It was a mixed bag for the line units in Week One. The offensive side of the ball struggled mightily against the movement of Sam Houston State. On the other side, the defensive line impressed in spite of the fact that it was anchored by four new starters. This week we’ll see a bump up in the level of competition when Appalachian State comes to town.
This contest will be all about seeing the adjustments from practice play out on the field. As I mentioned last week, A&M’s communication would be paramount against a Sam Houston State defensive line that would be undersized and looking to move to create confusion. Unfortunately, that movement appeared to work. It’s back to the drawing board in Week 2 with an Appalachian State team that will be similarly undersized up front. You can bet the Mountaineers saw the success the Bearkats had on film and will look to implement a bit of that same twisting on Saturday.
Pictured above is a simple “EAT” (End around tackle) twist. The three-technique slants outside of the offensive tackle while the end loops around behind. Twists like this are what allowed free runners to disrupt the rushing attack of the Aggies on Saturday. The offensive line will need to communicate and identify twists not only when they occur in the contest against App State, but also focus on identifying tells ahead of the snap. For example, if the defensive end is cheating back the tackle should let his guard know that they could very well be in for an EAT twist. These twists are more often used against the pass to generate pressure but given the problems they created for A&M in the run game, we will need to see improvement in this area for Week 2. Appalachian State linebackers Andrew Parker and Nick Hampton were two of the leading tacklers for the Mountaineers against UNC. With Hampton listed as a linebacker but often lined up at the LOS the three man front from the ‘Neers often appears as a four man front. Hampton wears #9 and will be the one I keep my eye on both as the player most likely to be involved in twists and stunts, as well as being the key man to watch for the Aggies in pass pro.
Given the fact that Sam Houston was an FCS opponent, I don’t want to jump to too many conclusions on just how impressive the defensive line was in Week 1. However, for a unit with four new faces in starting places, I was happy with the flow of the game. The Aggies held Sam Houston under 200 yards of offense on the day and a big part of that was the play of Fadil Diggs. Diggs didn’t show up in the stat line with a sack but Bearkat QB Jordan Yates definitely felt his presence. Fadil Diggs and the Aggie defensive line will need to keep up that pressure when they face an Appalachian State offense that put up 641 total yards in Week 1. App State did a pretty good job of keeping the pocket clean for quarterback Chase Brice, and Brice capitalized with 361 yards passing and six touchdowns through the air. Texas A&M should have a talent advantage against the Mountaineers but that App State offensive line impressed me. Four of the five members are seniors and the Tar Heels sacked Brice just once on the day. How Fadil Diggs handles offensive tackles Anderson Hardy and Cooper Hodges could determine whether or not DJ Durkin is forced to blitz to create pressure. If Durkin does need to dial up exotics, this game could turn into a shootout - something Texas A&M hopes to avoid.
Throughout the United States, there are several different styles of barbecue. Texas is known for their beef products. On the other hand, barbecue in North and South Carolina is synonymous with pork. In the Western part of North Carolina the pork barbecue tends to focus on the pork shoulder while places like Skylight Inn further east in North Carolina are famous for serving up Whole Hog BBQ. “Whole Hog” refers to the cooking style, which is just like it sounds. Whole hogs are smoked over an open pit of oak and then meat and crispy bits of skin are chopped in together. While Appalachian State and Boone, NC would trend towards the western-style, I really wanted an excuse to talk about Whole Hog BBQ all the way down here in Houston. Houston has been bitten by the Whole Hog bug and at the forefront of that movement is Feges BBQ in Houston. The Spring Branch location of Feges serves up a fantastic Carolina-style Whole Hog and their platter complete with mop sauce, coleslaw, and hog fat cornbread is one of my favorite treats when I get a little bit tired of brisket. The cracklin chopped with the hog is a crispy delight and I highly recommend stopping in to try it. If you do feel the need to get something a little more Appalachian State related, maybe consider chasing down your Whole Hog with a bit of moonshine or perhaps some Boone’s Farm Wine to honor the meeting between the Mountaineers and the Aggies (Boone, NC and Farmers!!!!).