Texas A&M linebacker A.J. Hilliard transferred to the program with great expectations. After sitting out a year (NCAA transfer rules), Hilliard was poised to contribute for the Aggies in a huge way.
In their first game last season, a 52-28 drubbing of South Carolina, Hilliard showed exactly why thoughts were high on him. He finished the game with three tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry. Those numbers could have been better, had it not been for him breaking his ankle early in the third quarter, sidelining him for the rest of the season.
Now Hilliard is trying to get healthy and ready (again) to lead an A&M linebacker corp that includes promising players like Otaro Alaka, Josh Walker and Shaan Washington. It seemed the entire group faced some injury at some point last season. The key to this season—just as it was last year—is how healthy can these Aggies stay?
According to the Houston Chronicle, coach Kevin Sumlin spoke about Hilliard’s injury as well as his progression since early on in camp:
“That (ankle) was a pretty serious injury,” Sumlin said. “He had a shoulder injury, too. So we’re taking it a little bit slower with him. He had a plate with screws (inserted in his ankle), and then the shoulder … He’s probably the farthest behind.”
Behind everyone else or not, Texas A&M will need all hands on deck this season. If Hilliard—and the rest of the linebacker corp—can avoid major injuries, the Aggies defense can fully blossom under their new defensive coordinator.
[h/t Houston Chronicle]