There is a reason why Texas A&M is a national championship contender, but it’s not because of superhuman quarterback Kenny Hill.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. While Hill is the engine that makes the Aggies offense hum, we’ve seen his type before – most specifically, in the form of similarly-talented Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.
Yet even with ole Johnny Football leading the helm, Texas A&M finished 9-4 last season, with a 4-4 conference record that left it out in the cold come Southeastern Conference championship time.
The reason for the Aggies good, but not great, performance in 2013? The answer, surprisingly enough, lies on the other side of the ball. The reason why the Aggies will have a better record this year?
Once again, it’s all about the defense.
An improved defense
Last season, the Aggies were outscored 156-113 in their four losses.
In defeat, they allowed 49 points to Alabama, 45 to Auburn, 34 to LSU and 28 to Missouri.
Simply put, the offense was good, but not good enough to overcome some truly bad defense.
Now fast forward to this year. Texas A&M is outscoring the opposition 125-31, in albeit a small sample size of two games.
When facing No. 9 South Carolina in the team’s season-opener, Texas A&M allowed 28 points, while scoring 52. The defense held South Carolina scoreless in the fourth quarter, previously cementing their advantage with an interception of Dylan Thompson at the end of the third.
The recipient of that fateful interception?
That would be one of two freshman Aggies who have made all the difference.
Safety Armani Watts patrolled the middle of the backfield, watched Thompson’s eyes dart left and flew to the sideline to pluck the pass out of the air.
The interception stopped a Gamecocks drive when the game was still within shooting distance, with a 45-28 score.
The player less recognized on that play was fellow freshman defensive lineman Myles Garrett, who ripped past the hopeless lineman trying to block him and put the pressure on Thompson, slamming the quarterback to the ground mid-throw.
That led to the bad decision from Thompson, and ultimately, to a huge defensive play for the Aggies defense – the type of play sorely lacking from last year’s team.
Fans shouldn’t be surprised by the two freshmen though.
Garrett came as a 6-foot-5, 255-pound behemoth and five-star recruit and has three sacks after two games, along with countless quarterback pressures. Watts was a four-star recruit and 17th-ranked at his position.
If these two continue to play well, they may be able to shore up a defense that was missing in action at times last year – and potentially provide the boost the Aggies need to be serious Southeastern Conference players.