This story is part of the KU Edition, a special section that runs in the Lawrence Journal-World.
Last year at this time, Texas A&M;’s Ryan Tannehill was splitting his time — and his reps — between quarterback and wide receiver.
Penciled in as the 2010 back-up to preseason offensive Big 12 player of the year Jerrod Johnson at QB and fighting for catches with a deep and talented group of wide receivers, Tannehill admitted that such a scenario made development at either position slow and difficult.
“Last year in the summer, I was trying to prepare for quarterback and wide receiver and that keeps you from perfecting one,” Tannehill said.
That’s not the case any longer.
Tannehill, a senior, and a monster at that, enters 2011 as the unquestioned starting quarterback and leader of the Aggies’ offense. Although such a status gives him great confidence heading into his final season in College Station, Texas, Tannehill said looking at it as something new seemed wrong.
“It’s kind of an odd situation,” he said. “But I feel like I’ve been playing quarterback at A&M; forever.”
In some ways he has. Tannehill has been at A&M; for his entire college career and, though he spent time at wide receiver, he always had been present at quarterback meetings. Meetings are different than starts, though. And Tannehill officially has just six of those as a QB.
“He’s played in a lot of games but he’s still pretty young as a quarterback,” A&M; coach Mike Sherman said. “A lot of his development has come in the summer when he’s out there with his teammates and working with his wide receivers.”
Though coaches are not allowed to watch their players work out during the offseason, Sherman said the reports he heard about Tannehill’s production this summer were off the charts.
“He has all the tools we’re looking for,” Sherman said. “There’s not a throw he can’t make. He’s extremely competitive, highly confident and he’s a tremendous leader.”
Because of that, along with a bunch of talented weapons on the offensive side of the ball, Texas A&M; was picked to finish second in the Big 12 this season. The Aggies finished just 66 points behind first-place Oklahoma and were one of three teams to pick up a first-place vote.
Of course, Sherman was quick to point out that, as good as Tannehill may be, the fate of the Aggies’ attack won’t rest solely on his strong arm.
“We have two really good running backs, which is a plus for us because I like to run the football,” said Sherman, referring to senior Cyrus Gray and sophomore Christine Michael. “There are plenty of plays during the course of a game to give both running backs plenty of opportunities.”
It seems safe to say the Texas A&M; offense will have enough weapons to do its part to keep the Aggies near the top of the conference — and on pace to fulfill enormous expectations. The same can’t be said for the A&M; defense, which lost several key players from its 2010 squad, including No. 2 overall NFL draft pick Von Miller. Although Sherman acknowledged the hit his defense took, he said he believed that, collectively, he had enough players returning who could fill the roles vacated by the departed stars.
“We’ve always talked about winning football games and winning championships,” he said. “We had a good run last year and we want to prove that we can continue to do that.”