SPRING BALL 2008: A look at defense

At the halfway point of spring practice, is the defense on its way to striking fear into opposing quarterbacks once again? How is the defense responding to the change in formation? Are any players standing out above the pack? Aggie Websider's Taylor Freeman takes a look.

Since Coach Sherman has arrived, he has been able to see his players in action on the field for exactly two weeks. For some, this may be barely enough time to evaluate a particular player, much less an entire team, but for the first time patterns are emerging that are showing who is looking to step up and be a difference maker, and who is responding well to a new system.

On defense, there have been a particularly high number of changes in position, and in some cases, in the depth chart. While players are still being juggled around, it is clear who is ready right now to compete in the Big 12 and who is not. As Texas A&M prepares for its second half of spring ball, here is a look at how the defense has looked thus far.

Defensive Line/ Defensive Ends

This unit finds itself in a very interesting position from what it has shown so far. The defensive front four has the athletic potential to be the most dominate position for the Aggies, while also being an injury or two away from being a severe liability to the team's success.

On the interior, Kellen Heard and Lucas Patterson can provide a solid core and have all but nailed down the starting roles, but with the loss of Henry Smith and Red Bryant, this group is dangerously thin. While incoming freshmen such as Roderick Davis may provide immediate depth, look for Texas A&M to show a 3-3-5 look at times, to combat the lack of quality middle men.

At the end position, the staff have been blessed with 5 players that could battle for starting role, in Cyril Obiozor, Amos Gbunblee, Michael Bennett, Matt Moss, and Paul Freeney. With Bennett sidelined in spring practice to get his academics in order, it appears Cyril and Amos have the inside track to stay on the first team. Additionally, Cody Williams could make big strides in the latter half of the spring, and call for placement in the rotation as well.

Linebackers

One thing is apparent in Coach Kines' new defense, the linebackers are asked to say, think, move, and do so much more than they have in previous years. The good news for Aggie fans is it looks like the young corps of starters is up to the task.

The two outside backers seem to be locked in the starting position with Von Miller and Garrick Williams. Both players have struggled at times to guard in coverage, but have continuously gotten better and fill the gaps nicely. The Aggies have a good kind of problem when it comes to the middle slot, that there are three men in the mike position fans would like to see on the field at one time.

Matt Featherston and Anthony Lewis have both looked good, and if one were to become the vocal leader this defense sorely needs than he would probably earn the starting spot. However, if one or both of these players get hurt, freshmen Derrick Stephens should be an adequate replacement.

Defensive Backs

This unit retains many of the players from before, losing only corner Marquis Carpenter from last year's most improved pass defense. This unit has instead focused on meshing position changes like Jordan Pugh back to corner and Jordan Peterson back to safety, and dealing with players coming off of injuries like Danny Gorrer.

At corner, Texas A&M should have three players in Pugh, Gorrer, and Arkieth Brown that will rotate in the starting job, and they have all looked very aggressive so far, attacking balls on every route they are challenged with. This group is still searching for a true lock down guy, but hopefully one of these three can complete their already successful spring and morph into that role.

At safety, the same names as last year are stepping up, with the addition of free safety Kenny Brown. Brown and fellow safety Devin Gregg look very physical in the secondary, and seem to be much more comfortable with their responsibilities in the 4-3 defense. There have been few highlight reel type plays from the safeties, but they also seem disciplined to not allow a highlight play for the other side.




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