Big 12: Jay Tolliver

Texas A&M spring wrap

May, 14, 2009
5/14/09
9:05
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas A&M Aggies
2008 overall record: 4-8

2008 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 7, kicker/punter: 0

Top returners

QB Jerrod Johnson, RB Cyrus Gray, WR Jeff Fuller, WR-QB Ryan Tannehill, DE-LB Von Miller, S Jordan Pugh

Key losses

QB Stephen McGee, RB Cyrus Gray, WR Jeff Fuller, WR-QB Ryan Tannehill, DE-LB Von Miller, S Jordan Pugh

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Mike Goodson (406 yards)
Passing: Jerrod Johnson* (2,435 yards)
Receiving: Ryan Tannehill* (844 yards)
Tackles: Alton Dixon, Matt Featherston* (94)
Sacks: Von Miller* (3.5)
Interceptions: Trent Hunter* (3)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sept. 5 New Mexico
Sept. 19 Utah State
Sept. 26 UAB
Oct. 3 Arkansas (at Arlington, Texas)
Oct. 10 Oklahoma State
Oct. 17 at Kansas State
Oct. 24 at Texas Tech
Oct. 31 Iowa State
Nov. 7 at Colorado
Nov. 14 at Oklahoma
Nov. 21 Baylor
Nov. 26 Texas

1. Jeff Fuller emerges: With Ryan Tannehill sitting out most practice drills this spring recovering from shoulder surgery, Fuller stepped up as the Aggies' top receiver and most productive offensive weapon. He toyed with A&M's injury-depleted secondary in the spring game, producing nine catches for 147 yards. It was a continuation of a big spring where he simply dominated practices. Now, will he be able to do that against other defenses?

2. "The Matrix" sticks out: DE-LB Von Miller picked up a nickname from A&M coaches because of his freakish speed and productivity as an undersized pass rusher. A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines placed the 6-foot-3, 214-pound Miller in his new "jack" position, a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position where they believe his speed and athleticism will enable him to thrive. He picked up two sacks and numerous quarterback pressures in the spring game. But it remains to be seen if he can consistently produce during the season against bigger opponents on a regular basis.

3. Productive safeties: The Aggies desperately need strong play in the secondary after struggles last season. They got it during the spring from senior Jordan Pugh and sophomore Trent Hunter. Pugh, a converted cornerback, served as the secondary's spiritual leader throughout spring play. And Hunter has built on a strong freshman season to nail down the other starting job as the secondary's most consistent playmaker.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line: The Aggies needed a lot of work this spring after allowing 39 sacks last season. But the offensive line was riddled with absences as projected starters Lee Grimes, Lucas Patterson and Kevin Matthews all missed spring practice recovering from injuries. A&M needs help in the trenches after producing a Big 12-low 88.5 rushing yards per game, culminated by an embarrassing minus-24 yards rushing against Texas. And depth could be a question with only nine scholarship players returning.

2. Backup quarterback: Coach Mike Sherman seems intent on giving starting WR Tannehill a shot at quarterback, although Tannehill's work at the position was limited as he recovered from a torn labrum. Tommy Dorman struggled behind starting QB Jerrod Johnson, making the position open heading into the fall. Dorman's development would enable Sherman to move Tannehill back to wide receiver and provide another receiving threat to go with Fuller. But look for Tannehill to start camp in August at quarterback.

3. Running back: The Aggies spent the spring trying to groom a replacement for Michael Goodson, who skipped his senior season to declare early for the NFL draft. Cyrus Gray and Jay Tolliver got most of the work during the spring. Tolliver had a team-high 67 yards in the spring game and Gray produced a touchdown. But don't be surprised if heralded incoming freshman Christine Michael gets immediate work at the position from his first day in summer camp as Sherman looks for an immediate upgrade in talent and athleticism.

Tidbits from Texas A&M's spring game

April, 18, 2009
4/18/09
8:28
PM ET

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."

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