Texas A&M needs consistency at the linebacker spot
Film doesn’t lie.
Texas A&M was bad on defense last year.
Missed tackles and broken coverages defined a four-loss SEC season, one that fell short of league championship expectations.
The Aggies’ overall lack of production at linebacker was perhaps their biggest weakness, but three practices into this year’s fall camp, it’s a personnel group that defensive assistant Mark Hagen thinks could be a strength this season.
“The thing that jumps out to me is we look like a smooth operation out there,” Hagen said Monday. “Even though we’ve still got a lot of youth out there, I think the offseason rules, being around our guys in the summer time. Being able to compete with the young guys. Just from top to bottom, we’re more confident about the package, we’re more confident in the guys around us. It’s just a smoother operation out there right now.”
Hagen and head coach Kevin Sumlin haven’t had enough time to decide who will start at the position or which players will perform in a rotational sense, but both are pleased with the effort they’ve seen thus far especially from Jordan Mastrogiovanni and Donnie Baggs.
Despite being a senior with the team’s most experience at the position, it’s not a lock Baggs will start this season. His continued growth and willingness to improve will determine whether or not he’s at the strong-side spot when the Aggies open at South Carolina on Aug. 28.
Baggs started six games last season and finished with a career-best 30 tackles, but struggled at times in the middle as a guy playing out of position.
“We put a lot of (getting teammates lined up) on Donnie (last season),” Hagen said. “We really had no other choice. Donnie had to step in and be that middle linebacker early, and he was like a fish out of water.”
Mastrogiovanni, a sophomore, had a productive spring and has earned first-team reps at middle linebacker. His emergence as a leader along with Baggs could alter the outlook for a linebacking corps that underperformed in 2013.