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Filling the Void: Texas A&M needs front seven to emerge to be legitimate SEC contender

Texas A&M’s smooth transition from the Big 12 to the SEC and the emergence of Johnny Manziel at quarterback can only mean one things for 2013 — expectations are sky high.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner looked outstanding in the Aggies’ spring game, and the offense should be one of the best in the SEC again. But to win the league, Kevin Sumlin’s team needs to play better on defense.

In the SEC, it all starts up front as you have to stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback. The Aggies may have to replace as many as six starters from the front seven last year — with at least one of those because of off-the-field issues.

Background

The Aggies had the 26th best scoring defense (21.8 ppg) in the nation last year and that’s a big reason by A&M was able to finish with 11 wins and knock off Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

It will be tough to replicate that success if the defense doesn’t find some replacements for stars like defensive end Damontre Moore and linebacker Jonthan Stewart.

Sumlin’s first full recruiting class addressed many of the needs on defense and could factor into the Aggies’ future success in the SEC.

baggs-dannyWho’s leaving?

Damontre Moore, DE (2012 stats): 85 tackles, 21 TFL, 12.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Jonathan Stewart, LB (2012 stats): 81 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 4 PBR

Sean Porter, LB (2012 stats): 66 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 1 interception

Spencer Nealy, DT (2012 stats): 42 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 PBR

Jonathan Mathis, DL (2012 stats): 23 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 sacks, 4 PBR

* Kirby Ennis, DT (2012 stats): 24 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack,

* Ennis is suspended following an off-season arrest.

Who’s filling the Void?

Reggie Chevis, LB, early enrollee (2012 stats): N/A

Steven Jenkins, LB, senior (2012 stats): 78 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 interception.

Julien Obioha, DL, sophomore (2012 stats): 25 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 6 PBR.

Donnie Baggs, LB, junior (2012 stats): 27 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception.

Tommy Sanders, LB, JUCO transfer (2012 stats): N/A

Jordan Mastrogiovanni, LB, early enrollee (2012 stats): N/A

Darian Claiborne, LB, early enrollee (2012 stats): N/A

Justin Manning, DT, true freshman (2012 stats): N/A

Gavin Stansbury, DT, junior (2012 stats): 11 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Isaiah Golden, DT, true freshman (2012 stats): N/A

Hardreck Walker, DT, true freshman (2012 stats): N/A

Daeshon Hall, DE, true freshman (2012 stats): N/A

What’s happening this spring?

Sumlin is trying out all kinds of combinations and seeing what he has. Sumlin and the rest of the coaches are well aware that the development of this group could mean the difference between competing for a SEC championship or dropping to eight or nine wins.

Obioha won’t get to prove himself this spring as he tries to get healthy. As for Ennis, well, he’s still suspended and it’s unclear if he’ll get to return in the fall.

Jenkins and Baggs are the early favorites at linebacker, but this spring is also s a good time for newcomers like Chevis to prove why they were so highly recruited.

What to expect heading into the summer and fall?

The JUCO transfers and true freshmen are highly skilled and could factor into the overall scheme, but all of them must work hard this offseason.

Chevis has enjoyed a strong spring and it’s hard to believe the A&M coaching staff won’t expect big things for him come fall.

Every person on this unit will need to hit the weight room and get up to speed with playing in the SEC.

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