COUNTDOWN 2008 - Quarterbacks

Aggie Websider's Chip Winfrey continues his look at the 2008 Aggie football squad with a preview of the competition at quarterback. Will McGee return as starter for his senior season, or will he be transplanted by sophomore superstar-in-waiting Jerrod Johnson?

For the 2008 Texas A&M offense, the outlook at the quarterback position offers some good news. The good news is that the Aggies are returning a senior starter on his way to owning numerous school records, along with a talented backup to provide quality depth.

The better news, however, is the Aggies will be operating in a new offense that will finally offer its quarterback–regardless of who is named the starter–a chance to truly showcase his ability.

As exciting–and sometimes frightening–as it has been over the past two seasons to watch Stephen McGee play the quarterback position like a linebacker, impressing Aggies, opposing fans and players with his toughness and never-say-die attitude, the fact remains: On a team with the likes of Mike Goodson, Bradley Stephens, Cyrus Gray and Jorvorskie Lane, there's no reason in the world why McGee should be leading the offense in rushing attempts and yardage–something that has happened at Texas A&M since 1956. In fact, he needs only 296 more rushing yards to become the leading rusher among quarterbacks in school history. Impressive? Absolutely. But...That's just not the way it was supposed to be.

McGee came out of high school as one of the most successful pocket-passers in Texas High School football history. And he was recruited to Aggieland on the strength of that arm of his. But, once under center at Texas A&M, he was immediately installed as an option QB. In 2008, though, things have changed. This fall, under Coach Sherman's new offense, Aggie fans may finally get a chance to see McGee demonstrate the arm strength and accuracy he has had the opportunity to display only rarely so far in his career, such as in last year's game against Texas, and in the second half of the comeback-win against OSU.

Despite being utilized as an option quarterback, McGee has still managed to put himself on pace to own school records for passing yards, completion yards, total completions, completion percentage, and total offense. That has to be impressive, considering he also spent his time in 2007 leading all rushers with 181 carries for 899 yards, following a 2006 campaign in which he rushed 146 times for 666 yards. In his last two seasons as a starter, McGee has completed 405 passes for 4,606 yards, posting an impressive completion percentage of 62% during 2006. McGee has been accurate... but also cautious. In 730 career pass attempts, he has thrown a paltry 11 interceptions. McGee has also set two of the top three single-season school records for total offense.

Although it may be a surprise for some Aggie fans to see anyone other than McGee starting at quarterback this fall, Sherman has remarked that the competition for the starting nod at that position is a "dead heat" between McGee and returning sophomore Jerrod Johnson.

At 6-foot-5 and 229 pounds, the exciting young QB from Humble, Texas, is a huge, strong, and speedy athlete with an impressively strong arm--drawing comparisons to a recent quarterback in Austin.

Unlike McGee, Johnson came out of high school known for his ability to pass and run. During his senior season, he threw for 1,151 yards and six TD's, while rushing for 613 and 11 more touchdowns.

Although he saw limited action in only five games for the Aggies in 2007, he made the most of his opportunities, leading the offense to six touchdowns on the eight drives he directed. He had only seven pass attempts, but two of those went for scores.

He was just as impressive on the ground, running for 111 yards on 13 rush attempts.

Johnson certainly excites Aggie fans about his prospects for the future, and he looked good in spring drills, showing that he has the ability to drive the Aggie offensive machine.

Another strong-armed weapon with an eye toward the future at A&M is redshirt freshman Ryan Tannehill, a 6-foot-4, 204 pounder out of Big Spring, Texas. Tannehill's senior high school season bears an uncanny resemblance to Johnson's, statistic wise. He passed for 1,258 yards while rushing for another 617, and that was that after missing two games following a separated shoulder early in the year. Tannehill also has impressive speed, playing defensive back earlier in his high school career.

Freshman Tommy Dorman out of North Richland Hills finished high school early and enrolled at Texas A&M back in January of 2008, enabling him to go through spring drills with the team. 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Dorman is yet another strong-armed Aggie QB with the skills to punish a defense through the air and on the ground. Dorman is much like McGee in that he is a natural leader on and off the field as well, and wins the respect of those around him with his toughness and dedication.

One thing is certain: The era of the dual-threat quarterback has descended upon Texas A&M in an avalanche, with any of these four QB's capable of moving an offense with their arms and/or their feet. For McGee in particular, however, 2008 should be a season in which his rushing numbers move downward as the opportunity to exercise his most natural ability finally increases. Aggie fans who have become skeptical of McGee's passing ability may be very surprised at what they see as a result. If McGee should go down, however, the Aggies should be able to feel quite a bit of reassurance, with some very talented guys on the sideline waiting to get their shot at leading the Aggies back into contention in the Big XII.

Aggie Websider Grade: B+




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