Texas A&M has faced a lot of turnover this offseason, but one thing remains consistent.
The defensive line.
“Our defensive front will be as good as anybody in the country,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Our linebackers take a lot of heat but they are better than people think they are. A lot of them were hurt. A lot are bigger and stronger now, we’ve got some experience in that area. Our safeties speak for themselves. Defensively, we’ve got a number of very talented players.”
Among those talented players is junior defensive end Myles Garrett. Sumlin recalled a play in the Aggies recent spring game where, after wide receiver Speedy Noil caught a screen pass, Garrett hustled downfield 15-20 yards to make the tackle. The potential first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft is playing with effort and physicality, according to Sumlin, and “he’s doing that with everything at stake for him financially for next year. I think that speaks to his maturity.”
While Sumlin believes he can count on the defensive line, he addressed the timeline of events which have occurred over the offseason and helped to counter a narrative that Texas A&M is struggling after an offseason that saw multiple quarterback departures and changes to the coaching staff.
“There’s been a lot of changes since the first of the year,” Sumlin said at an event at the Houston Touchdown Club Tuesday. “Those changes came quickly. A lot of times when news is presented, sometimes the timing of when that news is presented to the public is different than what goes on behind the scenes.”
The A&M coach is set to begin his fifth year in College Station when the Aggies host UCLA on Sept. 3. “You’ve got to be kidding yourself if you think [the changes made were] just reaction to when the other news was released,” Sumlin said. “We have a plan in place. I think we’ve done an excellent job of hiring three veteran coaches that have come in and done a great job.”
Noel Mazzone arrived from UCLA to replace Jake Spavital, the former Aggies offensive coordinator who now operates in the same position for California. Additionally, Dave Christensen was replaced by Jim Turner as the offensive line coach after just one season with the team. David Turner replaces Mark Hagen on the defensive line after Hagen returned to coach at his alma mater, Indiana, this offseason.
While there are new leaders on the staff, the locker room has seen another leadership boost in the form of graduate transfer quarterback Trevor Knight. Since Sumlin’s arrival in 2012, this season marks just the second time the Aggies have entered into the season with a clear-cut starter at the quarterback position.
Sumlin felt it was crucial to establish a leader during the spring and sees important qualities in a “guy like Trevor who has really experienced some of the highest highs and then really the lowest of lows being beat out [at Oklahoma].”
“Here’s a guy who is experienced and understands success and maybe failure a little bit,” Sumlin said. “He is very hungry to do well. He lives that every day. I think he’s a leader, not just a verbal leader but a leader by example.”