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August 7, 2009

Countdown 2009: Gaining speed on the DL

With August training camp just a week away we continue on with our Texas A&M position previews in the Countdown to 2009 with the defensive line. One of A&M's biggest problems in 2008 was the lack of a pass rush. The A&M coaching staff made some changes in the effort to get more speed on the field on the line in 2009.

Defensive Line 101


Departed Starters: Michael Bennett, Cyril Obiozor

Returning Starters: Tony Jerod-Eddie, Eddie Brown

Impact Players: Von Miller, Matt Moss

Top Reserves: Rod Davis, Adren Dorsey

Freshman Impact: Kirby Ennis

Position Changes: Miller (LB to Jack), Matt Featherston (LB to Jack), Andrew Wolridge (LB to DT), K.J. Williams (TE to DE)

OVERVIEW:

In effort to get more speed on the field, the Aggies made some changes on the defensive line but none more than creating the new jack position. The jack is a hybrid linebacker/defensive end that is meant to be able to jump back into coverage as a linebacker or rush the passer with speed. Miller, a junior, will jump into the spot. On the other end the Aggies are going with speed as well with Moss, who doesn't have the speed Miller possesses but with Miller pulling most of the attention Moss should be free on one-on-ones.

On the interior, the Aggies return Jerod-Eddie and Brown who both started as true freshmen in 2008. Jerod-Eddie took the job away from Kellen Heard, who has left the program, while Brown finished the season as the starter after earning a start over Jerod-Eddie against Baylor and then starting next to him against Texas after Lucas Patterson went down with injury.. Patterson has since moved to the offensive line.

Behind Jerod-Eddie and Brown are the other two promising tackle from the recruiting class of 2008 - Dorsey and Davis. Both will play after redshirting last season in the rotation along with Jerod-Eddie and Brown, giving the Aggies a promising four-man rotation in the interior.

THE VETERAN: Tony Jerod-Eddie

Jerod-Eddie is only a sophomore, but he is definitely the veteran on the line with eight starts under his belt. And therein lies the problem. The line has talent, but experience is at a low. Miller has starting experience but at a different position while Brown has two starts.

Jerod-Eddie, however, does have the attitude of a veteran and if the spring was any indication he has the game of one too. It seemed that he batted down at least one pass every day during spring drills. He got in much better shape during the offseason before the spring, which allowed him to gain some speed. With his strength, he is constantly in the backfield. Jerod-Eddie is definitely a player to watch this season.

THE SUPERSTAR: Von Miller

The jack position seemed like a fit made in heaven for Miller who is making the move from linebacker where he never really fit in last season. As a jack, Miller is able to use his sideline-to-sideline speed in coverage at times, but mostly his job is to get to the quarterback.

And it's something he excels in. Miller was constantly in the backfield in the spring. No offensive tackle on A&M's offensive line could keep up with him. During the season, Miller is going to get doubled and cut down, but if he is able to handle the attention and still get to the quarterback then he could have a huge year. With his speed, anything is possible.

KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON: Matt Moss

Moss has a ton of speed on the opposite side of Miller. He's not as fast as Miller, but if Miller get the attention of double teams then Moss will be looked upon to get in the backfield and disrupt things. He proved in the spring that he can do just that.

Moss improved throughout the spring and seemed to get very comfortable late in the spring. With that comfort level came many more big plays and by the end of drills it seemed he was brooding with confidence.

WATCH OUT FOR THE FISH: Kirby Ennis

The Aggies have a lot of talent on the defensive line, but the question is depth at defensive end. A&M lost Paul Freeney who opted out of football after an eye injury and have little depth behind Miller and Moss. Featherston is Miller's top backup while Cody Williams is the one player who has been at defensive end before this season. K.J. Williams, meanwhile, moves there from tight end after also playing defensive end in high school.

But the lack of experienced depth gives incoming freshman Ennis a chance to earn some playing time as well. It'll be interesting to see where he stacks up during camp.

EXPECTATIONS:

A&M needs a pass rush after getting just 16 sacks last season, and the Aggies figure they'll get it by taking off the leash with Miller and letting him loose. Miller's speed is amazing, and he showed it with the ability to get to the quarterback in the spring. But that was against a makeshift Aggie offensive line that was missing key components to injury.

Miller, however, will get a ton of attention from opposing defenses. The difference is that the Aggies do have some players that can make opponents pay for doing so. Jerod-Eddie seems ready to have a break out year while Moss certainly has the speed to beat many tackles off the line one-on-one. Meanwhile, Brown is also a load in the middle.

The top four, plus the addition of Dorsey and Davis on the interior gives A&M a solid core group of defensive linemen. The talent is there for a solid future, but it's still unknown how the Aggie line will perform against the top offensive linemen in the Big 12 conference.

One thing is for sure, however. This line will have more speed and provide much more of pass rush than the line did last season.

Defensive Line Coach Buddy Wyatt: At A Glance
Age: 42
College: TCU '89
Experience: 19 years
A&M Tenure: Second season, Coached DL from 1999-2002
Career Highlights:Has coached the college game for 18 seasons starting at Minnesota in 1989 with stops at Oklahoma State, Colorado, Alabama, Northwestern and Nebraska. This is his second stint at Texas A&M where he coached the defensive line from 1999-2002.
Players of Note: Ty Warren, Rocky Bernard

Countdown 2009:

Quarterback
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight ends
Offensive Line

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