Texas A&M HC Mike Elko has already rebuilt the Aggies’ defensive line through the transfer portal

For those who still question if new Texas A&M head coach Mike Elko can recruit in the name, image and likeness era and the ever-growing transfer portal, I think you’ve received a clear answer nine days into the new year.

Since taking the helm on Nov. 27, Elko, who is coming off a brief but successful two-year head coaching stint at Duke, is facing the usual lofty expectations former Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher could never reach. So far this offseason, Elko and his impressive staff have landed 22 players from the transfer portal, including four veterans on the defensive line.

Of course, the Aggies incurred several losses across the line. Former 2022 five-star defensive lineman Walter Nolen’s decision to transfer to Ole Miss surprised us all. However, Elko is clearly looking to avoid a rebuild by replacing younger talent with proven production, led by former Purdue edge and 2023 Big Ten sack leader Nic Sourton.

Sourton certainly sticks out as a “plug and play” option next season. However, defensive end Elijah Alston (Marshall), edge Cashius Howell (Bowling Green) and defensive lineman Rodas Johnson (Wisconsin) bring a wealth of experience. Combined with incoming sophomore defensive linemen DJ Hicks and Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy, the newcomers pose an immediate threat as a vicious pass rush unit on paper.

Want more proof? According to Pro Football Focus, Nic Scourton (90.9), Cashius Howell (89.8) and Elijah Alston (90.5) were borderline elite rushing the passer in 2023, providing Elko and defensive coordinator Jay Bateman plenty of options on third-down situations. Not to leave out Rodas Johnson, whose size and strength make him a potential shoo-in for the vacant nose tackle spot in 2024.

The arrival of all four veterans will aid in developing younger Aggie pass rushers Malick Sylla and Rylan Kennedy. Both players possess the length and athleticism to contribute in spurts throughout next season, hopefully.

While waiting on an official announcement from junior defensive tackle Shemar Turner regarding his intentions to return or declare for the 2024 NFL draft, Elko has prepared for whatever path he chooses. That should provide a cushion for every Aggie fan worried about his impending decision.

Lastly, Texas A&M has already exceeded the 85-player roster limit, which likely means several of the players committed through the portal may re-enter during the spring period, which might be the toughest job for Mike Elko and his staff in just three short months.

UPDATE: Former Marshall defensive end Elijah Alston will reconsider his options as of Tuesday, Jan. 9.

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Story originally appeared on Aggies Wire