Aggies O-Line key against Florida, SEC
September, 5, 2012
By Sam Khan Jr. | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Aaron M. SprecherTexas A&M's veteran offensive line is the strength of the Aggies' offense.COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Several words have been used to describe Florida's defense and particularly, its defensive line.
Fast. Athletic. Big. Violent.
Texas A&M players and coaches appear to agree on at least one thing involving the Gators defense, including their defensive front.
"They're good," junior offensive tackle Jake Matthews said. "They're big guys, they're fast, they're talented. We're definitely going to have a challenge up front. We're really going to have to step up as a group and focus on the little details, making the calls and staying on top of everything. They have a lot of talented players, that's for sure, so it'll definitely be a good game."
Fortunately for the Aggies, their most significant strength is their offensive line. The quintet of starters --Matthews, tackle Luke Joeckel, guards Jarvis Harrison and Cedric Ogbuehi and center Patrick Lewis -- have combined to start 92 games in their respective Texas A&M careers.
For a team that will trot out a first-year quarterback, redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, it's a benefit, especially against a team with the speed and depth that the Gators have.
"Our offensive line I think as anybody can see is probably the strength of our football program," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Whenever you have a young quarterback or you have a situation where a backup quarterback goes in, it's not necessarily about the quarterback as it is about the other 10 players that let him grow as a player.
"If you had your druthers and said you have an inexperienced line and an experienced quarterback, you'd lean toward having an experienced line and an inexperienced quarterback, particularly going into the league that we're going into. They give us a chance to be successful with their experience, their size and experience in big games."
That group will be a key for the Aggies throughout the season as they face large, athletic defenses similar to the one Florida will trot out, which was ranked eighth nationally in total defense last season.
After seeing them play Bowling Green, Aggies offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury came away impressed.
"They’re better than last year even, which is impressive," Kingsbury said. "Violent up front, a great D-Line, a secondary that can get down in your face and cover you up and attack. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
Could it be the best defense the Aggies have faced?
"I don't know. It's hard to say that," Joeckel said. "They look good on film. I'll be able to tell you after we play them. We have to play hard against them. Our offensive line, we've got an experienced group and we'll have to play our best game."
Matthews said these are the kind of matchups that excite him.
"I came here to play against the good players," Matthews said. "Now that we're in the SEC, we've got an even better chance of doing that, going against the teams that have been real consistent at winning and doing well every year. So, we want to play the best players, but it's going to be a huge challenge for us. That's what we look forward to, so we're excited for it."
UCLA-Texas A&M Schedule Football Series
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35