The Aggies lost three seniors from the 2008 secondary and heading into 2009 A&M has three returning starters, but beyond that it's extremely thin in the defensive backfield.
A&M might have ranked No. 95 in the nation in pass defense by allowing 242.67 yards per game through the air, but in the pass-happy Big 12 conference that finished as the fourth best pass defense in the league. The Aggies lost three seniors in the starting lineup, but the thought is that the Aggies could actually be better in the secondary in 2009.
That's because two true freshmen in 2008 pushed their way into the starting lineup, and both are back and were even better in the spring. Frederick is A&M's top cornerback just a year after graduating from Katy High School while his former high school teammate, Hunter, is manning the middle at safety. Joining Hunter at safety is former cornerback Pugh, and the two form one of the tandems at safety in recent A&M history if the spring is any indication.
But opposite Frederick at cornerback is a huge question mark. The hope was that Judie, one of the top JUCO cornerbacks in the class of 2008, would be able to come in and contribute right away. But Judie is still finishing a class he needs before he can enroll at A&M. Meanwhile, Peterson will be back in camp after sitting out contact drills in the spring after surgery and he'll compete with sophomore walk-on McQueen along with a slew of freshmen.
THE VETERAN: Jordan Pugh
Pugh has moved from corner to safety back to corner and now back to safety throughout his Aggie career, but one thing is for certain in 2009 - Pugh is the leader of the Aggie secondary and perhaps the entire defense. Pugh played in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2006 and has started all 25 games since.
Over his career, Pugh has accumulated 137 tackles, 10 pass breakups and one interception. Now Pugh will be roaming the middle of the field, which is something new to him as an Aggie. His one stint at safety was at the whip in the 4-2-5 employed by former head coach Dennis Franchione. In the spring, Pugh proved to be outstanding with Hunter over the middle and in summer 7-on-7 workouts the player reports were that Pugh was the toughest defensive back to face on the field.
KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON: Jordan Peterson
Peterson was a starting cornerback under former head coach Dennis Franchione before being moved to safety as a junior last season. He didn't participate in spring drills due to offseason surgery, but one thing is for sure - Peterson has experience.
Many have already written off the senior at the cornerback spot opposite Frederick, but Peterson certainly has experience at the position which can't be said for many others on the roster. If Judie doesn't make it into camp, then Peterson is the odds-on favorite to win the job. Even if Judie is in camp, Peterson will give him everything he has to earn the job.
WATCH OUT FOR THE FISH: Dustin Harris
Much like the linebacker position, the Aggies brought in a number of defensive backs in the recruiting class of 2008 - seven to be exact. All will have a chance to earn playing time in 2009 with such thin depth across the board in the secondary. But Harris may be the top prospect to earn time this season of the bunch.
Harris proved in the THSCA All-Star a few weeks ago that he is an outstanding kick and punt returner, but he also shut down his receivers at cornerback. The converted high school quarterback had one interception in the game, and no one threw to his side the rest of the evening. He is quick and has good instincts and could find himself playing as a true freshman come September.
The Aggies feel very comfortable with Hunter and Pugh at safety, and they should. The two provide a playmaking duo that could be a catalyst to a much better defense in 2009 both on the field and in the locker room. Don't be surprised by the end of the season that the two are thought of as one of the best safety tandems in the Big 12 conference, which should make a major impact on the defending the Big 12's pass-happy offenses.
Frederick, meanwhile, is a solid cornerback who is only going to get better by having to face wide receiver Jeff Fuller every day in practice. Although Frederick proved to be a very capable and talented cornerback, eventually earning six starts in 2008, he's still just a true sophomore and will facing some of the top receivers in the nation. But he'll be facing one of those every day in practice in Fuller as well.
The hole, however, is the other side opposite Frederick. If the Aggies can find someone to fill that position well, be it Judie, Peterson or one of the true freshmen such as Harris, then the Aggie secondary, at least the starting unit, could be very good in 2009.
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