Texas A&M has kicked off the 2015 season on a hot note once again, entering week 6 with a 5-0 record for the second straight year.
But unlike the team that lost 59-0 to Alabama in week 8 of the 2014 season, this year’s Aggies have started to show that their defense is improving under new defensive coordinator John Chavis, thanks to freak athleticism and playmaking abilities.
“We’re not great but we’ve definitely improved [on defense],” said coach Kevin Sumlin.
Despite giving up chunks of yards at times, Texas A&M has only allowed 17, 21, and 17 points against the three Power 5 opponents they have faced this year. That’s just 18.3 points per game allowed. By comparison, in 2014, every single Power 5 team A&M played scored at least 23 points, and eight of the nine scored 28 or more.
It starts with Texas A&M defensive back Donovan Wilson, who has forced five turnovers from the nickel formation to start the season.
“We need that catalyst [on defense] and he’s been that catalyst force,” Chavis said. “He’s made big play after big play. … He’s played as well as anyone on defense.”
Chavis compared his big playmaking ability to Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, who Chavis coached when he played for LSU from 2010-2012.
“He had the ‘it’ factor,” Chavis said of the “Honey Badger.” “Now if you tell me to describe it, I can’t. But he had it. We’re starting to see some of that with Donovan.”
Defensive end Myles Garrett has also been a dominant force on the Aggies defense. Mississippi State struggled to contain the 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive end all game as he finished the game with J.J. Watt-like numbers of seven tackles, a pass breakup, a forced fumble and a sack.
Chavis said some of his skills can’t be coached.
“You’d like to think you could coach that and teach that, but you can’t,” Chavis said. “You’ve got to recruit it. … It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a guy who can play the quarterback and the pitch on the option.”
To build on their continued improvements on defense, Chavis said he plans on using the bye week to get the defense to work on communicating better through loud, hostile environments.
“Let me tell you this, it was hard Saturday,” Chavis said. “That’s a great deal. That means our fans were in it. It was loud. It was noisy. But even when you got this environment, which we really appreciate from our fans, we’ve got to be able to communicate.”
Chavis said he’s added loud music during practice to get the defense to work on its cadence behind the line of scrimmage.
“There are areas that you can grow and work on, that’s one that we’re really going to be strict on it,” Chavis said. “It’s not just verbal. When it gets that loud, you’ve got to be able to communicate with hand signals.”
Chavis- "Tyrann Mathieu had the "it" factor and I can't explain it. We're starting to see that from Donovan [Wilson]."
— Battalion Sports (@battsports) October 6, 2015
The sophomore defensive back was pleased to have his recent performance associated with the Arizona Cardinals safety.
— Donovan Wilson (@donlwilson6) October 6, 2015
The “Honey Badger” himself even offered a some bits of advice to Wilson.
— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) October 6, 2015