The Texas A&M defense keeps the focus on the future

COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M returns perhaps its most experienced defense in program history, based on five seniors from last season returning to action for the Aggies, after the NCAA failed to count a year of eligibility to cause of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A&M finished ninth in total defense last season, the highest in that category since No. 3 in 1993, when current A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko was still in South Brunswick High School, New York. Jersey.

On the one hand, the increase in the Aggies’ defense in the last three seasons pleases Elko. On the other hand, the fourth-year coordinator said that any pleasure derived from past success can lead to future problems.

“Experience doesn’t guarantee us anything,” Elko said of A&M’s high expectations for the 2021 defense. “We have to work to get everything we want in the game of football. All we did last year is just that: what we did last year. ”

Although, based on the return of nine starters to an already solid unit, Elko realizes that hopes among A&M fans have never been higher for one of his defenses.

“We have the ability and the potential to be really good,” Elko admitted. “But we have to work to make sure it shows up on fall Saturdays.”

A&M fourth-year coach Jimbo Fisher gets the most praise for Agies’ rise in the rankings, including No. 4 in the 2020 Associated Press poll, but mostly behind the scenes Elko has done wonders with the previously evil defense known as the “Wrecking Crew.”

“We have a culture and mindset that we continue to implement every day,” said Micheal Clemons, senior defensive finalist, who played under former A&M coach Kevin Sumlin in 2017. “We don’t try to look too far ahead, it’s something of the day in and day out.We are beyond what we have ever been.

“That’s the best defense we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

A&M will find out if that optimistic sentiment holds true from Sept. 4 against Kent State at Kyle Field. The Aggies open the SEC on Sept. 25 against Arkansas at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

Fisher is also grateful that he has not lost Elko, 44, to the NFL as a coordinator or with another college as head coach. It has become an annual tradition around College Station after the football season: Elko’s name appears as a candidate to train before he finally decides to stay at A&M.

Last spring he went to Kansas, which hired Lance Leipold of the University of Buffalo after Elko passed the opportunity of his first coaching job at no level.

Texas A&M in 2021

Sept. 4, against the state of Kent, at 7 p.m.

Sept. 11, in Colorado, at 2:30 p.m.

Sept. 18, against New Mexico, at 11 p.m.

Sept. 25, v. Arkansas *, TBA

October 2, against the state of Mississippi, TBA

Oct. 9 against Alabama, TBA

Oct. 16, in Missouri, TBA

Oct. 23 against South Carolina, TBA

Nov. 6, v. Auburn, TBA

Nov. 13, in Mississippi, TBA

Nov. 20 against Prairie View, TBA

Nov. 27, at LSU, TBA

* At AT&T Stadium, Arlington

“You do a lot more than I do,” said Elko, who along with his wife, Michelle, form a young family at College Station. “I have never been looking to go anywhere. Opportunities, of course, there are opportunities and, as an assistant, you have to look at them, but I have never come close ”.

Michael, the eldest of three children, Michael, is a star senior football field at College Station High and has committed to playing baseball at Northwestern University.

“We’re extremely happy here,” Elko said, “and we’re excited about the season.”

A&M fired Sumlin in November 2017 and hired Fisher from the state of Florida in December of that year. Fisher hired Elko at Notre Dame, where he had spent a lone season as Brian Kelly’s defensive coordinator.

Prior to Elko’s arrival, A&M had not been ranked in the top 50 in total defense since 2006, when Dennis Franchione was coach and Gary Darnell was defensive coordinator (and was number 46 nationally).

A & M’s No. 9 in total defense last season marked his first top 10 since 2001 (No. 10), and the last Aggies conference champion in 1998 (while they were members of Big 12) also went finish 10th in total defense.

Just five years ago under Sumlin and then-coordinator John Chavis, A&M was ranked 90th in total defense, meaning the Aggies went from 90th to ninth in 2016 to 2020 under the new regime. Despite all this experience, including what is expected to be one of the country’s main defensive lines led by young DeMarvin Leal, Elko said don’t expect him to increase the complexity of the defense in a season the Aggies hope to compete for. first SEC title.

“When you look at us playing defense, I don’t think you see that it looks very different,” he said. “We didn’t go into the low season and we said,‘ Hey, we’ve got all these guys back, how can we reinvent football to try to make it harder and more complicated (for offense)?

“We just want to do this thing better and the guys are very confident in what we are doing. … They understand how this is going and so all you try to do is take advantage of it to elevate it. ”