Leal shared Wednesday night via his Instagram that he would leave A&M after three seasons and declare for the NFL Draft. Under the direction of defensive coordinator Mike Elko, the 6-foot-4 defender became a star.
Pass rushing skill? Superb. Run defense? Exceptional. Do-it-all mentality? No question. People will often wonder what Leal's actual position was during his time with 12th Man. There's a simple answer.
Playmaker. And now, the Aggies need another.
A&M isn't light on the talent found in its trenches. Elko has put an emphasis on recruiting some of the top-tier defensive linemen in the country to help stabilize any opposing offense from having consistent success throughout four quarters of action.
At least on paper and by the recruiting pipeline, that statement rings true.
The Aggies are already replacing the likes of super seniors Jayden Peevy and Micheal Clemons following the bowl game. Fellow pass-rusher Tyree Johnson could elect to enter the draft after a breakout season in which he led the Aggies with 8.5 sacks.
Those names could be easier to replace based on the current names behind the trio. Sophomore defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson split reps with Peevy based on the formation. Former top recruits Fadil Diggs and Donnell Harris could play the edge with ease.
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Leal is different. He was a chess piece that shifted based on the formation and found success both when lining up inside or on the edge.
A&M's hopeful option will be to cement former top prospect, Shemar Turner, as Leal 2.0. The Desoto native mirrors Leal's frame at 6-foot-4 and is roughly six pounds lighter.
A box of Wheaties and a weekend in the gym should fix that issue.
Turner's biggest concern will be seeing if he can transition to a more dynamic playmaker. This season, the freshman played 95 percent of his snaps on the interior.
Until spring football, finding Leal's replacement is a guessing game. There's no one right answer since most players aren't as quick when weighing 285 pounds.
Jimbo Fisher has time to find the answer to his Leal predicament. In the SEC, adding a clone who can mirror similar production could be the difference between playing on New Year's Eve or heading to a lesser bowl game.
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