Fall Camp Guide 2010: Quarterback

Aggie fans, players, and coaches have to feel really good about the situation at quarterback. In 2009 Jerrod Johnson led the fifth ranked offensive unit in the nation and this off-season he has worked hard to build on that success. Jeff Jennings of Aggie Websider breaks down this year's quarterback situation. Read his expert fall camp guide in the tailgate!

Aggie fans, players, and coaches have to feel really good about the situation at quarterback. In 2009 Jerrod Johnson led the fifth ranked offensive unit in the nation and this off-season he has worked hard to build on that success. With two years in Mike Sherman's system under his belt, very low significant attrition, what should be a much stronger offensive line, more seasoned and talented weapons all around him, (not to mention some of the best quarterback coaching you'll find) and there is no doubt Johnson will lead one of the strongest offensive attacks in the nation. Backing him is Ryan Tannehill, who while perhaps not as dynamic, is just as athletic and established a team leader. He is equally versed in this system and is completely capable of running the offense if need be.

Waiting in the wings and looking to further progress, following their early enrolment and spring head start, are two young and extremely talented quarterbacks Jameill Showers and Matt Joeckel. They have a long way to go in the learning curve but both have what it takes and will be crucial in the continuation of A&M's return to prominence in the coming years.

In this piece all four signal callers will be put under the microscope in regards to what they will bring to the table this season and in the near future. First we'll look at the two primary quarterbacks and then we'll see where our freshmen are as they approach their first 8 months on campus.

Veteran Quarterbacks

In 2010 Jerrod Johnson will lead an Aggie team poised to breakout of a decade long funk, and not only continue as one of the most prolific passers in college football but prove himself as a signal caller ready for the challenge at the next level. Though significantly limited in the spring, Johnson has done anything but coast off of an impressive junior year. He is well aware that his skill set still needs some slight tweaking and he has worked hard to improve his delivery and short game.

As mentioned, thanks in large part to Johnson, the 2009 A&M offensive unit was one of the most potent offenses in the nation. His strong arm and decision making placed him 8th in the nation in total passing yards at 3,579, 11th in yards per game 275.3, with a 30:8 touchdown to interception ratio and an efficiency rating of 136.75. He was dangerous with his feet as well, grossing about 760 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.

Possessing not only a lively arm but great touch, he can throw the deep ball with the best of them and while he has cleaned up his short game considerably, it is one of the areas of his game that needs to get better (he was just at about 60% in his completion percentage, a mark Coach Sherman would like to see closer to the 70% range). His long and lanky delivery has always been a work in progress but it has improved a good deal this off-season, despite coming off a minor post-season surgery to clean up his shoulder. At about the midway point of spring camp he was far from full strength and his new high delivery really looked forced, but since then it has looked relatively sharp and his release is quicker than ever. He is 100% healthy and according to teammates is way ahead of where he was at this point in summer workouts last year. Jerrod has gotten much more consistent with the new throwing motion, though they also mentioned he tends to "revert back to the old delivery" from time to time. It will be worth keeping an eye on in fall camp as to just how far he's come and how "natural" it is for him.

Since last off-season, Johnson's tempo has been a concentrated focus for the staff and it was much better in 2009. Still Sherman said he wants him playing faster and as he recently stated, ". . .he will be taking more snaps under center, noting that it prevents defenses from changing their coverage during that moment that he focuses on catching the deep snap in the shotgun. It keeps the defense more honest and will help him play faster."

Beyond the physical aspect Johnson is a voracious film studier and perfectionist. He is a signal caller capable of maximizing Coach Sherman's potent system, making all of the reads and utilizing every weapon at his disposal (and make no mistake he will be aided by one of the most versatile, talented, and deep receiving corps in the nation). He is a very sharp quarterback and tremendous leader, with a great control of the offense and respect in the huddle. It was really eye opening to see the contrast in how the offense ran when he was in there this spring comparable to the younger quarterbacks. Jerrod just has such a great rhythm and command as he runs the no huddle offense and is always aware of where his receivers are.

Figure in the fact that Johnson will have much improved support up front as well as a great running game and Aggie fans, players and coaches will be treated with not only a flat out dangerous offensive unit but one that should be efficient and effective when it counts. If the defense can compliment their strong counterparts to at least a reasonable extent, and it's reflected in the wins column, it is highly likely you'll see Johnson in the Heisman race.

Just behind him is Ryan Tannehill who may be low in game experience under center but knows the system as well as Johnson and is more than capable, mentally and physically, of taking over as signal caller and team leader if need be. Sherman has bragged on Tannehill, for being so remarkably sharp, quick and adaptable in picking the mental things up. Some may recall last August, just before Johnson entered his breakout-season, Ryan gave him all he could handle in fall camp, actually appearing in the lead of the starting battle at several points (and that was after being behind in the competition as he was essentially out with injury that previous spring following a 2008 season where he spent most of his time in a record breaking freshmen year at receiver).

While his deep ball isn't as deadly, Ryan has plenty of heat to make all the throws and place the ball between multiple defenders. Like Hop says, "He not a homerun hitter like Johnson but he'll get you a single everytime. . .and if Johnson is the #1 quarterback then Tannehill is #1b". Barring a ridiculously impressive surge by Matt Joeckel or Jameill Showers, Ryan Tannehill will be the man next year. The coaching staff recently said, his skill set fits the west coast offense perfectly and they expect him to win the job in 2011. They've stated he's a natural leader and feel he's one of the most instinctive, intelligent QB's they've seen. He plays with great rhythm as he quickly makes his progressions and has great command of the offense.

Tannehill has doubled as one of Jerrod Johnson's go to targets at wide receiver and has proved to be flat out dangerous when he gets the ball in the open field after the catch. Given that, though he's a pocket passer first, it goes without saying that he's very athletic and a great scrambler when things break down. Maybe it's just the fact I'm even conservative when playing "Madden" but given he's the primary backup at quarterback and the tremendous depth at receiver, it's unlikely that he'll see much action at wide receiver other than specialty or third down situations in 2010. Of course I made that assertion last year and the coaches just couldn't stand to let his talents waste away on the sideline but they've indicated more hesitancy this time around.

The Freshmen

Though their impact on this season will hopefully be nil as situation will likely afford a redshirt year, I'm curious to see how far along A&M's two young quarterbacks are and it will be interesting to follow them closely throughout August. It's always advantageous to have your future quarterbacks come in ahead of schedule but to have two in one class is truly a blessing. Their early enrolment will be largely beneficial down the line, but for now both promising and capable candidates are going through expected and shared growing pains.

Jameill Showers and Matt Joeckel were processing so much new information and situations in spring that it would have been ridiculous to expect much out of them until they got their feet under them and predictably they had their fair allotment of stumbles. While taking snaps under center and making hand offs, seem like simple things, it's quite a contrast from their comfort zone of primarily working out of the shotgun in their respective high school systems and they understandably struggled with it early. They also had big issues in adjusting to the overall speed of the college football game and like all the quarterbacks, were really thrown for a loop by the new, attack and disrupt from all angles, 3-4 defense. Their early struggles were expected but it's important to note that both flashed their impressive talent, skill sets, fierce competitiveness and leadership that got them here in the first place. No doubt both young men are going to be really good ones in the future for the Aggies when they emerge from their growing pains.

Newcomer Matt Joeckel is a very accurate pocket passer that topped 3,000 yards his junior and senior seasons in high school as well as a ridiculously great touchdown to interception ratio and completion percentage. Joeckel has a strong accurate arm, can make all the throws, though his strength is his short and intermediate game. He has the requisite leadership and gutsy competitiveness for the position at this level. It's also worth noting (for those that may live under a giant rock) that his twin brother Luke Joeckel also joined the Aggie's this spring and had a very successful showing, likely emerging as odds on favorite to land the staring left tackle gig. While obviously not the size of his brother, he actually has a great frame and sturdy build himself. He's not very dangerous with his feet but he's mobile enough, hard to bring down, has a great presence in the pocket, and throws very well while rolling out. He seemed to be picking up the system well in spring but again, understandably was in information overload and had issues in making his reads and taking to much time finding his receivers. However, after getting an earful from Coach Sherman about two-thirds of the way through camp on the issue, he stepped it up a bit and has been a little less hesitant.

Jameill Showers is going through the exact same developmental hiccups as Joeckel and while it's way to early to call a leader (and I in no way intend to diminish Matt Joeckel) he seems to have a little more glimmer in his game. Between his arm strength (which is stronger than Matt's currently), accuracy, extremely compact and quick release, studious approach to the game, awareness, decision making, advanced ability to read defenses (yes he still struggles in making his progressions and reads like his freshmen counterpart), pocket presence, very refined footwork in setting himself (while deadly and elusive with his feet he prefers to use them to find the open receiver and smoothly reset himself rather than tucking it and running) and one starts getting the picture of a future playmaker. Add to that the fact countless observers and teammates have aptly dubbed him as having the "it" factor and you have the makings of a potentially very special quarterback. Again that's not to say he's ahead at this point or that it won't be a strong competition between these two for the next four (or five years if they redshirt in 2010) but the young man has huge potential and if one of the youngsters can push Tannehill in 2011, it may well be him. Coming back to earth for the moment, he (like Joeckel) still holds onto the ball too long, has a lot of playbook to learn and needs time and work before comfortably applying that and making his reads efficiently.

Quarterback Overall

A&M is in great shape at quarterback this season and in the near future. They have two signal callers capable of leading this team at a very high level currently and several up and comers who will be pushing themselves hard in their development, allowing the Aggies' to continue their offensive momentum when the time comes. All will be looking to take their next steps in the following weeks, setting the table for a great season and the next few years.


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