Spring Report Card: Defensive Line

It's not every year that a team loses 3of its 4 defensive line starters to the NFL, but as the draft looms ahead that could very well happen for seniors Chris Harrington, Red Bryant, and Henry Smith. For the spring then, all eyes were on the new guys to see who could step up and earn their starting shot.

At defensive end, the team seems to have reloaded rather well. While no one player may be ready to fill the shoes of Harrington just yet, they retain starter Cyril Obiozor as well as Michael Bennett, who played significant minutes all of last year.

With Michael Bennett out for most of the spring to take care of his academics, Amos Gbunblee has had a chance to contribute early and play with the first team. He has also used this time to be one of the vocal leaders on the field and is constantly cheering on his teammates.

Overall, the ends look like a solid group, and while they don't have that one dependable playmaker, they bring some experience and versatility to the position with the different athletes they can put out there.

At defensive line, the story is almost opposite. Big man Kellen Heard has the potential to be all-Big 12, but the interior is sorely lacking in depth and experience.

The line has played as well as can be expected given all the changes and new faces placed at the position. Heard constantly shows flashes of greatness, but then seems to disappear for entire drills. Lucas Patterson has held his own in the middle, but has made no big plays worth mentioning thus far.

With only two or sometimes one man counting as the defensive linemen, playmakers like Heard can carry this unit on their backs. But from a realistic standpoint, in order to survive a season's worth of injuries and rest, some freshmen better come to campus ready to get out on Kyle their fish year.

Projected Starters:

DE: Cyril Obiozor
The only returning starter had a solid spring, and should be a lock to retain the left end position. Cyril uses his size well, but needs to work on getting around his defender in pass protection to get to the quarterback.

DT: Kellen Heard
Kellen really impressed me this spring. He looks slimmed down, even though he is still huge, and he can now boast some swim moves to his mainly bull rushing arsenal. It will be Kines' task to find the "waterboy" passion for Heard, since he cannot be stopped if he decides to break through the line.

DT: Lucas Patterson
Lucas won the job nearly by default, due to the lack of competition at the position. He needs to work on his explosiveness and technique to break into the backfield, but he is very aware and always gets a hand on a runner coming in either of his gaps.

DE: Amos Gbunblee
Amos is my pick to start opposite Cyril for the fall semester. In both individual and team drills, Amos seems to be the most constant presence in the backfield out of the entire defense. While he is relatively new at the position, he is a very natural looking end, and he has a high ceiling as he gets more comfortable with this spot.

The Best of the Rest:

DE: Michael Bennett
Many people's pick to be the starter in the fall, Michael has all the tools he needs to cap off a great career at Texas A&M, if he can reignite the desire to do so. Bennett has several hurdles to leap in his mind, both for the classroom and the fire to be on the field.

DE: Matt Moss
This JUCO prospect may be a bit undersized, but his experience more than makes up for it on the field. Matt has been very difficult to block all spring, and has a particular knack for batting down slants, doing so several times a day. He brings both value and depth to this position.

DL: Chris Smith
Probably the only other interior man that is worthy of constant rotation, Chris came on late in the spring and reeled off some very productive practices that should carry him well into the spring game and next year. Chris has trouble shedding blockers at times, but if he will use his hands more he can be very successful.


DE: Cody Williams
Probably the most impressive looking physical specimen on the A&M team at the moment, Cody has the highest ceiling of any end. If he can improve on his speed and not make as many freshmen mistakes, he can not only earn a spot in the rotation, but become a force to be reckoned with for the aggies.

Taylor's Grade for Defensive Line: C+

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