Defensive adjustments yields improved unit
Personnel shifts key to SMU victory
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 22:09
The Texas A&M defense has taken its share of the blame for many mistakes four games into the 2013 season. After being exposed against top-ranked Alabama for 568 total yards and 42 points, changes were made Saturday against Southern Methodist in hopes of taking a much-needed step forward defensively.
In response, the Aggie defense limited the Mustangs to one touchdown in a lopsided 42-13 win at Kyle Field.
“It was good to see,” defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. “We’re still a work in progress for sure, but if we keep seeing improvement every week, I think we’ll be just fine. I saw a lot of improvement this week.”
What Snyder saw was a defensive group that was faster and more aggressive from sideline-to-sideline as personnel changes, centered around speed and agility, were key to shutting down SMU’s spread offense.
Following junior safety Floyd Raven’s collarbone injury early during the Aggies’ 65-28 victory over Sam Houston State, junior backup Clay Honeycutt has played almost every snap at his position.
A performance against Alabama that included a missed tackle on a screen-pass-turned-51-yard-touchdown, however, forced the A&M coaching staff to reconsider Honeycutt’s spot in the lineup.Against SMU, junior defensive back Deshazor Everett stood in at Raven’s safety position while Everett’s replacement, senior Otis Jacobs, filled in at the vacant
“We felt like Deshazor [Everett] is an eraser, and he was unselfish enough to go back to safety for us tonight,” Snyder said. “We felt like that was just the best personnel grouping to put on the field until we get Floyd back, so we had to put [Jacobs] at corner and Deshazor [Everett] at safety.”
Everett was the third-leading tackler with seven stops and returned a fumble for a touchdown during Saturday’s victory, one of three turnovers the A&M defense forced
“Everything was clicking,” Everett said. “It was mostly due to better communication, having the same group in practice all week and translating it to the game, the game felt just like practice. It was easy to go out there and play fast and make
Everett’s move to safety wasn’t the only personnel change made Saturday, as true freshman Darian Claiborne received the nod at middle linebacker over junior veteran Donnie Baggs.
“[Claiborne] is young but one thing about him is that he is not afraid to play fast and make plays,” said senior defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. “He runs sideline-to-sideline really well and he is a young guy, but he is making a lot of plays for us. Coach Snyder took a chance but it looks like it paid off.”
Statistically, the risk of throwing Claiborne into the mix proved beneficial, as the true freshman totaled five tackles against the Mustangs and currently has 18 tackles on the year, including two for loss.
The A&M defense moved toward a consistent defensive lineup Saturday with Snyder saying he had “the right guys on the field” following the game. Moving forward into the Aggies’ first road game of the season Saturday against Arkansas, Everett, Claiborne and Jacobs will remain at their new positions for the unit.
A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin maintained his long-standing “the best player will play” mantra following the game, saying whoever allows the team the best chance for victory will take the field.
“We’re going to try and give ourselves the best opportunity to win,” Sumlin said. “We’re going to reward guys who we think are giving us the best chance, so whether you’ve been here five years or five days, we’ll give you a chance if it looks to us like you can benefit us.”