DBs: Ish Aristide vs Bryant Gross-Armiento
This one seems to me to be a clear upgrade. There was a moment when it looked like BGA would stay on as an on-field coach, but following the bowl game, Elko hired another coach for the defensive backfield in Wesley McGriff, occupying the spot that BGA otherwise would have had.
Both of these guys are plus recruiters and have plenty of skins on the wall in that regard. Ish has much more experience, however, and also has acquitted himself better as an actual coach. BGA's time coaching has been one year, and the DB position for the Aggies left a lot to be desired in that period. Simple math here; I'm going to give this one to Ish.
DBs: Wesley McGriff vs. TJ Rushing
Coach Rushing came to College Station in 2020, following the departure of Maurice Linguist, who went to go be the defensive coordinator at Buffalo. As such, he had two seasons working under Elko previously. 2023 was obviously a very tough year for the defensive backs, and while the pass defense was actually really good in 2022, it's been a while since Aggie DBs have consistently displayed good technique; even thinking back to the Alabama game in Rushing's first year, though perhaps that is an unfair standard to set.
McGriff is a legendary recruiter and has coached up some great secondaries in his time. It was the strength of the Auburn defense this past year, and his time at Ole Miss saw him get a lot out of less talented groups.
McGriff and Rushing both are great recruiters, but I think the former's experience is the deciding factor here. Plus, his groups have tended to play with better technique.
DL: Sean Spencer vs. Elijah Robinson
This is a really tough one. Coach Robinson was obviously beloved by the players and one of the top recruiters in the nation, but things ended so strangely that moving on seemed to be the best option at the end of the day for both parties. He had the defensive line playing well for most of the year, though their play tailed off in the final few games. The defensive front was an issue last year as well, though that also has to do with the youth at the position.
Spencer is thought of almost just as highly as Robinson. He was responsible for recruiting none other than Micah Parsons to Penn State during his time there, and he has also shown his mettle already in College Station by landing Nic Scourton. His units are always productive and create a lot of havoc up front: hence the nickname "Coach Chaos."
It's hard to get better than Robinson when it comes to recruiting, but Spencer really isn't very far behind on that front. As far as the actual play of each unit, the inconsistency of the defensive line for the Aggies over the last two years is a bit of a stain on Robinson's record. Of course, Durkin's defensive scheme plays a role as well, but the lack of proper fundamentals that was displayed at times was worrying. Spencer's units have been more sound, in my opinion. At the end of the day, though, this one is another push to me.