The Texas A&M football team has to replace two NFL draft picks a the defensive end position. Who will step up in place of Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall?
Let’s start with the obvious, there is no replacing Myles Garrett. No matter how much Johnny Manziel revolutionized the passing attack in the SEC, it’s still a league won in the trenches.
Texas A&M has a good amount of depth on the interior of the defensive line. The end position is a different story. Unfortunately there aren’t many options left. In an ideal situation the Aggies wouldn’t have to play either of their freshman immediately. That won’t be a luxury that Kevin Sumlin or his staff will have this season.
The Texas A&M football spring roster had four defensive ends listed. Reggie Chevis has since transferred. Add two more incoming freshman to that list and you get six guys. That’s thinned out considerably from a season ago, leaving just a short list of names for Aggies to know in 2017.
2017 defensive end depth chart
Jarrett Johnson was the man called upon in 2016 when Myles Garrett missed time with injuries. He saw an increased role during the middle portion of the schedule when Garrett was limited to third downs. Johnson finished with 18 tackles (5.5 for a loss) and 3.5 sacks. He’ll be called upon for much more in 2017.
Michael Clemons is the newest Aggie starter. He joins the program from Cisco College and will be a godsend for defensive coordinator John Chavis. At 6-foot 6-inches and 240 pounds he has similar measurables to former Texas A&M defender Daeshon Hall. Clemons picked the maroon and white over Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee and others.
A reserve play for his first three years in College Station, Qualen Cunningham will challenge Johnson for a starting role in fall camp. A 4-star recruit from Arizona, Cunningham hasn’t lived up to expectations. That said, it’s excusable to some degree. Not many would have found time on the field with Garrett and Hall in front of them. Cunningham has 43 tackles (7.0 for a loss) and 4.5 sacks to his name as an Aggie. He stands a reasonable chance to nearly double those numbers next season.
Recruited as a linebacker, Landis Durham has made the transition to defensive end. He played in four games in 2016 registering three tackles, one for a loss of nine yards. Ideally he’d play a similar reserve role this coming season, but the Aggies will need him to play regular minutes often. An injury is all that stands between him and a possible starting role.
A 3-star recruit out of Washington D.C., Johnson was highly regarded across the nation. He received offers from Miami, Ole Miss, Iowa, Baylor and Texas. Johnson elected to come to College Station, denying a late rally from Baylor. At 6-foot 3.5 inches and 247 pounds, he could use a bit more size before becoming a regular contributor in 2018.
Also a 3-star, Robinson too represented an in-state victory for the Aggies over the Longhorns and Bears. He comes in with a slightly smaller frame that Johnson, 6-foot 3.5 inches and 236 pounds. He, like Johnson, will be setting his eyes on 2018 with a decent chance at seeing some reserve duty this season.
That’s it, all six defensive ends that the Aggies have on their roster for 2017. There will likely be a few walk ons that get added to the list before Texas A&M football opens their season against the UCLA Bruins. They’ve got an uphill battle and some big shoes to fill.