Giving up over 600 yards and 45 points at Kyle Field in a loss is bad. Really bad, actually. Frustrations arise quickly, especially since we have one of the most magical offensive players in college football doing his best to keep us competitive. But still we woke up this morning to see the plumes of smoke arising on Kyle Field from the burned-out hulk of a thing we used to call "The Wrecking Crew."
We are pragmatic. We'd like a target. We'd like to sum it up by pinning this on one person. But we shouldn't.
Certainly Mark Snyder could do things a bit differently. He could improve sideline communication, he could do a little less scheming and focus a bit more on the basics, and yes, he could even roll the dice and play the best guys he has no matter what age they are. But when it's all said and done, he should be able to do things the way he wants to do them for at least another year because he was not given much.
Last year the defense had similar issues, but they were masked well by experience. The 2012 seniors will go down as one of the best groups of seniors to suit up for the Aggies as they pioneered the move to the SEC in style, and a good number of those guys were key defenders. Porter. Nealy. Terrell. Harris. Etc. Losing them to graduation hurt. Losing Damontre Moore to the NY Giants hurt. But that's football. Mark Snyder never complained, because he knows that's part of the gig.
I'm going to jump back a bit here. I did not like the Mike Sherman hire. Not one bit. I thought it was poorly thought-out and a sad remnant of the good ole boy system that still has some roots in the athletic department. He had no college football head coaching experience and an otherwise average resume. But he did a decent job. He struggled for two years before having a really good season in 2010 because he really didn't have a great deal to work with when he arrived, especially on the offensive line. And if there's one thing Mike Sherman knows, it's the offensive line. He did an amazing job resurrecting ours and we are still reaping the benefits with guys like Jake and Ced and Jarvis, who were Sherman recruits. Sherman deserves all the credit and then some for building up a wealth of offensive talent for Sumlin to draw on.
That being said, he did a rather poor job of recruiting on defense. I don't know if he was relying too much on his DCs or other assistants, but for whatever reason we are struggling right now. Do you remember hearing all those excuses in 2008 and 2009 about Fran "leaving the cupboard bare"? Well, yeah, that's what's going on right now on defense. We have one senior linebacker who has just begun to hit his stride halfway through the season. We have another senior linebacker who was playing wide receiver a year ago. Our best senior defensive lineman is out for the season with a torn ACL. Our best senior defensive back is a steady and reliable performer at the nickel position, but he's not a superstar. Our best juniors are dinged up or underperforming. There's only so much of that that Snyder can directly address.
I think that Snyder probably teaches tackling. I think that everyone teaches tackling and that teaching tackling is not an argument to get rid of a defensive coordinator. By this point, any player who is recruited to play for an SEC school will either be able to tackle or not. Pursuit angles are a different story, but that goes back to scheming, and yes, Snyder might be overscheming a bit.
He's overscheming because he can't really do much else. He's not going to be able to line up with a defense that's 90% compiled from underclassmen and converted offensive guys and straight-up dominate an SEC offense. For every missed sack, blown coverage, or bad tackle that resulted in a few extra yards, try to think of a play that the defense made. The strip of Yeldon against Alabama that kept us in the game. The pick six by Everett against Arkansas. Even the Howard Matthews forced fumble last night. Snyder is coaching those things too, because he needs those things.
Sumlin did not bring Mark Snyder aboard because he was a dominant defensive coordinator. He brought him aboard because he made things happen through opportunistic gameplanning at USF. Mark Snyder is a defensive coordinator by nature. He's tried his hand at the head coaching gig at his alma mater, and it didn't work. What did work was being responsible for an overachieving defense with the Bulls. In a span of two years, they went on the road and beat Notre Dame and Miami, and much of the credit should go to Snyder for forcing key turnovers. Snyder's MO has always been to lead an opportunistic and schematic defense that forces key stops and turnovers.
So let's give him a chance to plug in his own guys before we start calling for his head.