Texas A&M Aggies: Kevin Minter

SEC's DLs, LBs strong at combine

February, 21, 2013
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Today: Defensive linemen and linebackers.

Texas A&M Aggies


Texas A&M's defense was a question mark coming into the 2012 season, but those questions were answered definitively as the Aggies became a solid defensive squad, thanks in large part to three players who will be participating in the combine:
  • DE Damontre Moore (Position rank: No. 4)
    Strengths: Explosiveness and production. Moore was a handful for opposing offensive tackles this year because of his quickness and explosiveness as a pass-rusher. He has good speed for his size and position; that could be seen against Mississippi State when he chased down receiver Chris Smith from behind on a 42-yard completion. He was near the top nationally in sacks and tackles for loss.
    Weaknesses: He can be too aggressive in his pursuit occasionally, although he has good instincts. A year ago, inconsistency might have been a concern and there also might have been character questions because of an arrest for marijuana possession before his sophomore season, but neither appear to be issues now. He seems to have matured and has become a consistent, day-in and day-out player under Kevin Sumlin.
    Comparison: Todd McShay compared Moore to Atlanta defensive end John Abraham. They have similar frames (both are 6-4, Abraham is about 15 pounds heavier than Moore's 248), and both are quick and fit well as 4-3 defensive ends.
  • OLB Sean Porter (Position rank: No. 12)
    Strengths: He's durable, reliable and became a leader for the Aggies. Showed good speed when serving as a pass-rusher in 2011. He is quick and can close quickly. Good instincts, versatile talent.
    Weaknesses: Doesn't excel in coverage, though he has showed improvement in that area. Could be a more physical player and more consistent overall.
    Comparison: Lance Briggs. About the same height as Porter, though a little bigger in weight, Briggs has good range and is a playmaker. It might be too much to say Porter will be at the level of Briggs (seven-time Pro Bowl player), but he should fit in nicely as a versatile starting weakside linebacker for someone.
  • LB Jonathan Stewart (Position rank: No. 16)
    Strengths: Smart player with good size for his position. Shows good instincts as he's often around the ball. Was one of the leaders on A&M's defense this year.
    Weaknesses: Not a dominant playmaking presence. Has speed but not tremendously explosive.
    Comparison: Kirk Morrison. Stewart should be a solid, though not flashy, linebacker in a 4-3 scheme which is what Morrison has been throughout his career with Oakland and Buffalo. Both are of similar size and frame.
-- Sam Khan Jr., GigEmNation

Florida Gators


The heart of the Gators’ 2012 defense will participate in the combine today. DT Sharrif Floyd, whose stock is rising rapidly as he is projected to be taken as high as No. 3, had a fantastic season and anchored UF’s front. He dominated Florida State’s front, and his mixture of size, strength and quickness has scouts drooling. ILB Jon Bostic started every game the past two seasons and was UF’s leader on defense. Nobody was more dependable than Bostic. OLB Jelani Jenkins was limited in 2012 because of a broken finger, a strained hamstring and a broken foot, but when healthy he’s a solid player. OLB Lerentee McCray was forced into action at the buck position (hybrid end/linebacker) because of the injury to Ronald Powell. He didn’t produce big numbers but was a high-effort, high-motor guy.

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Film Review: LSU 24, Texas A&M 19 

October, 22, 2012
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M lost a close, hard-fought battle with LSU 24-19 on Saturday at Kyle Field, a day where the Aggies struggled taking care of the ball and met a defense that is filled with speed, athleticism and depth. Here's a closer look at three plays that helped tell the story of the game:

[+] EnlargeThomas Johnson
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireTexas A&M receiver Thomas Johnson has 21 catches and 269 yards receiving on the season.
Situation: Texas A&M ball, third-and-6 at the Aggies' 35 (4:33 left second quarter)
Score: Texas A&M 12, LSU 0
Result: Interception by LSU CB Jalen Collins, returned to the LSU 42.

Q&A with GeauxTigerNation's Gary Laney

October, 19, 2012
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As we approach the SEC clash between No. 6 LSU and No. 18 Texas A&M, we'll take a closer look at the Aggies' opponent with Gary Laney, who covers the Tigers for ESPN's GeauxTigerNation. Here are three questions for Laney and his takes on the Tigers:

1. Clearly LSU's defense has thrived so far this season. What's been the key for them on that side of the ball, and how have they defended mobile quarterbacks since they'll see one on Saturday?

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger, Lerentee McCray
AP Photo/John RaouxLSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has not taken the Tigers offense to the next level this season.
LSU lost some big play ability when Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the team, but really, the defense may be as a good as last year. At linebacker, the Tigers are definitely better as Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow are both rounding into solid linebackers, definitely upgrades from a season ago. If the secondary took a half step backwards after losing Morris Claiborne, Mathieu and Brandon Taylor off last year's team, the linebackers are clearly at least a half step better.

What's interesting about this week's matchup with Manziel is LSU has been spending the last few weeks preparing for mobile quarterbacks. It really started when Auburn began getting mileage out of a wildcat package with freshman Jonathan Wallace, a move that caught LSU a bit off guard, but was a sign of things to come. The next week, Towson's Grant Enders was a dual-threat type who had some big runs, then LSU dove into the heart of SEC play with Florida's Jeff Driskel and South Carolina's Connor Shaw, two more runners, in back-to-back games.

I don't think any of these guys are as talented as Johnny Manziel, but LSU should be well versed on containing a running threat in the pocket, staying in gaps on the cut/read option and all the other tricks you have to pull out against a running QB. They've been preparing for that for four straight weeks now.

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There won’t be any shortage of outstanding linebackers in the SEC this season, and a few of the teams are absolutely loaded.

In this era of hybrid roles, sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish whether somebody is a defensive end or an outside linebacker. The same goes for that outside linebacker/safety position we’re seeing so much of these days.

[+] EnlargeNico Johnson
Kelly Lambert/US PresswireSenior Nico Johnson will lead a strong group of linebackers at Alabama this season.
Here’s a look at how we would rank the linebacker units in the SEC heading into the 2012 season. It’s clearly a position of strength, which means even those teams ranking in the bottom half of the league are plenty stout:

1. Georgia: It starts with senior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who led the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (19.5) last season. Junior Alec Ogletree is just as disruptive on the inside, and the Bulldogs have quality depth inside with seniors Michael Gilliard and Christian Robinson. Senior Cornelius Washington could end up playing some at both end and outside linebacker.

2. Alabama: Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are both gone, but senior Nico Johnson and junior C.J. Mosley return as two of the top linebackers in the SEC. Mosley might be the best coverage linebacker in the league. The Crimson Tide have also recruited like mad, and younger players such as sophomore Jack linebacker Adrian Hubbard are ready to make their move.

3. Florida: Senior Jon Bostic and junior Jelani Jenkins are back to form the nucleus of a Florida defense that should again be one of the top units in the league. They racked up a combined 169 tackles last season. Senior Lerentee McCray missed time with a shoulder injury last season. With Ronald Powell recovering from an ACL tear, McCray factors in at the hybrid Buck position on the outside.

4. Texas A&M: The Aggies are moving to a 4-3 defense this season under new coordinator Mark Snyder. The star of the group is senior Sean Porter, who had 17 tackles for loss, including 9.5 sacks, last season. He’ll have plenty of support with leading tackler Jonathan Stewart returning for his senior season, not to mention senior Steven Jenkins, who was the star of the spring.

5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks are deep and experienced. Five seniors return, including four of the top 10 tacklers on the team last season. DeVonte Holloman plays the hybrid Spur position and is poised for his most productive season yet. Shaq Wilson is back at middle linebacker, while Reginald Bowens, Damario Jeffery and Quin Smith are three more seniors who’ve played a lot of football.

6. Tennessee: The Vols boasted some of the best young talent at linebacker in the league last season with A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt, both of whom were named Freshman All-SEC. With the Vols moving to a base 3-4 this season, Maggitt’s a guy who can play a couple of different roles. The Vols will also get back senior Herman Lathers, who missed all of last season with a fractured ankle.

7. Missouri: Three proven starters return at linebacker for the Tigers, including seniors Zaviar Gooden and Will Ebner. The 6-2, 230-pound Gooden has the size-speed combination to be an All-SEC player. Ebner just needs to stay healthy. He’s been beset by injuries the last two seasons. Junior Andrew Wilson led the team with 98 tackles last season. After filling in for Ebner in the middle, Wilson will move to strong side this season.

8. LSU: Some of the best news for the Tigers this spring was the way junior Kevin Minter played in the middle. As a second-year starter in 2012, he’s primed to take a big step. Defensive coordinator John Chavis also liked what he saw out of junior Tahj Jones. There won’t be much experience and some younger guys will have to come through, but talent shouldn’t be a problem.

9. Arkansas: The big move for the Hogs this spring was senior Tenarius Wright shifting from end to middle linebacker. It’s imperative that Arkansas holds up better against the inside run, and Wright has been a playmaker throughout his career. Senior Alonzo Highsmith had a big debut season for the Hogs after coming over from junior college. He led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss in 2011, but missed the spring with a torn pectoral muscle.

10. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs probably deserve to be ranked a little higher, but such is life in the SEC. Senior Cameron Lawrence returns after finishing third in the league last season with 123 tackles. Establishing a presence in the middle will be key. Redshirt freshman Benardrick McKinney and sophomore Ferlando Bohanna both have a ton of talent. They just don’t have much experience.

11. Ole Miss: It would be huge for the Rebels if they can get junior D.T. Shackelford back this fall. He’s trying to make it back from two ACL surgeries. He’s a terrific leader and can play any of the linebacker spots. Junior Mike Marry is back after leading the team with 81 tackles last season. Serderius Bryant also returns after earning Freshman All-SEC honors a year ago.

12. Auburn: Senior Daren Bates might be undersized at 205 pounds, but he was a rock for Auburn’s defense last season at weak side linebacker. He’s going to need some help in 2012 if the Tigers are going to improve on that side of the ball. Jake Holland battled injuries last season in the middle and should be more consistent as a junior. The guy to watch is redshirt freshman Kris Frost, who’s freakishly athletic.

13. Vanderbilt: The unquestioned leader of the Commodores’ defense, middle linebacker Chris Marve, is gone. Junior Chase Garnham will move into Marve’s spot in the middle after showing a ton of promise at outside linebacker in 2011. Senior Archibald Barnes is also back after finishing fourth on the team in tackles last season, and the staff is excited about getting freshmen Darreon Herring and Jake Sealand on the field.

14. Kentucky: The Wildcats were gutted at linebacker. Gone are Danny Trevathan, who led the SEC in tackles the last two seasons, and Winston Guy, who was right behind Trevathan last season in his hybrid safety/linebacker role. Ridge Wilson was also dismissed from the team following his arrest. Junior Avery Williamson is the only returnee with any real experience, and the Wildcats will need several younger players to come through.

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