Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Aggies O-Line key against Florida, SEC
By Sam Khan Jr.
Texas 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."