tackles with 10.5 resulting in lost yardage.

They think they can be even more productive because they’re more familiar with defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s playbook and scheme.

“We can be great together,” Johnson said. “Me and Anthony have high expectations for each other. We always talk to each other like, ‘Let’s go finish this.’ Running this summer, there were times we were gassed, and one of us would be like, ‘We’ve got to do this. Let’s go hard. Let’s find that extra gear. Let’s kick into that extra gear.’

“That’s what it takes. That’s the type of teammate you want to have. Anthony is a guy who pushes me, and I push him. He is a great and smart guy. He’s very twitchy, very fast. He can get to the ball. I just love playing next to him.”

Few would doubt they could be one of the strongest linebacker duos in the SEC. Indeed, the only real question is which one is better.

“Anthony Hines, without a doubt,” Johnson said. “He’s smart. He’s fast. He’s twitchy. He’s dependable. Coach Fisher always talks about accountability, dependability. That’s his two favorite words.

“You can always count on Anthony being where he needs to be, knowing his assignments. You can depend on him. He’s going to show up. He’s going to show up on time, and he’s going to show up with all the effort he can give.”

Hines didn’t disagree. Nor did he agree.

“It depends on the day, honestly,” he said. “We’ve got some dogs. Not even just the first two. We’ve got some animals behind us.”

They would agree that this team could be the best they’ve been on at A&M.

“I definitely agree this is the most talented team since I’ve been here,” Hines said. “To take that next step, it’s all about the details. It’s about those little things. It’s about the effort. Execution needs to be a priority. It’s not OK to make mistakes. We’re trying to win.”

Discussion from...

No Madubuike, no problem: Johnson, Hines expect defense to improve in 2020

4,081 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 7 mo ago by Agsuffering@bulaw
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Madubuike's success and value to last year's defense was not just his talent, but his relentless tenacity in applying that talent on EVERY down. He played like a man possessed.

I remember after Von was drafted, it was not Damontre Moore's talent that was questioned, but his habit of taking plays "off".

In 2012, Damontre addressed this issue and was a terror to opposing offenses.

I went to the game against SMU in Dallas with a friend and, at one point, turned to him and said, "he's going to *effing* kill one of these kids."

Damontre figured it out his senior season and played like every down was his last, like a man possessed.

Our DL is very talented this year, but our success is predicated on our guys taking that same next step, mentally.
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Slamn Sharpe
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Geriatric Punk
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If our defense takes the next step, that will be worth an extra win or two a season, regardless of what happens to the O.
I'd rather drink "Kool-Aid" than go thirsty.
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It's not that hard to conceptualize.

We return ~ 9*/11 defensive starters. Peevy and Chattman, their replacements, looked solid in the bowl game.

We have a solid backup at DE and 2 at LB. We brought in a highly rated Juco CB who should compete for a starting job. We brought in several highly rated young DL and 2 safeties, who should also push for playing time.

I see 2 big questions:

1. Do we find a pass rusher?
2. How does our depth hold up against 10 SEC opponents in 11 weeks?

1. Assuming Leal and Peevy continue to progress, we probably need 6-8 sacks from the starting WDE to have an effective pass rush. Last year, we had to bring in the mod squad to rush the passer with Madabuike. Tyree is up to 250. Jeremiah Martin is up to 260. Orebo is up to 275. Mowry got a year of Juco under his belt. The odds are pretty good that one of them steps up.

2. In a normal year, we would be in pretty good shape. We dont know what the schedule will do, b/c there is no analog involving college players. IF more than one WDE shows he can rush the passer, we can rotate and probably be ok. IF only one steps up. then staff must find ways to protect him.

The only other medium question is Free Safety. Oneal is talented but inconsistent. I feel better there since we brought in 2 good prospects, and DBs often play right away.

*I considered Blades, Tyree and Leal starters. I did not consider Clemons nor Chattman. There is a valid conter-argument.
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