Johnson surging toward record-setting season for Aggies


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The morning after games are a little different for Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson these days.

It's not like he's complaining about the assortment of postgame bumps, bruises and scrapes that keep turning up. Johnson is just happy to be playing again on a regular basis.

"On Sundays, things are pretty slow and I'm pretty sore," Johnson said. "But I'm feeling all right. That's what we did was work hard all summer to deal with all of the grueling stuff we face. I think I've held up pretty well."

A&M coach Mike Sherman is relieved at that comment, which might be one of the biggest understatements in recent memory.

After taking over the starting job when Stephen McGee went down with a shoulder injury, the sophomore has pumped some life back into A&M's program. His recent passing binge has fueled the Aggies' modest two-game winning streak leading into their game Saturday against No. 4 Oklahoma.

"I knew he was a very talented player and bright," Sherman said. "But to think he would be as comfortable as he is, I can't say I thought that would happen. He still has a ways to get better at, but his comfort level has exceeded my expectations."

Johnson and McGee were involved in a tight battle for the starting job during fall camp. McGee eventually won out and started the Aggies first three games.

But Sherman found a way to get the 6-foot-5, 229-pound Johnson in the game, starting him at wide receiver to capitalize on his athleticism. Johnson still leads the Aggies with a 20.5 yard per reception average from earlier in the season.

And when McGee went down with a shoulder injury against Miami, Johnson directed the victory off the bench and also started the next game against Miami before returning to wide receiver against Army. But McGee re-injured his shoulder against the Black Knights and Johnson delivered a game-winning touchdown pass in relief.

He hasn't looked back from there, erupting on a record-breaking pace he credits to the growth of his teammates with him. Eight freshmen are listed on Texas A&M's offensive two-deep roster, including three who are listed as starters or co-starters.

"It's slowed down a little bit, but the biggest thing is the guys around me," Johnson said. "They've done a great job of learning the offense. I think the game has slowed down and I've gotten better, but it's a great job of the team coming together."

Johnson has already broken the school record for most passing yards with a 419-yard effort against Kansas State and has posted two of the top four passing games in history. He's only two touchdown passes from breaking the school record of 19 set by current Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak in 1982 and tied by Dustin Long 20 years later.

Since reclaiming the starting job for good against Oklahoma State, Johnson has averaged 303 passing yards. He's only 824 yards from Reggie McNeal's single-season school record of 2,791 yards set in 2004.

In his last four games, Johnson has gone without an interception. His current span of 184 attempts dates to the second quarter of the Oklahoma State game on Oct. 4. The school record of 213 was set by McNeal from 2003-04.

That development has caught the attention of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

"He's doing an excellent job and you see he's getting more comfortable in every game," Stoops said. "Jerrod is doing a good job of taking care of the football. He's got the ability to run, but he's also a good thrower who's making a lot of good decisions. It's been impressive watching him."

And he's showed good instincts after bouncing back from early struggles. After directing an offense that only produced three points in the first half last week against Colorado, Johnson rebounded to throw three touchdown passes in the third quarter to spark the Aggies' 24-17 comeback victory.

His growth has energized the Aggie fans who realize that two more years with Johnson as starter will be something to follow after the stodgy option-based attack favored by Dennis Franchione in the past.

The plans were in place for the change with Sherman's arrival. But it's hard to believe it could have worked out any better for the new coach or his quarterback.

"I'm not going to [take credit]," Johnson said. "I really think I'm a product of my environment, the coach and players around me and the things I've been taught."

Even if it means he's reaching for the remote control on Sunday afternoon with some aches and pains to go with his early success.