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Thursday, April 16, 2009
A&M QB Johnson 'leaps and bounds better' than 2008

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- His athleticism still wows observers almost every day at practice.

But Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson is intent on doing more than merely relying on his strong arm and quick feet.

 
  Paul Jasienski/Getty Images
  Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson has been working on his mechanics this offseason.
After a sophomore season alternately marked by success and struggles, Johnson is diligently working on becoming more of polished quarterback.

"I think I'm leaps and bounds better than I was last year," Johnson said. "I just understand the offense better, understand football and I'm seeing the coverages and blitzes better. I feel like I can do it with my ability rather than having to sit and think about what I have to do."

There were some early flashes of brilliance when Johnson replaced injured starter Stephen McGee after three games last season. Johnson threw multiple touchdown passes in five of his first six starts and went a record 213 attempts before he was intercepted. That streak matched the Big 12 record set by Texas A&M's Reggie McNeal and later tied by Kansas' Todd Reesing.

"I guess I did accomplish a little bit, but the one thing that stays on my mind is our record," said Johnson, who notched a 2-7 mark as a starter last season. "You only get judged by the games you win. And regardless of what I did individually, it's obvious that we weren't good enough."

Johnson struggled badly in losses against Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas to finish the season.

After completing 64 percent of his passes in his first six starts with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions, Johnson tailed off at the end, completing 47.2 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and six interceptions. His quarterback ranking dropped by nearly 50 points during that three-game span compared to his first six starts.

Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman doesn't expect those late struggles to hamper Johnson's development.

"I don't think the way our season ended was a reflection of him as much as it was our entire team," Sherman said. "I never look back on stuff like that. He's a great kid who works extremely hard. There's no residual effect there."

But it still didn't keep Sherman from fulfilling a promise to sophomore wide receiver Ryan Tannehill to move him to quarterback, producing some intrigue coming into the spring. That competition hasn't materialized this spring as Tannehill has been recovering from shoulder surgery.

That injury will leave Johnson and redshirt freshman Tommy Dorman with most of the snaps Saturday at the Aggies' spring game at Kyle Field.

For his part, Johnson said the game has slowed down from last spring. During that work, he was involved in a tight battle with McGee.

"This year, it seems like I can pick and choose and see when things will come," Johnson said. "I know how I will react before the ball is snapped as opposed to acting on the fly like it happened last year.

"That's really helped me out as far as understanding defenses and knowing how to react," Johnson said. "I can just get my thoughts together and make it happen when the ball is snapped."

Quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley has spent much of the spring working on Johnson's mechanics, particularly in his delivery of shorter, crisp passes.

At times last season, Johnson seemed to be overwhelmed by the pressure of blitzing defenses. It's led him to make a conscious effort to try to be faster in his reads and make quicker deliveries of his throws.

"I'm trying to get the ball out of my hands more quickly and just working with my footwork," Johnson said. "One thing that has haunted me throughout my career is getting the ball out quickly. Coach Rossley always tells me that your feet will guide. And once you do that, your arm will come with you. That's just one thing for me to work on."

His development will be critical for a young team that finished tied for last in the Big 12 South -- their worst finish in the history of the conference.

"We had a lot of young guys playing last year," Johnson said. "A bunch of us grew up together as the season went on and learned as we grew. I think it will start showing next year -- it's already showing in the spring. I think we'll have a lot of success in the future."