The biggest problem with the Texas A&M football team in 2018 was the pass defense; here’s how the defensive back depth chart could play out in 2019.
You can usually pinpoint flaws from any college football team, even the elite ones. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that a team which lost four games in 2018 had one pretty fatal flaw: pass defense. Texas A&M football was awful at it for most of the season and it cost them games.
Specifically, allowing big plays was a major problem. The Aggies gave up big plays on all four of Clemson’s scoring drives, gave up touchdowns on three 3rd and 10+ plays to Mississippi State, and allowed quarterback Jarrett Stidham to carve them up on two touchdown drives in the final six minutes, the second of which took just two plays to go 58 yards for the winner for Auburn.
A&M ranked 122nd in 20-yard plays allowed (54), 122nd in 30-yard plays (27), 120nd in 40+ yard plays (15), and 127th in 50-yard plays (9). They got better as the season went along, but it will be an area of focus for defensive coordinator Mike Elko for the 2019 season.
He has some excellent help returning and coming onto campus from the 2019 recruiting class. Here’s how I believe the 2019 cornerback depth chart will play out.
Myles Jones got better as the season went along and contributed in a major way to the Aggies shutting down NC State’s Top 10 passing attack in the Gator Bowl. Renfro could stand to get better in coverage but is probably the best tackler of the group and provides run support. He could see his spot taken by either Chattman or Blades, both of whom will need to prove they can play at the highest level before Elko trusts them completely, but both provide more upside at the position than Renfro.
Nickel Corner / Rover
Roney Elam played well at times last season, starting at safety for a couple games but primarily appearing on special teams. The former Top 200 overall recruit is a redshirt senior who can provide valuable leadership to this group. Larry Pryor was all over the field for Elko and provided valuable depth.
This could be the biggest competition for playing time of them all. Leon O’Neal was the highest rated recruit in the 2018 class and played often in relief of Donovan Wilson. He started and played well in the Gator Bowl victory. Derrick Tucker has been a two-year starter, replacing Wilson in 2017 eventually and starting this year when healthy. Pryor has experience, but Brian Williams and Demani Richardson — both Top 100 recruits from 2019 — will push them early.
One thing to note about the entire secondary is it’s fluid. The starters from last year hardly solidified their positions, especially with a ton of talent coming in (didn’t yet mention Top 100 2019 corner Erick Young). Keep an eye on this all spring and fall as it’s sure to change multiple times.