Texas A&M's defensive future in good hands with Daylon Mack


COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Myles Garrett has achieved impressive feats since arriving on campus. The Texas A&M sophomore defensive end broke Jadeveon Clowney's SEC freshman sack record last year with 11 and is off to a strong start again this year with an SEC-best 5.5 sacks so far.

But even the Aggies' best defensive player was impressed with what true freshman defensive tackle Daylon Mack did in the Aggies' most recent win vs. Nevada.

If you haven't seen it, here it is:

"My jaw dropped," Garrett said of the play. "I was getting double-teamed but I could see over. As soon as the play opened up, I just saw him shoot through and he hit both of them. I thought it was a fumble but I heard the crowd go 'Oooh' and I was shocked for a second."

It is the biggest highlight of Mack's young career, which is only three games old. He still has a long way to go -- he's not starting for the Aggies and coaches say they want to see more consistency from the five-star recruit -- but he's contributing early, and that's not an easy thing to do at that position, particularly in the SEC.

"I think he has made a lot of progress from Day 1 in camp," Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis said after Mack's collegiate debut vs. Arizona State. "I was really pleased with the way he played. It's got to be growth every day. He's gotten better every day at practice and he'll continue to grow and we've got to push him to do that. He has responded well."

Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin noted that the 6-foot-1, 335-pound Mack arrived on campus hovering around 350 pounds. "He enjoyed the recruiting process," Sumlin joked in August, and the coaches talked to Mack about getting his weight down. He was 338 at the start of training camp before Sumlin had to have another discussion with the massive Gladewater, Texas, product.

"We had a meeting early in the first week of practice and I said 'Hey man, when [opponents] throw the ball, we're playing with 10 guys. You just stop,'" Sumlin said. "He was just used to playing football right in this area right here (gesturing around his body) and not chasing the ball."

Mack, who is prohibited from interviews per Sumlin's media policy regarding freshmen, took the advice from Sumlin and defensive tackles coach Mark Hagen to heart and became more active, making several plays early this season while chasing opponents down. Coaches and teammates say Mack moves well at his size.

"He brings a lot to the table," Texas A&M center Mike Matthews said. "He's what you want. He's a real big dude. He penetrates through the offensive line and that's what we were looking for."

Sumlin likes the highlight plays but wants Mack to make the routine ones too.

"He's made some plays," Sumlin said. "He's an impact player. Just like I said, he showed some flash [vs. Nevada] but you have to be consistent. You jump out of a gap and the [offense gets a big gain]. Then he blows up the field."

The Aggies have another young, talented defensive tackle in sophomore Zaycoven Henderson. Together, they could be the foundation of a bright future on the interior defensive line for the Aggies, whose three primary defensive tackles now are upperclassmen. Together, they're among a growing group of young defensive playmakers on an improving defense like defensive ends Garrett, Qualen Cunningham and Jarrett Johnson, sophomore linebackers Otaro Alaka and Josh Walker and sophomore safeties Donovan Wilson and Armani Watts.

"The good news is they have what it takes and they are playmakers in the inside that we probably haven't had," Sumlin said of Mack and Henderson. "We've got to get them playing with that talent level like Julien and Alonzo who are more consistent right now in what we ask them to do. If they can make that step, they get better every week."

The Aggies went to great lengths to secure his signature of Mack, the No. 6 player in the 2015 ESPN 300, on national signing day after an eventful recruitment. Considered a "must-have" for an A&M defense looking to improve, the Aggies were pleased to land him and he's showing signs early in his college career why he was such a coveted prospect.

"Daylon is learning to play football at this level and play all the time," Sumlin said. "I think people see the flash plays but there are also times when that ball is getting up in there and it shouldn't be. He's going to continue to get better."

"I'm glad he's on our team."