Yesterday I took an in-depth look at the Texas A&M offense, spearheaded by quarterback Johnny Manziel. Today I'll switch the attention to the Aggies' defense.
PROJECTED TEXAS A&M STARTING DEFENSE
DE: Gavin Stansbury (6-4, 255, Jr.)
NG: Isaiah Golden (6-2, 310, Fr.)
DT: Ivan Robinson (6-3, 290, Jr.)
RUSH: Julien Obioha (6-4, 255, So.)
WLB: Steven Jenkins (6-2, 220, Sr.)
MLB: Darian Claiborne (6-0, 225, Fr.)
NICK: Toney Hurd Jr. (5-9, 185, Sr.)
CB: De'Vante Harris (6-0, 185, So.)
FS: Floyd Raven Sr. (6-2, 200, Jr.)
BS: Howard Matthews (6-2, 200, Jr.)
CB: Deshazor Everett (6-0, 185, Jr.)
Notable Backups: SLB Donnie Baggs (6-1, 230, Jr.); FS Clay Honeycutt (6-2, 200, Jr.); CB Tramain Jacobs (6-1, 190, Sr.); SLB Shaan Washington (6-3, 220, Fr.)
By just about any measure – statistical, the eye-ball test, etc. – this 2013 Texas A&M defense under co-coordinators Mark Snyder and Marcel Yates has been downright poor.
In fact a great parallel can be made from this year's Aggie defense (and whole team, really) to that of last season's New Orleans Saints. Both units are having historically bad campaigns, letting up yards and points at alarming rates, while both high-powered offenses are doing their best to counteract their leaky counterparts.
Through 10 games A&M owns the SEC's worst total defense, conceding 454.4 yards per game, a full 20.0 yards per game worse than the next team in line (Tennessee). The Aggies rank 13th in the conference in rush defense (210.7 ypg), 12th in pass defense (243.7 ypg) and have given up 230 first downs, the most in the SEC.
Making matters worse: In part because of how quickly the Aggies' offense can score, the defense has been on the field for an eternity this fall. At an average of 27 minutes, 26 seconds, Texas A&M ranks last in the league in time of possession.
Schematically A&M vacillates between a base 4-3 set and a 4-2-5 look that takes advantage of the skillset of senior nickel back Toney Hurd Jr. LSU figures to see both of the Aggies' fronts – the 4-3 when lining up in the I-formation with Jeremy Hill or Kenny Hilliard and the 4-2-5 when going three- or four-wide from the shotgun.
From a production standpoint the Aggies are forced to rely on their secondary to clean up a lot of tackles. Four of the team's top-six tacklers this fall hail from the defensive backfield – BS Howard Matthews (73 tackles, first), CB Deshazor Everett (53, fourth), NICK Toney Hurd Jr. (49, fifth) and De'Vante Harris (41, sixth). Matthews, a junior, also leads the Aggies with three interceptions.
Linebackers Darian Claiborne and Steven Jenkins each have 69 total tackles and have combined for 11.5 tackles for loss. They will see the majority of the field on the defense's second level, but Texas A&M also features strongside linebacker Donnie Baggs (27 tackles, three for loss), who subs in for Hurd in base 4-3, and freshman Shaan Washington (24 tackles, four for loss, three sacks).
Along the defensive front the maroon and white are paced by a pair of Louisiana natives, defensive end Gavin Stansbury (39 tackles, three sacks) and rush end Julien Obioha (31 tackles, five for loss). In fact the Aggies start six players from the Pelican State, adding to the above duo Claiborne, Everett, defensive tackle Ivan Robinson and free safety Floyd Raven Sr. All-told A&M has nine players from Louisiana in its defensive two-deep.
For LSU, which has faced a number of porous pass defenses this season, Texas A&M would still have to rank near or atop the list. Couple that with the fact the Aggies have a worse rush defense than many of those recent Tiger foes, it's easy to see why many expect LSU to hold up its end of the bargain as far as a shootout scenario goes in Death Valley Saturday.
Give us your take on the Texas A&M defense