Hop's Defensive Grades – OSU

Youthful mistakes and making plays.It's a fact of life in most organized sports, especially at the D-1 collegiate level. If you play inexperienced, young players, then it is inevitable that they will have a momentary loss of focus or a mental mistake along the way. Websider's David Sandhop grades the Aggie defense against OSU.

Youthful mistakes and making plays. It's a fact of life in most organized sports, especially at the D-1 collegiate level. If you play inexperienced, young players, then it is inevitable that they will have a momentary loss of focus or a mental mistake along the way. With the Aggies starting two true freshmen defensive backs and playing two true freshmen linebackers, this year's team is the ultimate in a youthful experiment. The players appear faster and more talented than in recent years, and it results in better play as a whole. This Aggie defense has its moments like stuffing OSU at the goal line on fourth down, containing a very dangerous Cowboy offense to just one score in their first seven drives of the game, and intercepting a pass negated a previous turnover by the A&M offense.

But, add in the fact that OSU then scored three touchdowns on its four second half possessions. Add in the fact that a freshman safety fell down on a deep ball that resulted in a quick six points. And in regard to making the big play, you had a true freshman cornerback in perfect position to make an interception but let's the ball slip through his fingers into the waiting arms of a Cowboy receiver in the end zone for another six points.

This defense is getting better – much better than last year's inept unit. However, they still need to learn how to make the big play and take advantage of opportunities presented on the field. We're now closing in on the halfway point in this season and it's time to start wondering when this team and this unit gets over the proverbial hump of youth and inexperience. At some point, these lessons learned will pay dividends and these talented fish will turn into talented and experienced veterans who make the big plays when the opportunity is presented. Given the daunting schedule ahead, hopefully getting over that hump is sooner rather than later.

Defensive Line B-

OSU was without its number one running back Kendall Hunter, but the rushing attack still managed 170 yards on the ground. Backup Keith Toston controlled the game late by moving the sticks with his 26 carries for 130 yards. Every carry went for positive yardage which tells us that A&M's push up-front was not sufficient. Still, the defensive line had its moments garnering 22 tackles as a unit. While they didn't notch any sacks, Von Miller did get a tackle for loss and made several other tackles near the line on impressive inside moves against all-American tackle Russell Okung. Matt Moss continues to improve and he was active along the line all day, and then he added the cherry on top with the incredible close range interception that somehow stuck in his paws. With all that said, when the front line needed a stop in the second half, they were unable to stop the plodding ground game led by Toston.

Linebacker C-

Garrick Williams gets better every week. He came in and blew up a screen pass that had big yardage written all over it, and he seems to be more comfortable pursuing the ball than he did last year. He's still making a few mistakes, but his performance is encouraging for the future. Remember, he's only a sophomore. The biggest concern is at inside linebacker. Kyle Mangan does seem to have the confidence in run support and as a result he's slow to the play on many occasions. Michael Hodges has better instincts in the run game, but he's physically overmatched out there. The times they've experimented with Michael LaMothe, he's shown he's not ready yet. The inside position will be a concern the rest of the way. Sean Porter has his moments, but he too can be tentative at times and that causes him to be late to the ball.

Defensive Back C-

There's been a lot of hand wringing over Dustin Harris. Yes, he had the interception go through his hands and he gave up several big third down pass plays. However, he was in decent position for most of those plays and he was simply outmuscled and outmaneuvered. He has the skills to be a good cover corner at this level, but he will need to add some bulk in the offseason and come back 10-15 pounds heavier in muscle mass. It will make a world of difference. Steven Campbell made some nice plays in run support, but he's not ready to do what needs to be done in pass coverage and it showed on Saturday. Trent Hunter made the big stop on the fourth and goal play in the first half that stopped a Cowboy touchdown. That was a big play at the time. Terrence Frederick is quietly becoming a very good Big 12 cornerback and I see all-conference honors in his future before he's done.

Special Teams C

The weak-legged punter has already contributed to one loss up in Arlington. It will cost A&M again this season. We've known that for a while, but what is confusing me is the progressively weak kickoffs by Randy Bullock. Hitting low kicks to the 15 yard line is a killer for any return team. It also puts the defense at a disadvantage with the offense starts 3-4 drives out past the 30-35 yard line. The 50 yard field goal was a pleasant surprise but why can't we see that power on the kickoffs with a tee? The Aggies also experienced some snap problems on the kicks which resulted in a missed three points. That stuff must be cleaned up with a young team heading on the road for the next four games out of five.


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