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This group’s health the key to Texas A&M’s 2023 season

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Sam Houston at Texas A&M Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We continue our weekly Texas A&M position preview series with perhaps the most worrisome group on the team: Linebackers.

Who did we lose?

The Ags’ linebacker room was hit hard by the transfer portal this offseason, losing would-be seniors Andre White and Tarian Lee as well as redshirt freshman Ish Harris. While none of these players were expected to start (Andre White had seemingly ceded his starting job to Chris Russell by the end of the 2022 season), White an Lee in particular represent valuable experience and depth that is now out the door. They were players who, if a starter went down, you felt confident could fill in admirably. With them gone, the team could quickly be relying on either guys who are very inexperienced (or at least new to College Station).

Who do we bring back?

Edgerrin Cooper: After gaining more playing time throughout his redshirt freshman season, Cooper now enters his fourth year as the unquestioned leader of this unit. Last season he was fourth on the team in tackles and led the team in tackles for loss, despite missing time due to injury.

Chris Russell: Russell was third on the team in tackles a year ago, second in tackles for loss and second on the team in sacks. What he lacks in elite athleticism he seems to make up for in being at the right place at the right time.

Martrell Harris: Harris appeared in every game as a true freshman, but overall did not see a ton of snaps. He managed to total seven tackles and two sacks on the season. The four-star recruit from the 2022 class will likely be relied upon even more this season, either as a part of a linebacker rotation or if either Cooper or Russell miss time due to injury.

What other names should we know?

Jurriente Davis (transfer): The Aggies definitely needed to supplement their LB depth via the portal, and that help came in the form of Jackson State transfer Jurriente “J.D.” Davis from Jackson State. Davis ended the 2022 season with 58 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and a career-best 75.3 PFF grade, and has the body of plug-and-play LB, but it’s yet to be seen how his play will translate from the FCS level to the SEC.

Daymion Sanford/Taurean York/Chantz Johnson (freshmen): The Aggies added a trio of linebackers in their 2023 recruiting class in the four-star Sanford and three-stars York/Johnson. While adding three guys gives A&M a huge boost from a depth perspective, having to potentially rely on a true freshman at linebacker is always a scary proposition - one the Aggies likely hope to avoid if they can.

Overall Grade: C+

To put it bluntly, linebacker might just be the worst position group on the A&M team. After the high-profile recruiting misses on Harold Perkins and Anthony Hill in the past two recruiting classes, the Aggies do not have elite talent at the position, even if the guys who have played have been productive. Combine that with seemingly razor thin depth, and this is the position where A&M can least afford to sustain significant injuries without a significant decrease in play.

The success (or failure) of this group may be as pivotal as other other for A&M to have a rebound season in 2023.

Check out our other position previews to get you prepped for the 2023 season: