Last season: 9-4 (4-4)
All-time record: 701-456-48
SEC titles: None
Opener: at South Carolina on Aug. 28
COMING FRIDAY: Vanderbilt
The most honest answer at Southeastern Conference media days earlier this month may have been provided by Texas A&M senior defensive back Deshazor Everett.
When asked why anyone should believe the struggling Aggies defense should be any better this season, Everett said, "Could we get much worse?"
From a season-opening 52-31 win over Rice to a closing 52-48 escape of Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Aggies were more about outscoring foes than subduing them. An 11-2 season in 2012 was followed by a not-quite-s0-dazzling 9-4 mark, with Texas A&M allowing 49 points in a home loss to Alabama and 45 in a home loss to Auburn.
Texas A&M's 32.2 points allowed per game ranked last in the league, and the 419 points yielded by the Aggies were a program record.
"It was players not understanding the game, myself included," Everett said. "You have to understand the game first before you go out there and play defense. I was pressing when it was third-and-15. Why would I be doing that? We're learning things as we go, but I already feel that we've gotten a lot better.
"I've been around the 2012 defense and last year's defense, and I'm excited to be around this year's defense."
Everett, a 6-foot, 188-pounder from DeRidder, La., is among seven returning defensive starters for Kevin Sumlin's Aggies, who also must replace their offensive trio of quarterback Johnny Manziel, receiver Mike Evans and left tackle Jake Matthews. Evans and Matthews were top-10 overall picks in May's NFL draft, and Manziel went in the first round as well.
The Aggies would have returned nine defensive starters had tackle Darian Claiborne and linebacker Isaiah Golden not been dismissed earlier this summer.
"It was a sad day, because those were two brothers that we lost," Everett said, "but I have full confidence that Coach Sumlin made the best decision for the team. We have guys behind them who can step up and have stepped up."
Texas A&M's 2014 signing class included Kyle Allen, the nation's top quarterback prospect who will vie with sophomore Kenny Hill for the starting role in preseason camp. It also included Myles Garrett, the nation's No. 1 weakside defensive end prospect.
"I think we will have, believe it or not, more depth in our front seven, particularly in our front four," Sumlin said. "We ended up the year rotating five D-linemen out of the four spots, which took it's toll."
Said Everett: "We're talking more than we did last year, and we understand the situations more. If one player is lost, we're communicating."
Everett will be among the four returning defensive backs, and he believes he will settle in at cornerback. He saw time at corner and safety last season, when he tallied 73 tackles, broke up seven passes and had two interceptions.
As for his name?
"I asked my mom, 'Why did you choose Deshazor?'" Everett said. "She said, 'I like it.' That's all I know about that."
The Aggies were picked sixth in the seven-team West Division at media days, which seems a far cry from their 2012 debut season in the SEC that included a 29-24 win at Alabama. There is not a demanding test outside the league, but the season starts Aug. 28 with a trip to South Carolina, which has won 11 games each of the past three seasons.
Games against Alabama and Auburn are on the road, and the Aggies will end the regular season hosting LSU on Thanksgiving night.
"We have our own expectations," Sumlin said. "In year one, nobody expected anything out of us. Last year, we were expected to beat the Green Bay Packers. I have to have a reasonable expectation for what we try to do."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...