The Texas A&M football team struggled to establish a pass rush in 2013. That will change in 2014 when freshman defensive end Myles Garrett will be an impact player for the Aggies defense.
Garret is the top-ranked player in the Aggies' 2014 recruiting class and is considered by some to be the No. 1 overall recruit in the country. The 6'4", 240-pound athlete was ranked as a 5-star recruit and the top weak-side defensive end in the country by 247sports.com.
Garrett was a dominant defensive player in high school. As a senior at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas, Garrett registered 39 tackles for loss and 20.5 sacks. He had 8.5 sacks in a single game.
He played in the Under Armour All-American game and tied the record for tackles for loss in the game with four, adding a sack. In a game that matches up some of the best high school recruits in America against each other, Garrett stood head and shoulders above the rest.
The Aggies defense registered 21 sacks total in 13 games in 2013. Junior defensive end Gavin Stansbury and freshman outside linebacker Shaan Washington tied for the team lead with three sacks.
The A&M defense was unable to generate a consistent pass rush. This resulted in opposing quarterbacks having the time to pick apart the A&M secondary.
The Aggies featured a lot of youth in the front seven on defense in 2013. Freshmen Isaiah Golden, Hardreck Walker, Jay Arnold and Daeshon Hall all saw extensive playing time on the defensive line.
Darian Claiborne, Jordan Mastrogiovanni and Washington saw a lot of action at linebacker. Golden, Claiborne and Mastrogiovanni all started at least one game.
The growing pains the Aggies suffered through on defense in 2013 will be rewarded in 2014, because those players will have a year of experience under their belt. Hall will benefit from a year in the weight room, where he can add some good weight to his 6'6", 240-pound frame.
Garrett is further along in his physical development than Hall was at the same age. He will not be as physically overwhelmed at the point of attack as Hall was at times during his freshman season.
This increased experience from his defensive line-mates will result in better play all along the line. That will help prevent opposing offenses from focusing on Garrett in 2014.
What to Expect
Garrett will be an impact player for the Aggies in 2014. He will play and play often at weak-side defensive end. Whether or not, and how soon he starts depends on a variety of factors.
Hall is the most natural pass-rusher on the Aggies' roster. He had only three tackles for loss in 2013 but displayed the ability to get into the backfield and be a disruptive player.
Hall is the most likely candidate to start on the weak-side in 2014. His availability for spring practice is up in the air after he underwent offseason surgery on his shoulder.
The defensive end position on the team is in a state of flux right now. Rising junior Alonzo Williams started at defensive tackle for much of 2013. If Golden, Walker and redshirt freshman Justin Manning prove capable on the interior, then Williams may move back to strong-side defensive end.
Rising junior Julien Obioha started at weak-side defensive end in 2013. He was completely ineffective in that spot, registering only one sack in 13 games. Obioha started on the strong side in 2012 and was solid over there.
If Obioha and Williams play on the strong side, then Stansbury may move over to the weak side. A lot of this will be sorted out during spring practice, but nothing is for certain until August.
What is for certain is that Garrett will receive extensive playing time in 2014. If he does not start any games at defensive end, then fans should expect Garrett to make around five sacks as a freshman. If he is the starter on the weak side by conference play, Aggies fans should expect eight sacks and double-digit tackles for loss out of the freshman.
Garrett has the ability to be the defensive freshman of the year and an All-SEC performer as a freshman. He will definitely have a positive impact on the Aggies defense. How big of an impact that is will be determined by the rest of the defensive line.