Quarterback competition signals desperation in Aggieland

By John Hillman  |   Monday, March 09, 2009  |  Comments( 1 )

Texas A&M Aggies
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Texas A&M enters its second spring training with an unsettled quarterback situation. Fulfilling a promise made last summer, head coach Mike Sherman announced Ryan Tannehill would compete with incumbent Jerrod Johnson for the starting signal-caller role.

Sherman should be commended for honoring his word. But both A&M’s 4-8 record in 2008 and Johnson’s late-season struggles probably play a bigger role in the decision.

Johnson, who started nine games after injuries sidelined Stephen McGee, performed adequately in the first six. But in his final three contests against Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas, he threw for only 468 yards with six interceptions. Four of the six picks came against Baylor, a team that ranked 90th in pass efficiency and 103rd in pass defense last year.

If A&M’s veterinary medicine school could teach Sherman to clone football players, he would probably start with Tannehill. Because of his versatility, the sophomore from Big Spring, Texas, who finished third in last year’s quarterback battle between McGee and Johnson, moved to wide receiver.

Tannehill flourished in the role, catching 55 passes for 844 yards, an A&M freshman record. Against Kansas State, he posted two more freshman single-game marks, snaring 12 receptions for 210 yards. But the third-year sophomore, who received offers from TCU, Houston, Tulsa, and UTEP still longs to run the Aggie offense.

With the pressure mounting on Sherman to improve A&M’s football fortunes, the immediate burden falls on the shoulders of either Johnson or Tannehill. Because only three quarterbacks are on scholarship in College Station, the third-string role belongs to Tommy Dorman, a redshirt freshman.

Little quarterback talent other than Johnson and Tannehill resides in Aggieland because A&M did not recruit any signal-callers for its 2009 class. However, backup help could arrive for 2010 if former University of North Texas starter Giovanni Vizza transfers to the Maroon and White.

If Tannehill switches back to quarterback, the Aggie receiving corps shouldn’t experience a letdown. Wideout Jeff Fuller grabbed 50 passes for 630 yards and nine touchdowns in 2008, while tight end Jamie McCoy caught another 43 for 500 yards and five TDs.

In truth, the Aggies have more serious personnel problems at positions other than quarterback. Leading rusher Mike Goodson opted for the NFL draft, and issues exist at linebacker, defensive end and offensive tackle.

The soul searching starts in earnest on March 26 when A&M opens spring practice. Hopefully, Sherman will find answers by the time the Maroon and White game takes place on April 18. However, if the 2009 season proves simply a rerun of the last one, the waves of change will start churning.
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About John Hillman

John Hillman graduated from Baylor University in 1974 with a BBA in accounting and earned an MBA from Baylor in 1987. He worked for accounting firms until 1982 when he became the chief financial officer for an independent insurance claims adjusting service, a position he still holds today....
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