Coach Fran era begins at Texas A&M with ASU game

Updated: August 29, 2003, 5:42 PM ET

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M's storied Wrecking Crew defense has undergone a facelift, leaving new defensive coordinator Carl Torbush uncertain what his tinkering has produced.

The shift to a 4-3 base defense from the 3-4 is part of the excitement that will be on display at Kyle Field Saturday night as the Aggies begin the Dennis Franchione era against Arkansas State.

While Franchione has kept quiet on his starting quarterback between Reggie McNeal and Dustin Long, Torbush is silent about his new multiple defense.

"I don't feel comfortable even talking about them," Torbush said. "We're in a position to play the first game, but how good are we? We've got to get into a game situation and see how they perform on third and five or third and two when the game's on the line."

"I'd rather wait until it's all said and done and figure out how good we were," Torbush said.

Torbush's defenders are working to live up to their Wrecking Crew heritage.

"That name is not something you deserve just because you're at A&M," starting middle linebacker Jared Morris said. "People have filled those shoes in the past and now you have to step up and fill them, but not immediately.

"We have to earn it and I think we can."

The Aggies defense started out good last season. They had an especially good game against Virginia Tech, allowing a total of 348 yards offense. Two weeks later, Texas Tech gained 504 total yards in a 48-47 Red Raider victory.

"Last year, we started off real well and they were talking about it being one of the best Wrecking Crews ever," Morris said. "Then we fell apart. It's hard to pinpoint what changed and got us from one side of the spectrum to the other."

The Aggies sagged to a 6-6 record last season, their last under R.C. Slocum, signaling the arrival of Franchione to rebuild another program, just as he has done in each of his coaching stops.

Franchione's most watched coaching move has been his handling of quarterbacks Long and McNeal. He's treated them equally in practice and fans won't know until Saturday night who will start.

"Our plan is to move the chains and score points," Franchione said. "If two of them do that, that's fine. If one does it, that's fine."

Long started nine games last season and set several school passing records and McNeal, as a redshirt freshman, got instant credibility for coming off the bench and leading the Aggies to an upset of No. 1 Oklahoma.

Franchione is excited about seeing the quarterbacks under fire.

"When you play a game your evaluation is stronger of their performance and it will bear on the next week," Franchione said. "I don't expect either one to lay an egg but the guy who performs best might be the starter the next week."

Arkansas State, starting its second season under coach Steve Roberts, improved to a 6-7 record last season and did a good job of protecting quarterback Elliot Jacobs, who was sacked only six times behind a veteran line.

Four of those offensive linemen are gone and the Indians are 29-point underdogs.

Jacobs might be hard pressed to repeat last season, when he completed 136 of 258 passes for 1,751 yards and seven touchdowns. He had seven interceptions, but five of them came against two teams, San Jose State and Illinois.

"It's incomparable how I feel now with how I felt last year," Jacobs said. "Just knowing the system is the main thing. I feel like a coach having to know what everyone's doing in certain situations."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index