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Jerrod Johnson's future hinges on health

Plenty of Big 12 talent took part in the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, one of the postseason all-star games that serves essentially as a minicamp for middle to late-round draft picks. The week of practice is just as valuable as the game, if not more so, but the practices aren't televised.

You can see our Insider blog for impressions from the week of practice, but one big thing emerged during the game on Saturday:

Texas A&M passing game coordinator Tom Rossley said in the days leading up the Cotton Bowl that Jerrod Johnson's arm was getting stronger, but honestly, he didn't look much different on Saturday than he did in rough outings against Missouri and Arkansas early in the season. I hadn't seen him play since the loss to Missouri that landed the Aggies at 3-3, but I didn't notice much difference. Johnson's never exactly been young Brett Favre, but the velocity on his throws just isn't there, and it isn't what it was in 2009.

He easily had the least zip on his throws of any of the quarterbacks in attendance, and when that includes an option quarterback like Navy's Ricky Dobbs, that's a bad sign. You hate to see it because Johnson's a quarterback who's done basically everything you could ask as a coach, but he's just not the same quarterback. He finished 6-of-12 for 54 yards, but he had a pair of turnovers. His interception was essentially a duck, caught by Iowa State's David Sims. His accuracy was there on most throws, but when it takes a half second or so longer to get there compared to the rest of the quarterbacks in attendance, that's a problem.

Here's what our Insiders had to say, labeling Johnson as someone whose stock dropped this week:

"For a QB who is 6-6 and 250 pounds, Johnson has a surprisingly below-average arm. This was apparent from Day 1. His ball doesn't have a lot of zip or pop and falls apart in the air. He made poor decisions when improvising on the run, which resulted in bad throws and picks. This was something we saw on film as well and that's not a good trend. His struggles in decision making, his poor arm and his struggles as a game manager mean he's likely a free-agent prospect."

Again, the offseason surgery clearly contributed to the drop-off, and maybe that strength will return, but it'll have to happen quickly for Johnson to make an NFL roster.

He attempted to scramble late in the game, but was stripped by a defender on a sack and the East team added a touchdown when UNC's Marvin Austin recovered the fumble in the end zone.

More from our ESPN Insiders:

"Arm strength can be the most overrated aspect of evaluating a QB and some people put too much stock in it, but you have to have a certain amount of it to function in the NFL. There's a baseline and Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson does not meet the baseline. There are plenty of QBs in the NFL with below average arms, so you don't need a big arm, but Johnson's arm is lacking. We've seen a variety of throws all week long, and watching this game you got a real good glimpse of the problem when he couldn't throw the ball out of bounds, which allowed a DB to make a pick."

It was pretty tough to watch on Saturday, and his performance made it clear why he was the third quarterback off the bench. You look at the numbers he put up in 2009 and the highlight reels from that season and you watch Saturday and there's very little resemblance. That production and still-present coachable nature are hard to ignore, and will still earn him a shot somewhere this fall if he's not drafted, but to have any chance at a future in the NFL, he'll have to be a lot better than he was in the Shrine Game.

A few other quick Big 12 notes:

  • Oklahoma State linebacker Orie Lemon had eight tackles and looked solid.

  • Sims had the East team's only interception in their 25-8 win.