This morning, we finish up our look at the Texas A&M Aggies by looking at the A&M defense.
The Aggie defense is led by defensive coordinator John Chavis, who is in his second year as the Texas A&M defensive coordinator. Chavis is an experienced and respected defensive coordinator who has led the defense for some very good teams including a national champion when he was at Tennessee.
Chavis runs a base 4-3 defense with four defensive linemen and three linebackers. Let’s look at the position groups.
A lot has been said leading up to this game about A&M’s defensive ends. Some have said they have the best tandem in the country at that position in Myles Garrett (15) and Daeshon Hall (10). Garrett will go up against Conor McDermott today we know is one of the best offensive tackles in the nation. So, this will be a matchup to watch for. Garrett led the SEC in sacks last year with 12.5, in tackles for loss with 19.5 and in forced fumbles with 5. In order for UCLA to win today, McDermott needs to keep Garrett in check.
While Garrett has been the more discussed DE for A&M, Hall had 54 tackles and 7 sacks last season. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
At the tackles, the Aggies will start Zaycoven Henderson and senior Hardreck Walker. Henderson had 26 tackles last season with 6.5 of them for a loss while Walker had 10 tackles last season despite playing in only 7 games.
The weakside linebacker is Shaan Washington (33). Keep an eye on him because he made a total of 78 tackles last season with 7.5 going for a loss.
This year, A&M’s starting strongside linebacker is Richard Moore. In only 7 games as a true freshman last year, Moore made 32 tackles including 5.5 for a loss.
In the middle will be Otara Alaka. Like our own Eddie Vanderdoes, Alaka suffered a season-ending injury and he played in only 3 games last year. As a freshman in 2014, Alaka made 33 tackles and 3.5 for a loss.
Moving to the secondary, Bruin fans will want to keep an eye out for #24. That’s former Bruin Priest Willis who returns to the field after sitting out last year due to his transfer. You just know Willis is going to want to make a statement in this game.
At the other corner is junior Nick Harvey. Harvey is only 5-10 so look for UCLA to try to match him up against one of our taller receivers like Theo Howard or Mossi Johnson.
The safeties are Justin Evans (14) and Armani Watts (23). While Evans is a senior, this is only his second season with the Aggies after transferring from Mississippi Gulf Coast CC last year. Evans was a big contributor last season with 78 tackles in 12 games.
Armani Watts was the Aggies’ top tackler in 2015. He made 126 tackles including 6 tackles for loss while also intercepting one pass.
In passing situations, look for A&M to bring in Donovan Wilson (6) as their nickel back. Wilson is a junior who led the Aggies with 6 interceptions last season including one for a touchdown. Josh Rosen needs to keep the ball out of Wilson’s hands in order to win this game.
Overall, DC John Chavis is known for running an aggressive defense. Look for the defense to try to slow the Bruins down with blitzes. Of course, we all know that’s the way to stop Noel Mazzone’s offense.
But, how will Kennedy Polamalu, Marques Tuiasosopo and Josh Rosen counter an aggressive defense like this one?
I expect to see some misdirection, screens (traditional ones, not bubble screens) and short passing used to keep the defense a little more honest.