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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

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A&M prepares to defend home turf against Sam Houston

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Junior LB Tarian Lee Jr. (23) intercepts a pass thrown by junior QB Max Johnson (14) in Kyle Field on April 9, 2022.

The Texas A&M football team will take on the Sam Houston State Bearkats at Kyle Field this Saturday, Sept. 3 to open its 2022 season. 

During the offseason, the discussion surrounding the Aggies has made fans eager to see how the year will play out, especially after such successful recruiting. 

The Bearkats are coming off of a great season finishing with an 11-1 record and being two years shy of winning a national title over South Dakota State in 2020.

It’s nearly impossible to predict the outcome of any college football game, however, it’s easy to get an idea of what to expect by taking a look into defensive versus offensive matchups.

The Aggies’ defense has seen some changes in the last year, as Saturday’s debut will be under the leadership of new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. The team also saw the loss of defensive linemen Tyree Johnson, Demarvin Leal and Micheal Clemons, three of the top sack leaders in the SEC, to the NFL.

On Monday, Aug. 29, A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher, junior defensive back Antonio Johnson and senior defensive back Demani Richardson spoke with the media to discuss the Aggies’ defense against Sam Houston. Fisher, seemingly excited, said how hard the team has been working in practice during the summer to prepare for the season.

“We are getting a very good opponent that has only lost one game in the last two years,” Fisher said about the Bearkats. “By watching film, you can tell how well-rounded and diverse they are on offense. Their quarterback can really run and is athletic.”

Johnson spoke on the defensive line’s focus and approach for the Bearkats and went on to describe the defensive line as “a brotherhood.”  

“We have been focused on being disruptive around the ball, forcing fumbles, interceptions and sacks,” Johnson said. “We know they have a transfer [quarterback] that’s a runner and can make plays. We have been watching film on him and preparing to make sure that we can contain him and cover in the back end. We can’t let him get into a rhythm. We execute well and we communicate, that is what makes defense unique this year.”

Even through the loss of key defensive players, the Aggies have found balance in other players.

“[Sophomore defensive back] Jardin Gilbert is athletic, very fast and I know that he is going to do his job,” Richardson said. “He has instinct, he knows where people are going to be and he knows everyone’s jobs around him.”

A&M’s defense has plans to show up big on Saturday and prove that they are a well-rounded defensive line.

“The defensive line is fast, quick and strong,” Richardson said. “There is a lot of depth at defensive back and defensive lineman, the depth and talent level is really good. Our main focus is to get lined up, be ready to play, to contain the quarterback and not allow him to get big runs. The defensive line will need to stay in the rush lane to contain him.”

The Bearkats are led by head coach K.C. Keeler and have played excellent offense under his leadership. Keeler has also seen significant changes during the offseason, as the team will return with only one starter from the previous year. The offensive line is under new leadership of first year offensive coordinator John Perry and new offensive line coach Cooper Bassett. 

Sam Houston State has been working hard to prepare for the 2022 season.

“I’m really happy with the improvement the offensive line has made,” Bearkat junior offensive lineman Ethan Hagler said. “We always talk about the standard, and a lot of the new guys are even helping us raise our standard, so it is good to see that.”

Bassett spoke on what the Bearkats have been working towards to build a collective offensive unit.

“I think we are coming together,” Bassett said. “We are understanding the nuances that coach Perry wants done offensively. I love the fact they are asking good questions, are attentive in meetings. We are taking stuff from the classroom and putting it together on the field, and they are really getting a good feel for it.”

Most of the focus will be on the quarterback for Sam Houston. Last season, junior Eric Schimd led the squad to 21 total wins. In addition, the team has picked up newcomer Jordan Yates who spent the past three seasons at Georgia Tech and is known for his speed and playmaking. 

Both teams seem to have a game plan and are prepared to compete at a high level.

As to what it will take for A&M defensively to dismantle Sam Houston’s offense, Fisher shared that the team will have to “play with great toughness, immediacy, intensity and toughness.” 

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