Big 12: Aggie spring game 041809
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Here are some final notes and quotes from Texas A&M's scrimmage this afternoon.
- Despite running behind a patchwork offensive line that was missing three starters, A&M's running game showed flashes of promise. Redshirt freshman tailback Jay Tolliver rushed for a scrimmage-high 67 yards and sophomore Cyrus Gray accounted for a 22-yard touchdown run.
"I think they played well," A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson said. "They didn't get too much time to be in space, but they did really well. They are going to surprise a lot of people this year. As usual, our running backs are going to be one of the strengths on our team."
- The patchwork offensive line wasn't as strong in pass protection, making it one of A&M coach Mike Sherman's biggest concerns coming out of Saturday's scrimmage.
"We struggled in the offensive line, I thought," Sherman said. "We're going to try to coach them up and try to get them to a point where they play like we want them to play."
Sherman expects the group to improve markedly once the starters return to the unit after the spring.
"When you take three starters out of a group, it's very difficult going against a starting defensive unit," Sherman said. "We had some try-hard walk-on guys -- God bless them, they did a good job -- but they were no match for Von Miller."
- Part of the credit for A&M's defensive improvement was given to coordinator Joe Kines dialing back the responsibilities for the team.
Johnson said he's also more comfortable in the offense in his second season as starter after some of the verbiage in A&M's offense was similarly simplified.
"Our plays haven't changed, but how we're calling them has changed," Johnson said. "That's helped me a lot getting out there. It allows me to make more checks at the line because I'm not thinking as much. And I think changing everything up has helped out the offense a lot."
- Saturday's scrimmage was technically A&M's 13th workout of the spring, meaning they still have two more practices scheduled next week before they end spring practice.
That decision originally prompted some disappointment from team members, but Johnson said the extra work next week will be good for the team.
"We've got a lot to improve on," Johnson said. "We spent a long time in the winter cleaning things up. At first, we were kind of upset we've still got two practices after the spring game, but now we can watch film, go back and correct those mistakes. That will be good for us."
- The Aggies attracted a large contingent of potential recruits, including many who could help the program because of their speed.
Kines said that he was enthused after hearing about the backgrounds of many of the recruits.
"You ask those linebackers what they are doing and they say running the track -- the 100, the 200 and the 4-by-100 (relays). That's some good words there, instead of 'I'm sitting over there throwing the shot.'"
- Texas A&M was down to two cornerbacks with true game experience for most of the scrimmage. Justin McQueen and Terrence Frederick got most of the snaps with converted wide receiver Chevar Bryson providing some backup.
"We were down there looking up in the stands," Kines said, chuckling. "We had one little boy up there with a jersey on. We almost got him. He looked like he might play."
That resourcefulness prompted special praise for defensive backs coach Charles McMillian from Kines.
"I don't know how he keeps them out there," Kines said. "He would bring them over, water them up and throw them right back in there."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The final score of Texas A&M's spring scrimmage was bewildering and hard to follow.
Just like A&M coach Mike Sherman wanted.
The Kyle Field scoreboards showed the Aggies' offense produced a 117-107 victory over the defense. It was due to a convoluted scoring method that produced a final result that looked pilfered from an Arena Football League game -- with a lot of scoring.
"I know it keeps the media confused and that's what I like to do at all chances," Sherman said, chuckling.
But Sherman saw enough improvement on both sides of the ball to make the final score irrelevant before he reached the parking lot after the game. Even if a third-down conversion of 12 yards or more was more valuable to the offense than a touchdown.
Wide receiver Jeff Fuller produced several of those big-play bonanzas, snagging nine receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown. Fuller's development helped quarterback Jerrod Johnson and his mates overcome a jittery start that saw A&M's offense commit five first-half turnovers.
And the Aggies' defense thrived early as hybrid defensive end/linebacker Von Miller produced two sacks and numerous quarterback pressures.
Even if the scoreboard didn't say so, Miller still took the strong defensive performance as a sign of victory for his defensive mates. The Aggies' defense racked up seven sacks, including six in the first half and five in the first quarter.
"The defense won today, but you know how it is," Miller said. "We both came out and did well and it was all fun. The score said the offense won, but if you watched the game, you saw that the defense played well, too."
More than anything, that defensive growth had to be the most reassuring sign that Sherman took away from this spring's work.
The A&M defense was playing against a patchwork offensive line that has only nine scholarship players and was missing three starters. But they still had success -- which was vital for a group that ranked 100th in sacks, 97th in tackles for loss and tied for 97th in turnovers created last season.
One of the biggest reasons for the defense's development was because veteran coordinator Joe Kines simplified some of the verbiage and dialed back what was being asked of his team.
Doing that was presumed to be the best way to boost production from players like Miller, who earned the nickname "The Matrix" from A&M strength and conditioning coach Dave Kennedy because of his freakish athleticism.
"Once you simplify the defense, you take out all of the confusion," Miller said. "It makes everybody faster because you don't have to think. And when you can do that, you just react. It's a lot easier for everybody."
It wasn't exactly a vintage performance that will hearken back to the school's old "Wrecking Crew" defenses of the past. But it's a start after the group produced four interceptions and a fumble recovery in the first half.
Some of Johnson's early struggles were understandable. He joined his team only a couple of hours before the scrimmage after attending the funeral of his grandmother, Edna Johnson, earlier in the day in Houston.
"I gave him an option not to be here today, but he wanted to be here with his teammates," Sherman said. "I thought he started a little bit slowly, but picked it up as we went through it."
The offense grew comfortable as the game continued, despite producing only two full-field touchdowns. The fourth quarter consisted of short-field work as the offense started from the defense's 30-yard line and scored a pair of touchdowns and a field goal.
"Nothing changed too much for us," said Johnson, who completed 14 of 29 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown. "We found a rhythm and once you do that, it's pretty easy to score. It took us a little time to get started and get the jitters out, but in the second half, we played pretty well."
Kines was quick to add that his defense was down to two true cornerbacks during the scrimmage, but still showed enough resiliency to leave him enthused after last year's struggles.
"All we tried to do is get better every day," Kines said. "Spring games are hard to judge. All we were looking for was effort. Did they do the things we asked them to do and did we have a little fun? But I think it's been great."