Myles Garrett sensing a breakout year for Texas A&M

Myles Garrett sensing a breakout year for Texas A&M

July 28th, 2016 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Texas A&M junior defensive end Myles Garrett, shown harassing South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth last October, has racked up 24 sacks in two seasons with the Aggies.

Photo by Eric Gay

Texas A&Ms Myles Garrett reacting on the field during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Western Carolina Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M defeated Western Carolina 41-17. (AP Photo/Juan DeLeon)

Texas A&Ms Myles Garrett reacting on the field...

Photo by Juan DeLeon

TEXAS A&M

› Last season: 8-5 (4-4 SEC)

› Opener: Sept. 3 vs. UCLA (3:30 p.m. on CBS)

› Fun fact: Texas A&M’s seven consecutive bowl appearances are the longest such streak in program history, with the Aggies making trips in Mike Sherman’s final three seasons and in all four seasons so far under Kevin Sumlin.

› Coming Friday: Vanderbilt

Myles Garrett has been as good as advertised and then some during his first two seasons as a Texas A&M defensive end.

The former high school Parade All-American and five-star prospect had 11.5 sacks as a freshman two years ago and last season added 12.5, which led the Southeastern Conference. The 6-foot-5, 262-pound junior from Arlington, Texas, racked up 19.5 tackles for loss in 2015 and was a finalist for the Lombardi Award.

"Myles Garrett is obviously one of the best players in the country," Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said this month at SEC media days in Hoover, Ala. "He is looking to be the guy he was last year and more. He's had an exceptional career so far, and we look to continue down that road.

"He's phenomenally strong, extremely flexible and powerful, and he has a better understanding of the game than he had before."

The biggest problem for Garrett is that a lot of other talented players who entered the league in 2014 have been better than advertised as well.

LSU tailback Leonard Fournette heads into his junior season just 13 rushing yards away from surpassing 3,000 for his career. He rushed for 146 yards against the Aggies as a freshman and another 159 last year, with LSU winning each of those games.

"He's explosive," Garrett said. "He's been compared to (Minnesota Vikings running back) Adrian Peterson, and definitely the one comparison you can make is that at any time he can go off and have that big run or that big play that can swing the game in their favor. You have to keep a hand on him at all times.

"You can't let one play slip or think that you've got him under wraps."

Garrett also has yet to stymie Alabama's offense, which has another touted 2014 signee, Cam Robinson, at left tackle. The Crimson Tide have tallied 100 points the past two years against the Aggies, though three interceptions returned for touchdowns aided in last year's total.

"They love to run," Garrett said. "They're big and strong and methodical. They know what they're doing, and they do it every single time. You know what's coming at you, and you've got to beat it. They are going to do their job, and they're going to do it well."

Garrett is looking to break through against both Alabama and LSU this season as part of a defense that returns six starters. Among those is fellow end Daeshon Hall, who had four sacks in last year's 38-17 opening win over Arizona State.

Sumlin said Hall's big opener changed the way opponents handled their protection, which benefited Garrett.

The Aggies also return six starters on offense, including the talented receiver trio of Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones. Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray and Jake Hubenak took turns last season as the starting quarterback, but now it's Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight's job, with Hubenak as the backup.

Texas A&M has raced out to 5-0 starts each of the past two seasons only to crumble, losing three straight in 2014 and three of four last year. The Aggies have posted consecutive 8-5 records on the heels of going 11-2 in Sumlin's debut season in 2012 and 9-4 in 2013.

"We're going against great competition every week, and whatever happens, happens," Garrett said. "We're not going to worry about the last loss and how it affected us. We just got knocked down a couple of times and had to keep working for the next game.

"I thought I got better as a sophomore, and I hope to have a breakout year this season. I think our whole team will."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.