When Stephen McGee went down in the Army game with what was practically a season ending injury, Jerrod Johnson stepped into his not-so-blessed confirmation. 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 kind of follow that mercurial trend. Johnson threw for 2,435 yards and 21 touchdowns with just under 60% completions while throwing ten interceptions.
Johnson was also sacked 30 times last season, and while a porous offensive line clearly holds a lot of responsibility for that, it wasn't entirely on the guys up front. Coach Sherman has mentioned several times this off-season that when Stephen McGee went down we lost a lot tempo-wise, and that has been the focal point in improving several aspects of Johnson's game. Sherman has praised his sharp, athletic, strong-armed signal caller as, throwing the deep ball as well as just about anyone he's seen, but he added that improving the aspects of his precise short game and his playing faster are essential. In fairness to Johnson, Sherman added that Jerrod was digesting a lot of info and that he definitely bears some of the responsibility. He has mentioned they would be simplifying things a great deal for the team moving forward and that Johnson will, " . . . be a better player the more we can take off of him . . . as it will allow him to play at a faster pace".
In addition to working on playing faster mentally, Johnson has put his strong work ethic into high gear this off-season working on his mechanics and the precision of his short game, which will aid him in playing faster physically as well. His footwork should be greatly improved but given that the speed of his delivery is such a habitual and natural element of his game, it will likely be a work in progress and something he'll have to consciously shape for a good while. Don't get me wrong, with enough reps it should be faster, but it's most likely going to be a work in progress for the junior.
All that said, Jerrod Johnson is a very talented quarterback who will benefit from the work he has put in as well as what should be a much-improved line that not only can protect him better but also provides us with a decent running game to take even more pressure off of him (and themselves for that matter). In addition, though wide receivers last season exceeded expectations, he will have a much better wealth of talented targets in 2009. He is also a great leader, and along with a few others, has spearheaded what is by all accounts the strongest, most productive and willing voluntary off-season workout program the Aggies have endured as a team in quite some time.
Though most fans and reporters don't really expect Ryan Tannehill to win the job, his development here is extremely vital for the Aggies as he is really the only legitimate option if anything happens to JJ this season. Unfortunately he starts off this competition a few steps behind as he was nursing a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, limiting him a great deal this spring. That said, Coach Sherman has emphatically stated that Ryan is every bit in the running for the starting job. He has a great arm, can easily make all the throws, is obviously very athletic and a great scrambler as well. Sherman also really bragged on Tannehill being so remarkably sharp, quick and adaptable in picking the mental things up.
Given the fact that Tannehill set an A&M freshman record at receiver (after only moving to the position from quarterback that August before the season) 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 has mentioned he would rather have the quick study Tannehill in the QB mix and let the talented crop of freshman wide receivers step up over there. Just recently though, he said, that if it's 3rd down he would have a hard time keeping him on the bench when he knows how capable he is of going out and getting us that first down. We'll see how that goes down but one would expect when the season is underway and the option of putting the only other presently viable quarterback option in harm's way arises, the coaches' thinking will edge a little more towards the conservative side.
In the third spot here, and with a lot of work to do is Tommy Dorman. The young red-shirt freshman had a golden opportunity in the spring (with the aforementioned Ryan Tannehill injury limitation) to get a lot of reps, but proved he has a ways to go in his development. It wasn't totally wasted time as the athletic youngster got a lot of hours of good experience and direction, but clearly struggled. Coach Sherman has offered a vote of confidence for Dorman saying recently that he'll end up being a good quarterback but isn't there yet.
Though the results may very well be predictable, a healthy competition will serve this group well. Aggie fans can rest well having Jerrod Johnson or Ryan Tannehill at the helm as they are both very capable signal callers in regards to their intelligence, athleticism and skill sets. Fans may also be excited by a recent Coach Sherman matter of fact statement that, "both Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill throw a great deep ball and need to be given more opportunities to do that". In addition, they will be aided by better protection, what should be an actual running game, and more talented targets. If they can stay healthy, there is potential for them to lead not just a productive offense (even last years team averaged 340.9 yards per game), but an effective one that puts points on the board and keeps our defense off of the field.