Attrition Underlines Defensive Woes

Every school faces attrition within a program and A&M is no exception. However, the Aggie defense specifically has had a great deal of bad luck and ‘bad apples’ the past couple years. Through a myriad of different situations, several signees from the 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes are no longer on the team. With a large percentage of these players on the defensive side of the ball, it makes you wonder what could have been.

The following players originally signed with A&M and could have gone a long way in providing an entirely different makeup to this year’s Aggie defense.

2012
DT Edmond Ray (3-star recruit)
SDE Polo Manukainiu (3-star recruit)
WLB Michael Richardson (3-star recruit)
MLB Jordan Richmond (4-star recruit)
FCB Kenneth Marshall (3-star recruit)

2013
FS Kameron Miles (4-star recruit)
SDE Jordan Points (3-star recruit)
NG Isaiah Golden (4-star recruit)
SLB Darian Claiborne (3-star recruit)

The starting lineup for the Aggie defense per 12th Man:

Current Depth Chart

A hypothetical depth chart of the aforementioned players were still on the team (highlighted).

Hypothetical Depth Chart
Observations:

  • All these players with the possible exception of DE Jordan Points would have likely made the 2-deep 2014 Depth Chart.
  • Not a single starting linebacker would be on the first string if Darian Claiborne, Jordan Richmond, and Michael Richardson were still with the team. And if each defect backed up Steven Jenkins, Jonathan Stewart, and Sean Porter in 2012, the coaches would have had the opportunity to redshirt Shaan Washington, Jordan Mastrogiovanni, Otaro Alaka, and Josh Walker.
  • At most major programs, defensive and offensive lineman are almost always redshirted. Thanks to Sherman, the Aggies have had this luxury on the offensive side for several years now. But also thanks to Sherman, the Aggies have had to bypass redshirting nearly every defensive lineman. If Isaiah Golden, Polo Manukainiu, and Edmond Ray were still with the team, Sumlin would have been able to redshirt Qualen Cunningham and Zaycoven Henderson this year along with Sophomore Jay Arnold last year.
  • By all indications, Kameron Miles was set to win a starting spot at Free Safety before his dismissal. This small change could have allowed the Aggies to train Armani Watts at Boundary Safety behind Howard Matthews and redshirt Donovan Wilson.
  • The average recruiting ranking on our current defense is 3.167 while the average ranking on the hypothetical lineup is 3.583. This influx of talent and experience can be the difference between giving up 21.8 points/game (2012 defense) vs. 32.2 points/game (2013 defense).

There are many issues with this year’s defensive unit. Coach Snyder has obviously faced the brunt of not being able to field a competitive group for two years straight. But the attrition this program has faced on that side of the ball provides a much clearer picture as to why the Aggies seem perpetually young.

This does not excuse Coach Snyder from the sub-par job he has done. Every coach is responsible for playing the hand he is dealt and in many cases, Snyder has simply underperformed. By installing a complex scheme that is difficult for young players to grasp, many aggressive defenders are double guessing themselves. The strong-side and weak-side defensive ends are so concerned about lining up on the correct side that they often aren’t ready when the offense snaps the ball. And inexplicably, the linebackers continue to miss tackles and gap assignments.

Regardless of talent or experience, it is the coach’s responsibility to pull the best out of his players. And in that regard, there is no doubt that Snyder has failed.

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