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Missouri at Texas A&M: Aggies' secondary isn't getting enough help from its front seven

The Texas A&M is ultra-athletic and terribly young, and while rush end Myles Garrett is very much worth the hype, the front seven overall doesn't make enough plays to keep pressure off of an occasionally weary secondary.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Still no game notes or updated depth chart from A&M, so we'll once again go with last week's. Grr.

Julien Obioha (6'4, 265, Jr.) (24.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FR, 1 QB hurry)
Qualen Cunningham (6'3, 247, Fr.) (5.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 3 QB hurries)
Jarrett Johnson (6'3, 260, Fr.) (5.0 tackles, 1 TFL)

Alonzo Williams (6'4, 296, Jr.) (29.5 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 FR, 3 QB hurries)
Hardreck Walker (6'2, 300, So.) (17.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 QB hurries)
Zaycoven Henderson (6'1, 315, Fr.) (6.0 tackles)

Ivan Robinson (6'3, 290, Sr.) (17.5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 QB hurries -- 7 games)
Jay Arnold (6'4, 284, So.) (5.0 tackles, 1.5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 QB hurries)

Myles Garrett (6'5, 255, Fr.) (36.0 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 11 sacks, 1 PBU, 9 QB hurries)
Daeshon Hall (6'6, 260, So.) (14.0 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 5 QB hurries)

Myles Garrett was the star of Texas A&M's loaded 2014 recruiting class. He was the No. 2 overall player in the country according to Rivals, and my goodness, he's played like it. He's mostly a pass-rush guy -- 11 sacks, one non-sack TFL -- but only four FBS players have more sacks than he does (and yes, Shane Ray is one of them). As a true freshman, he is bringing a nearly Von Miller-esque presence to a defense that needs some kind of presence.

Garrett is awesome and totally deserving of the hype you're hearing; he's getting some help in the pass rush from Alonzo Williams, too. A sack total of 4.5 is pretty impressive for a nose guard.

The problem is that you have to force opponents to pass before you can utilize a great pass rush. A&M is 14th in Adj. Sack Rate but only 91st in Adj. Line Yards and 94th in Rushing S&P+. Mizzou doesn't have an awesome rushing attack by any means, but the Tigers have a pretty decent one that could look downright good on Saturday night.

At least, the Mizzou run better look good. Otherwise, Maty Mauk's running for his life. We've seen that episode, and we didn't like the ending.

Donnie Baggs (6'1, 230, Sr.) (15.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 QB hurries)
Otaro Alaka (6'3, 225, Fr.) (15.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 FF, 1 PBU, 3 QB hurries)

Jordan Mastrogiovanni (6'3, 244, So.) (18.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 QB hurry -- 7 games)
Josh Walker (6'1, 233, Fr.) (15.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 0.5 sacks -- 9 games)

Shaan Washington (6'3, 235, So.) (32.5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR, 1 QB hurry -- 7 games)
Justin Bass (6'2, 231, Sr.) (34.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL)
Tommy Sanders (6'2, 220, Sr.) (7.0 tackles, 1 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 3 PBU, 4 QB hurries)

Donnie Baggs is putting in some nice work, and when healthy and available, Mastrogiovanni and Washington are solid for sophomores*. Not including Garrett at RUSH end (which is basically 2/3 DE, 1/3 OLB), these seven linebackers have combined for 11.5 TFLs, some break-ups, and a lot of hurries. There is disruptive potential here, but the problem isn't with disruption; it's with the mundane. Four of A&M's top five tacklers are defensive backs. These guys just aren't making enough tackles, period, before offenses get to the second level of the defense.

* You've noticed how young this front seven is, right? Of the 17 names listed above, 11 are freshmen and sophomores.

De'Vante Harris (5'11, 175, Jr.) (26.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 FR -- 7 games)
Victor Davis (6'0, 191, RSFr.) (16.0 tackles, 1 PBU)
Nick Harvey (5'10, 180, Fr.) (9.5 tackles, 1 TFL)

Deshazor Everett (6'0, 193, Sr.) (47.5 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 6 PBU)
Tavares Garner (6'0, 183, So.) (2.0 tackles)

Howard Matthews (6'2, 210, Sr.) (44.5 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 7 PBU, 1 QB hurry)
Donovan Wilson (6'1, 192, Fr.) (8.5 tackles, 2 TFL)
Clay Honeycutt (6'2, 200, Sr.) (3.0 tackles, 1 FR)

Floyd Raven Sr. (6'2, 200, Sr.) (16.0 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 FR)
Armani Watts (5'11, 190, Fr.) (39.0 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 INT, 5 PBU)

Devonta Burns (6'0, 214, Jr.) (37.5 tackles, 1 FF, 1 PBU, 1 QB hurry)
Sam Moeller (5'11, 186, Jr.) (5.5 tackles)

The secondary is the most experienced unit of the defense (the starting line up is, at least; the backups are almost all freshmen), and it's got some play-makers. Armani Watts is another four-star difference-maker as a freshman, Howard Matthews is a solid boundary safety, and both Deshazor Everett and De'Vante Harris are athletic and active. Like I said above, the biggest problem for this unit is that it's asked to do far too much, and if it has to help in run support, it might get beaten deep.

(I swear, Matthews, Everett, and Harris have all been at A&M since the Franchione era.)

A&M has a pretty extreme athleticism advantage here. The return of Darius White helps Missouri in that regard, but it only helps so much. If Missouri wants to move the ball, the Tigers will have to stay on schedule and out of passing downs. Third-and-9s mean a whole lot of Maty Mauk running around with no open receivers and Myles Garrett closing in fast. You can beat the A&M defense, but you'll need to do it on first down, second-and-5, third-and-3, etc.

On both sides of the ball, Missouri is basically going to be playing with fire. You can beat A&M if you tackle well on offense and stay out of sic-'em downs on defense, but if a small fire starts, it's going to engulf you pretty quickly. Really good teams like Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and (especially) Alabama were very much able to hold A&M at bay, but Auburn gave up a couple of big plays, then gave up a couple more once they caught up, and the Tigers eventually faltered at the end of the game. Missouri isn't as good as the teams mentioned above, but the Tigers are still better than ULM, which also held the A&M offense at bay and nearly scored enough to win. Tackle well, run the ball well, and maybe win. Anything less, and you lose.

Special Teams

Josh Lambo (6'0, 220, Sr.) (48-48 PAT, 7-7 FG under 40, 2-4 FG over 40)
Taylor Bertolet (5'9, 185, Jr.) (61 kickoffs, 62.8 average, 34 touchbacks)

Drew Kaser (6'3, 210, Jr.) (46 punts, 44.5 average, 17 fair caught, 16 inside 20)

Trey Williams (5'8, 195, Jr.) (13 KR, 24.5 average)
Speedy Noil (5'11, 185, Fr.) (19 KR, 22.6 average)

Speedy Noil (5'11, 185, Fr.) (13 PR, 13.6 average)
LaQuvionte Gonzalez (5'10, 165, So.) (2 PR, 16.0 average)
Nick Harvey (5'10, 180, Fr.) (4 PR, 15.5 average)

A&M's special teams unit is perfectly decent -- not great, not terrible. Josh Lambo is automatic under 40 yards, and Drew Kaser's a solid punter. Taylor Bertolet will give you return opportunities on about half of his kickoffs, and some awesome punt returning is balanced out by some inconsistent kick returning.