Archive for Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Texas A&M hopes to take ‘next step’

Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson (1) breaks away from Texas cornerback Curtis Brown (3) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009, in College Station, Texas.

Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson (1) breaks away from Texas cornerback Curtis Brown (3) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009, in College Station, Texas.

August 11, 2010

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Note: This story is part of the 2010-11 KU football preview section that will appear in Saturday's Journal-World. Check back to KUsports.com throughout the week for a breakdown of each Big 12 team, including an in-depth look at KU's offense, defense and non-conference schedule.

If superstars are the key to success in college football, then Texas A&M could be set for a huge year in 2010.

Though coach Mike Sherman hasn’t been able to finish above fifth in the Big 12 South in his two seasons, he returns a lineup filled with as many big-name players as any school in the conference.

“This season for us is about taking that next step,” Sherman said, “and the next step for us is to be in games in the fourth quarter with two minutes left where you’re in position to win the football game.”

Texas A&M’s talent starts at quarterback, where senior Jerrod Johnson was the preseason media pick for Big 12 offensive player of the year.

Johnson set eight single-season school records last season, including passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense.

“To really understand Jerrod, you have to understand the leadership that he gives you both on and off the field,” Sherman said. “I thought this spring he really stepped that up quite a bit.”

Sherman would like Johnson to improve his passing efficiency. The 6-foot-5, 243-pound native of Humble, Texas, completed 59.6 percent of his passes last year, and Sherman would like for that number to be up around 70 percent.

“Because he’s so dang smart, there’s a tendency to put a lot on him, and eventually it becomes stagnant, and he becomes unable to do the things that he’s been gifted to do,” Sherman said. “So I think we as coaches have to be careful we don’t hold the burden to him and clutter him.”

Senior linebacker Von Miller, meanwhile, enters the season as the Aggies’ best defensive playmaker.

Miller, who shared the preseason Big 12 defensive player-of-the-year award with Nebraska’s Jared Crick, led the nation in sacks last year (17) and also was tops in the Big 12 in tackles for loss (21.5) and forced fumbles (four).

“For him to go back and have the amount of sacks he had last year, I think that’s unrealistic,” Sherman said. “If he does, great; if he doesn’t, he can still play better and not have the stats he had a year ago.”

Receiver Jeff Fuller (568 receiving yards, seven TDs in 2009) and kick returner Cyrus Gray (23.8-yard average, TD) joined Johnson and Miller on the preseason All-Big 12 squad. The Aggies also return two other major contributors at the offensive skill positions in sophomore running back Christine Michael (844 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and sophomore receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu (708 receiving yards, six TDs).

Texas A&M’s biggest area of concern will be defensively, as the Aggies finished last in the conference in scoring defense (33.5) and pass defense (254.7).

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