A look at the defensive standouts from Friday Night Lights:
-A&M's secondary was the most impressive part of the defense tonight (although defensive tackle Alonzo Williams had a very nice night as well).
-This may well be the best secondary in the SEC when you include nickel back Toney Hurd in the mix. They gave up one big play tonight and Johnny Manziel had a nice scramble to hit Mike Evans in the end zone. Otherwise, they didn't let anyone get behind them for the second straight week. Devante Harris is just a great finesse corner who's getting more physical every time you see him and even made a stand up. Deshazor Everett is just a physical guy who has good footwork and technique and he's getting where you don't want to throw to his side.
Floyd Raven was a monster tonight. He had multiple big hits including one that drew a penalty but that's going to happen. He another one near hit where he would have taken the receiver's head off if the receiver hadn't ducked. He had an interception when Manziel launched an underthrown ball on the move and he came from centerfield to double cover the receiver and pick it off. He showed great range throughout. Howard Matthews was quieter but was solid in coverage near the line of scrimmage as Mike Evans was much less of a factor tonight. He also caught a fumble that popped up in mid air into the end zone from the goal line.
Again…and I can't emphasize this enough…it's been a long time since A&M had this type of size at safety and it shows in their range helping the corners on the deep routes and lay the wood either in run support or after the catch.
-Defensive tackle Alonzo Williams had a tendency to play high last week and he repeated that tonight. However, is first step is pretty good and he really gets his hands up quickly and gets leverage on offensive linemen. As a result, people had a tendency to go backwards tonight when they faced him. He was by far A&M's best defensive lineman tonight.
-Defensive ends Tyrell Taylor and Gavin Stansbury did have the same impact tonight that they did last week. In particular, Stansbury lacked the push that made him so effective last week. Taylor had a couple of nice moments but that was it.
-Middle linebacker Donnie Baggs was really good tonight at all phases of the scrimmage. He knows the defense and gets everyone lined up, had an interception over the middle on Manziel when he dropped and read the quarterback's eyes so he could slide a couple of steps and make the pick, and set the tone for the first team defense with his sure tackle of Mike Evans for a short gain on the opening play.
-Tommie Sanders worked the Will and Nate Askew worked the Sam positions tonight. Sanders is not a big guy but has a really good initial step. He's more of a straight line guy though and has a tendency to get swallowed up by bigger tackles on the blitz. Askew didn't have the same impact tonight that he did last weekend but his long arms enabled him to get leverage on a blocker on a blitz and force a bad pass that nearly got picked off. He also is adept in coverage at picking up receiver (thus acting as a deterrent to the quarterback throwing the ball to them) and had an impact on making Mike Evans seem more human this week.
-The second team defensive line had its moments. As we said in the write up on the offense, Tyrone Taylor had a couple of sacks and multiple pressures and Brandon Alexander had a sack as well. Taylor set up one sack with a quick burst off the ball and then an inside move that left the tackle flat footed. Alexander needs to be more consistent in all phases of the game.
-The second team defensive line was in a more of four man front (the first team line was in a three man front) which meant that we got our first look at Kimo Tipoti at nosetackle. Tipoti was just moved from offense to defense and as a result he's got a lot to learn about the position. He plays too tall and gets turned too much, particularly tonight by Ben Compton. He's starting over in a sense with his footwork (getting leverage with his foot placement), using his hands, and staying low. He's also not a first step guy and he doesn't have great length. However, he was impressive in short yardage tonight as his body makes it very difficult to move him in the running game when he is staying low. He's got a ways to go but he's getting far more reps right now than he ever did as an offensive lineman. Jordan Points was his usual active self.
-True freshman Brett Wade already has a pretty good grasp of where he is supposed to be lining up, blitzing, or dropping into coverage. He has a knack for avoiding blockers and can get pressure on the quarterback. His acceleration to the play is good. Reggie Chevis had a couple of good hits tonight. They are just a couple of really physical, mentally ready players.
-The second team secondary was solid due to the pressure from the front three. Alex Sezar competes and gets pretty good position but when he's one on one with JaQuay Williams that size advantage of Williams' really takes over, particularly in red zone situations. Williams drew Sezer's second flag in the end zone for interference in two weeks. I'll say this about Clay Hunnicutt; he patrols the short zones well and doesn't make any mental errors. Devonta Burns had a nice hit.
-Special teams included a nice kickoff return by Ben Malena. He looks faster and more decisive than last year. Taylor Bertolet missed a couple of field goals but he has better lean into his kicks this year. Drew Kaser was booming the ball and got a good role on one even when he didn't quite hit it like he did the others. Devante Harris had a nice little punt return when he made some people miss. None of the guys that you expect to be fielding kicks in the fall had any problems handing the ball.
-Recruits spent their time on the sidelines and were split between the offense on one side and the defense on the other. There were multiple former players there including Jerrod Johnson, Damontre Moore, Sean Porter, and Terrence Frederick.
-The DJ playing a mix of tunes over the sound system provided a noise level and an energy that otherwise might have been missing with less than a packed house on hand. The prospects we've talked to were unanimous in how much they enjoyed it.
-Finally, in the funniest moment of the night, Damontre Moore had gotten into his car on the west side of Netum Steed, had cranked up his music, and was preparing to back out of his space. He was totally unaware of Floyd Raven (A&M's biggest impact player of the night) walking behind him and as Raven started to walk behind the car, Moore began to back out. Raven jumped back out of the way in time and as he walked on past Moore yelled at him "I knew that it had to be you that nearly hit me!".