SEC Country is breaking down each of Texas A&M’s position groups as the entire 2016 roster reports to College Station.
Continuing with the series, we take a look at the defensive line. No secrets have been made with how the coaching staff feels about Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall, considered to be the best defensive ends in the country by defensive coordinator John Chavis. How does the rest of the defensive line stack up?
Names you need to know: Daylon Mack (sophomore), Qualen Cunningham (junior), Daeshon Hall (senior), Myles Garrett (junior), Zaycoven Henderson (junior)
On the way: Justin Madubuike, Alton Robinson, Ratu Mafileo
Analysis: Garrett is back, and his expectations are as high as his sack totals. The Arlington native wants to “break all the records” he can at Texas A&M, which should send fear through the hearts of opposing quarterbacks. His 12.5 sacks helped contribute to 101 total yards for loss, meaning he single-handedly cost opponents an entire football field’s worth of yardage during the course of his sophomore year. He recently cracked the top-10 for career sacks at A&M with 24 and would be within striking distance of the all-time Texas A&M mark (42) held by Aaron Wallace were he to return as a senior.
Working the other end is Hall, who provides no break for opposing offenses. The duo creates havoc for O-lines and creates opportunities for teammates by being double, and occasionally triple-teamed in the trenches. Hall finished five behind Garrett in total tackles last season with 54, tallying seven sacks in the process. Returning for his senior year, his draft stock has a chance to increase significantly this season.
Mack should have a starting spot solidified on the inside as only a sophomore. The former five-star recruit slimmed down and built up endurance throughout the season, and will continue to work on conditioning to increase how often he sees the field each game. Another offseason improvement has been strength, which is hard to believe for a player who already required special bars ordered from the Texas A&M staff to accommodate his ability to put up weight in the gym.
Henderson should make a strong claim for the other spot inside, but expect for sophomore Kingsley Keke to see playing time early and often before possibly overtaking the starting role. For as much raving that the coaching staff has done concerning offensive lineman Koda Martin, Keke received a similar showering of positive sentiments.
While defensive ends coach Terry Price and new defensive line coach David Turner work to improve talent already existing on the roster such as Garrett, Qualen Cunningham, Jarrett Johnson and more, there are plenty of new players to help build the depth chart as well.
2016 commit Alton Robinson arrives to the Aggies out of Converse, Texas while Justin Madubuike, one of the Aggies’ top signees, will also be expected to be available off the bench for the Maroon and White this season. The College of San Mateo’s Ratu Mafileo is currently a verbal commitment and could be a junior college addition to the squad in 2016.
Key questions: What is the ceiling for the Texas A&M defensive line in 2016? Does one injury send the Aggies tumbling toward the floor?
Bottom line: With this amount of talent, there is endless potential for the Aggies up front this season. The interior is obviously a bigger concern than outside, but neither should be an issue overall. While the depth chart is far from thin anywhere, having a 2016 signee click early or an upperclassmen find his groove could push the unit to the next level.
Other positions in series: