The Texas A&M defensive line was likely the strongest unit on the field for the Aggies in 2018. We’ve already touched on the defensive tackles and the outlook of that position, so now it’s time to turn our attention to the exterior of the defensive line and see what Texas A&M has in store for the 2019 season.
Defensive end Kingsley Keke led the Aggies with six sacks in 2018 followed closely by Landis Durham with five. Both Keke and Durham have moved on from Texas A&M leaving the Aggies to replace a lot of production there. Luckily, Texas A&M did have some talent waiting in the wings.
Going into fall camp last year, Micheal Clemons was expected to be the starter at strongside defensive end for the Aggies. Unfortunately for Clemons, he suffered a season ending injury during fall camp. However, the junior defensive end seems to have recovered and will look to be a playmaker for the Aggies in 2019. At 6’5 270, Clemons looks to be a prototypical strongside end for the SEC, with enough size to hold up against the run, and the length to be an effective pass rusher. We haven’t gotten to see enough of the Cisco Junior College product to say that he will be an impact player without a doubt, the coaching staff seems to be high on his potential but he has big shoes to fill.
Stepping in for Landis Durham will be sophomore defensive end Tyree Johnson. The Washington D.C. native showed flashes of greatness in 2018, registering 1.5 sacks in relief of Landis Durham, but will have to take his game to the next level in 2019 in a starting role. Johnson is extremely athletic but saw most of his action in 2018 come on passing situations, so I’ll need to see how he fares against the run. Much like Clemons though, the coaching staff has high hopes for Johnson.
Behind Johnson and Clemons are a number of talented linemen hoping for a shot including Jeremiah Martin at weakside defensive end. Martin will likely get a healthy dose of action as part of a rotation with Tyree Johnson. Behind Martin is another intriguing prospect in RJ Orebo. Orebo came to A&M as a raw prospect but at 6’7, the Dayton, Texas product has the length that every pass rusher would like to have. I don’t expect Orebo to see the field a lot in 2019 but he’s one to keep an eye on as he develops.
At strongside defensive end, Max Wright looks to be holding down the second spot on the depth chart for the moment. The Katy Taylor graduate contributed a lot on special teams in 2018 but now will look to carve out a role as a regular contributor on the defense as well. Lurking behind Wright is another intriguing prospect in Tyree Wilson. Much like the aforementioned Orebo, Wilson was a raw but extremely athletic prospect coming out of high school. Wilson hasn’t yet broken through the pack to earn a place on the two deep yet, but I’d keep my eye on the East Texas native as his raw potential is hard to ignore.
Finally, we get to five-star defensive lineman, DeMarvin Leal. Leal is expected to eventually transition to defensive tackle over the course of his career at Texas A&M but will likely see action at strongside end to start his career. Leal was a spring enrollee this year but missed all of spring practice due to a knee injury. Now that Leal is healthy it seems like it’s going to be impossible to keep him off the field. From an athletic standpoint, Leal reminds me a lot of Mario Edwards Jr. coming out of high school and I see him contributing more and more as 2019 progresses.
While the production at defensive end doesn’t seem to be as much of a guarantee as the production at defensive tackle, I still expect this position group to have a solid year for the Aggies. If Clemons and Johnson are progressing as much as reports from camp suggest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Texas A&M is once again among the top rushing defenses in the nation.
Stay tuned for the next installment of this series where I’ll take a look at Texas A&M’s tight ends for the 2019 season.