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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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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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June 16, 2024

Colorado’s grounded offense to pose problems for A&M defense

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Junior defensive back Demani Richardson will be a key player on the line of scrimmage for the Saturday, Sept. 11 game against Colorado at Empower Field. 

Many wonder what happens when an unstoppable force is pitted against an immovable object.
Within the world of football, the Aggies are now prepared to find out. Having already competed in gametime situations this season, less uncertainty surrounds A&M’s defense. Though Aggies of years past excelled at stopping the run, such as allowing opponents to average just 3.3 yards per carry with the second best line in the country in 2020, this season’s line seems more adept at covering the pass. Though this may benefit the Aggies against “air raid” powerhouses like Mississippi State or pro-style attacks like Alabama, Colorado’s offense presents a different issue entirely.
Fresh off of a 2020 season averaging over 200 rushing yards per game, the Buffaloes look ready to assert even more dominance in the ground game. Most recently, Colorado ran for 295 yards and 4 touchdowns en route to the team’s 35-7 trumping of Northern Colorado on Friday, Sept. 3. Mounted by sophomore tailback Jarek Broussard, who rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown against the Bears, Colorado’s ability to run will prove dangerous for A&M, head coach Jimbo Fisher said.
“On defense, we’ve got to seal up some areas in the rush game,” Fisher said. “Inside guys have to press. Colorado’s a very good football team — pro-schemes on offense, different looks. They’re coached really well. We’re going to have our hands full on the road.”
This threat is especially pronounced when looking at the Aggies’ performance against Kent State. Far from the maroon and white’s defensive 3.3 yards-per-rush average of last season, the Golden Flashes managed to put up 252 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Many of Kent State’s runs came on open gaps between A&M linebackers, similar to Colorado’s rushing strategy employed against Northern Colorado. To limit similar damage in its next matchup, A&M must find a way to close the holes and force runners, especially Broussard, to the inside.
The only way to fully accomplish this is for the defensive players to mature and focus on their assigned role instead of playing for personal success, Fisher said.
“You have to do [your job] within the framework of how it’s constructed on defense,” Fisher said. “[When you don’t,] I call it ‘sticking your nose in the honey’ — wanting to go make the tackle instead of doing their job, staying in the gap and forcing it to the unblocked guy. We’ve got to improve.”
The Aggies will also have to contend with freshman tailback Ashaad Clayton, junior tailback Alex Fontenot and sophomore back Deion Smith, all of who rushed for double-digit numbers and a touchdown in their team’s season opener. For A&M to cover such a deep corps, it must utilize the numerous freshmen who have found their way onto the starting roster, including safety Jardin Gilbert, defensive back Tyreek Chappell, cornerback Deuce Harmon and defensive end Zion Harris. Most notably, however, is the potential for defensive lineman Shemar Turner to again stand out.
Taking advantage of the holes left by the suspensions of defensive linemen McKinnley Jackson and Micheal Clemons, Turner stepped up against Kent State, recording four tackles and a sack. Going against a Colorado offensive line which allowed three sacks, the DeSoto native has an opportunity to solidify himself as a permanent starter.
Praising his collegiate debut, Fisher said Turner is set to become a difference maker of which opposing offenses should be fearful.
“[Turner] is going to be an outstanding player,” Fisher said. “He loves ball, he practices hard, he’s big, he’s physical.”
The biggest unknown of Colorado’s offense comes in the form of sophomore quarterback Brendon Lewis. After only playing one game in 2020, little is detailed regarding what he is or isn’t capable of. His one collegiate appearance as a freshman came in the Alamo Bowl, where the signal caller averaged 9.5 yards per pass attempt and rushed for 73 yards, including a team-high of 44 yards on one play. If he surprises the Aggies and debuts a cannon of an arm, the maroon and white may have to scramble to cover the spread at a moment’s notice. Regardless, A&M’s five total sacks against the Golden Flashes all but guarantee Lewis will have very limited time in the pocket.
As it stands, the Buffalo offense’s biggest obstacle is shaping up to be the trio of experienced players anchoring A&M’s defense. Senior safety Leon O’Neal, fresh off of a performance highlighted by two interceptions, four tackles and a touchdown, presents Colorado with the challenge of outsmarting a player who is constantly aware of his surroundings. Junior defensive back Demani Richardson and junior defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal, often mistaken for specialist position players because of their speed, give the Aggies tools to combat Colorado’s rush-based offense via short sprints near the line of scrimmage.
A&M’s defense has the potential to turn Colorado’s biggest strengths into hindrances, but it will require making adjustments on communication and finding more success on ground coverage. Either way, when an explosive rushing offense is set against a defense with the potential to stop any opposition in its tracks, one side has to give.
For all intents and purposes, A&M won’t be the one to budge, Richardson said.
“Our whole mentality this year is to dominate,” Richardson said. “We need to do that.”

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