Ever since the firing of R.C. Slocum, the Texas A&M Football program has been a shadow of its former self.
From Southwest Conference dominance in the late 80s and 90s, to Big 12 mediocrity in the new millennium.
Dennis Franchione sent the Aggies spiraling to the cellar of the Big 12, finishing with a 4-8 record in his first season in 2003—the first losing season in 21 years.
After three good years of recruiting (three top 13 classes from 03-05), the 2005 season was supposed to bring the Aggies back to national prominence. Behind the arm and legs of Reggie McNeal in his senior season, the football program was receiving more hype than they had since the late 90s.
Poor coaching and questionable play proved they were not worthy of their preseason No. 17 ranking, as they finished with a 5-6 record. McNeal basically quit on the team, and did not start against Texas at Kyle Field to protect his own interest of playing in the NFL.
Is it wrong that I enjoy the fact that McNeal is playing receiver for the Toronto CFL team? I don't think so, especially after he made the comment that guys like Peyton Manning (pocket passers) are a dying breed in the NFL.
The 2006 season would be an incredible turn around. Fran finally beat Texas in Austin in a game that not many fans will soon forget. "12-7" shirts still make appearances on and off campus every once and a while.
The team finished 9-3, with the three losses totaling six points, but were waxed by California in the Holiday Bowl 45-10.
Despite the embarrassing bowl loss, several experts witnessed the fact that 18 starters were returning for the 2007 season. Kirk Herbstreit even mentioned the Aggies as a BCS sleeper contender.
A booster newsletter controversy, questionable coaching, ill-prepared teams, and failure to succeed all led to Fran's resignation at the end of the 2007 season, despite his second straight victory over the Longhorns.
In walks Mike Sherman, and with him questions about his lack of college experience and ability to withstand the grind of recruiting.
He has struggled to implement his pro-style offense with Fran's zone-read players, and Joe Kines has not been able to get the defense to show up consistently.
Last season, he finished with a 4-8 record but also was able to provide reasons to look to the future. The 2009 recruiting class was ranked in the top 25; apparently his pro style offense will attract more than just quarterbacks and tailbacks like Fran's offense.
Fran was always able to get the skill positions to come to A&M, but where he lacked, Sherman is excelling.
He has already recruited four offensive lineman, all four of which are four-star recruits and in nearly every credible recruiting website's top lists.
With four other four-star recruits and several three-stars from Texas, the recruiting class for 2010 is expected to be in the top 15.
The make or break aspect of the 2010 season will be keeping Jerrod Johnson away from the lure of the NFL draft and all those dollars. If he and Jeff Fuller get yet another season together, we could be witnesses to the best QB-WR combination in the program's history.
Johnson performed at the highest level on the biggest stage on Thanksgiving against the Longhorns. On his shoulders, the A&M offense scored 15 more points than anyone had scored on Texas all season in a classic shootout.
If the defense could have made an open field tackle or the special teams didn't implode, I could be writing this after the biggest upset since the Oklahoma win in 2002.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. All the Aggies did was make Longhorn fans sweat for 60 minutes and worry that their defense will not be able to withstand Alabama or Florida.
The loss ended a 6-6 up and down season to say the least. It featured a win at Texas Tech for the first time since 1993, but also saw embarrassing losses of 38 or more points three times.
It was almost impossible to get a handle on this team, which is the main reason they have fans questioning the hiring of Sherman.
That being said, a bowl win could turn in Sherman's first winning season and possibly bring in more solid recruits. He deserves at least one-two more years, it is almost impossible to turn around a bad program in two seasons.
Hopefully the Aggie brain trust feels the same way and gives him what he deserves; a chance to prove himself on the field.
The whole point of this article is to highlight the fact that despite around eight straight years of an average football team, the Ags will return to the national spotlight in 2010.
With 16 returning starters, including several key young players at skill positions, there is little evidence to the contrary.
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