Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting Texas A&M

Oct 8, 2020 | 0 comments

After feasting on a pair of teams with serious issues on one side of the ball, the No. 4 Gators (2-0) face one of their toughest challenges on Saturday when they hit the road to take on No. 21 Texas A&M (1-1). The Aggies are annually among the most talented teams in the SEC but have been unable to accomplish much with that talent. They’re coming off a 52-24 shellacking at the hands of No. 2 Alabama.

Here are three positions of strength, three positions of weakness, and three players to watch for from the Aggies.

Three Positions of Strength

Defensive Line

This will be the best defensive front the Gators have seen so far and one of the best they’ll see the entire season. The Aggies are giving up just 107 rushing yards per game, good for 22nd nationally, and have recorded 6.5 tackles-for-loss per game, which is tied for 37th. Those statistics would likely be even better if they hadn’t played Alabama last week. They are big, deep, and experienced. Senior end Michael Clemons leads the way with 2.5 sacks. Former five-star recruit DeMarvin Leal has made two tackles-for-loss and an interception. Senior Jayden Peevy and junior Bobby Brown man the middle, while top-70 recruit McKinnley Jackson provides depth. They don’t have a weakness across the board upfront, which means all five of Florida’s offensive linemen will need to be on their game for the offense to continue to have success.

Offensive Line

Four of Texas A&M’s starters are seniors, and four of them weigh at least 315 pounds. Left tackle Dan Moore Jr. has started 29 games. Left guard Kenyon Green was a five-star prospect in the 2019 class. Right guard Jared Hocker has started 25 games in his career, while right tackle Carson Green has started 32 games. They’ve paved the way for 149 rushing yards per game this season, fifth-best in the SEC. Despite throwing it 47 times against a supremely talented Alabama defense, they didn’t give up a sack. They only gave up one sack in their opener against Vanderbilt, making them the only SEC team that hasn’t given up at least three sacks. Florida had trouble getting in the backfield consistently against Ole Miss and South Carolina, so this could be one of the most important matchups of the game.

Running Back

The Aggies have one of the best one-two punches in the conference in Isaiah Spiller and Ainias Smith. Spiller is a physical downhill runner who has gained 142 yards on his 19 carries this season (7.5 yards per carry). He was named Preseason Second Team All-SEC by the media. Smith is a smaller but more versatile running back. He’s rushed 15 times for 80 yards and a touchdown and caught eight passes for 150 yards and two of the team’s four receiving touchdowns. Smith also serves as their punt returner.

Three Positions of Weakness

Defensive Back

The Aggies finished eighth in the league in passing defense in 2019. Through two weeks in 2020, they’re doing even worse, ranking 10th in the league at 292.5 yards per game. They’re 12th in passing efficiency defense. They do have good size, however. 6-foot-4, 185-pound Myles Jones starts at one corner spot, while the other corner spot is occupied by 6-foot-2, 205-pound five-star freshman Jaylon Jones. Safety Demani Richardson was named Preseason Third Team All-SEC. Still, they’ve underachieved as a unit so far this season. Kyle Trask should enjoy another big game.

Special Teams

Kicker Seth Small has converted just 40 of 54 field-goal attempts in his career, and he missed a 37-yard attempt against Alabama. The Aggies rank just ninth in the SEC in net punting average at 39.5 yards. They’re not much better in the return game, ranking ninth in punt return average and 12th in kickoff return average. UF, meanwhile, ranks near the top of the conference in most special teams metrics. In a game that many expect to be close, special teams could prove decisive.

Wide Receiver

Texas A&M’s wide receivers have combined for 24 receptions for 256 yards and one touchdown. Florida’s Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes, and Trent Whittemore have combined for more yards and four times as many touchdowns. The Aggies have only had four wide receivers make a catch, and three of their top four pass-catchers this season are running backs or tight ends. UF’s secondary has been extremely vulnerable this season, but Texas A&M doesn’t appear to have the personnel to take advantage of it. Whoever wins this matchup will have a good chance of winning the game.

Three Players to Watch

Quarterback Kellen Mond

You never know what you’re going to get from Mond. He has a strong arm and has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his career. He ranks in the top-5 in school history in career passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions and wins. He’ll likely become the program’s all-time leading passer against the Gators, as he’s just 125 yards away. He was named Preseason Second Team All-SEC. Still, he’s only completed 57.8 percent of his career passes and has been unable to lead his team to victories in big games. The Gators hope that he doesn’t have his breakthrough game on Saturday. Florida has struggled to contain quarterback runs so far this season, and this will be their biggest challenge yet. If they make him be a pocket-passer, they should win easily. Let him run free and wild, and things will get dicey.

Tight End Jalen Wydermyer

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound target was third on the team with 32 catches for 447 yards and led them with six touchdowns as a freshman last season. He was named to the Associated Press All-SEC Second Team. He leads the Aggies with 10 receptions and is second with 101 receiving yards this season. He doesn’t have the speed that UF’s Kyle Pitts possesses, but his size makes him a mismatch against most defenses, and he has a large catch radius. He’s also a physical blocker in the running game. He’ll be one of the focal points of everything the Aggies try to do.

Safety Demani Richardson

The sophomore is the one bright spot in an otherwise porous secondary. He started 11 games in 2019 and finished third on the team with 71 tackles. He was named Preseason Third Team All-SEC prior to this season. He’s made nine tackles, including one for a loss, and one of the team’s three interceptions this season. The former top-100 recruit figures to be one of several players that the Aggies match up against Pitts.


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