For the past two seasons, Von Miller was the ultimate nightmare for Texas A&M's opponents. The perfect blend of speed and strength, he could get into the defensive backfield from anywhere. But now he's gone, the second overall pick in the NFL draft to the Denver Broncos.
As we count down to the start of the 2011 Texas A&M football season, the first question in the 15 Days, 15 Questions series is an obvious one: Who replaces Von Miller's production?
A: Probably more than one guy.
During a press conference held right before the start of fall camp, Mike Sherman said it was likely that the Aggies would rely on a number of players to replicate Miller's totals. It will be tough to find a guy who can generate 27.5 sacks and a Butkus Award in two seasons, but A&M does have several guys who can cause havoc for opposing quarterbacks -- which is more in line with Defense Coordinator Tim DeRuyter's scheme anyway.
While Aggies have become used to seeing sacks piled up from the Joker position, the guy who may be likely to lead the team in tackles for loss doesn't play there. Sean Porter plays the other outside linebacker position, but Sherman and his teammates are all expecting a huge year from him. Largely overshadowed by Miller's brilliance last year, Porter has shown this fall that he's more than capable of getting the passer in his own right. If he gets the green light to rush the quarterback, he'll produce.
The guys who will likely split time at Joker this season are Caleb Russell and DaMontre Moore. Moore is a physical freak who tallied six sacks of his own last year in a part-time role, while Russell has impressed everyone with his ability as well. There have been occasions where the Aggies have had both guys on the field at the same time, which holds the potential of serious speed being thrown at the quarterback, as well as confusion as to just who's coming from where.
Garrick Williams is one guy who could blitz from the inside linebacker position and cause problems, and guys like Donnie Baggs and Jonathan Stewart bring experience rushing the passer from the outside.
It would be a mistake to expect all blitzes from the Aggies to come from the linebackers, however, as DeRuyter has no concern about sending linebackers or corners at the quarterback as well. While they won't be coming at the passer frequently, defensive backs like Steven Campbell, Terrence Frederick and Toney Hurd all have the ability to cause problems for the offensive line.
While Von created all kinds of problems for offensive coordinators last year, this year's Aggie defense will present an entirely different kind of problems for those scheming against them.