Big 12 Football Preview - Texas A&M

Last season: 7-5 overall (5-3 Big 12). The Aggies spoiled Iowa State's homecoming celebration clobbering the Cyclones 34-3. Texas A&M was led by Reggie McNeal's 222 yards and four touchdowns.


This season: Iowa State will travel to Kyle Field on Oct. 29.  


Key Returners – The Aggies will return 48 letterwinners (24 offense, 21 defense, 3 specialists); including 20 starters.


"In 2005 we would like to take another step," said head coach Dennis Franchione. "We have eight starters back on offense and defense, and have a solid place kicker returning in Todd Pegram. We have 18 seniors on this football team on scholarship, which is the most we have had since I have been here, but by the same token we are still going to be a youthful football team."




Once again the Aggie offense will begin and end with quarterback Reggie McNeal, who passed for 2,791 yards and rushed for 718 yards. The all-Big 12 performer accumulated six 300-yard total offensive games in 2004.


Texas A&M is hoping the play of Courtney Lewis will balance the offensive attack. As a freshman Lewis rushed for a team-high 1,024 yards, in 2004 he led the team in rushing again with 742 yards.


"Courtney Lewis is healthy, just started out, will be good for us," Franchione said. "He played hurt a good bit of the time last year."


At the wide receiver position pleanty of players return, including DeQawn Mobley, Earvin Taylor, Jason Carter, L'Tydrick Riley and Kerry Franks.


Mobley and Taylor have the most experience with Mobley hauling in 16 catches for 294 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor's 22 receptions were third on the team and second among returning starters.


The only loss on the Aggie offensive line will be that of Geoff Hangartner who moved on to the NFL; taking his place will be his former backup Corey Clark.


Jami Hightower, Kirk Elder, Chris Yoder, Cody Wallace and Aldo De La Garza's experience will beef up the offensive line.


"Our offensive line returns four starters from last year," Franchione said. "[The issue] which we have targeted as coaches, is running a football and doing well up-front against the top 15 teams in the nation. That's the next step that we need to be able to do there."




Experience and depth up front will be key for the Aggie defense this season as they look to challenge for the Big 12 South Championship.


"The D-line has a chance to be a good unit," Franchione said. "Look at Red Bryant, Jason Jack, and Chris Harrington will be sophomores starting, and Johnny Jolly, a senior, and linebacker with Archie and Green, and Foliaki, all seniors. The guy who is set to have a break-out year is Justin Warren who is running and making plays sideline-to-sideline better than ever before."


Last year as a sophomore Warren had 58 tackles, including two for a loss of 15 yards.


The defensive back field is in good hands with all-conference selection Jaxson Appel anchoring the secondary. He led the team in tackles in 2003 and finished with 85 a season ago.


"You talk about a rock solid guy that is a steady performer down in and down out, and is a great leader of his defense, and makes sure that people are getting in the right position [Appel is that]," Franchione said.


Besides Brock Newton and Ray Ray Jones, the Aggie cornerbacks are a bit inexperienced. Coming off a redshirt year, Danny Gorrer was impressive during the spring and took over the No. 1 spot at left corner.


"Danny is one of those kinds of guys where he wants to be good," said linebacker Archie McDaniel. "He wants to play on the next level. He wants to hold the top receiver in the nation if he could week in and week out. He has tremendous athletic ability. He has potential to the sky."


Special teams:


Place-kicker Todd Pegram highlights the special teams unit. He was a second all-Big 12 selection last season. Pegram hit 12-of-13 field goals and 37-of-42 point after attempts.


Fast Fact:


He set the Texas A&M school quarterback records for rushing yards, passing yards and total offense in a season, and yet when the Aggie coaches chose their most improved player at the end of spring practices it was Reggie McNeal.


"I don't think there is any one or two particular areas [McNeal improved in]," Franchione said. "I just think overall Reggie has been very purposeful about growing as a quarterback. He is a better leader than I have ever seen him. He is more mature. He has depth and understanding of the offense that is as good as it has ever been. There is not an area that sticks out by itself. It's the total quarterback in all areas that I think led our coaches to vote him to that accolade."


The Schedule:


9/3/05      @    Clemson

9/17/05    vs.  SMU

9/24/05    vs.  Texas State

10/1/05    vs.  Baylor

10/8/05    @    Colorado

10/15/05  vs.  Oklahoma State

10/22/05  @    Kansas State

10/29/05  vs.   Iowa State

11/05/05  @     Texas Tech

11/12/05  @     Oklahoma

11/25/05  vs.    Texas

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