Texas A&M Football Stymies Volunteer Rushing Attack
As I’ve written about a couple of times this week, it is the Volunteer running game that is their bread and butter offensively this year, rather than the downfield passing attack. The Vols have three backs averaging over 5.9 YPC, each with more than 35 attempts. Their leading back, junior Jaylen Wright, is averaging 7.13 YPC on 61 attempts. In other words, this is doubtless the toughest task on this front that the Aggie rushing defense will have faced thus far this season.
Additionally, the style of running that the Volunteers incorporate into their offense is one that the Aggies have struggled with, even with Mike Elko (the apple of many an Aggie’s eye now that he has taken over at Duke) as the defensive coordinator. The Volunteers spread opposing defenses out with extremely wide splits for their receivers, creating light boxes for the backs to run into and leaving plenty of room to stretch carries to the outside. Ole Miss did this same thing with great success to the Aggies last year.
However, this is not the same Aggie rushing defense that we saw last year. Thus far this year, and even in these last few games, the Aggies have played at a level against the run that almost exceeds the moniker of “elite.” Their previous two opponents have averaged 1.08 and 0.88 yards per carry, respectively. When facing this Aggie front, no team has been more than 75% as efficient on the ground as their season-long average, and most barely reach 50% of their normal efficiency. This is because of the consummately talented and deep Aggie front that has just begun to round into form this year. The defensive line has stoned opposing OLs from getting push consistently up front, and allowed senior Edgerrin Cooper and midseason freshman all-America Taurean York to clean things up inside.
The only team to have beaten Tennessee so far this year did so primarily by limiting the Volunteer rushing attack. Florida held the Vols to only 3.33 YPC (which would be the second-highest the Aggies have allowed yet this year if it were on their ledger) and the offense for the Big Orange began to sputter. Even if the Vols face light boxes all day, it will be against the best front 7 they’ve yet seen—so I’ll give the advantage here to the Aggies.