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How Important Is Demani Richardson's Return For Texas A&M's Defense?

Demani Richardson offers stability for a new secondary under first-year defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin

Texas A&M underachieved its initial expectations after an 8-4 season in 2021. A new year is around the corner and so is the chance to rebound back into SEC contention. 

The Aggies' defense received praise when safety Demani Richardson announced he would be returning for his senior season. A three-year starter, Richardson has made an impact since Week 1 of the 2019 season very well bring a leadership aspect back to College Station. 

The return of Richardson is vital for multiple reasons. A&M already was set to lose several veterans in the front seven, including defensive tackle Jayden Peevy, defensive end Michael Clemons, and linebacker Aaron Hansford. The losses continued with defensive linemen Tyree Johnson and DeMarvin Leal declaring for the NFL draft. 

Richardson was at his best defending the run. In former defensive coordinator Mike Elko's 4-2-5 look, the junior played the box safety role, lining up closer to the line of the scrimmage and essentially becoming a third linebacker. 

Perhaps that will be the case under new coordinator D.J. Durkin. Should Durkin believe that Richardson would be better used in coverage, a simple switch to free safety could be warranted. 

Richardson's ball skills have been limited, but in large part, the growth of Leon O'Neal playing more of a centerfielder-type position attributed to that. This past fall, O'Neal tallied a pair of interceptions and broke up five passes. 

From the box position. Richardson tallied 65 total tackles, three pass deflections, and an interception through 12 games. 

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Richardson very well could remain in the box, but he also could take over for O'Neal. If that would be the case, nickel defender Antonio Johnson would likely move back to his natural safety position in place of Richardson, thus opening another cornerback spot.

The Aggies are returning both Brian George and Myles Jones, who suffered season-ending injuries prior to Week 5. Freshmen Tyreek Chappel and Deuce Harmon filled in well both on the outside and when running a dime formation look. Jaylon Jones is set to return on the perimeter for his junior season. 

Durkin will need to put Richardson in a place he feels he'll succeed. His return is warranted as it gives the Aggies a leader on the back end of the defense and provides stability at a position of need. 

A&M is set to lose five members of its top 10 defense from 2021. Richardson would have made it six, but instead, he bring leadership and a veteran presence for a unit that hopes to post similar numbers in an overall better record come this fall. 

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