It has been a long time since the Texas A&M Aggies were a major player on the national scene.
After Mike Sherman took over for the 2008 campaign, the early returns for his regime were less than encouraging, as the Aggies lost a shocker at home in their opener to Arkansas State 18-14 and later in the season were drummed by lowly Baylor, 41-21.
Sherman followed up that dismal 4-8 inaugural season with a step in the right direction last year by posting a 6-7 mark.
The 2009 Aggies were dreadfully inconsistent; a midseason three-game losing skid featured a 47-19 loss to Arkansas and a 62-14 shellacking at the hands of Kansas State. But the Aggies followed that up with a 52-30 win at Texas Tech, which was ranked in the top 25 at the time.
Such is to be expected from a young team, and the Aggies have enough returning talent to expect to keep moving in the right direction during Sherman’s third season.
Most of the hope in Aggieland is in the hands of senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson (6'5", 243). Johnson was the focal point of the Aggie attack last year, throwing for 3,579 yards and 30 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. Johnson is also a dangerous running threat when flushed from the pocket, picking up 455 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
Johnson was tabbed as the preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and if he improves on last year’s numbers, he could even get into the Heisman hopeful race.
With Johnson, the Aggies had a dynamic offense last year, averaging 465.3 yards and 33.5 points per game. A&M should expect to be even better as they also return their two top running backs, Christine Michael (844 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Cyrus Gray (757 yards and five TDs).
There is good news and bad news on the defensive side of the ball. The good is that 10 starters are back. The bad is just plain ugly. A&M surrendered 426.3 ypg last year, which was No. 105 in the nation—hardly the “Wrecking Crew” stuff that A&M teams in the ‘80s and ‘90s were iconic for.
But there is good reason to expect improvement from a team that had its share of growing pains last year, and senior outside linebacker Von Miller is a marquee player after leading the nation in sacks last year with 17. The defense returns 10 starters in all, and if the Aggies are just respectable on defense, the offense should put up enough points to make this team a force to be reckoned with.
Aggies at a Glance
Last year: 6-7, 3-5
Total Offense: 465.3 ypg, No. 5
Total Defense: 426.3 ypg, No. 105
Plus: Senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson is a dynamic offensive threat and a possible Heisman hopeful. The Aggies have shown steady improvement under Mike Sherman, who is heading into his third year.
Minus: The defense was awful last year, ranking No. 105 in the nation and giving up 65 points to Kansas State. It’s tough to imagine the Aggies breaking through to a Big 12 South title with Oklahoma and Texas in the way.
Circle the Dates: Oct. 9 vs. Arkansas (Arlington)—Thanks to an easy schedule, the Aggies should be 4-0 when they travel to Jerry World, and a strong showing against one of the better teams in the SEC would be huge.
Oct. 30 vs. Texas Tech—The Red Raiders figure to be one of the teams the Aggies have to edge out for a favorable bowl trip.
CSM Prediction: The third year of a head coach’s reign is always a key watermark, and Mike Sherman seems to be doing the right things to build A&M back up to the tradition of the ‘80s and ‘90s. If senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson lives up to the billing, watch out. A&M should be at least the third best team in the South, and the Aggies could potentially upset either Oklahoma or Texas.
This CSM original content was written by Grant Tolley.