A&M spring drills leave many unanswered questions

By John Hillman  |   Monday, April 27, 2009  |  Comments( 1 )

Texas A&M Aggies
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In college football, offseason training focuses on fact-finding. However, after Texas A&M spring drills, more questions than answers remain on the depth chart.

One Aggie star has shone brightly this April. Sophomore wide receiver Jeff Fuller highlighted the annual Maroon-White contest with nine receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown.

Fuller, whose father -- also named Jeff Fuller -- played safety for the Aggies and San Francisco 49ers, displayed tremendous talent in 2008. As a true freshman, he caught 50 passes for 630 yards and a school-record nine touchdowns.

A&M possesses a formidable pair of pass-catching threats if Ryan Tannehill remains at wideout rather than switching to quarterback. Coach Mike Sherman announced prior to spring practice that Tannehill, who snared 55 tosses for 844 yards and five touchdowns last fall, would compete with incumbent signal-caller Jerrod Johnson. But a torn labrum in the wide receiver’s right shoulder required end-of-season surgery and did not heal sufficiently for him to fully participate in April drills.

Johnson, who has faced little competition this spring, showed modest signs of improvement after his tailspin over the final three games of the 2008 campaign. After a slow start in the Maroon-White contest, the junior quarterback finished with 14 completions in 29 attempts for 206 yards and a touchdown.

At running back, the Aggies look to either Jay Tolliver or Cyrus Gray as a replacement for Mike Goodson, who opted early for the NFL and wound up as the fourth-round selection of the Carolina Panthers, the 111th pick overall. Tolliver rushed for a scrimmage-high 67 yards in the spring contest, and Gray produced a 22-yard touchdown run. But the rushing attack doesn’t concern A&M to a large degree if Johnson can connect consistently with Fuller and Tannehill.

The offensive line poses major problems at A&M. Currently, the Aggies have only nine scholarship players at that position, and Sherman did not play Lee Grimes, Kevin Matthews and Lucas Patterson in the spring game because of injuries.

The lack of offensive line depth allowed defensive end Von Miller to wreck havoc against Johnson. Miller finished the contest with two sacks and continually pressured the Aggie quarterbacks.

Scheduling may provide the biggest plus for A&M next season. The Aggies open at home against New Mexico and catch Utah State and UAB at Kyle Field before taking on Arkansas in a neutral site contest at the new home of the Dallas Cowboys.

When Big XII play begins, A&M opens at home with Oklahoma State and faces the weaker half of the North division with Kansas State, Iowa State and Colorado. The Aggies close out the 2009 campaign at Kyle Field with games against Baylor and traditional rival Texas.

With modest offensive and defensive production, the Maroon and White should capture at least six wins this year. A little bit of luck could generate two or three additional victories and bring the Aggies an 8-4 or 9-3 mark. After last season’s 4-8 meltdown, Sherman needs that kind of improvement to quiet the masses and take himself off the coaching hot seat.
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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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