TEXAS A&M UNIT ANALYSIS - SECONDARYThis was the worst-performing unit for A&M in 2005 - A&M was dead last (117th) against the pass, allowing more than 300 yards a game.
In response to the Aggies' troubles, defensive coordinator switched from a standard 4-3-4 to a 4-2-5 formation in the off-season. The fifth DB is called the Whip back, but he plays the same role as the "rover" in most other 4-2-5 systems or the Devil Back in the old ASU defenses.
The fifth DB has certainly helped, since A&M has improved its national ranking to #48, allowing only 186.8 ypg. Opposing quarterbacks' completion percentage fell from 60.6% to 53.5%. The Aggies picked off 10 passes and allowed only 13 touchdown passes from opposing quarterbacks.
It's not all positive, though. Ten picks is a pretty low number for a good team - the Aggies lack lots of playmakers in the defensive backfield. They are very young on the corner, and have faced only one passing attack of Cal's sophistication and skill: that game ended in a 31-27 defeat to Texas Tech.
Their starting corners had exactly one year of experience between them prior to the '06 kickoff. Sophomore Danny Gorrer starts ahead of returning starter Marquis Carpenter. On the other side is RS freshman Jordan Peterson. Peterson had two picks on the season, tying for the team lead, and led the Aggies with 8 pass breakups. A former HS QB, Peterson is very fast, running a leg in the 4x100 meter relay for the Texas HS state champions in 2004.
Strong safety Melvin Bullitt (right) is the best defender in the secondary; he had seven tackles for loss among his 75 stops and also had seven pass breakups. Bullitt was named 1st team All-Big XII by the conference's coaches.
Devin Gregg (above left) starts at the free; he's strongest in run support and finished third on the Aggie defense with 57 tackles. The Whip back is junior Brock Newton, a 5'11"/183 junior; he started seven games in 2006 after starting every game at safety his sophomore season. Japhus Brown, a 5'11"/199 junior will also see time in this spot.
You may have been waiting for a match-up that really favored the Golden Bears - this may be it. A&M's secondary hits hard and plays terrific run support, but we're not convinced they can cope with Cal's passing attack, provided that Longshore is on his game. The corners in particular look vulnerable. A&M will run lots of zone, and the presence of a 5th DB could complicate reads for Longshore. Still, we like this unit matchup above almost all others in the Holiday Bowl.