So much about a team can be learned through the depth chart. Specifically, the narrative behind the depth chart (how did we get to this point) can illustrate where a program is and where they are heading. I've been keeping a running spreadsheet with all of our recruited players (both defense and offense) and I think there are some interesting things to take a look at that might explain some of our defensive struggles this year.
Couple of notes before I get started:
1) I'm not making excuses. Our defensive performance has been atrocious. There is a difference between reasons and excuses. There is no excuse for why our defense performed so poorly
2) None of this is intended as a defense of Mark Snyder...but really that's a moot point because he's almost certainly not going to be our defensive coordinator in my opinion.
So with that in mind, here's our updated depth chart from the perspective of recruiting classes.
Quick key on the colors:
Gray=Gone (gray with maroon means departed starters)
Maroon=Starters (transfers italicized)
So for the sake of discussion and after reviewing this chart (I've spent a ton of time looking at this), I come up with a couple of conclusions as to why we are still a "young" defense in year three of Sumlin's tenure
1) Catastrophic Life Events
The loss of Polo Manukainiu is so much bigger than football. We'll leave it at that. But additionally, we lost Michael Richardson to a fluke spinal injury in the second to last game in the 2012 football season. At that point he was playing well enough to be worked into the rotation not out of necessity, but rather because he was talented. Similarly, Cedric Collins committed to A&M over offers from several programs, but was unable to play due to a cervical abnormality. And lastly, Noel Ellis (who saw significant playing time as a true freshman) was diagnosed with diabetes this past summer, leading to him being redshirted for this year.
2) DL recruiting from 2011-2012
Look at all the gray in those boxes. In 2011 we took two defensive lineman: LeMarcus Strahan and Brandon Alexander. Strahan never made it to campus and Alexander was moved to TE after being a non-factor at DE. We took 5 DL in 2012, only two of whom are still active on our roster. That's a yield of two defensive linemen in two years. That's not good.
3) DB recruiting in 2012/2014
Prior to Kevin Sumlin being hired as head coach at A&M, we only had 1 DB committed in the 2012 class--JUCO transfer Otis Jacobs. Sumlin was able to poach Devante Harris from OU, but we needed bodies there. Similarly we needed to have taken at least one more DB in 2014 in addition to Nick Harvey.
4) Poor Character Evaluation
Sumlin bears responsibility as far as evaluating/developing character, specifically in the 2013 class. The issues of Isaiah Golden and Darian Claiborne are well documented, but Victor Davis and Kam Miles also had off the field issues as well.
So that's what got us here. Let's look at where we're going
1) The large gaps that I see are at LB and DB. We currently have 4 LBs committed and are hoping to add 1-2 more. Similarly we currently have 5 DBs (2 corners and 3 safeties) and I think we'll end up taking at least 2 more corners.
2) The defense will be young next year...but will be made up of talented and experienced young players. I expect Josh Walker and Otaro Alaka to make huge strides this offseason. Myles will be a year better. The same goes for all of our current first year starters/players.
3) The goal is to create competition at every spot through depth. The reason Deshazor has been starting at corner for so long (when he's a natural free safety) is we don't have anyone to push him for his spot.
4) Lastly, we are finally moving to a place where defensive line depth should be a strength for this team.
The bottom line is that I believe that there is more talent on this roster than our current performance would have you believe. I really do think that a new defensive coordinator will be able to make subtle tweaks to have us performing at an acceptable level in 2015. The talent is there, we just need the coaching.