NCF Nation: Tom Rossley
This would happen, Texas A&M passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley said, as late as the week of the Aggies' lopsided 30-9 loss to Missouri.
Publicly, everyone in College Station insisted Johnson's shoulder was "fine" at worst and 100 percent at best.
"I don’t know if it was even that," Rossley said. "He always is going to say the cup is more full."
The media named him the Big 12's Preseason Player of the Year. Rossley -- and the rest of the conference and country -- saw a junior that could make every throw on the field and made plays with his feet. Deep balls floated into teammate Jeff Fuller's hands weekly. He'd drill passes over the middle to receivers like Uzoma Nwachukwu and Ryan Tannehill.
But this year, something was different.
"He just couldn’t do that," Rossley said. "He could do it, but just not the same velocity and get it there on time like he did as a junior."
Texas A&M lost a crushing Thursday night game in Stillwater to Oklahoma State on a last-second field goal. Johnson threw for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns. He also threw four interceptions, the final one setting up the Cowboys' game-winner.
Only one of those four interceptions was a mental mistake.
"He just couldn’t make some of the throws. They were making plays on us," Rossley said. "When you’ve got to get a ball into a window, you’ve got to get it there pretty quick, and he wasn’t able to do that."
Doctors told Johnson and his coaches he would keep getting stronger as his arm got more work and the season progressed. It just didn't happen fast enough. And with a capable quarterback behind him, Rossley and coach Mike Sherman decided to make the switch to Tannehill against Texas Tech on Oct. 30, after giving the pair even playing time in a win over Kansas.
Tannehill hadn't played significant snaps before that Kansas game, but at 3-3, fans wanted something to change. The Aggies had more problems than just at quarterback, but the time had come to give Tannehill a chance.
"We kind of got to a point where we couldn’t wait any more," Rossley said.
Though Johnson's injury derailed his senior season, doctors don't believe it will carry over to the rest of his career. When Rossley looks at Johnson, he sees a coach, but he also sees a quarterback whose arm has continued to progress as Tannehill carried the Aggies to a six-game winning streak and a berth in Friday's Cotton Bowl.
"He’s getting stronger still," Rossley said of Johnson, who also visited renowned sports surgeon James Andrews recently for a consult on the throwing shoulder. "The best I’ve seen him throw was when we were warming up to play Texas [in the season finale on Thanksgiving], but he has ups and downs. He still needs some offseason strengthening to get him back to where he was."
Any talk of a second surgery has been between Johnson and his doctors, Rossley said.
If Tannehill should get injured against LSU, Rossley would feel better about his backup, the school's all-time leader in total offense, than just about anyone else in the country.
"He would definitely be better than he was back earlier in the year," Rossley said.
That could carry over to an NFL career. Johnson projected as a late-round NFL Draft pick before the season, and because of his struggles and injury, isn't likely to be drafted unless he can impress scouts with a showcase of his old arm in pre-draft workouts. Rossley says it should still take time, but the NFL types that he, Johnson and Sherman have talked to still say his future isn't on the sidelines.
"They feel like he can still be in the NFL. He’s big, strong, smart, athletic. He has every quality that you could ever want in a quarterback. They’ll get that [shoulder] fixed and he’ll have a pro career," Rossley said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Earlier this week, I could have sworn I would be spending my Friday afternoon covering a board of regents meeting in Lubbock. And if you had asked me yesterday morning, I would have been even more convinced.
Instead, things played out a little easier for me and Mike Leach. I've got no complaints and I bet the Tech coach doesn't, either.
Here are some Big 12 lunchtime links to get you ready for the weekend.
- Gil Lebreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram analyzes how Leach outfoxed Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers in the negotiations for his contract extension.
- The Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice believes that Mike Leach's contract extension is a dramatic move for Texas Tech, although he wishes that the Tech coach would be a little less restrictive on his media access to players.
- Texas A&M quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley is one of six candidates known to have interviewed for the vacant head coaching job at start-up program UTSA, the San Antonio Express-News' David Flores reports. Former Baylor defensive coordinator and Texas football standout Bill Bradley also is scheduled to meet with UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey about the job next week.
- Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel breaks down Bill Snyder's daunting challenge of turning the culture at Kansas State -- again.
- How about a look ahead to Texas spring practice? The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls provides most of the early answers.
- Renny Vandeweghe of the Big Red Network proposes five wishes to help spruce up Nebraska's Memorial Stadium.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Daily Oklahoman columnist John Rohde might have found the secret for Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's vigor. And it doesn't come from his excitement about being around his players.
Rohde details Gundy's three Red Bull energy drink-a-day habit in his column Tuesday. I know that Gundy has long enjoyed the drink, stocking a refrigerator in his office with the product. He even offered me one during a visit to Stillwater earlier this year.
The combination of taurine, caffeine, glucose and B12 appears to get Gundy's juices flowing -- almost as much as a negative newspaper column.
He could joke about his habit in Rohde's column. After showing up at a recent press conference, he wondered what soft drink that Oklahoma State had a sponsorship deal with.
When somebody answered "Red Bull," Gundy had a quick answer.
"You've got that right," he said.
And he later joked that he wasn't showing the signs of a Red Bull addict, despite playfully twitching his head several times in quick succession after the question.
I hope all of the Big 12 readers out there are similarly charged with the early-morning lift that these morning links are meant to provide as Gundy is with his favorite drink.
If so, maybe I should bottle them.
- Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman provided the scoop that former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione will be doing color for ESPN Radio broadcasts this season. His first game will be Alabama-Clemson from Atlanta on Aug. 30. Let's hope the Tide fans don't taunt the former coach with those once-popular cutouts that were defacing as he left for the A&M job.
- Blast-furnace conditions greeted Missouri on its first day of practice. But even with the heat index climbing to 110 degrees, 56-year-old coach Gary Pinkel joined the Tigers in a run before starting practice.
- Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee will be pushed by backups Jarrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill for the starting job in fall camp. "These three could all be starters in the Big 12, in my opinion," A&M quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley told Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman.
- Texas coach Mack Brown said that the school will be seeking a sixth season of eligibility for injury-plagued WR Jordan Shipley.
- Biletnikoff winner Michael Crabtree will be featured more in Texas Tech's return game. Interesting that Tech coach Mike Leach would willingly risk potential injury for his All-American by playing him in those situations.
- The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams says it's been a long time between truly memorable seasons for Texas Tech. Williams, the little brother of a Tech Saddle Tramp, said he turned 12 in 1976 -- the year the Red Raiders were ranked in the top 5 in early November. Now, he says he's sometimes mistaken for a grandfather.
- Colorado will begin fall camp without designated captains. Coach Dan Hawkins wants to see how the leadership will develop for his team without them in training camp.
- Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple said that selflessness should keep the close competition for the starting I-back from becoming a distraction. I'm still surprised that coach Bo Pelini listed Marlon Lucky, the conference's only returning 1,000-yard back, as co-No. 1 with Roy Helu Jr. Nebraska QB Joe Ganz thinks it won't hurt the team. "Marlon and Roy are really good friends," Ganz told Sipple. "Marlon knows he's not going to get every carry in the fall anyway. In the Big 12, you need at least two running backs."
- Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel says that "Bo Law" doesn't leave much gray area for interpretation after the Nebraska coach's decision to dismiss DT Kevin Dixon. Of course, it's easier to make those kind of calls when a coach is new and expectations for his team aren't at title levels -- yet.
- Oklahoman beat writer Jake Trotter spells out the options for former Oklahoma WR Josh Jarboe after he was kicked off the Sooners' roster late last week. Trotter speculates that Jarboe could end up at a Football Championship Subdivision school like Savannah State or Georgia Southern, or perhaps Central Florida. I still think that coach Bob Stoops' decision to kick off Jarboe will hurt the Sooners more next year than this season. And it's placed finding a tall, rangy receiver at a priority during the Sooners' upcoming recruiting class.
- Texas' student newspaper is throwing some brickbats at Stoops on his decision to dismiss Jarboe. Daily Texan columnist David R. Henry says that Stoops showed a double-standard by purging himself of Jarboe and keeping players like DeMarcus Granger on his roster.
- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman told the San Antonio Express-News' Brent Zwerneman that FB Jorvorskie Lane needs to lose about 25-30 pounds to get where he wants him to be. Sherman said after Monday's practice that Lane weighs in the "290 category." As someone who is fighting a "battle of the bulge," I can only suggest that nagging wives serve a similarly inspirational role for sportswriters as coaches do for football players.
- The Oklahoman wonders if the stars are falling in line for Oklahoma's first national championship since 2000?
- Iowa State coach Gene Chizik said competition for the Cyclones' starting quarterback job between Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates is very close. "It's 50-50," Chizik told the Ames Tribune. "May the best man win."
- Starting Colorado TE Riar Geer has been reinstated to the team after he was suspended over the spring for his role in an off-campus scuffle. "It feels good to have this all behind me," Geer told the Boulder Daily Camera. "It was a great lesson, and hopefully everybody else can learn from my mistake."
- A pair of players converted from other positions h
ave emerged atop Baylor's depth chart as the Bears' starting cornerbacks. Former WR Krys Buerck and former starting S Dwain Crawford both are showing strong instincts at the new position. "It was a matter of need," Baylor coach Art Briles told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "One of the first meetings I had with the cornerbacks in my office, I saw we had two guys on scholarship. At any university, much less a Big 12 university, you need more players than that in the room."