August 10, 2011
Top 25 Team Previews
Texas A&M Aggies
By Andrew Lawrence
Running back Cyrus Gray :: Landov
Team Vitals
Head Coach Mike Sherman
Record at A&M 19-19 (11-13 Big 12)
Wins In Last 5 Seasons 9, 7, 4, 6, 9
Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman
Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter
Returning Starters Offense 8, Defense 9
2010 Season 9-4 (6-2 Big 12)
2010 Final AP Rank 19
2010 Rushing Offense 46 (5)
2010 Passing Offense 20 (5)
2010 Total Offense 23 (5)
2010 Rushing Defense 30 (1)
2010 Passing Defense 89 (8)
2010 Total Defense 55 (5)
2011 Schedule
Sept. 4 SMU
Sept. 17 Idaho
Sept. 24 Oklahoma State
Oct. 1 Arkansas (In Arlington)
Oct. 8 at Texas Tech
Oct. 15 Baylor
Oct. 22 at Iowa State
Oct. 29 Missouri
Nov. 5 at Oklahoma
Nov. 12 at Kansas State
Nov. 19 Kansas
Nov. 24 Texas
ANALYSIS: Anything less than a perfect run against SMU and Oklahoma State -- and in the home games -- could put a crimp in A&M's BCS bowl ambitions.
Depth Chart
QB Ryan Tannehill Jameill Showers
RB Cyrus Gray Christine Michael
WR Jeff Fuller Nate Askew
WR Ryan Swope Kenric Mcneal
WR Uzoma Nwachukwu Brandal Jackson
TE Nehemiah Hicks Hutson Prioleau
LT Luke Joeckel Cedric Ogbuehi
LG Brian Thomas Jarvis Harrison
C Patrick Lewis Danny Baker
RG Shep Klinke Evan Eike
RT Jake Matthews Rhontae Scales
DE Johnathan Mathis Ben Bass
DT Eddie Brown Jr. Kirby Evans
DE Tony Jerod-Eddie Spencer Nealy
JKR Caleb Russell Damontre Moore
LB Jonathan Stewart Kyle Mangan
LB Garrick Williams Donnie Baggs
LB Sean Porter Charlie Thomas
CB Terrence Frederick Lionel Smith
S Steven Campbell Clay Honeycutt
S Trent Hunter Steven Terrell
CB Coryell Judie Dustin Harris
K Randy Bullock Kyle Serres
P Ryan Epperson Ken Wood
KR Coryell Judie Nate Askew
PR Kenric McNeal Coryell Judie
The departures of two-time All-America linebacker Von Miller, tackle Lucas Patterson and big-hitting linebacker Michael Hodges were certainly huge blows to the A&M defense. But it could have been a lot worse: The Aggies could have also lost coordinator Tim DeRuyter. A year after Texas A&M pried him from the same position at Air Force (his alma mater), the 48-year-old was again a coveted commodity after directing a defensive revival in College Station.

He was a leading candidate for the Tulsa head-coaching vacancy, but he ultimately stayed put in favor of coaxing even more from the Aggies' D, which on his watch went from being a Big 12 pushover to, as he effusively describes it, "championship level." Texas A&M deserves at least a place in the Big 12 title conversation given that the team went 9-4, finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Big 12 South and has 17 starters returning.

Whether the Aggies will be in the hunt come November depends on how quickly they rebuild the middle of the defense -- starting with the huge void left at the hybrid end-linebacker Joker position by the departure of Miller, who accounted for a 27½ of A&M's 65 sacks over the past two seasons. "We're going to have to have somebody else step up to be that type of player that Von was," says DeRuyter, "the kind who takes teams out of what they like to do."

That player could be Caleb Russell, a 6-2, 231-pound junior who played end in some third-down packages and who "probably is better at the point of attack in the run game than Von," DeRuyter says. Or it could be Damontre Moore, a 6-4, 248-pound sophomore who had 5½ sacks last year. Or maybe it'll be Sean Porter, a 6-2, 220-pound junior who finished third on the team in tackles (74).

More than likely the coaches will play a combination of the three, who won't be granted as large a margin for error as in 2010, when the Aggies were still feeling their way through DeRuyter's 3-4 scheme. "They have to play better [and] faster," says DeRuyter, who plans to be even more aggressive in his play-calling this year. "We're so much farther advanced with how quickly we can install things and make adjustments. Our defense as a whole will be much better." The revival continues.

After the Aggies lost the heart of their defense, will the unit's remaining veterans be able to pick up the slack?

28 -- Career receiving TDs for jeff fuller, tied for second most in the nation among returnees, behind OU's Ryan Broyles (33).

Jeff Fuller, WR, Sr. -- The 6-4, 215-pound McKinney, Texas, product flirted with going pro at the end of last season after hauling in an A&M-record 72 passes for 1,066 yards and a team-leading 12 receiving touchdowns.

Trent Hunter, S, Sr. -- The 5-10, 190-pound safety led the Aggies' secondary in tackles (62); he also had two interceptions and forced a fumble. Hunter figures to be even better with a year of experience in Tim DeRuyter's 3-4 scheme.

Coryell Judie, CB, Sr. -- Judie was a juco All-America at Fort Scott C.C. in 2008, when he had 38 tackles and averaged 26.9 yards per kick return. After a medical redshirt in '09 he was even more prolific at A&M last season, finishing with 57 tackles, four picks and 30.2 yards per kick return.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Sr. -- He started the final six games of 2010 after taking over for a struggling Jerrod Johnson, then proceeded to complete a school-record 65 percent of his passes for 1,638 yards and 13 TDs while tossing only six interceptions. Tannehill is now the undisputed starter.

Cyrus Gray, RB, Sr. -- Gray led the team in rushing (1,133) and rushing touchdowns (12) and was one of the lone bright spots in the team's bowl loss to LSU, gaining 100 yards on 20 carries.

Caleb Russell, JOKER, Jr. -- Although he had only four tackles and a sack in eight games last season, the 6-2, 231-pounder had an impressive spring and is the front-runner to replace All-America linebacker Von Miller, who went second, to the Broncos, in the NFL draft, at the hybrid Joker position. Coordinator Tim DeRuyter even gave him the edge over Miller against the run.

Taylor Bertolet, K, Fr. -- It's not a matter of if this 5-9, 165-pound Pennsylvania native -- who booms 80-yard kickoffs and 60-yard field goals with regularity -- will eventually supplant solid senior placekicker Randy Bullock (16 of 21 field goals last year). It's a matter of when.

This team preview originally appeared in Sports Illustrated Presents' Big 12 Preview.

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