Monday, February 25, 2013
Position breakdown: Defensive line
By Sam Khan Jr.
The area that was probably of most concern for Texas A&M heading into the 2012 season was the defensive line.
With the Aggies entering their first year in the SEC, the coaches kept a close eye on the depth, particularly on the interior. But that unit turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the Aggies last season, playing consistently well throughout the year.
Now, as the Aggies go into spring football, there are again questions about the defensive line.
Defensive end Julien Obioha returns after a solid freshman season, but Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has not given an indication on where Obioha is healthwise. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Obioha missed the AT&T Cotton Bowl with an undisclosed injury.
Damontre Moore, likely a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, leaves a big hole on the Texas A&M defensive front.
If he is healthy and good to go, look for him to return to his strongside defensive end spot.
Another significant question is who's most likely to take the spot manned by Damontre Moore last year. Before the Cotton Bowl, Moore announced that he was entering the NFL draft. Moore led the Aggies in tackles (85), tackles for loss (21) and sacks (12.5), finishing in the top 10 nationally in the latter two categories.
One player to watch is Tyrell Taylor, who was Moore's backup last year. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Taylor appeared in 11 games and picked up a sack in a limited role. Taylor's younger brother, outside linebacker Tyrone Taylor, could also be someone to keep an eye on at defensive end as well.
Another player to watch for is Brandon Alexander. Physically, the 6-6, 245-pound sophomore is comparable to Moore. Alexander redshirted last year because he wasn't in the mix for playing time on the defensive line. He'll have to make significant forward strides to get into the mix and it would help the Aggies' depth at the position if Alexander were a viable, playable option.
There are also questions going into spring at defensive tackle. Returning starter Kirby Ennis was suspended from the team earlier this month after being arrested on a gun charge. He was suspended from all team activities, pending further investigation. Sumlin hasn't indicated when or if Ennis will be reinstated.
With Spencer Nealy, who started next to Ennis last year, and Jonathan Mathis having graduated, the Aggies will look toward a younger crop of players to help at defensive tackle. Ivan Robinson, who appeared in 10 games as a sophomore and was Nealy's backup, returns.
Also, two players who received some practice time at defensive tackle as true freshmen -- Alonzo Williams and Polo Manukainiu -- could be factors as well. Williams played in seven games last year and Manukainiu redshirted.
A new player will be welcomed into the fold for spring drills: Heath (Texas) Rockwall-Heath defensive tackle Jordan Points. One of four defensive tackles in the Aggies' 2013 recruiting class, Points enrolled in January. He was the 65th-ranked defensive tackle nationally and was a three-star prospect.