On the field…
Floyd Raven should be much more of a factor in his sophomore season.
Much like the quarterbacks, there really aren’t many numbers you can go on for the A&M secondary, the group is just too new. The only player that seriously factored into last year’s numbers that will also factor this year is senior corner Dustin Harris.
For the sake of consistency though, we’ll go ahead and run down last year’s stats. The Aggies were 109th in the country in overall passing defense, with opposing quarterbacks averaging over 11 yards per completion, and more than 7 yards per attempt. In the more accurate passing efficiency defense, the Aggies finished just inside the top 70.
Last year, the Aggies defended 511 pass attempts, and when you add in their 51 sacks on the season, they actually defended an impressive 562 pass plays. One thing you can almost certainly bet on this season is that they’ll defend fewer passes.
Harris had 8 pass break-ups a season ago and one interceptions, but there were times that Harris struggled in both man-to-man and zone coverage schemes. This year the Aggies will add the athletic but inexperienced corners Floyd Raven and Deshazor Everett into the mix, as well as junior college transfer Tremaine Jacobs. Freshman DeVante Harris could also be a factor at the corner position.
At the safety position, the Aggies have an experienced player in Steven Campbell, but his health is always a concern. Howard Matthews saw playing time last season, but he struggled at times in pass coverage. On the other hand, he did show the ability to come up into the box and make plays in the running game, something that will be vital this season. Hurd, who has split time between secondary positions, also plays downhill well and will be a factor in run support. Mid-term enrollee Kenneth Marshall didn't practice this spring, but figures to be in the mix for playing time this fall. He would give the Aggies another physical presence in the secondary. There are a few other players in the mix at the safety spot as well, and that's definitely going to be a spot to watch this fall camp.
A&M will only face a few teams that really air the ball out, and one of them, Arkansas, will likely be running the ball much more this season with the return of their star back Knile Davis. That means that in A&M’s higher profile games, there won’t be as much pressure on the secondary as their was a season ago. However, the pressure will be there early in the season as both Louisiana Tech, and especially SMU will try to attack the Aggies through the air.
The obvious good news for the secondary is they’re facing a prolific passing attack in practice every day. The way that the A&M offense has them moving around chasing the spread will help them against passing teams, but also against spread rushing teams like Missouri and Mississippi State.
However, like the quarterbacks, most of this is conjecture, because we really don’t know what this secondary is going to look like until they get things going.
Deshazor Everett was one of the biggest surprises of the spring.
On the sideline…
Marcel Yates has taken the secondary reins from Chuck McMillian. At Boise State last year, his Bronco secondary finished 43rd in the country in pass efficiency defense, and 43rd in overall passing defense. The Bronco’s finished in the top 20 in total defense a season ago, off of their usual ranking in the top ten. The season before, Boise finished the year fourth in the nation in passing defense, allowing just 151 yards per game through the air.
Of all of Kevin Sumlin’s coaching staff hires, the former secondary coach from Boise State was certainly one of the biggest. He had a proven track record at his alma mater, and has had great success recruiting even though he was at a Non-AQ school.
The way that the Aggies are going to play is going to put pressure on the corners. Mark Snyder has said that he likes to blitz often, and his numbers back that up. As a result, the young A&M corners are going to be put in man-to-man situations at times. The key for the Aggie secondary isn’t going to be not giving up big plays, they’re going to do that. The key is bouncing back from those plays and not giving up more of them.