The Texas A&M Aggies will feature a new-look defense with D.J. Durkin now replacing Mike Elko as defensive coordinator. Durkin was more attributed to dropping six back in coverage and only rushing three at Ole Miss; however, that was likely due to the lack of talent on the back end for the Rebels. In 2022, Durkin has the fortune to select from a vast group of talent on the Texas A&M’s defense, and many of the best players for the Aggies are on the defensive side. As such, expect Durkin to switch to a 4-3 scheme like he did at Florida. Here are the best players on the Texas A&M Aggies’ defense who are likely to stand out during the upcoming season.
No. 1: Antonio Johnson
Antonio Johnson will undoubtedly be one of the best defensive backs in the SEC in 2022. Last season, he was the second-leading tackler for the Aggies, and he also had an interception with five passes deflected. Johnson’s incredible size at 6’3″ and 200 pounds makes him a valuable piece in Texas A&M’s secondary. Offenses will likely avoid throwing in his direction, which will allow an entire space to be covered whether in man or zone coverage. Moreover, Johnson is also a great playmaker when defending the running game.
No. 2: Edgerrin Cooper
After making the 2021 All-SEC Freshman Team, Edgerrin Cooper enters 2022 with big expectations. He was the fourth-leading tackler on the Aggies’ defense, and he even had an interception to go with it. Cooper will probably be the leader of the linebacker core following the departure of Aaron Hansford. For Texas A&M to maintain its identity of a stout defense, Cooper will be responsible for playing the run and recognizing schemes.
No. 3: Tyreek Chappell
Tyreek Chappell finished his true freshman season with 41 total tackles and an interception. Although he’s not a great force against the run, he’s helpful in limiting the top receiving threats; in fact, he led the Aggies with nine passes deflected in 2021. Expect Chappell to take a big step forward during his sophomore season and become one of the leaders on Texas A&M’s defense.
No. 4: Demani Richardson
Demani Richardson announced earlier this year that he would be returning for his senior season with the Aggies. The defensive back from Waxahachie, Texas had an impressive freshman year in 2019, but he has not been the same player since then. Regardless, he did perform well in 2021 with 65 total tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble. Although taking a back seat to Johnson and Chappell in the secondary, Richardson will play a big role in Durkin’s defense.
No. 5: Shemar Turner
Shemar Turner was a freshman in 2021 with 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He was a five-star recruit from the 2021 recruiting class, and he has an impressive frame at 6’4″ and 285 pounds. Although there is a lot of young talent on the defensive line from the Aggies’ 2022 recruiting class, expect Turner to earn the starting role in the Fall. If he can remain consistent throughout the season, he will have a year similar to that of DeMarvin Leal and Tyree Johnson from last season.
Texas A&M’s defense will feature plenty of talent in the secondary, but players will have to work together as a unit to become a top defense in the SEC. The Aggies’ defense has been the soul of the team, and that will need to continue in 2022 for Texas A&M to reach the SEC Championship. The Aggies are poised for a breakout year, and that potential starts with the best players on the defensive side of the ball.
Main image courtesy Houston Chronicle