OPINION: In search of a secondary
Everett key to potential A&M cornerback renaissance
Published: Friday, September 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013 00:09
Texas A&M didn’t hire (and fans don’t watch) Kevin Sumlin because they want to see grind-it-out defensive games. We put up with the reality show that is Johnny Football because at A&M, we get to kiss our dates every time the team scores, and the Manziel-and-Sumlin show tends to score in bunches.
Still, since the NCAA hasn’t yet made a rules change, something awkward happens every time we score a touchdown. It’s the last thing Kyle Field wants: Manziel’s offense leaves the field, and the defense shows up.
No one much talked about the defense last season, and they liked that just fine. This season, we’re talking about the defense. Because they’re young, because they’re talented and because they’re averaging about one suspended player per minute since the Cotton Bowl ended (all numbers approximate).
This defense needed to establish itself and whip up some of that long-established sports cliché — “chemistry.” So far it has botched both of its Alabama appetizers, with six starters missing all or part of both games for suspensions.
But when those players return, current students might see something we’ve never before seen. We might see a defense led by the secondary.
This student body, myself included, doesn’t remember the days when “Wrecking Crew” meant something around here. (If you’re that guy who still pulls out the “WC” hand signal, for this team or any of the last few, you’re wrong and you should stop. Same with those “WC” stickers people put on their cars. Don’t do it. The only time the chants have been acceptable in the 2000s: 2010 Oklahoma and Nebraska. Then and only then.)
A&M, in the 1990s, was Linebacker U — Dat Nguyen and Co. made sure of that. That’s not so hard to imagine. During my time here, with Von Miller, Sean Porter, Jonathon Stewart and Michael Hodges, the defense has leaned on its linebackers. The position breeds natural leaders. Half of them are Brian-Cushing-crazy, but we’re usually okay with insanity in the linebacker corps.
But here’s a non-exhaustive look at the secondary in my four years here: Trent Hunter, Terrence Frederick, Coryell Judie, Dustin Harris, Stephen Campbell, Steven Terrell and C.J. Jones.
I like plenty of them, but where are the great Aggie secondaries? Current students have seen great Aggies and good players at cornerback and safety, but we’ve never seen an Aaron Glen or a Jason Webster.
The secondary hasn’t led the defense since Y2K. We’ve learned to distrust our pass protection. When anyone threw deep during the second-halves of the 2011 season, didn’t you know we had lost another one?
The ’90s had Glen, Webster, Kevin Smith and Patrick Bates, among others. I’m not saying this secondary has anyone approaching this caliber, but if it does, it’s sophomore Deshazor Everett.
The same Everett who sealed the Alabama game with a goal-line interception after getting burned throughout the fourth quarter.
The same Everett who was named third-team preseason All-SEC but started the season with a half-game suspension for getting tangled up in some off-season assault ugliness.
The same Everett who returned to the Rice game with Manziel and was pitched a quarter later for targeting.
That penalty means Everett is forced to sit out the first half Saturday against Sam Houston. So his first full game will be Alabama, which allows for plenty of “a leader’s return” tweets if not a ton of fanbase confidence.
He’s the wildcard, but the player who has most impressed me throughout the fall camp practices and preseason press conferences is senior nickel corner Toney Hurd Jr.
With Swope, Spencer Nealy and Stewart out, the team needed vocal leaders. Hurd is that leader, as is running back Ben Malena. If there is glue on this roster capable of binding the talent of Everett, De’Vante Harris, Otis Jacobs, Howard Matthews, Floyd Raven, Alex Sezer and Noel Ellis — it’s Hurd.
He’s not the most talented player at his position, and he knows it. But he’s the only player in the secondary without a question mark dangling from his head.
He has experience and he’s not suspended. He’s the leader and Everett is the anchor.
The rest are a good bunch. The second-best player on the secondary is Harris, who is suspended for two games. Kam Miles, Sezer and Ellis show promise as freshmen. Junior Clay Honeycutt came out of nowhere as the fall camp revelation and nabbed a starting spot from Raven.
This unit could be terrible. Harris might not develop from the good cover corner who can’t tackle. Everett might not play up to his talent. Hurd might not be able to hold all the young egos together.
But if we’re to see, in our time in Aggieland, a secondary capable of turning around a game with a big play, grounding an opponent’s pass attack, providing the steady hand in locker-room leadership — this could be that year.