Aggie Pass Rush Ready for the SEC
By BJ Bennett
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin. Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page
The Aggies undoubtedly have questions on defense. One thing that shouldn't be in doubt, however, is their ability to get to the quarterback.
It was Texas A&M, not Florida State or LSU, who led the nation in sacks last season with 51. Some credit the production to the likes of end Damontre Moore and linebacker Sean Porter, two All-SEC candidates for 2012. Others believe the numbers may have been inflated because the Aggies played a boom-or-bust, heavy-blitz 3-4 scheme in a wide-open offensive league.
Texas A&M struggled to prevent the big play a year ago, but SEC foes shouldn't overlook the aforementioned sack totals. The Aggies recorded at least one sack in every game on their schedule last season and twice had eight in a single game. While the defense wrecked havoc on Big 12 quarterbacks, Texas A&M averaged 5.75 sacks per game out of conference compared to 3.11 sacks per game in league. The Aggies got to Arkansas's Tyler Wilson four times and Northwestern's Dan Persa and Southern Methodist's J.J. McDermott eight times each.
"They just won some one-on-one battles, and I have to get rid of the ball. They just kept coming at it," Persa explained after losing to A&M in the Texas Bowl.
The argument that the Aggies benefited greatly from the competition they played, and that such defensive production isn't likely to transition to the SEC, lacks some merit. While the Big XII threw it more as a whole, opponents ran the football 508 times against Texas A&M a year ago; that's the same number of rushing attempts Alabama had in 2011. The Big XII, as a conference, threw the football 58% of the time. The SEC passed 53% of the time. Considering the SEC's top four quarterbacks return and the conference's most run-oriented team, LSU, now has a pure pocket passer under center, league philosophies could be more similar. Translation; the Aggie pass-rushers will have a chance to make a major impact.
Porter, 6'1'', 230 pound senior, is the A&M version of Jarvis Jones. He led the Big XII with 9.5 sacks in 2011. He and the 6'4'' edge rusher Moore ranked one-two in that category, topping the likes of Oklahoma's Frank Alexander and Jackson Jeffcoat from Texas. Together, Porter and Moore have combined for 52 tackles for loss in their respective careers. It will be interesting to watch the duo's continued progression as the defense transitions from the 3-4 set to the more traditional 4-3 alignment.
The Aggies undoubtedly have questions on defense. Specifically, can they finish games? One thing that shouldn't be in doubt, however, is their ability to get to the quarterback. This unit was able to attack some of the more productive throwers in the game a year ago as they faced seven of the top 30 passers in college football. This is a defense that knows how to pressure savvy, talented signal callers. With Wilson, Zach Mettenberger, A.J. McCarron and James Franklin all on the schedule, the opportunity to continue to do the same will be there once again.
"A&M was getting good pressure on Robert Griffin and it caused him to get flustered," Kendall Wright recalled of watching his star quarterback get sacked five times.
Whether or not the Aggie defense can compete with the best of the SEC is yet to be determined. How they'll look to do it, though, isn't near as uncertain.