Texas A&M football spring position preview: Edge rusher presents variety of options

There's more quality depth at the edge rusher position than there has been in quite some time for Texas A&M football.
Sep 30, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies linebacker Chris Russell Jr. (24) and
Sep 30, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies linebacker Chris Russell Jr. (24) and / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M football spring position preview: Edge rusher could be as talented as Elko has had in College Station

Back when Mike Elko was solely over the defense for Texas A&M football, a big complaint with his defenses in 2019 and 2020 had to do with the pass-rush-by-committee nature that they took on. Despite boasting Justin Madubuike in the former year and DeMarvin Leal in both seasons, neither was absolutely dominant when rushing the passer.

It wasn't until 2021, when Tyree Johnson really came into his own, that Elko finally had that toolsy, twitched-up edge rushing type. Johnson stepped up huge in big moments, especially in the Alabama game, but was a bit inconsistent due to his availability. There wasn't another player behind him with that same skillset, so there was a severe dropoff at the position when he wasn't out there.

Thanks to high school and portal recruiting, the situation that Elko returns to in College Station is much different—in a very positive way. Not only have a dynamic duo in Malick Sylla and Enai White been waiting to break out, the Aggies added the sacks leader from the MAC in Bowling Green's Cashius Howell.

Last year, Howell totaled 9.5 sacks and 10.5 TFLs. Now, that was at a lower level, but his film is something to be excited about. He's exactly the type of hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker player that fits the edge rusher mold well. He will be deployed situationally for the Aggies, as would anyone that plays this position in Elko's defense.

Behind him (presumably) is Malick Sylla. Sylla had a super high ceiling coming into college, and has played here and there for DJ Durkin's defense, but he had trouble making a big impact. This, I believe, is the year for him to do so. He's packed on muscle in his time in College Station, and hopefully the strength and conditioning program of Tommy Moffitt will aid him in retaining the speed and bend he needs to be a dangerous edge rusher.

Then, you have Enai White. White was actually ranked higher than Sylla coming out of high school, but injury has derailed his progress so far. He will be limited in the spring according to Elko, but he's a guy that has the tools to put things together quickly if the chips fall right.

All things considered, I expect the lion's share of the reps this fall to be split between Howell and Sylla. Having multiple guys to play this position in your defense is invaluable and affects the rest of the roster as well: you don't need to be playing anyone out of position, and it allows other players to remain at their true spot. The pass rush in College Station is looking more and more formidable.