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Thursday, March 26, 2009
Sherman hopes to transform A&M after struggling first season

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The theme of change is predominant this spring at Texas A&M.

Coach Mike Sherman hopes to transform his program as the Aggies begin practice on Thursday. A&M hopes to rebound after last season's disappointing 4-8 record that saw them tied for fifth in the Big 12 South with Baylor.

The most notable switch will happen at quarterback, where wide receiver Ryan Tannehill will move to quarterback -- at least for the spring -- where he will challenge starting quarterback Jerrod Johnson.

Sherman's move is calculated to boost production in the offense. Tannehill, who was recruited to Texas A&M as a quarterback, was promised a chance to move to his original position after a standout freshman season at wide receiver.

Even as Tannehill recovers from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Aggie coaches are excited about what Tannehill could do at quarterback.

That's even considering his production at wide receiver, where he set school freshman records for receptions (55) and receiving yards (814) and was named the team's most valuable offensive player.

"He's actually doing very well with his rehab," Sherman told reporters at his Wednesday press conference. "We don't want to throw the ball with him right now. He feels very good but doctors are holding him back because we want to make sure he's at 100 percent."

And on defense, the Aggies hope to improve after last season's disappointments. A&M ranked among the nation's 12 worst defenses in all four major statistical categories -- 108th in pass efficiency defense and 114th in rushing defense, passing defense and points allowed.

It was even worse in conference play. A&M allowed at least 35 points in seven of eight conference games, capped by a three-game losing streak at the end of the regular season where the Aggies permitted an average of 52 points per game.

Hopeful of turning that around, Sherman will install a defense that will feature four linebackers. Veterans Matt Featherston and Von Miller into a hybrid position Sherman has termed a "jack" where the players will be lined up at either linebacker or end.

"We're trying to get more speed on the field by playing more linebackers," Sherman said. "It's easier to find linebackers, kind of link in the old days when we used to recruit them. We always found safeties that we made into linebackers and (moved them).

Sherman told reporters Wednesday he's also made several other changes, moving starting defensive tackle Lucas Patterson to offensive left tackle in a move calculated to improve A&M's pass protection. The Aggies ranked 115th nationally with 39 sacks allowed.

"We needed to impact our offensive line," Sherman said. "I think in order for us to be a good football team we've got to be tougher every single day on both sides of the ball and I think it starts with those guys. If we don't get tougher and nastier with that group then we won't have the success we want to have."

Starting cornerback Jordan Pugh has been moved to safety and Jordan Peterson, who started four games at safety last season, has been switched to cornerback. And wide receiver Chris Caflisch will be moved to safety.

"I think it's a more natural position for him (Pugh) and if he has a future beyond college, I think it would be at that position," Sherman said. "We want a guy back there who can communicate and articulate what we're trying to do defensively."