Expectations have likely never been higher for the Texas A&M Aggies, who enter the season as a darkhorse SEC Title contender, behind the usual suspects of Alabama and Georgia.
One major reason for that is the Texas A&M defense, which has seen marked improvements in every season thus far under Jimbo Fisher -- going from a total defense rank of 32nd nationally in 2018, to 29th in 2019, to the No. 9 ranked total defense in 2020.
And despite losing defensive tackle Bobby Brown and linebacker Buddy Johnson to the NFL, that defense has a chance to be just as good, if not better, in 2021.
At least according to the 'experts' over at Pro Football Focus, who recently ranked their top-10 defenses heading into next season, with the Aggies slated as the No. 6 unit in the country.
The Aggies have a special defensive line, anchored by 6-foot-4, 290-pound edge defender DeMarvin Leal. He has so much power and impressive twitch. Leal notched an 80.0-plus grade as both a run defender and a pass rusher in 2020, something only four other Power Five edge defenders accomplished this past year. Interior defensive lineman Jayden Peevy and edge defender Tyree Johnson are two other impactful players alongside Leal.
The other top two players on this defense belong to the secondary. The first is safety Demani Richardson, a 2019 top-100 recruit who improved last season after struggling in coverage as a true freshman. His coverage grade increased by over 20 grading points to 76.7 (23rd in Power Five). He’s also one of the best tackling safeties in college football. He missed just 2.7% of his attempts in 2020, ranking second in the Power Five.
Cornerback Myles Jones enters 2021 coming off a late-career breakout. He earned a 76.2 coverage grade in his senior year in 2020, the 10th-best among SEC outside cornerbacks. Taking out his bad day against Alabama, when he got beaten for five catches, 142 yards and a touchdown, his grade jumps to the second-best in the SEC (allowed only 118 yards in the other seven games).
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There were bright spots in the Aggies' 34-0 win over the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday. The offensive line wasn't one of them.
PFF also ranked the Aggies pass rush as a top-5 unit in the country, led by star edge rusher DeMarvin Leal, edge Tyree Johnson, and defensive tackle Jayden Peevy.
With that said, next season could still be an uphill battle for the Aggies, as they are set to face two of the top offensive units in all of college football, including Alabama, and the Lane Kiffin-led Ole Miss Rebels.
If they manage to slow down the Rebels and the Crimson Tide, however, and even split those two matchups in the win column, 2021 has the potential to be a special year in College Station.
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