Texas A&M Football vs. Miami: Hurricane Offense vs. Aggie Defense
As I mentioned, this is a new-look offense for the Hurricanes under new OC Shannon Dawson. Dawson spent the last few years at the University of Houston under veteran coach Dana Holgerson, where he oversaw the 51st and 18th-ranked offenses in 2021 and 2022, respectively. However, given the fact that he’s an internal hire and had Holgerson at the HC spot, it’s tough to tell how much actual play-calling was his responsibility at that stop.
In any case, the system he does bring is very much one in that Holgerson-Briles tree. The Aggies have seen something similar out of Arkansas the past couple of years—of course, run by a very different style of quarterback than Tyler Van Dyke is in KJ Jefferson. Despite the stereotype of being overly reliant on the pass, it is a system that uses quick throws and spread-out formations to run into light boxes once the defense adjusts; therefore, it will truly be a test of the eye discipline and gap integrity of the front seven for Texas A&M football. Dawson didn’t showcase much misdirection in his first game as the Miami OC, but, of course, he didn’t really have to against a lesser opponent. He’s likely got a script saved up for this game, with a couple of twists to throw at this Aggie defense here and there.
I think the Aggie defense versus the Hurricane offense is the most advantageous matchup for Texas A&M football.
Despite all that, I think the Aggie defense versus the Hurricane offense is the most advantageous matchup for Texas A&M football. DJ Durkin, for however much grief the fanbase gives him, runs a style of defense that is tailor-made to shut down these offenses relative to their normal production. As a bit of a look-ahead, I am similarly high on the Aggie defense in their upcoming matchup against the Tennessee offense for this very reason. In that game as in this one, it will ultimately come down to the Aggies’ ability to stop the run without dedicating an extra man to the box; a prospect about which I feel good against Miami. True, Miami does have a talented OL, but that talent pales in comparison to the talent and depth of the Aggie defensive line—which, to be fair, is true of most teams that A&M will face.
In this respect, I think the key defensive players for the Aggies will be York and Cooper. We already know that Nolen, Jackson, Stewart, Overton, and the rest will be able to handle their business on the line of scrimmage (yes, even against former five-star-turned-freshman-starter Francis Mauigoa and company); it will be up to the backers to stay disciplined, keep on top of their keys, and read and react quickly against the run game that Miami will throw at this Texas A&M football team. They will be similarly necessary in pass defense, as shutting down and punishing short routes and screens will be a key piece of keeping Miami in check.
When it comes to the secondary, I actually have very few concerns. It was a different offensive coordinator that Miami brought into Kyle Field last year, true, but DJ Durkin absolutely made Tyler Van Dyke’s head spin with the looks he gave him on the back end. Hardcore fans may remember the two or three dropped interceptions that the Aggies defensive backs had in that game; all those opportunities being created by the Aggie DC’s scheming in the secondary.
Of course, the true biggest key of all is the ability to tackle well for this Aggie defense—something they were extremely deficient at last year for the most part, but also something that, given a one-game sample size, seems to be somewhat shored up. Miami has talented backs (they spread the wealth pretty well in game 1, but Ole Miss transfer Henry Parrish is the one I have my eye on) and receivers (Xavier Restrepo did not play in last year’s game due to injury, and Colbie Young showed me something in the Hurricanes’ first game of 2023), so the ability to prevent them from getting into the open field will be vital for the Aggies.