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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Turning the Tide: How A&M’s defense matches up with Alabama’s offense

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Photo by Photo by Ishika Samant

Junior LB Edgerrin Cooper (45) and junior DL Fadil Diggs (10) celebrate after a third down stop during the Southwest Classic against Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

Texas A&M football’s defense is firing on all cylinders headed into its Oct. 7 matchup with the Alabama Crimson Tide at Kyle Field. After a poor performance against Miami in Week 2, defensive coordinator DJ Durkin has turned things around, as the Aggies have conceded just a single offensive touchdown in the three games since the loss to the Hurricanes.
Keeping that streak alive against the Alabama offense will be challenging. The Crimson Tide’s quarterback concerns are over, as sophomore Jalen Milroe is back in the starting spot.
Milroe isn’t the most prolific passer in the SEC, but he’s one of the conference’s best dual-threat field generals. He’s rushed for 189 yards in the four games he’s played in — a stat made more impressive when you include that he’s been sacked 15 times so far this year.
Aggie fans are used to getting burned by scrambling quarterbacks in recent years. But things are looking better for the Wrecking Crew this season, as the Aggie defense held Arkansas senior quarterback KJ Jefferson to an abysmal -3 rushing yards on 18 carries. In last year’s Southwest Classic against the Aggies, Jefferson ran for 105 yards and a touchdown.
A&M’s manhandling of Jefferson can largely be credited to seven Aggie sacks. Alabama’s offensive line has given up a total of 20 sacks on the year. Look for A&M junior defensive lineman and sack leader Shemar Turner and sophomore defensive lineman Walter Nolen to capitalize on the Tide’s offensive line woes.
If the Crimson Tide’s offensive line is able to hold up, look for offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to put more of a focus on the run game. Senior running back Jase McClellan leads the Tide in that regard with 326 rushing yards this season and has scored in all but two of Alabama’s victories.
Between Milroe, McCellan and the rest of Alabama’s running back stable, the Tide rank sixth in the SEC in rushing offense — and a mere 13th in passing offense.
When it is able to establish a passing game, Alabama isn’t afraid to spread the ball around. No receiver has more than 200 yards receiving, but four of them have breached the hundred yard mark so far, with others close behind. Senior wide receiver Jermaine Burton leads the Tide in receiving yards with 179, while a sophomore duo of Kobe Prentice and Isaiah Bond each share the title of most receptions on the year with 12.
Milroe and his receiving corps will look to capitalize on A&M’s secondary issues, which have been the weakest point of the Aggies’ defense so far.
That being said, the secondary looks much improved after being exposed by Miami. Auburn and Arkansas only passed for a combined 188 yards and a single touchdown against the Maroon and White.
And if Durkin and the Aggies choose to put pressure on Milroe when he does have the opportunity to throw, they’ve got the linebackers to make the gamble pay off.
Junior linebacker Edgerrin Cooper not only leads the Aggies in tackles, but is tied for second in sacks as well. Meanwhile, freshman linebacker Taurean York is in the midst of his own breakout year. York is second to only Cooper in terms of total tackles amongst all Aggies and has a sack of his own already.
This is not the high-powered Alabama offense of years past that fans across the SEC have come to fear. And this is not the A&M defense that was razed by Miami earlier this season.
As Aggie head coach Jimbo Fisher has often predicted during his time at A&M, things aren’t the way they used to be.

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About the Contributor
Ian Curtis
Ian Curtis, Sports Reporter
Ian Curtis is a journalism freshman from College Station, Texas. Ian has written about football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, hockey, gymnastics, volleyball and more for The Battalion. Ian's work has also appeared in The Bryan-College Station Eagle and over the airwaves on WTAW and BCSball.com. 
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