Archive for Friday, August 26, 2005

Aggies banking on QB McNeal

Senior playmaker setting records at A&M

August 26, 2005


Texas A&M; coach Dennis Franchione often jokes that senior quarterback Reggie McNeal sometimes has to overcome his coaching.

As perhaps the top dual-threat quarterback in the country, McNeal has the unique ability to turn what looks to be a busted play into something good - and, occasionally, something spectacular.

That's why whenever Franchione has any doubts about what to do, he likes knowing he can "put it in number one's hands and let him do his stuff."

McNeal did it repeatedly last season, setting school records for passing yards (2,791) and rushing yards by a quarterback (718) while leading the Aggies to a 7-5 record and their first Cotton Bowl berth since 2001.

And the best may be yet to come.

Franchione was so impressed by the way McNeal dominated on and off the field that coaches named him their most improved player in the spring. With four of the five starters back on the offensive line and running back Courtney Lewis returning, it's no wonder A&M; expects to challenge Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 South.

"Right now we feel like we are equal," McNeal said. "I think we can compete with anybody. Everybody has the heart and mindset and don't nobody want to settle for less."

Things weren't as optimistic this time last year, when the Aggies were coming off their worst season in 31 years. The embarrassment included a 77-0 loss to the Sooners.

Last year, A&M; only lost to OU by a touchdown. However, A&M; also lost in overtime to Baylor, providing the Bears their only conference victory.

Running back Courtney Lewis ran for 742 yards and nine touchdowns last season despite battling injuries. He was healthy in the spring, and Franchione hopes he'll be back to his freshman form when he ran more than 1,000 yards.

Senior strong safety Jaxson Appel will anchor the secondary and could become the first A&M; player since Dat Nguyen to lead the team in tackles for three consecutive seasons.

The Aggies had one of their most impressive recruiting hauls in recent memory in 2005, and Franchione expects some of those players to contribute immediately.

The most heralded of the group is Parade All-American Martellus Bennett, a 6-foot-7 tight end who flirted with the NBA draft before reaffirming his commitment to football.

His brother, Michael Bennett, also joins the team after signing with Louisiana Tech in 2004 but never enrolling.


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