Scouting Report: Texas A&M Aggies

Robert Allen's scouting report on the Texas A&M Aggies who make the trip to Stillwater on Saturday to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

The Aggies are running a pro-style offense that leans toward West Coast in style but has been customized to better fit the their personnel.

You start with the quarterback where returning starter Stephen McGee is injured again. His right shoulder was re-injured in the 21-17 win over Army last Saturday as a pass rusher drove the shoulder into the turf after McGee released a pass in the second quarter. McGee has completed 29 of 41 passes for 294 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Jerrod Johnson, who has also had shoulder problems, has better stats at quarterback with 35-of-61 passing for 452 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. It would appear that Johnson is likely to start in Stillwater, but the Aggies are a beat up football team.

"As far as quarterback,Stephen McGee's injury wasn't quite as severe as it was after the New Mexico game, but it's still a recurring injury so there's some concern there," said head coach Mike Sherman in starting the injury rundown. "So we're just going to play it day by day with that.

"(DL Michael) Bennett is not as bad as we originally thought. He had a little cartilage that locked up in his knee there, in a pocket, and it locked on him. We were able to dislodge that and we're going to continue to look at that. We don't think there's anything surgical that needs to happen. It didn't swell a lot, so we anticipate him possibly making a speedy recovery. Now whether he's going to be available this week or not it's too early to say.

"(DB Jordan) Peterson should be available to practice tomorrow. (RB Keondra) Smith is still in rehab, working on that foot, and hopefully he'll be ready by the end of the week but there's no guarantee on that. (QB) Jerrod (Johnson) threw the ball well in Sunday's practice and seemed no worse for the wear. He seemed okay but a little sore. I think (OL Travis) Schneider should be available this week, if not on Tuesday than by Wednesday."

The Texas A&M offense is averaging 21.5 points and 297.8 yards a game, with the split being 111.2 yards per game rushing and 186.5 yards passing. Mike Goodson is the leading rusher with 220 yards on 53 carries. He has two touchdowns but his longest carry is only 14 yards. Freshman Cyrus Gray had the longest running play of the season for the Aggies last week when he went 60 yards versus Army.

Goodson is also the leading receiver with 17 receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard score on a screen pass against Miami. Explosive or big plays have been a problem for Texas A&M in that the Aggies have had precious few. Both coaches and players alike have identified Goodson as the guy that needs to be put in position to make those big plays.

"There were times during this season, in the first half of the first game-as a team, blocking and running-I thought we did very well, and Mike responded well in that situation," explained Sherman. "We weren't as good in the second half against Arkansas State as I thought we should have been. That might be as much a reflection on us blocking for him as for him. I put an awful lot on him, to find yardage that's not there and not just yardage that is. I thought he competed extremely well against Miami.

"Obviously he got hurt in the New Mexico game and tried to come back, but he competed very well in the Miami game. I thought he was a difference in that game in as far as he had tremendous energy and charisma on the sideline. I thought the first touchdown he had so early kind of got him revved up and going," Sherman continued.

"In this last ballgame, I think he touched the ball 16 times, and that's much less than I'd like him to. I'd like him to touch it a few more times than that. I don't know that we gave him a whole lot of opportunities.

"We talk a lot each week about opportunities we're giving him to do what he does best, and I don't know that we gave him enough. He's a guy that has a chance to break one open at any time. He did a great job of blocking on Cyrus Gray's long 60-yard run. But I think we need to create more opportunities for him."

Until the Aggies offense comes close to hitting full stride then it will be easier to defend. Hopefully, that stride won't come in Stillwater on Saturday.

Texas A&M has the Defensive Player of the Week in the Big 12 in Trent Hunter. The freshman got his first start and played really well against Army. Both Sherman and defensive coordinator Joe Kines expressed major concern about trying to stop the high-powered Oklahoma State offense and for the Aggies the problem is compounded by the fact they were working on defending a military option last week and the Cowboys represent a dramatic change in offensive direction.

"The tough thing this week I think is that everything we did the last week, and everything from the last ball game, gets thrown out the window," said Sherman. "Now it's a whole different offense, a different concept, in regard to defending Oklahoma State. They are averaging 51 points a game and over 500 yards on offense. They run it and throw it equally well, so it does present a lot of challenges.

"Certainly, this offensive and defensive scheme is very challenging for us. We've got to spend a lot of time this week getting back to basics. We'll probably practice against each other a little bit more this week, simply to go good versus good. We do that every week anyways but we'll probably do a little more this week so they can have a feeling hopefully of the speed of the game a little bit better."

It is young players like Hunter that have Sherman excited about the future on defense.

"Well, we have probably the best linebacking coach in the country working with them (in defensive coordinator Joe Kines), so from that standpoint there's a comfort level there. I think Matt Featherston has really made a lot of progress. Joe and I watched the tape Sunday morning, and Matt has really come a long way as a linebacker. I'm excited about his prospects.

"Von Miller is growing. Here's a guy who has had his hand on the ground, and when you move yourself back it's just a different ballgame. You have a deeper vision of what's happening so there's more questions that you ask yourself. When he's sure of what he's doing, there's very few that are as dangerous because he can chase down just about anybody. He hasn't been that familiar with the position, so he's growing there, as well as Garrick Williams.," Sherman continued.

"It's a position that needs to keep getting better. It's much like our offensive line. We've got to keep working with them and pushing them. There's a lot of inexperience in that group but hopefully each week we can take another step."

Special Teams
Special teams are a mixed bag as returning punter Justin Brantly is one of the best in the country and is averaging 45.6 yards per punt. Brantly can be huge in turning over field position.

Kicker Richie Bean is just one for four on field goals and that looks like it's a problem area. Returns are average too as Jordan Pugh averages 6.4 yards on eight punt returns, while Cyrus Gray (17.8 yards per return) and Bradley Stephens (18.2 yards per return) have been lukewarm on kickoffs.

Suffice to say things aren't great when the media is asking the head coach if he is pleased with the way his team is competing.

"I think they're competing," said Sherman somewhat defensively. "Now coming out of the Arkansas State game, I don't think we competed at a level that we should have when I went back and looked at the tape. I felt like that second half everyone was waiting for someone else to win the game, and didn't necessarily take their job and try to win the game.

"But I've felt in the last couple of weeks that the team is competing and doing everything they can to try and win the football game. Is it perfect? Is it good enough? Sometimes it is, sometimes it's not. But I feel like from a competitive standpoint we are competing.

"Is the team where I want it to be? No, I'd rather be 4-0 right now and not have lost the two games we did. But I see us making progress and getting better. I like our guys. They are very compliant to what I've asked them to do.

"When you come in new, and I've said this before, it's a whole new culture, no matter who the coach is, no matter who was there before, everyone does things differently. From that standpoint, there's been some change and transition, which I think at this point they are doing a much better job with than they had done previously. I hope we continue to get better. We have to continue to improve week in and week out."

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