3. Defensive Line is better than last year’s
One of Texas A&M’s most fun trends as of late is the elite defensive line they seem to always have. For pretty much all of the 2010s, it seems that the Ags have had a dominant set of big men in the trenches, terrorizing quarterbacks and stuffing running backs. 2018 was no different.
The Aggies finished third in the nation in rush defense, allowing less than 96 yards rushing per game. They also finished 13th in tackles for loss and were in the top 20 for team sacks, just shy of three sacks a game. Against the Aggies, Kentucky’s shifty running back Benny Snell was only able to rack up a mere 60 yards and never saw the end zone.
2018 saw an improved and reinvigorated Daylon Mack, an even more vicious Kingsley Keke and Landis Durham, plus a great set of sure-tackling linebackers, Tyrel Dodson and Otaro Alaka. It may have been an exceptional year for the Aggies front seven, but 2019 is bringing some major changes. Each of the aforementioned players have all moved on from Texas A&M, leaving a huge swath of positions to fill. Fear not, Ags. Even though this next group will be younger and less experienced, we’re predicting that the 2019 set of d-linemen will actually be better than 2018’s.
One of the main reasons is the return of Justin Madubuike. The interior defensive lineman from McKinney, Texas burst onto the scene in 2018 as one of the most explosive players on the roster. He managed to double his total tackles from the year before, recorded 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Those who did not know about him this time last year know his name now. Sportsday.dallasnews.com has him listed as the number three defensive lineman in the SEC and he will likely be taken in the early part of the NFL Draft.
Another factor that led to this bold prediction is the growth and development of Bobby Brown. Brown was one of the biggest recruitment stories in 2018, choosing Texas A&M over Alabama. While he did not start as a true freshman, Brown saw action in nine games and racked up fourteen tackles. 2019 should bring him a starting spot and more success.
Brown has put on a fair bit of weight which is going to allow him to stay at the defensive tackle position rather than going outside. This will serve the Aggies well, continuing the trend of clogging up the space between the tackles.
Landis Durham signed with the Los Angeles Rams and Kingsley Keke was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. But just like Brown will replace Daylon Mack, the two edge rushers will have their own stellar replacements. It is not for sure who will win the starting defensive end positions yet for 2019, but that is nothing anyone should be worrying about.
The Aggie defensive line is quite similar to the Aggies wide receivers in the fact that they have depth, true depth. Returning to the field is Tyree Johnson, a Washington DC native and man who proved he can play some serious football in the playing time he received.
Coming back from an injury is Michael Clemons, Myles Garrett’s initial replacement. Clemons did not play in 2018, but was looking strong this spring training. Max Wright will be returning as well. He saw action in every game in 2018 and even won the team’s Special Teams Newcomer of the Year Award.
The returning depth at defensive end will be what the Ags rely on most in the early part of the season, but around week four things may begin to change. Incoming freshman Demarvin Leal will be on campus this fall, initiating, what is predicted to be, one special career. The Army All-American is a sight to watch.
The 5-star recruit did not make for spring ball. If he did, he would likely be listed as a week one starter. What he does is provide even more depth and a sense of explosiveness of the edge. Leal is no joke and is one of the best recruits the Aggies have ever seen. The question is not if he will make an impact, but when.
As previously stated, the Aggies have true depth on the defensive line. If you haven’t figured out yet, they have the star power as well. Last year there was some depth and some of the star power, but not like 2019 is lined up to be. Sure, it is bold to say that a unit with possibly only one starting senior and maybe even a freshman will be better than a unit with three NFL players, but bold is what we’re here for. Do not be surprised if this prophecy comes to fruition.