Monday afternoon, on the week Alabama is scheduled to visit Kyle Field, Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher announced that three more players had been lost to the season due to injuries, including cornerbacks Myles Jones and Brian George (the other was center Luke Matthews after having shoulder surgery).
The offensive line already had enough problems, with a different lineup in each of the last three games. Left guard Aki Ogunbiyi did not suit up for Mississippi State, but right guard Layden Robinson (ankle) was back.
Additionally, defensive tackle Shemar Turner and wide receiver Chase Lane remain out, along with wide receiver Caleb Chapman, who has been coming from a torn ACL in 2020. Of course, quarterback Haynes King (leg) is still sidelined, with Zach Calzada leading what's left of the offense.
But back to the secondary, Jones was considered the Aggies' best cover man, and George was right behind him on the depth chart, which at this point is barely being held together by medical tape.
Well, medical tape and safety Demani Richardson, the hard-hitting veteran of the unit.
Also on the back end is senior safety Leon O'Neal Jr., who in 2019 announced on social media that he was done at Texas A&M (his Twitter handle is WakeEmUp9), but had an 85-yard pick-six in the opener against Kent State.
Cornerback Jaylon Jones led the Aggies in pass breakups with six last season, and now the other spot is manned by freshman Tyreek Chappell.
Jersey: No. 26
Draft eligible: 2022
Hometown: Waxahachie, Texas
High School: Waxahachie
Good frame with solid length and bulk to his upper body. Excellent football IQ, smart player who sees the field at a high level while working off the QB indicator. Reads his keys consistently which allow him to play faster than his athletic traits. Controls the defense, can see him making checks and making sure guys are lined up properly. Shows some impressive plays with good range as a single-high safety who can track the deep ball. Very good range as a split field safety, his natural instincts and feel will take him to routes consistently and even before they fully develop some times. Has the athletic ability to matchup with tight ends along with the strength to get physical with the leagues bigger tight ends. Excellent closing burst on ball carrier when filling the alley in run support. Finishes tackles consistently as an efficient wrap and roll tackler who can generate power out of his hips.
Lacks twitch, does not have the raw foot speed to be a true single high safety. Struggles in man coverage due to his inability to flip his hips and stay connected playing in space against slot receivers. Angles to the football can be inconsistent, giving up easy cut backs when he could use the sideline as a second defender to make a tackle. Needs to show more ball production, has not created enough takeaways and has not shown the ability to pluck the football out the air.
Extremely cerebral safety with a natural feel for dissecting how offenses are trying to attack him, aiding him in his ability to play fast. Efficiency as a tackler with a strong frame gives him some versatility to give you reps in the box to increase run support and matchup with tight ends. Will struggle in man coverage against slot receivers at the next level due to lack of twitch to stay connected. Little to no ball production up to this point in his career, needs to create more takeaways and show an ability to be a playmaker. Overall a future solid starting safety at the next level who can unlock another level if he shows he has some playmaking ability.
7.9 (current value)/8.5 (potential value)
Before the season started, All Aggies wondered if Richardson might be the most underrated defender in the SEC. In 2019, he finished the season with 71 total tackles, third-most on the Aggies, and had his first career interception against Alabama. Last season, he played in just eight game
s due to an injury and COVID-19, and still recorded 25 tackles, an interception and forced a fumble. So far this season here's his entire stat line: Five games played, 22 tackles (third on the team), one pass broken up. That's it. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko had had nine returning starters from that 9-1 team, which was a big reason why so many thought Texas A&M could be the Crimson Tide's biggest challenger in the SEC West. No longer. Last week, Mississippi State's Will Rogers threw for 408 yards on this defense. A year ago, John Metchie III had five catches for 181 yards and touchdowns of 78 and 63 yards, and Jaylen Waddle had five catches for 142 yards including an 87-yard score. Texas A&M lost 52-24 and gave up 435 passing yards.
All this week, BamaCentral will profile numerous Texas A&M players as the Crimson Tide prepares to visit Kyle Field on Saturday. Also check out NFL Draft Bible for more evaluations.