Manning, Henderson emerging for Texas A&M’s defensive line

NCAA Football: Alabama at Texas A&M

It’s been a tumultuous year for Texas A&M’s young defensive line.

The unit really struggled to bust a grape in 2013, amidst having one of the most electrifying offenses in college football, and the Aggies are down two defensive linemen as we speak in Isaiah Golden, who withdrew from school, and Ivan Robinson, who has a serious injury that some say could threaten his career.

RELATED: What you need to know about Texas A&M’s spring practice

The good news is that two young defensive linemen – redshirt freshman defensive tackle Justin Manning and early enrollee tackle Zaycoven Henderson – are emerging this spring in almost a have-to scenario.

Manning was the country’s No. 5 ranked defensive tackle exiting high school, according to 247Sports’ Composite Rankings, and he’s playing like it, according to AggieAthletics.com.

“Justin Manning has done some good things,” Sumlin said. “I think it was a combination of a guy who was not in shape. Physically, he had gained some weight and wasn’t ready to go. And then once he knew he wasn’t going to play — you see it all the time — he kinda shut it down. And now I think he sees with where we are and he’s in the two-deep, he’s hustling. And it’s like anything else — sometimes the light comes on then when he knows he’s going to play.”

“We need him to come on,” Sumlin said of Manning. “He’s working real hard at it. I like his progress so far.”

Sumlin also had nothing but praise for Henderson, who looks to be an immediate help at defensive tackle.

“He continues to impress,” Sumlin said.

We know Kevin Sumlin’s offense will score points in 2014, even without Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans. What we don’t know is how much the defense will improve, particularly the defensive line. The talent is there, and now the focus is on development and getting the Aggies’ talented defensive players better.

Practice Notes:

  • Kevin Sumlin confirmed the team has left Deshazor Everett at corner, as the staff was thinking about playing him at safety.
  • Sumlin said the real concern is at safety. Howard Matthews is playing well; Devonta Burns is too; Floyd Raven and Clay Honeycutt provide some competition. But Sumlin is worried about finding consistency at safety.
  • The team will have its first spring scrimmage Saturday, and that will help the staff evaluate the quarterbacks further.

Photo Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

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