The worst-kept secret in Central Texas finally was revealed Thursday afternoon when the Texas A&M Board of Regents approved the hiring of Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter as the Aggies’ new defensive coordinator.
DeRuyter, 47, is considered one of the rising stars in his profession. His work in turning Air Force’s defense around despite the inherent talent limitations at the school has caught the eye of the football cognoscenti over the past few years.
It’s clearly the biggest hiring in Mike Sherman’s coaching tenure. The Aggies’ struggling defense is considered their biggest liability.
Sherman said he likes what he has seen in DeRuyter’s previous work.
“I like his aggressive, attacking style of defense,” Sherman said. “He has a great history of success and has shown great ability to teach and to lead young men.”
DeRuyter is coming off an impressive coaching performance in his last game. The Falcons limited Houston quarterback Case Keenum to a season-low 222 yards and forced six interceptions in a 47-20 victory over the Cougars in the Armed Forces Bowl.
That effort punctuated a breakout season for the Falcons. Air Force finished 11th nationally in total defense (288.3 yards per game), fifth in pass defense (154.3 yards per game) and 10th in scoring defense (15.7 points per game). DeRuyter’s defense ranked seventh in the country with 20 interceptions, fifth in the nation with 34 total turnovers and led the nation in turnover margin.
The Aggies will have nine defensive starters back from their 2009 team that went 6-7, including national sack leader Von Miller. But DeRuyter must turn around an A&M defense that ranked 114th and 105th nationally in the past two seasons under former coordinator Joe Kines. It allowed opponents to score at least 35 points in seven of its final 10 games last season.
It’s a far cry from the great defenses of the past that were keyed by legendary players like Dat Nguyen.
DeRuyter said those great A&M defenses have been an inspiration to him during his career.
“As a defensive player at Air Force and being a defensive coach, I’ve tried to emulate the “Wrecking Crew” style that R.C. Slocum had in place at (Texas) A&M,” DeRuyter said. “As a defense, we like to dictate to the offense and put them back on their heels.”
DeRuyter was an undersized, overachieving linebacker at Air Force in the mid-1980s, helping Fisher DeBerry’s team to three straight bowl victories. He coached at schools like Air Force, Ohio University, Navy and Nevada. The A&M job will be the first time he’s ever coached at in a conference with an automatic berth into the BCS.
Last August, DeRuyter described his ideal defense to the Colorado Springs Gazette in simplistic terms.
“We want to have guys that are chomping at the bit to go rip someone's head off,” DeRuyter said.
The Falcons responded by limited 11 of their opponents to 20 or fewer points.
But duplicating that success against the offensive firepower in the Big 12 will be a different challenge – particularly with the personnel the Aggies currently have.