Mac Engel

Aggies have a Wrecking Crew look to save the Swag Copter

Defensive end Myles Garrett gives Texas A&M the best defensive player in the state.
Defensive end Myles Garrett gives Texas A&M the best defensive player in the state. AP

Nothing will excuse Kevin Sumlin’s butchering of the quarterback position at Texas A&M and winding up with an Oklahoma reject to save Reveille’s butt. However, the “offensive guru” has something else so good it will save his own hide.

No coach in the nation needs wins more than the Swag Copter, and while he does not have the quarterback to do it, he built, or fell into, a defense that has shades of the famed “Wrecking Crew” to keep him in College Station for another year.

Considering their history of self-awarded titles, overrated exaggeration and hype, plus the fact they play LSU and Alabama, buying the Aggies this season — or any season — is always a stupid proposition.

The only team in this state that has disappointed us more is the Dallas Cowboys. But buying an Aggies defense has again become smart money.

No. 17 Texas A&M opens its fifth SEC season at Auburn on Saturday in what is easily the most important year in the Aggies’ brief time in this NFL developmental league. A&M is a 3.5-point underdog, but the Aggies look like a good pick to Wreck that line.

In 2012, Texas A&M’s first season in the SEC, the Aggies allowed 21.8 points per game. In ’13, that average increased to 32.2 points per game. In ’14, it was 28.1 points per game. In ’15, it dropped back to 22 points per game.

This is not the first time a sports journalist has been dumb enough to draw comparisons to some of the best defenses in the nation that formerly resided in College Station; anybody who made those comparisons were only routinely disappointed to see that no Crew since 2000 came close to equaling the days of Ray Mickens, Keith Mitchell, Brandon Mitchell, Patrick Bates, Sam Adams, Aaron Glenn, Quentin Coryatt or Dat Nguyen.

Sumlin may not have a Wrecking Crew, but he has Wrecking Crew talent.

Watch Texas A&M against the UCLA Bruins. You will see real players everywhere on the defensive side of the ball.

You will see what looks like an SEC defense — groups of guys who pursue and run.

In defensive end Myles Garrett, Texas A&M has the best defensive player in the state — sorry Texas’ Malik Jefferson and Houston’s Ed Oliver.

“The Garrett kid, when he’s in a one-on-one situation, I have not seen very many people block him in passing situations,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Wednesday during the SEC coaches’ teleconference.

That’s because no one individual in college can block Myles Garrett.

Since joining the SEC, Texas A&M is 17-15 in conference play. It was 6-2 in the SEC in 2012.

Garrett, an Arlington Martin High School product, is better than the last Aggies’ “best rusher” — All-American and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. The junior from Arlington is going to be a top three NFL Draft selection next April in Philadelphia and will win all of college football’s major defensive player of the year awards. Nobody can deal with him.

The Aggies have at least one other defensive end who has all-league talent. Daeshon Hall’s problem is that he’s not Myles Garrett.

“He’s good in his own right; they are both long. They both can finish and are very impressive,” Malzahn said. “It’s a definite challenge when you are throwing the football. You have to be aware of both. That’s a factor.”

Other than those rush sends, the Aggies have two safeties who will play in the NFL — Armani Watts and Justin Evans — plus a handful of other top-tier players on the front seven who will allow A&M to be in every game this season.

It will be like R.C. Slocum never left.

Several NFL Draft websites, including walterfootball.com, rate Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

The addition of Neal Mazzone as the team’s offensive coordinator received most of the attention, but it’s the other coordinator who has made a bigger dent for the Aggies.

Perhaps the hiring of former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis two years ago is the reason for this evolution; Chavis has been in the SEC since 1989, and while I am always hesitant to over-credit a coordinator as a savior, the man has been around long enough to know the style of pace of the league.

What helps more than Chavis is that Sumlin simply hit on the defensive talent he recruited.

The only way to have any chance at sustainable success in the SEC isn’t some adorable little spread offense, but a bunch of big defensive players who can catch a frightened chicken on Kyle Field. The SEC is about defense.

Sumlin was hired from the University of Houston specifically because of his work on offense, but to rely on that in a league as athletic as the SEC is a good way to get fired. (BTW: That is a big reason why Art Briles in the SEC won’t work.)

You are not going to have a Johnny Manziel to bail you out every season.

With Trevor Knight as his quarterback, Sumlin does not have a QB who can bail him out by himself. What Sumlin has is a bus driver whose strength must be minimizing error.

After Auburn, the Aggies have Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama in a four-game stretch that will define their season. The Aggies are not good enough to beat all of them, but have a defense to keep them in every single game — which should Wreck the idea that they will be looking for a new coach in December.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Star Telegram columnist Mac Engel reacts to Texas' 50-47 double OT win over Notre Dame (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).

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