<
>

Long transferring after losing starting spot

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M quarterback Dustin Long,
who lost the starting job to Reggie McNeal before this season, will
transfer to Sam Houston State even though he would have competed
for the job again next year.

"This decision is based solely on playing time," Long, who
will be a senior, said in a statement Friday. "I have an
opportunity to maximize my playing time as a senior at Sam Houston
State."

By transferring to the NCAA I-AA school in Huntsville, he would
be eligible to play next season. Players transferring to larger I-A
schools have to sit out a year.

As a sophomore in 2001, Long set school records for passing
yards in a game (399 vs. Kansas) and touchdowns in a game
(seven, vs. Texas Tech). But he lost the job to McNeal to start
this season.

"I have a lot of admiration and respect and good feelings for
him and we all wish him well," A&M coach Dennis Franchione said.

Long did play some this year, going 63-of-104 for 709 yards. His
best game came in a 45-22 loss to Missouri, when he completed 23 of
29 passes for 252 yards. And he started the final game of the
season against Texas to earn a chance at the 2004 starting job
going into spring drills.

"If we'd played another game, he would have been the starter,"
Franchione said. "He started the Texas game and played well in the
Missouri game. But you still have competition."

Still, he decided to move on.

"Texas A&M is a great school and I've enjoyed my time here,"
Long said. "My decision is based simply on what I think is best
for me. It has nothing to do with Coach Fran or the coaching staff
here at A&M."

McNeal couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Sam Houston State coach Ron Randleman said he cannot comment
until Long enrolls at the Southland Conference school. The spring
enrollment period begins the second week of January.

Long would be eligible for spring drills and would be the latest
in a series of I-A quarterbacks to transfer to Sam Houston.

Josh McCown left Southern Methodist for Sam Houston in 2001 and
was the conference MVP his senior year. He now plays for the
Arizona Cardinals.

In 1999, Chris Chaloupka transferred from Oklahoma State and
also was the MVP. He injured his knee in his next-to-last game and
did not go on to the NFL.

Another former A&M quarterback, Vance Smith, transferred to for
the 2002 season.

Franchione said he tried to convince Long to stay.

"There's a lot of things to factor in there when you talk about
education," Franchione said. "Making change sometimes sounds
better than it really is. I've seen guys go through it before and
had people go through it wasn't productive either."

The departure left the Aggies searching for another quarterback.

"We need to sign a good freshman," Franchione. "I don't know
about the other guys, we'll just have to get into spring practice
and see."

The Aggies have several former quarterbacks at other positions,
including A-back Jason Carter and receiver Chad Schroeder. The
A-back is a position in which Carter sometimes lines up as a
receiver and sometimes in the backfield.

Franchione said he would be reluctant to move Carter back.

"He has invested a lot of time in this new position,"
Franchione said. "We still want to do what's best for the team
first but I don't want to put Jason in a bad position either."