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Texas A&M Football

Previewing the potential of Texas A&M's 2022 defensive backfield

January 26, 2022
6,596

‘Once upon a midnight dreary
As I pondered consulting Siri
For the answer to a query
SEC quarterbacks would deplore

What’s the preseason starting projection
For A&M’s defensive backs collection
Anticipating interceptions, rejections
or deflections and nothing more?’

Please forgive my assault on “The Raven,” a classic piece of American literature. In truth, if asked my thoughts on “The Raven,” I’d generally answer that Floyd was a solid defensive back, and his coffee is delicious.

Yet, lately, much like Edgar Allen Poe, I’ve been haunted by late-night thoughts of an A&M secondary that could really give Aggies something to crow about.

A&M’s secondary was very good in 2021. In fact, A&M was ranked 17th in the nation in pass defense. Opponents averaged fewer than 200 passing yards and managed only 13 touchdown passes all season.

Potentially, Texas A&M’s secondary could be — perhaps should be — even better in 2022. True, there might not be as much help from a dominant pass rush, but safety Leon O’Neal is the only starter lost from the group.

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Demani Richardson ranked third on the team this past season for tackles with 65. 

Three-year starting safety Demani Richardson opted to resist the allure of the NFL Draft and return for his senior season. Junior cornerback Jaylon Jones has started since his freshman year.

Sophomore cornerback Tyreek Chappell was impressive as a true freshman. Junior nickelback Antonio Johnson was named to All-SEC and All-American teams.

Further, super-senior cornerback Myles Jones, a starter in 2020, is returning from a foot injury that forced him to miss almost all of last season. Brian George, also injured last season, will be back, too.

So will sophomore cornerback Deuce Harmon, who was solid in a backup role last season. And freshman Denver Harris — a five-star prospect rated the No. 3 cornerback recruit in the nation — has joined the fold.

There is an embarrassment of riches in the A&M secondary. But how will that wealth be distributed? Who will start? And where?

Such queries keep me awake pondering the possibilities.

Seemingly, the only sure thing is Richardson will remain a starter at safety. But who will take over the starting spot vacated by O’Neal’s departure?

That’s a question to be answered by D.J. and TJ. That is, of course, new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and defensive backs coach TJ Rushing.

They will have some things to consider, though.

The general consensus is Johnson would slide from nickel to safety. He’s big, fast and prone to making big plays.

However, he’s emerged as a bona fide star at nickel. And since A&M typically plays five defensive backs, there could be some hesitation to shift him from a position where he’s excelled.

The other options at safety appear to be sophomore Jardin Gilbert and highly-regarded incoming freshmen Bryce Anderson and Deyon “Smoke” Bouie.

David Bowie
Incoming freshman Bryce Anderson will add depth to A&M’s secondary unit at safety. 

Or there could be another.

Jaylon Jones arrived in College Station as a five-star recruit three years ago. Even then, some suggested he was a better prospect at safety than cornerback.

Jaylon Jones had a few issues last season. He was beaten on four of the 13 touchdown passes the Aggies surrendered. That doesn’t necessarily mean he had a bad year, but maybe he’ll get a look at safety.

Or he could stay at corner. Or he could shift to nickel should Johnson move to safety.

Let’s say, he shifts to nickel. Then, Chappell likely remains a starter at corner with Myles Jones on the other side.

Except…

Coach Jimbo Fisher has never been apprehensive about starting a true freshman. As mentioned, Jaylon Jones started as a true freshman cornerback in 2020, and Chappell did last season.

What if Harris proves as good as projected? Would D.J. and TJ choose his considerable talent over Myles Jones’ wealth of experience?

Sure, there are other questions to be answered. I wonder whether Haynes King, Max Johnson or even freshman Conner Weigman will start at quarterback.

I wonder about the receiving corps and new faces in the offensive line. I wonder if tight end Baylor Cupp can stay healthy and reach his awesome potential. I wonder if the pass rush will remain dominant.

Mostly, though, I stay awake wondering how that potentially spectacular secondary will be arranged. A&M has seven months to figure that out.

This means I have seven months to stay up late pondering:

‘Who’ll start in the A&M secondary
Which projects to be extraordinary
Rendering passes by adversaries
incomplete and nothing more.’

Discussion from...

Previewing the potential of Texas A&M's 2022 defensive backfield

4,491 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 5 mo ago by JustisWalkert
leardriver
How long do you want to ignore this user?
AG
Not bad, Olin. Not bad bad at all.
Sometimes if you want a different answer, you have to ask a different question.
JustisWalkert
How long do you want to ignore this user?
AG
So I take it by this token
the Grackle's curse will now be broken.
The forward pass for six point score
shall haunt our memory nevermore.

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