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Returning seniors give Texas A&M the chance for a truly elite defense in 2021

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Return of the Wrecking Crew?

Capital One Orange Bowl - Texas A&M v North Carolina Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Texas A&M’s defense has seen steady improvement each year under Defensive Coordinator Mike Elko, culminating in a 2020 season that saw the squad finish as the No. 1 defense in the SEC in total defense, No. 2 in passing defense, No. 2 in rushing defense, and No. 3 in scoring defense.

It was perhaps the best Aggie defense this millienium. and for most of the season, we viewed this as potentially the defense’s peak, with several seniors leading the squad, and Mike Elko seemingly poised to be at the top of the list for some head coaching jobs. But here we are in the final days of January, and Mike Elko is still in College Station, and with most of the high profile gigs filled, is seems like Aggies will get at least one more season out if him as a coordinator. That alone is reason for optimism, but that optimism is bolstered even further by the list of seniors who - thanks to the NCAA’s eligibility waiver for the 2020 season, will be “running it back” in Aggieland for one more season. In total, six seniors will return for one more season, all on defense:

  • DT Jayden Peevy
  • DE Michael Clemons
  • LB Aaron Hansford
  • CB Elijah Blades
  • CB Myles Jones
  • S Keldrick Carper

That is four 2020 starters (Peevy, Clemons, Hansford, Jones), one of A&M’s most active backups in Carper, and a CB in Blades who many assumed would start before he opted out of the 2020 season.

In total, the 2021 defense will lose only two starters from the previous season (DT Bobby Brown, LB Buddy Johnson). While those are two great players, they also accounted for less than 19% of the tackles the defense made last season, and only one of the 14 turnovers forced. Add in even more of the defensive talent that Jimbo Fisher and his staff have recruited in recent seasons, and this unit has the chance to not only be good, but to be elite.

Granted A&M has a lot of work do to on the offensive side of the football, having to replace a four-year starter at QB and breaking in four new starters along the offensive line. But if the offense can find a way to move the football and score some points, there is no reason this defense can’t keep the Aggies in every game they play in 2021.

2020 may have been the greatest Aggie defense this millenium, but as Jimbo said following the Orange Bowl, “we ain’t done yet.”