Aggies Can't Get Away From Turnovers

Despite improvements in most aspects of the team, the Texas Aggie football squad is still searching for signature wins after consecutive close losses to OSU and Arkansas. The fly in the ointment is the turnover problem and the inconsistent play from Jerrod Johnson at QB. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a closer look at the situation

The dominant storyline for the Aggies during this 2010 season remains to be the struggles of the offense in ball security, particularly in the play of senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson who last year sparked the offense to a No. 5 national ranking in 2009. After a mistake-free game to open the season against an over-matched Stephen F. Austin, Johnson and the Aggie offense have been a comedy of errors committing a total of 18 turnovers in the past four games. That ranks the Aggies second-to-last in the NCAA at No. 119. While the rejuvenated Texas A&M defense has held up under the stress of protecting short fields due to these miscues, head coach Mike Sherman indicated that a turnover also limits the team's scoring opportunities.

"You're taking away possessions. I thought our defense did a great job responding. For us to be able to turn the ball over and only give away three points, that's unheard of," Sherman said. "At the same time, when you give the ball back you take away chances and opportunities."

And while others have contributed to the turnover total, it's Johnson's nine interceptions and two fumbles lost that is receiving most of the attention from pundits and Aggie fans. Sherman specifically addressed the situation with his starting quarterback at his Monday press conference.

"I think at this point last year he'd probably played a little more freely. We all know his resume. He works hard and gives us everything he has. He's a great competitor. My biggest concern starting this season was that he knew too much. He probably needs to back away a little bit," Sherman said. "That's not all on him either. We've been sacked a few times this season, and when he has to direct guys and tell guys what to do that can be disarming for a quarterback. I think Jerrod's best days are still in front of him."

With that said, it's hard to ignore the results of the past three games. Starting with the home game against Florida International when the Aggies had to make a furious rally in the fourth quarter to squeak out a 27-20 victory, Johnson's struggles have been well-documented. During this three game stretch, Johnson has completed less than 50% of his passes (66-of-133), thrown nine interceptions, and his fumble returned for a defensive touchdown against Oklahoma State was critical in the 38-35 loss. Sherman was asked on Monday about his reasons with sticking with Johnson as his starting quarterback.

"He gives us a chance. I trust him. I trust his character. He knows the game plan. He does everything I ask him to do. I have a lot of trust in him. Like I said, his best days as a quarterback are still in front of him," Sherman said. "He definitely in this game (Arkansas) played it closer to the vest. I had a lot to do with that. We stress not turning the ball over. He probably took less risk than he had previously, and you can put that on me. He'll be fine."

But with a record of 3-2 and 0-1 in the Big 12 with next Saturday's game against undefeated and No. 19 ranked Missouri looming, one has to wonder how long Sherman can stick with Johnson if the poor performances continue. After all, the Aggies have improved in just about every other aspect of the football program with the defense leading the way having moved 90 spots from No. 114 up to No. 24 in the nation in total defense. In addition, special teams play over the last four games has stabilized as well.

"We're better on special teams. We're better on defense, and I think we will be better on offense," Sherman said. "But we just need to gel and eliminate the turnovers, and I think we will."

Junior Ryan Tannehill, who doubles as one of Texas A&M's best receivers over the past couple of seasons, is the back-up quarterback. Tannehill received high marks in the spring running the first team offense while Johnson recovered from minor offseason shoulder surgery and missed most of spring practice. However, Sherman doesn't seem ready to make that switch anytime soon.

"Ryan is a very good quarterback and I'll have complete confidence in him when his time comes," Sherman said. "He has a bright future at quarterback and I expect him to do well next year leading our team. But I trust Jerrod right now. He's going to have a very good season when it's all said and done."

Regardless of who plays quarterback for the Aggies, the pressure is on to produce quality wins in the Big 12 and that starts on Saturday with a home game against the No. 19 Tigers. A third straight loss and the Aggie faithful will stop wondering who should be leading the offense and start wondering who should be leading their football program.

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