COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- When a team changes it's scheme on one side of the ball or the other, there is often a significant learning curve involved.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin compares it to the adjustment a true freshman has to make in his first year of college football.
"The 'What to do' stage that every freshmen goes through figuring out what to do, transferring the playbook to the field," Sumlin said. "And then there's the 'How to do' stage, which comes down the road instead of just running to where the line is in the playbook. Now there's an adjustment, 'Now what do I do? How do I do it?' And for every player there's that adjustment with a new scheme."
As the Aggies get acclimated to a 4-3 alignment under new defensive coordinator Mark Snyder after spending the last two seasons in the 3-4, senior linebacker Sean Porter appears to be adjusting better than most. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Porter, who was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last season, has made it a point to spend more time studying his playbook and seek out extra time with coaches in order to understand the intricacies of the new scheme.
"I'm really getting used to the defense," Porter said. "I've been up there with Snyder a lot during the summertime and I sat in on a few coaches meetings with him and I really got to get in his head a little bit during the summertime. So it was good for me. I think I've got the defense down pretty well, me and J-Stew (senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart)."
He also appears to be developing into a leader. Sumlin wanted to see some guys become more vocal on defense and Porter is doing that. Linebackers coach Matt Wallerstedt sees the effort Porter is putting in not only to himself, but to his teammates.
"I know he wants to perform well against the best competition in the country in the SEC and get us jump-started in this league and win a bunch of ballgames and get us to a championship," Wallerstedt said. "Really for him, he's the one that's been driving the whole thing for the linebacking corps and pushing everybody not just on the field but with the film study and getting in there with those younger guys."
In order to do that, Porter has to have an increased attention to detail. Being a senior is not something that the preseason first-team All-SEC pick has taken lightly this fall.
"I have to make sure I get in the film room and that I relay all the little things that I pick up on the field to the younger guys," Porter said. "I think that senior leadership is going to be a big deal this year. As seniors we can see things that maybe a younger player can't see because we've been out there a couple more times. I think it's just stuff like that: senior leadership, film room, putting in extra reps in the weight room, extra runs after practice, things like that that will make us a little bit better and that'll get us a few more wins."
Last season, he led the Aggies with 9.5 sacks, but Porter -- who will play the strongside linebacker position this season -- said he's not concerned with his sack total this year, only with wins.
His grasp of what the Aggies are doing defensively should help that pursuit.
"We're at the point where we've got more and more guys doing that across the board," Sumlin said. "Sean understood it quicker and I think he's been able to become a leader quicker because he just understands things and he's able to communicate with our coaches.
"We're going to need his leadership to get through camp and not only get through camp but through this season. He's doing everything we've asked him to do."