Cornerback Deshazor Everett had barely gotten comfortable in his seat before the question was asked.
Defense going to be any better?
“Could we get much worse?,” Everett replied.
It’s been a fun two years for Texas A&M in the SEC, the Aggies winning 20 games, two bowls and a Heisman Trophy. The excitement of Johnny Manziel running Kevin Sumlin’s rocket-fueled offense has paid for renovations to Kyle Field and made fools of all the folks who doubted the system would work in the SEC.
But there was a downside – Texas A&M’s defense has been hold-your-nose awful. A sub-par ninth-place finish in total defense in 2012 was masked by an 11-2 year, but when the Aggies free-fell to 14thlast season, the questions re-emerged.
“We’ve got to play better, that’s all we can take from it,” he said. “To give up as many points as we did as a defense is embarrassing. We’re definitely going to come out stronger this year.”
As he put it, it would be hard not to. The Aggies gave up 475.8 yards and 32.2 points per game last year, each the worst mark in the SEC. Of their four losses, two were because they couldn’t stop the opponent when they had to (49-42 to Alabama, 45-41 to Auburn).
Sumlin said the Texas A&M defense has to show it can force a few three-and-outs in the second half.
“Guys like (Daeshon Hall) and Myles Garrett, some of the others, Julien Obioha, who has been starting since he was a freshman, those guys that can create their own pass-rush, which will give us a chance to keep our secondary intact, instead of bringing guys out the back end,” Sumlin said. “All that makes your defense a lot better.”
A&M lost Gavin Stansbury, Isaiah Golden and Darian Claiborne after offseason troubles and will be without De’Vante Harris for Thursday’s season-opener at No. 9 South Carolina due to a urinary tract injury. Two other players who were arrested this summer, Victor Davis and Howard Matthews, were listed as starters on the depth chart.
Everett held nothing back, saying that in 2013, many of the Aggies’ defenders didn’t play with discipline or cared enough while on the field. The attitude seemed to be, “Let ‘em score so Johnny can get the ball back and we can score.”
“If we play the way we expect to play -- or if we play the way we believe we can play, I shouldn’t say we expect to play -- we’ll be a lot better,” Everett said.
The Gamecocks have numerous offensive weapons and will try to burn clock, keeping A&M’s offense off the field.
The law of averages says that A&M must be better than the defensive stinker it was in 2013. The Aggies know that and hope that it’s true.
“It’s understanding the game,” Everett said. “That’s what coach has taken the time to do – explain things to us. With the younger players, he explains to them why the guy next to them is doing what he’s doing and why they need to do their job. It all sort of works together.”
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