The Texas A&M defense slipped just a bit last season from its SEC-leading status of 2020. That doesn’t mean the Aggies were bad, just not quite as good. They still ranked 3rd in the conference in total defense and allowed 327.5 yards per game; up from the conference’s best defense of 2020 that gave up 317.3 yards per game.

Do the Aggies continue their 2-year run as one of the SEC’s more elite defenses? Can they do it with a rebuilt defensive line? Without the likes of DeMarvin Leal leading that group? Without Aaron Hansford leading the LB corps?

Well, it just might be time for those standout recruiting classes to start leading the way. Here are 7 way-too-early predictions for the 2022 Aggies defense.

1. Aggies give up more points this year

While they gave up a few more yards than the previous season, the Aggies ranked 3rd in the country in points given up, yielding just 15.9 points per game in 2021. That’s a ridiculously low number given the state of the game, where scoring 30-plus points per outing is almost a given anymore.

But maybe, just maybe, the pendulum is swinging back to old style of football in the SEC where defenses ruled. I mean, look at Georgia. Led the country in points allowed (10.2), the Dawgs were 1 of 5 in the SEC to finish among the top 30 defenses nationally in that category.

Either way, I just can’t see the Aggies holding opponents under 16 points per game again this coming season. Not with all the new faces in the lineup and the rotational swap of playing Florida (and its uber-talented QB, Anthony Richardson) instead of Missouri.

2. Tyreek Chappell leads the SEC in passes defended/broken up

He was picked on as a freshman CB last year, but that experience will pay dividends this fall. QBs still will challenge him, but he will have the last laugh. He will lead the SEC in passes defended, with 15, and may even lead the conference in passes broken up as well. He’ll have double-digit numbers in that category as well and that may be enough to rise to the top of the league.

3. Top 5 in pass defense

It wasn’t long ago that Texas A&M suffered from its pass defense. Languishing near the bottom of the conference rankings for years in total passing yardage given up, the Aggies began to turn things around. Over the past 2 seasons they’ve ranked 2nd and 3rd against the pass.

Look for the average yards given up per game to move past the 200-yard mark (from 192.7 last year) but it’ll still be good enough to rank among the top 5 pass defenses in the SEC with senior veteran Demani Richardson leading the way.

4. Total defense numbers continue to slip

This isn’t to say there’s need for alarm, but the defense really had nowhere to go but down after the 2020 season. A league-leading group that allowed 317.3 yards per game, the Aggies slipped to 3rd in the SEC last year, allowing an average of 327.5 yards per game.

Look for that trend to continue in 2022 as the Aggies work to mesh as a unit with some new faces thrown in. Still, it will be a rock-solid defense that finishes among the top 5 in the SEC. Gone are the days when Texas A&M suffered through middle-of-the-pack or worse defenses. And 2023 will be even better.

5. 3rd-down defense to rise to the top

For several years, the Aggies’ 3rd-down defense has been among the conference’s best. It’s been a hallmark of an improved overall defense. Makes perfect sense, get the opposition off the field before it can pile up the yardage. Look for the Aggies to rise to the top of the SEC in that department in 2022. It’s just what they do.

Texas A&M has been 1st or 2nd in the league in 3rd-down stops in 3 of the past 4 years. Make it 4 of 5, the Aggies will hold the opposition to under 33% on 3rd downs in the upcoming 2022 season.

6. Red-zone defense will be elite

The Aggies have vastly improved in red-zone defense over the past couple of years. Look for that trend to continue in 2022. Only Georgia was better last season at preventing TDs in red-zone situations. The Dawgs yielded 28.13% touchdowns while the Aggies were 2nd (38.7%). Watch for the Aggies to remain under 40% again in 2022, which is impressive when you consider they were under 60% just once in a stretch from 2017-19.

7. Aggies to force at least 15 turnovers

That doesn’t sound like much, and it actually isn’t, but for Texas A&M it’s a lot. The Aggies haven’t forced more than 15 turnovers in a season since 2017, when they nabbed 22. I won’t predict 20 this season, but look for the young talent to remain aggressive and surpass the 15-takeaway mark. Baby steps.