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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M Aggies guard Tyrece Radford (23) blocks Arkansas Razorbacks guard Tramon Mark (12) during Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)
Free falling
February 20, 2024
Jace LaViolette (17) an Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle celebrating a home run during Texas A&Ms game against UIW on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024 at Olsen Field. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
GALLERY: Baseball vs. UIW
February 20, 2024
Texas A&M Aggies guard Tyrece Radford (23) blocks Arkansas Razorbacks guard Tramon Mark (12) during Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)
Free falling
February 20, 2024
Jace LaViolette (17) an Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle celebrating a home run during Texas A&Ms game against UIW on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024 at Olsen Field. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
GALLERY: Baseball vs. UIW
February 20, 2024

Halftime speech launches linebacker into spring

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At the mid-way mark of the 2013 Chick-fil-A bowl, the Texas A&M Aggies entered the locker room facing an uphill battle, trailing the Duke Blue Devils 38-17.
While the leading voice in the room was quarterback Johnny Manziel, there was a young defensive catalyst who made his presence felt.
“At halftime I went in and was pretty frustrated with my performance and the rest of the defense’s [performance],” said sophomore linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni. “I tried to take over as a leader and say, ‘Turn the page. Don’t even think about it.’ We went out there and bought in to what the players and coaches were saying. I think it paid off.”
The halftime speeches spurred the Aggies on to a 52-48 comeback. For the 18-year-old Giovanni it became a stepping-stone in his early collegiate career as defensive coordinator Mark Snyder pointed out at Wednesday’s spring practice.
“Guys, we’re in the SEC. It’s hard to play a lot of plays as an 18-year-old. That’s hard,” Snyder said. “We went through that last year. You’re starting to see the young guys relax a little bit and know what’s going on with the defense. You know, there’s phases in life and there’s phases in football. It’s starting to come together for him.”
Mastrogiovanni played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman, recording 26 tackles. When linebacker Darian Claiborne was suspended for the bowl game, Giovanni was thrown into a starting role.
“Part of the challenge was that he wasn’t playing as much as Darian,” said linebacker coach Mark Hagen. “So when it came time for him to step in there in the bowl game I don’t think it was something he embraced. It was a disaster from the opening kickoff in the bowl game. It was a matter of getting a stop and you started to see the confidence come back a little bit.”
This spring, Mastrogiovanni has become a starter with Claiborne suspended for a separate incident.
“He’s a lot more comfortable being out with the first group and taking all of those reps with the ones,” Hagen said. “I think the bowl game he certainly took a step forward. That maybe planted some seeds and he’s jumped in where he left off. He’s really had a productive spring so far. He’s really communicating well and you can see a more confident player out there.”
The increased role with the defense has put things in perspective for Mastrogiovanni, who said he grew up watching Aggie linebackers like Dat Nguyen and Von Miller.
“I told myself this offseason – as a middle linebacker – this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Mastrogiovanni said. “I really want to take advantage of it. I’m really trying to be a vocal leader and I think I need to establish myself as a playmaker before I really try to take over that role.”
Mastrogiovanni said Wednesday that the defensive coaching staff has been preaching to the Aggie defenders that their play last season resulted in a defense that ranked No. 109 of 123 FBS teams.
This has served as inspiration for Mastrogiovanni and his defensive teammates to bring back the Wrecking Crew-caliber defense that once gave A&M its name.
“That’s just unacceptable, especially for a program as high caliber as Texas A&M,” he said of last year’s defensive finish. “The fans deserve better. That’s not the product we want to put out on the field. We’re driven. We’re motivated. We just don’t want to have a defensive season like that again.”

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