SPRING BALL 2008: A look at offense

At the midway point of spring football drills, who is making the biggest impact on the offensive side of the ball? What are the biggest question marks with two weeks of practice remaining until the spring game? Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp takes a look.

The Texas A&M football team is halfway through spring practice and things are starting to take shape. Much to the delight of A&M fans across the nation, the new offense seems to include screen passes, seam routes by the tight end and routes for the wide receivers that allow more yards after catch.

But as good as the first two weeks have looked at times, there is still a lot of work to be done according to first-year head coach Mike Sherman.

"We have to clean things up," Sherman said. "We're still lacking some of the discipline, like when we ask guys not to tackle. I don't want them to take guys to the ground, just wrap up. There were times (on Thursday) that you saw. Some were unavoidable and some were not. That's just a lack of discipline, and that will carry over into other parts of the game. You've got to do what we ask you do."

And for the most part, the Aggies are doing just that, but at times you can tell that they're learning as they go.

Here's a breakdown of each position on offense midway through the first spring camp of the Mike Sherman era (defense will be published tomorrow).

Quarterbacks

Heading into spring drills, most, including Sherman, believed that Jerrod Johnson would get most of the reps under center due to the offseason shoulder surgery that Stephen McGee went through. But the non-throwing shoulder healed quicker than expected and McGee was cleared to take part in all drills—although, I wouldn't want to be the poor defensive lineman or linebacker that takes a shot at the Aggies' senior signal caller.

In the first two weeks, McGee has looked from good to great. While he still appears to be uncomfortable at times, he's adjusting to the new offense, and he's been incredible accurate most of the time. His leadership is also unmatched and he's the clear No. 1 going into the second half of spring.

But Johnson has done well for himself, too. He's made plays with his feet at times and really seems to have a nice touch on the ball. While the question was asked last year if he would split time with McGee, those questions may get louder when the fall rolls around. He's got a cannon of an arm, with quick, elusive footwork that would give defenses one more thing to have to worry about.

"Our quarterbacks are well ahead of schedule right now," Sherman said. "They're all working hard and they've all caught on to what we're doing. (Quarterbacks coach) Tom Rossley has done a phenomenal job with all of the young kids and Stephen, who's the veteran of that group"

Running Backs

The stable of running backs was already deemed the strong suit of the A&M offense heading into practice, but not many probably knew the level at which redshirt freshman Bradley Stephens was capable of playing at.

He has turned heads all spring long, and with the neck injury to junior Mike Goodson, he's made the most of his opportunity, making incredible cuts, showing off his hands on pass routes and setting an example through his preparation and hard work.

Goodson, who was having a great spring of his own before the injury is expected to make it back to the practice field on Tuesday, although, he may not be going full speed right away.

Senior Jorvorskie Lane has looked bored at times, almost like he wished he had left early for the NFL, but he started to pick things up late last week.

"I think the running backs are right where I thought they'd be, and I thought (on Thursday) that Jorvorskie Lane really took a step forward. We need him to step forward."

Wide Receivers

So far, Terrance McCoy and Roger Holland have been the most impressive wide outs, but freshman Jeffrey Fuller is a physical freak. He's got to improve his route running skills, but that's something that he can work on over the next five months before the season starts. He has to play as a true freshman, he's just too gifted physically.

Holland and McCoy have been the most consistent at the position, and that's what Sherman is looking for.

"Our wide receivers have to be more consistent at catching the ball and lining up at the right spots when we leave the huddle," Sherman said.

Offensive Line/Tight Ends

The first team of offensive lineman have looked surprisingly effective—which may be due in part to going up against the senior-laden line from a year ago. Whatever the case may be, if there are significant injuries up front, the Aggies may be in trouble.

The line has opened up some nice holes for Stephens and Goodson this year, which is good news because once Stephens gets into the secondary, he's tough to bring down. It will be interesting to see what happens with the running backs based on the play they get from the big guys up front.

Tight end is the biggest question mark on offense without a doubt. Jamie McCoy moved over to the position this year after playing wide receiver under Franchione and seemed to really possess good hands for the first week, but struggled last week in practice. He dropped two great passes by McGee that would have given the offense first downs on back-to-back plays, which addresses Sherman's desire to "clean things up."

Ben Bass is probably the best blocker on the unit, but according to Sherman "beats the ball up" when he is running pass routes. But as much as he beats it up, he seems to haul it in more often than not.


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