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D.J Durkin Reveals 'Critical Component' for Aggies Defense this Season

Durkin's focus on off-the-field intangibles is all a part of A&M's championship recipe.

The arrival of first-year defensive coordinator D.J Durkin is set to add a major boost to the Texas A&M Aggies defense in more ways than one this season. 

With experience in the SEC dating back to over a decade ago, Durkin has helped lead some of the nation's best defenses at Florida before stints in the Big Ten and NFL. 

Even though his time as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach the past two seasons with SEC West rival Ole Miss saw the team explode on offense and struggle on defense, the Rebels had four defensive players - including three linebackers - selected in the 2022 NFL Draft in April. 

Clearly, with a handful of valuable knowledge in his pocket as he prepares for the season ahead in College Station, Durkin is focusing on a team-wide installation of championship-winning leadership if the on-field product is to live up to standards.

"Leadership is such a critical component ... it's a word that's hard to define," Durkin said Sunday. "But you know it when you see it. And I think any team that's gonna win at a high level and compete for a championship better have great leadership, usually you can trace it back to that." 

Durkin admitted that putting aside time to hone in on togetherness and leadership is prioritized over x's and o's. The Aggies will do what they do: play football and play it well. But expecting the entire team to begin developing positive authority without some guidance isn't always a guarantee. 

He was even asked about veterans and potentially NFL Draft-bound defensive backs Antonio Johnson and Demani Richardson. Both from a skill and leadership standpoint, they're fixing to be the clear focal point of Durkin's defense this season.

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"Leadership development is something I really believe in, something we spend a lot of time on more than just x and o's," he said. "Defensively, we spend a lot of time on that. So having veteran guys and the guys you mentioned, some others, certainly helps. When you have guys that have been around it and understand some things, their ability to lead becomes much better for them because of those experiences."

The Aggies already have the ingredients of an elite SEC defense. Last season, A&M trailed only College Football Playoff championship participants Georgia and Alabama as the team allowing the third-fewest offensive yards per game (327.5). The Aggies were also just second behind Georgia's elite scoring defense, allowing just 15.9 points per game in college football's top conference. 

With a proven formula for success and a new defensive mind at the helm, the Aggies are beginning to put all the pieces together that begs the question, "Why not the Aggies?" in the CFP this season. 

You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7

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