Texas A&M added some outstanding talent on offense this offseason. Their batch of recruits included offensive weapons like walking legend Kyler Murray (five-star QB) and Christian Kirk (four/five-star WR). However, the defense will need to make major strides if the Aggies are to compete in the SEC West this season. Kevin Sumlin is having to do some retooling at the moment, as his team has been a bit slow to wake up from its post-Manziel stupor.
Kevin Sumlin and John Chavis, that is.
Chavis has made his way to College Station from Baton Rouge, and well, he has his work cut out for him. A&M allowed 450.8 yards per game in 2014, 104th in the FBS. The Aggies' defense floundered in 2014 under defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, but A&M still managed to reel in some absolute ballers, solidifying a top-15 recruiting class and, more importantly, restoring some serious optimism about this defense moving forward.
Here are three position groups (all defensive, of course) where the Aggies may need some immediate impact players, whether it be freshmen or JUCO/CC transfers.
Cornerback: Deshazor Everett and Howard Matthews have finished their careers at Texas A&M, meaning it's time for a few new veteran leaders to emerge from the Aggies' secondary. Cornerback De'Vante Harris (53 total tackles in 2014) certainly looks the part. The depth at corner, though, may very well come from two newbies, Roney Elam and Deshawn Capers-Smith. At 6'3"/170, Elam is obviously rangy. The four-star recruit is speedy, but his playing time early on will likely depend on how physically ready he is. Capers-Smith is actually three pounds heavier than Elam despite being four inches shorter. Don't be fooled by Capers-Smith's three-star status. Though many of his high school highlights show him behind center (4,300+ passing yards, 50 TDs, 2 INTs in 2014), the Gatorade Louisiana Football Player of the Year looks ready to contribute right away as a corner in Chavis' defense. Victor Davis could very well start at corner along with Harris, but these are two huge additions to the secondary.
Safety: The Aggies also sprinkled in a few four-star safeties to their loaded recruiting class. Justin Dunning looks capable of starting from day one, especially when looking at his SEC size (6'3"/204). Dunning is an unreal athlete and possesses the versatility, both physically and as an all-around playmaker, to play either safety or linebacker. Larry Pryor, who was also a prolific passer in high school like Capers-Smith, is another guy whose sheer athleticism makes your eyes grow wider. The wild card guys always seem to be the JUCO/CC transfers. Enter Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer Justin Evans. Evans should slide in as the strong safety, with Armani Watts as the free safety. Dunning and Pryor could see the field sooner versus later, though, despite their lack of experience at the collegiate level.
Defensive Tackle: Sack master Myles Garrett has established himself as one of the elite pass-rushers in the conference. Now, Garrett will get to play alongside an absolute mountain of an 18-year-old in Daylon Mack. The 330-pounder should have no problem mowing down some offensive linemen this season, especially because Garrett is already such a handful. Mack already seems like the type of guy who will look like an NFL defensive tackle playing college football (hey, Robert Nkemdiche). Mack was the big recruit, quite literally, for Sumlin and company, but Kingsley Keke is an intriguing pickup as well. Keke will likely be more of a long-term investment, but he is certainly one to keep an eye on.
John Chavis obviously has to like the players with whom he will be working. Roney Elam, for example, is a rangy corner who should be able to jam wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. Chavis maybe wants to drop a safety into the middle of the field to break up shallow crossing routes from time to time? Justin Evans looks capable. A&M's new DC will also be pleased that his front four could be downright terrifying in the near future.
It was not just the yards they allowed. It was not just the points they conceded. It was the lack of turnovers. Five picks and eight fumble recoveries on the season won't exactly give your defense the title of "turnover machine." The good news is that some ball hawks were undoubtedly recruited and will be suiting up for the Aggies soon enough.
Let the Chavis era commence? Let the Chavis era commence.
Chavis should be able to mold his defense into a well-oiled machine, but it may take a little while. It may take the entire 2015 season, actually. Expectations are not exactly sky high for A&M at the moment, but any signs of defensive improvement will be welcomed by the 12th Man at Kyle Field.