It wasn’t just about Myles Garrett after all.
Seven games into Texas A&M’s first season without Garrett, the No. 1 overall draft choice of the Cleveland Browns in April, no one is flattening opposing quarterbacks more regularly – or for more yardage – than the Aggies.
Texas A&M is tied for the national lead with Clemson with 28 sacks. Those sacks have cost opponents 175 yards, most in the FBS.
This wasn’t supposed to happen this season at A&M, not without Garrett and Daeshon Hall, a potent threat in his own right from the opposite side.
The spike in sacks at A&M isn’t just the work of one player – it’s a whole attacking mentality under coordinator John Chavis. In all, 13 Aggies have registered at least half a sack. Here’s a breakdown:
DE Landis Durham, 5.5 sacks: He’s been the most surprising of multiple pleasant surprises for the Aggies. After just three tackles in each of his first two seasons, Durham has broken out in year three. He’s also creating takeaways, forcing three fumbles so far. Not bad for a three-star recruit from Plano (Texas) East, who attracted some Power Five interest from schools like TCU, Nebraska and Washington but otherwise escaped the notice of SEC recruiters.
LB Otaro Alaka, 5 sacks: The junior is a major success story on this defense. A four-star recruit from Houston Cy Falls who battled back from a torn labrum suffered in 2015, he’s also registered 48 tackles and 11 tackles for loss during a strong season.
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LB Tyrel Dodson, 4.5 sacks: Dodson has done it all this season. He leads the Aggies in tackles with 57. He has eight tackles for loss. He’s picked off three passes, returning one for a touchdown. And he has four pass breakups. The three-star recruit from Franklin (Tenn.) Centennial in the Nashville suburbs didn’t even get a Tennessee offer, but he’s settled in superbly in College Station.
DE Jarrett Johnson, 3.5 sacks: The senior was Garrett’s backup last season, and he’s slid into the same position in 2017. He isn’t Garrett – few players can compare athletically – but with 3.5 sacks, he’s shown he can contribute to the pass rush.
DT Zaycoven Henderson, 2.5 sacks: Quality performance isn’t a surprise for the senior, who has delivered reliably from the middle of the line. Henderson’s sack count, though, is on pace to surpass his former season high of three. He’s also making an impact, as usual, in muddying things up in the interior.
LB Anthony Hines, 2 sacks: It’s a speedy start for the true freshman — 15 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks. Hines, from Plano (East) Texas, was the Aggies’ most high-profile defensive recruit of the 2017 recruiting class, and he’s already playing like it.
DT Kingsley Keke, 1 sack: Another three-star prospect who has exceeded expectations. Keke, originally from Richmond (Texas) George Ranch in the Houston suburbs, has been disruptive in the interior line this year – 23 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a sack against South Carolina’s Jake Bentley.
DT Daylon Mack, 1 sack: At 320 pounds, Mack is a run stuffer, not a pass rusher – most of the time. When the opportunity opens up, though, the former five-star recruit from Gladewater (Texas) High has the athletic tools bring the quarterback down. Though he has registered only eight tackles this season, four have come behind the line.
CB Charles Oliver, 1 sack: The sophomore barely played last year (just four tackles in 2016), but he’s been much more involved in the defense this season. Oliver has 12 tackles and four pass breakups, and he earned his first sack in the season opener against UCLA.
DB Deshawn Capers-Smith, 0.5 sacks: Coverage, not pass rushing, is Capers-Smith’s main contribution, but he nonetheless played his part in a half-sack for the Aggies. He’s also shown the knack for getting to the right place at the right time, with two fumble recoveries.
DE Micheal Clemons, 0.5 sacks: The junior college transfer has half a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.
LB Keeath Magee, 0.5 sacks: The walk-on linebacker hasn’t played much, understandably, appearing in just three games. But any sacks from a freshman walk-on can be classified as a bonus.
S Armani Watts, 0.5 sacks: Obviously, Watts isn’t on the team for his pass -ushing ability. But the safety has half a sack to go with his team-high four interceptions and 49 tackles.
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