In the pre-spring press conference Mike Sherman underscored the value of competition at quarterback, citing last year's contest between Stephen McGee and Jerrod Johnson in making both signal callers that much better. It will be no different now through August, as three guys will vie for the one and two spots, which are both up for grabs.
Last fall, following a practically season long injury to veteran Stephen McGee, Jerrod Johnson stepped in and endured his baptism by fire. As can be expected from a first year starter there were times you saw flashes of brilliance and times were you just scratched your head. The numbers seem to follow that mercurial trend. Johnson threw for 2,435 yards and 21 touchdowns with just under a 60% completion rating while throwing ten interceptions.
Digesting a new system and getting his feet wet in game-time action was further complicated by a very porous offensive line in front of him that struggled in both run and pass blocking. The young quarterback was sacked 30 times (McGee was sacked eight times) last season but while the line clearly bares a lot of responsibility it wasn't all on the guys up front. While Sherman praised Jerrod Johnson as, "throwing the deep ball as well just about anyone he's seen", he has also underscored the importance of improving the aspects of a precise short game and his playing faster in regards to his tempo, specifically citing this hindrance in the Texas game.
In fairness to Johnson, Sherman added that, "he was processing a lot of information… this is a very bright kid but there was a lot on the quarterback, and that's my fault too, we put too much on him and we're going to take some of that off of him this year… he had to do too much and think he'll be a better player the more we can take off of him… that will allow him to play at a faster pace…". We'll keep a close eye on how these focal points aid the sharp, strong-armed, and athletic young signal caller in the near future.
Though the staff is cautiously nursing Ryan Tannehill and his torn labrum along until he's 100% and the fact he will be limited this spring, Coach Sherman emphatically stated during the pre-spring press conference that Tannehill is every bit in the running for the starting job with Jerrod Johnson. Ryan has a great arm, can easily make all the throws and he is obviously very athletic and a great scrambler as well. Sherman also really bragged on Tannehill being so sharp, quick and adaptable in picking things up. Given the fact that Tannehill set an A&M freshman record at receiver in receptions and receiving yards (55grabs/844yards/5tds) questions abound as to whether the young versatile athlete will still be getting looks at WR. Sherman made it quite apparent that he would really rather have the quick study in the QB mix and let the talented crop of freshman wide receivers step up over there but that will all be contingent on how quickly those guys pick things up and are playing in August as well as the early part of the season. He added however, that he wouldn't hesitate to put Ryan back at WR if the freshmen wideouts are struggling in fall camp.
Given Tannehill's shoulder injury, Tommy Dorman is getting a golden opportunity. He'll be benefiting from all of the second team reps, which should serve him and the team well even if he's unsuccessful long term in his bid for second team once Tannehill returns to the mix. Until he gets significant reps the jury will still be out on his command of the finer game-time things but Dorman has a sound skill set. Fully capable of making all the throws he has a strong, accurate arm and great scrambling ability as well.
Basically, it will be interesting to see how well Tommy Dorman steps up to the plate in what is the most optimal chance for him to get some kind of solid footing as the second string quarterback. Of course a healthy Ryan Tannehill and improving Jerrod Johnson could make that a tenuous grip no matter how that battle turns out. Needless to say, but a healthy competition will serve this group well and will be very interesting to watch during spring and fall camps.
Spring Preview 2009: Quarterbacks
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