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2009 Texas A&M Preview - Offense
Texas A&M WR/QB Ryan Tannehill
Texas A&M WR/QB Ryan Tannehill
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 28, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Texas A&M Aggie Offense

Texas A&M Aggies

Preview 2009 - Offense


- 2009 CFN Texas A&M Preview | 2009 Texas A&M Offense
- 2009 Texas A&M Defense | 2009 Texas A&M Depth Chart
- 2008 A&M Preview | 2007 A&M Preview | 2006 A&M Preview
 

What you need to know:
The passing game bombed away because it had to, but last year might have been a positive step forward to get the passing game on track sooner. It was trial by fire, and QB Jerrod Johnson wasn't bad thanks to the emergence of first-year stars Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller. Tannehill will push for the starting quarterback job, he's that good, but could end up back at receiver, while Fuller has the talent to be every bit as good as the rest of the star Big 12 wideouts. The running backs are quick and talented, helped by the addition of superstar recruit, Christine Michael. But it all comes down to the line that was arguably the worst among the BCS teams, needs to get healthy in a hurry and needs to find the right combination.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jarrod Johnson
194=326, 2,435 yds, 21 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Cyrus Gray
75 carries, 363 yds, 1 TD
Receiving:
Ryan Tannehill
55 catches, 844 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore WR Jeff Fuller
Player who has to step up and become a star
: Junior OT Lucas Patterson
Unsung star on the rise
: Senior TE Jamie McCoy
Best pro prospect
: Fuller
Top three all-star candidates
: 1) Fuller, 2) QB Jerrod Johnson, 3) QB/WR Ryan Tannehill
Strength of the offense
: Receiver, Running Back Quickness
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive Line Production, Running Back Experience

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
Junior Jerrod Johnson was a top recruit when he came to the program a few years ago, and while he lost out to Stephen McGee for the starting job early on, he quickly took over and became the bomber the team needed to get the passing game game going with 2,435 yards and 21 touchdowns with ten interceptions. The 6-5, 229-pounder has good mobility, and while he's not a runner, he managed to finish third on the team with 114 yards and three touchdowns despite losing 255 yards, mostly on sacks. As good as he was at putting up big umbers, he struggled late throwing four picks in a loss to Baylor and completed a mere 4-of-11 passes for 62 yards and a score against Texas in the season finale. There might be talk about a quarterback controversy, but Johnson is the man who'll have to be the steadying playmaker for the attack.


Projected Top Reserves: 6-4, 204-pound sophomore Ryan Tannehill was going to get every shot at the starting job before suffering a torn labrum this offseason. A strong passer with tremendous athleticism, he still should see action in blowouts and if Johnson struggles, but he'll most likely move back to wide receiver where he was the team's leading target with 55 catches for 844 yards and five scores in a breakthrough season. He has the arm and he has the smarts to be able to handle everything the coaching staff will throw at him
.

Redshirt freshman Tommy Dorman got a big chance to make some noise this offseason with Tannehill out, but he didn't. He sputtered and struggled with his consistency and didn't look like a passer ready to take over in an emergency, but he's young. He has the tools with a live arm, great mobility, and 6-2, 210-pound size, but he'll need more work.
 
Watch Out For ... Tannehill. Who takes the leading receiver and puts him in the mix for the starting quarterback job when there's already a player like Johnson in place? Even with the shoulder problem, Tannehill will be right in the hunt for the starting quarterback job up until the opener. At least that's what the coaches are saying, even though Johnson will almost certainly be the No. 1.
Strength: Live arms and mobility. Johnson can move, Tannehill can fly, and Dorman is a terrific scrambler. All three can push the ball down the field and won't ever be labeled just as rushing quarterbacks.
Weakness: The O line. Johnson was running for his life way too often last year as he had no time to operate. The line is still going to need time and seasoning, so the decision making has to be better from all the quarterbacks.
Outlook: It's an interesting situation, but it's a good one. Johnson doesn't necessarily need a fire lit under him, but with Tannehill looming in the wings there isn't going to be much margin for error. Dorman isn't ready, but he should be a part of the mix in the future. There will be lots of bombing away, plenty of rushing yards, and overall, a nice pecking order to develop.
Rating: 7


Running Backs

Projected Starters
:
Ready to step in and try to take over the starting job is Cyrus Gray, a 5-10, 188-pound sophomore who ended up finishing second on the team with 363 yards and a score. One of last year's star recruits, he showed nice flashes running the ball, but made his biggest impact as an elite kickoff returner. He has a good combination of skills with decent pop for his size inside and the quickness to bounce it outside. He's a speedster who can hit the home run, and at the very least he'll be a key part of the rotation.

Jorvorskie Lane was supposed to be a big part of the overall scheme, but wasn't. Now it'll be Cole Graybill stepping in at fullback after starting out his career at linebacker. The 6-3, 236-pound junior will purely be a blocker, but he has the athleticism and the toughness to be a power back from time to time if needed.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 203-pound redshirt freshman Jay Tolliver looks the part with size, strength, and excellent quickness once he gets through a hole. He ran for 67 yards in the spring game, and he looked impressive throughout the offseason. While Graybill is technically the fullback, Tolliver will likely line up in the position more often than not just to get him on the field.

Sophomore Bradley Stephens had his moments to come up with something big last year, but he didn't rushing for just 68 yards averaging 4.5 yards per carry. While he has all the tools to be fantastic, along with 5-10, 204-pound size, he'll quickly be pushed into the background if he continues to fumble the ball. He could be used in a variety of ways, able to line up at fullback and be used as a receiver out of the backfield from time to time.

Christine Michael was the star of this year's recruiting class and is expected to be the main man sooner than later. The 5-11, 202-pounder has tremendous home-run hitting speed and the power to pound away inside when needed. A touchdown machine, he's unstoppable around the goal line and can score through the air as well as on the ground. The tools are out of central casting; he has the perfect size, speed, and weight room strength.

Watch Out For ... Michael. There are rumblings that he's the most talented back the program has seen in decades; he could've gone anywhere and appears destined for the NFL. Of course, that was said about Mike Goodson, too. It's not like the rest of the runners are chopped liver, but it's Michael who could make the ground game special.
Strength: Size and power. The Aggie runners all fit a type. They're all around 5-10 and they're all compact and powerful 200 pounds. They're all tremendously quick, can catch the ball, and can be used in a rotation to carry the offense.
Weakness: Proven production. Michael will be fantastic, Gray was nice last year, and Stephens has a little bit of experience, but the ground game was non-existent last year with Goodson leading the way. There might have to be a rotation for a while to find the right guy, and not necessarily to keep everyone fresh.
Outlook: In one of last year's biggest disappointments, Goodson was never healthy, Jorvorskie Lane was never not fat, and the ground game that was supposed to bridge the gap between coaching staffs gained 1,062 yards and 14 scores. There's talent in the backfield, but will there be any room to move behind the questionable line?
Rating: 7


Receivers


Projected Starters
:
With Ryan Tannehill out this offseason, and expected to move to quarterback when he returns, Jeff Fuller stepped up his play and appears to be ready to become a Big 12 breakout superstar. The 6-4, 209-pound true sophomore finished second on the team with 50 catches, but he led the way with none touchdowns and gained 630 yards. With size, the fire, the work ethic, and the deep speed, he has it all to grow into a special player. While he was great last year, he stepped up his game this spring and will be the team's No. 1 target.

Junior Terrence McCoy was a bit streaky and only caught one touchdown pass, with 24 catches for 237 yards on the year, but the 6-4, 198-pounder has the look of a next-level prospect. He's great at catching the ball in traffic and has to be far more consistent to keep away a good group of receivers looking to take his spot.

Senior Jamie McCoy started out his career at quarterback, moved to receiver, and has settled in at tight end after starting most of last year and finishing third on the team with 43 catches for 500 yards and five carries averaging 11.6 yards per grab. The 6-3, 223-pounder is a dangerous target with great hands, but he's not a blocker. He's a willing participant in the running game, but his worth is in the passing game.


Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Ryan Tannehill is deep in the hunt for the starting quarterback job, but the team's leading receiver last year will likely move back to his familiar spot if and when he's the No. 2 QB. He had a few good moments early on, and then he came up with a two score day against Oklahoma State before blowing up against Kansas with 12 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown. He' has 6-4, 204-pound size, enough deep speed to get by, and fantastic hands.

While there are some veterans who can be plugged in here and there, like 6-2, 204-pound sophomore Nick Trice, a decent, big target who didn't come up with a catch last year, and Cody Beyer, a 6-1, 177-pound junior who also failed to make a grab last season, but did enough this offseason to warrant a No. 2 spot behind Fuller on the outside, the backups will almost certainly be coming from the freshman class.

6-1, 180-pound Brandal Jackson is a pure deep threat who could've gone anywhere. He'll be a field-stretcher from day one who'll get every chance to make big things happen in three and four wide sets.

6-0, 186-pound Uzome Nwachukwu is a polished route runner even though he's coming in as a true freshman. While he's not going to break off too many big plays, he'll fight for the ball and will grow into one of the team's most dependable targets in the middle of the field.

Kenric McNeal can play in a variety of spots, able to be used as a defensive back or a receiver. A tremendous athlete, he'll be used in a variety of ways, while Ryan Swope could be the team's fastest receiver from the moment he arrives on campus. The 6-0, 195-pounder was a Texas state champion-level sprinter and could end up growing into a killer defensive back and return man if he doesn't work as a wideout.

While Jamie McCoy is the star tight end in the rotation with great receiving skills, 6-3, 233-pound sophomore K.J. Williams will add even more talent to the mix. Faster than McCoy, he got on the field early in his true freshman season and was used mostly to block. That'll change this year as he'll be a part of two tight end sets to become a more involved target.
 
Watch Out For ... Tannehill to not see as much time at receiver as you might think. If he's the backup quarterback, he'll be on the field as a receiver just to get him out there, right? Not necessarily. He might be too valuable in the quarterback battle to be risked as a receiver, and there are enough good prospects waiting in the wings to pick up the slack.
Strength: Major-league potential. When your No. 1 receiver isn't needed, that shows the confidence the coaching staff has in the talent level of the corps. Fuller is the man everything will revolve around, and the freshmen will be mixed in as they develop.
Weakness: Youth. This has been a particular area of focus for the staff in the last two recruiting classes, and while there has been an excellent upgrade in talent, it'll be asking a lot for another Fuller to become a superstar right away. Everyone will be excited over this group, but it'll take a year.
Outlook: The talent at receiver will be far better utilized than it ever was under Dennis Franchione, but there will be some rough spots here and there until all the diaper dandies get their feet wet. At worst, the starters could be Fuller, Tannehill, and McCoy, with a slew of strong athletes as the backups. That's good enough to stay in most Big 12 shootouts.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: Thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness all across the front, the line will do plenty of shifting around. There's one spot that appears to be secure and steady, and that's at center where Kevin Matthews is back after starting every game last year. The 6-4, 297-pound senior was groomed to grow into a key starter and the anchor of the front five. While he was hurt and out for most of the offseason workouts, he's expected to be ready to go when the season starts and is expected to be the steadying force up front.

The biggest key to the line could be Michael Shumard and where he plays. The 6-5, 301-pound senior started every game last year at left tackle, and he had problems. He struggled in pass protection and wasn't consistent, and now he could move to his far more natural guard position. While he might be at his best at left guard, he'll likely end up at right guard and will end up playing where needed.

If Shumard moves to guard, the first prospect who'll look to start at left tackle will be Lucas Patterson, a 6-4, 297-pound junior who'll move over from defensive tackle to try to add more physicality to the line. He made 34 tackles last year as an 11-game starter in the middle of the D line and now he'll have to show he can be consistent on the outside in pass protection.

One of the answers for the line could be Matt Allen, an LSU transfer who sat out all of last year and is no ready to see time at one of the guard spots. The 6-3, 285-pound junior who can play either guard spot but will likely start out on the right side. He doesn't have a starting spot locked up, but he has the inside track after looking strong in practices.

6-6, 339-pound senior Lee Grimes wasn't healthy this spring, but he wasn't awful last year as a nine-game starter at right guard. While he's more of a guard than a tackle, his size and toughness could be good enough for him to get by. However, he has a hard time staying 100% and won't likely start a full season.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-4, 314-pound senior Vincent Williams has seen limited action over his first few years, but he has the total package of size and quickness to shine at tackle. If Grimes ends up back at guard, Williams could step in and be the starter on the right side. At the very least he'll be one of the team's key reserves.

6-4, 303-pound sophomore Evan Eike started every game last year at left guard and could be the main man once again if Shumard plays tackle or if Allen needs a little more work. A decent prospect with good athleticism for the position, he needs to grow into the star he was projected to be as one of the team's top recruits a few years ago. 

Patrick Lewis is a 6-2, 293-pound top prospect who was one of the stars of the recruiting class. Versatile enough to play anywhere on the inside, he's more of a guard prospect than a possible starter at center, but he has tremendous strength and is athletic enough to make up for any early problems with his raw skills.
 
Watch Out For ... Patterson. A not-that-bad defensive tackle on a team in desperate need of not-that-bad defensive tackles, his move to the offensive line shows how bad the problem is. He's a great athlete with the type of toughness to finish off blocks and become a key starter.
Strength: Potential and experience. The Aggies can't be any worse up front with no production last year whatsoever in any way. At least there's a ton of experience returning with four players with starting experience and enough potential with Patterson and Allen able to fill in the gaps.
Weakness: Production. Last year's line allowed 39 sacks, finishing fifth-worst in the nation, and 80 tackles for loss. The running game was also last in the Big 12 in rushing averaging 88.5 yards per game. There's nowhere to go but up.
Outlook: Injuries, ineffectiveness, and inconsistency killed the 2008 Aggie season. The line can't be any worse, and it won't be as soon as the right combination is found. The key will be to get everyone healthy to see who can play where, but this isn't going to be a plus for a while. It'll take some seasoning and a whole bunch of work just to get to average.
Rating: 5.5