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Texas A&M Football

Texas A&M's strong pass rush poised to rack up more sacks vs. Ole Miss

November 10, 2021
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Defensive linemen are like hawks.

They see a target. Keep a close watch. Wait for an opening. Swoop in for the kill … or, in the case of defensive linemen, a sack.

Texas A&M’s defensive linemen are hawkish.

Lately, though, DeMarvin Leal, Tyree Johnson, Micheal Clemons, McKinnley Jackson and Jayden Peevy have been more like buzzards, gathering beside a highway to pick over roadkill.

“We always say we’ll meet at the quarterback,” Clemons said.

Their next target is Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, who’s struggling with an ankle injury but is OK to play on Saturday.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Clemons’ fumble recovery returned for a touchdown accounted for the only time either team crossed the goal line on Saturday.

The combination of A&M’s pass rush and limping quarterback could set up a fun night at the OK Corral for the Aggies’ pass rush that has produced 13 sacks in the last four games.

Conversely, Ole Miss quarterbacks have been sacked 13 times in the last four games.

Leading the A&M pass rush charge is senior defensive end Tyree Johnson. He has eight sacks this season, seven of which have come in the Aggies’ current four-game winning streak.

Johnson had 9.5 sacks in his first three seasons combined.

“This year, it’s starting to come together for me,” Johnson said. “Mix in the experience, the film study and having guys on my team like Micheal Clemons and DeMarvin Leal really motivates me. It drives me.

“You see that type of guys have the success they have and the type of players they are … it’s kind of like I’m here, too. I’m just trying to make them notice.”

He’s getting noticed.

Johnson was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the third time after posting two sacks and forcing a fumble in A&M’s 20-3 victory over Auburn.

He did that despite only playing on third downs because he’s struggling with a leg injury.

“If I was 100 percent, I’m scared of what I could’ve done against Auburn,” Johnson said. “I think I can close out this season pretty strong. I’m really motivated right now. I’m looking forward to what I can do in the next three games.”

The thought might scare Corral. He has been sacked 21 times and is now behind a makeshift offensive line.

The Rebels have allowed 21 sacks. They’ve given up at least two sacks in every game except a 52-51 victory over Arkansas.

Ole Miss allowed five sacks against Tennessee when Corral was hurt. Ole Miss quarterbacks have been sacked 13 times in the last four games.

“I think I can close out this season pretty strong. I’m really motivated right now. I’m looking forward to what I can do in the next three games.”
- A&M DE Tyree Johnson

None of those opponents have a stronger pass rush than A&M.

The Rebels cannot focus on blocking Johnson because Leal has 5.5 sacks and Clemons has 3.5. No SEC trio has combined for more. Also, defensive coordinator Mike Elko has a knack for calling up blitzes at the precise time.

Who would the Rebels elect to double-team to protect Corral?

“I’d say me,” Johnson said.

That would be wise. Except that right guard Ben Brown, the Rebels’ best offensive lineman, was lost for the remainder of the season because of a torn bicep.

Leal frequently moves inside on obvious passing downs. He’s a mismatch for a backup guard.

Actually, there could be several mismatches in A&M’s favor along the line of scrimmage. Johnson could be one, too.

“Our guys are getting better in their technique,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Tyree is one of those guys I talk about. He can get to that edge and bend. He can sink those hips, and he can turn that corner and turn speed to power and keep good leverage and balance. That’s a talent now.

“Lower body flexibility. We talk about muscles and big stuff, but you’ve got to have lower body flexibility to play.

“Your ankles, your hips, be able to sink with power. Football is a low-to-high game. You can draw it up 100 different ways. It’s low-to-high power. You can bench press all you want. If you can’t create with those legs and hips, it doesn’t matter.”

The Aggies have defensive linemen with good legs and feet. Ole Miss has a quarterback with a bad ankle.

Consequently, the Rebels might rely more heavily on their running game.

Except, that A&M is 28th in the nation in run defense. The Aggies have held four of their last five opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards.

Eyes like a hawk are not required to see A&M has an advantage.

Discussion from...

Texas A&M's strong pass rush poised to rack up more sacks vs. Ole Miss

5,127 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 2 yr ago by Tripacer
Cotton79
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AG
A good read, Olin. As usual. Gig'em, Aggies!
Meximan
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Is

Is this the first time Olin's turned in an article without a single baffling, comical typo?!
Tripacer
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Where is my vocabulary word OB? There's nothing more pulchritudinous than a well placed vocabulary word.
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