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March 23, 2008
The Aggies have looked to their past in hopes of an improved future. Mike Sherman, who served as offensive line coach at A&M under R.C. Slocum when A&M was dominating the Southwest Conference in the early '90s, begins a major rebuilding project in his first spring as head coach. He'll be putting in a new offensive system without his starting quarterback (he's hurt) and without outstanding receivers. The Aggies do have solid running backs, which was a feature of A&M's dominant teams. Of course, those teams also had strong defenses, which definitely have become a thing of the past in College Station. Rebuilding the defense to "Wrecking Crew" status figures to be the key to A&M's future. Here's a look at the Aggies as they prepare for spring drills.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Stephen McGee is one of just 4 starters returning on offense, and he's out for the spring due to injury.
Offense—4: Pierre Brown, RB Jorvorskie Lane, QB Stephen McGee, T Travis Schneider.
Defense—5: SS Alton Dixon, CB Danny Gorrer, FS Devin Gregg, E Cyril Obiozor, S Jordan Pugh.
Special teams—2: P Justin Brantly, K Matt Szymanski.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH
Even though McGee is sitting out the spring after (non-throwing) shoulder surgery, he still provides the luxury of a two-year starter at quarterback. His absence enables heralded understudy Jerrod Johnson to get all the snaps and set the stage for a interesting competition in August. Lane has scored 44 touchdowns in his career and Mike Goodson is a threat to go the distance at any time, giving the Aggies a deep group at tailback. In three seasons, Brantly has been a model of consistency at punter, averaging more than 43 yards per attempt.
HELP IS NEEDED
The Aggies lost three three-year starters along the offensive line, including two with all-conference credentials. Schneider and G Michael Shumard have starting experience, but few other linemen on the roster have received significant snaps. The linebackers bear watching. Both starters from 2007 completed their eligibility and the Aggies are changing to a 4-3, so they need to find three new starters. With Martellus Bennett leaving early for the NFL and Joey Thomas completing his eligibility, the Aggies don't have a tight end with much experience.
KEEP AN EYE ON
WR Jeff Fuller: The Aggies desperately need an upgrade at wide receiver and Fuller - a 6-foot-4, four-star prospect who enrolled early - could provide it.
DE/LB Von Miller: Miller played well in a reserve defensive end role as a true freshman last season and posted four tackles for losses and two sacks. He also could fill a role at outside linebacker.
RB Bradley Stephens: He's a highly regarded redshirt freshman who turned heads on the scout team last season and could challenge Lane and Goodson for carries.
HIS TIME IS NOW
Three years ago, WR Howard Morrow arrived in College Station as a four-star prospect with big-play potential. But he managed just 13 receptions in his first two seasons and redshirted last season. He needs to make an impression this spring.
Working under their third defensive coordinator in four years (fourth if you count Reggie Herring's month on the job before he left for the Dallas Cowboys), the Aggies' top priority is rebuilding their defense - a task they've been working on for several years now. Finding linebackers to fill out the new 4-3 scheme will be vital. Fortifying the offensive line will be, too.
Olin Buchanan is the senior national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.