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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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One step away
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Coaches Price and Hagen discuss development of defensive line

Photo by Timothy Lai

Mark Hagen answers questions after Tuesday’s football practice. 

When most coaches land a new gig at a university, they start off with a clean slate. However, defensive coordinator John Chavis decided to keep the staff at hand, and defensive line coaches Mark Hagen and Terry Price spoke to the media Tuesday and said they have loved having Chavis on staff at Texas A&M.
“It’s great to still be here and be a part of a great university and program,” defensive tackle coach Hagen said. “I don’t know what those conversations were like, but it was great to be here through the signing day and to keep rolling with things. Being a part of coach Chavis’ staff here is a lot of fun. Obviously his reputation speaks for itself and he’s been great with us since day one. He includes us in the thoughts for the day, how we structure practice and game plan thoughts. I know myself and the rest of the assistants have been like sponges just trying to learn from him.”
Defensive end coach Price boasted a year dominated by freshman Myles Garrett, who broke the SEC freshman record for sacks with 11.5. Coach Price, however, said that Garrett struggled when it came to defending the run, particularly in the later games of the season. Since the Liberty Bowl, it has been a focus for Garrett.
“Obviously he’s gotten stronger, healthier and has done a better job at the point of attack,” coach Price said. “One of the biggest things we’ve worked on since spring to the fall is hand placement and edge protections as far as pressing and serving off blockers and just doing a better job at the point of attack. I think toward the end of the year people started running at him and you’ve got to be able to handle all blocks, whether it’s down blocks, base blocks or fullbacks or guards pulling. All the things you see on the edges, he’s had to get better at. He’s worked hard at it and he’s done a better job with his hands.”
Garrett’s emergence as a freshman earned the respect of his teammates, and he’s emerged as a vocal leader for the Aggies during fall camp.
“The one thing he’s taken pride in this year is trying to be more of a leader,” coach Price said. “He’s taken that role since camp started. He wasn’t that good in the spring and he was learning how to push through and you don’t just become a leader overnight. But this two-a-days, he’s really worked hard at becoming a better leader and he’s worked hard not to just lead the d-line group but to lead the team.”
Coach Price highlighted the importance of having a second end just as skilled as Garrett, and might have that in Daeshon Hall. After his freshman season, Hall required shoulder surgery, which prohibited him from gaining much needed bulk in size. His skinny stature hindered him in his sophomore season, but coach Price said this spring and fall has worked wonders in shaping him into the player that he needs to be.
“As far as what I’ve seen so far personally, the young man has had his first offseason,” coach Price said. “I know it’s been documented a lot but it means a lot of football. For a guy that’s 219-220 pounds tall, skinny basketball player and not have a true offseason as a football player in the SEC was tough on him his first to second year. But this year, he’s finally put on good weight, good strength and he’s bought in to what we’re asking him to do. To me, his skill set fits exactly what we do defensively.”
The offseason has been even more critical for senior Julien Obioha, who competed mostly on the end in his first few years with A&M. Now, the coaches are asking that he play inside.
“He’s one smart individual,” coach Hagen said. “As he’s watched his career evolve, he’s grown and gotten bigger and stronger. But, he’s not one of those cheetah cats that is on the edge and is a pure pass rusher. That’s kind of what coach Chavis’ scheme calls for is edge pressure. I think Julien’s skill set, and I think he realized early on in spring practice that he’s built a little bit more as a technician and a bigger and more physical guy. It just seemed like a better fit for him to move inside. Late in the spring, we asked him, ‘Hey, let’s come inside and see how you do,’ and it’s been a better fit for him.”
Garrett and Hall will bear the end position while a much bigger Obioha will start with Alonzo Williams at tackle. To get accustom to the inside, Obioha put on some weight.
“He was about 280 or 282 when we started camp,” coach Hagen said. “The last time I checked, 24 hours ago, he was still at that same weight, so he’s doing a good job replenishing his fluids and keeping his body weight up there. He’s a technician and a physical guy so he’s put on a little muscle and weight and the thing that he gives us inside is explosiveness and athleticism. Maybe he wasn’t a good athlete per say on the edge, but now you come inside against those bigger guards and center types and now he’s a better athlete than those guys that he’s going against, so it’s been a good move so far.”
Obioha was praised by coach Price, who said that the senior could play at any position of the front seven. Coach Hagen mentioned that they have about eight players in the rotation at tackle, which will prevent any two guys being in more than 60 plays per game. This will particularly favor freshman defensive tackle Daylon Mack, who is still learning the system.
“Daylon is obviously a very talented individual,” coach Hagen said. “I think it’s been a work in progress so far for all of our freshman to come into this kind of setting and just the speed and pace of an SEC practice. Then you’re taking another step just looking at our practices in general with how fast we go. He’s had flashes of really great play and he’s had some times where he’s catching his breath and wondering if he’s going to make it to the next period. He’s had his ups and downs but he’s certainly a very talented young man and we just have to keep getting him into game shape. Each day we’re going to give him a little bit more and he’s rolling in there.”
Sophomore Qualen Cunningham is another young defensive lineman gaining recognition, as coach Price said he was impressed with his play in last Saturday’s scrimmage.
“He started off camp just doing okay, but he came on Saturday and to me had a really good day Saturday,” coach Price said. “I thought he had his best day of camp Saturday in the scrimmage so he’s making progress. He’s playing faster and has gotten a little stronger and again, three of these guys were true freshman last year and they were scared to death to go into the game and learn this defense for the first time. I’m proud of where he’s come and the improvements he’s made.”

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  • Terry Price answers questions Tuesday after football practice. 

    Photo by Timothy Lai
  • Terry Price answers questions after Tuesday’s football practice. 

    Photo by Timothy Lai
  • Mark Hagen answers questions after Tuesday’s football practice. 

    Photo by Timothy Lai
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