Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- My viewing time of Texas A&M's afternoon practice was trimmed to about 15 minutes, but I got a chance to see several interesting trends.
I learned and saw at the practice's end that Jerrod Johnson took every snap with the No. 1 offense. That puts him in prime position to nail down the starting job with a strong effort at Saturday's scrimmage.
I'm still wondering if coach Mike Sherman will be willing to entrust redshirt freshman Tommy Dorman with the backup quarterback's role. Ryan Tannehill is the obvious choice, but I've got to think he would have more value to the team as a receiver than a backup quarterback. And with the margin of error so slim in the conference, Sherman will have to make a tough decision whether Tannehill is more valuable wearing a headset or catching passes. I'm betting on the latter.
After watching the Aggies repeatedly struggle running the ball last season, I was impressed with the pop they showed in inside running plays. Christine Michael broke one nice long run that earned some plaudits from Sherman after practice. Cyrus Gray looked as good as advertised. But I'm wondering if some of the Aggies' offensive success might have been because they were scrimmaging against the Aggies' defense.
Sherman said the offense "won the scrimmage" because of the way the Aggies broke deep from their own territory for touchdown drives. That's something that veteran defensive coordinator Joe Kines needs to shore up before the Aggies' Sept. 5 opener against New Mexico.
"We had some lulls in the backed-up offensive drills," Sherman said. "We gave up two touchdowns when the offense was (deep in our territory). You can never do that. When you pin them down there, you have to keep them down there and we didn't necessarily do it."
Michael particularly showed some strong running ability, enough that Sherman said he is more advanced than he expected at this point of training camp.
"I'm pleased with all of the running backs, Christine being one of the them," Sherman said. "He was very explosive, has great balance is very difficult to tackle. We're very excited about him. He's a tough physical runner and that's proven every day when come out here."
It was interesting that in the middle of his discussion about his backs, Sherman singled out his offensive line for its improvement throughout training camp.
My impression is that there's been a lot of growth in the unit since the spring. During the short time I watched practice, the group seemed to play with a nasty disposition that was detectable watching the final drills against the first-team defense in the trenches.
"Our offensive line is improving," Sherman said. "After all the criticism of last season and what not, we're fairly healthy. We still have a lot of work to do, God knows, but I think they are jelling a little bit better this year than at this time last year."
I was impressed with the way the Aggies were running through tacklers on inside runs, a factor that has been emphasized throughout practice, Sherman said.
"All the backs are bringing a physical nature to our team," Sherman said. "If you're a linebacker and not prepared to tackle our running backs, you're going to get knocked over. It's making everybody else step up."