|Aggies open Sherman era in same way as Fran era|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 29 August 2008 13:13|
The Aggies open the 2008 season on Saturday against Arkansas State, exactly five years to the date since Dennis Franchione started his stormy tenure with a 26-11 win over the then-Indians. The school has since changed its nickname to the Red Wolves.
M faithful and resigned under pressure after beating Texas in last season's finale.
Sherman, a former assistant under the popular R.C. Slocum, was picked as coach less than a week later. Since then, the vibe surrounding the program has gradually changed for the better.
M students and faculty, the players warmed up to Sherman's NFL-tested system and fans in College Station are buzzing with optimism again.
All Sherman needs now is a validating victory against Arkansas State, a team that stayed close in a 21-13 loss to No. 4 Texas in Austin last season. Sherman was reassuring himself early in the week with the confidence that he's done everything he can to get the Aggies ready.
``I don't know if I'm satisfied,'' he said, ``but I feel like we've put them in as many situations as we possibly could. They've been exposed from a football standpoint to a lot of different things that could come up in the ballgame and as a coach I think that's your responsibility, to prepare them.''
Emotions aside, Sherman still has plenty of questions about his team that he'll finally get answered on Saturday:
-How has the young offensive line, with only one returning starter, come together?
-Will the Aggies generate a pass rush after recording only 18 sacks in 2007?
-Who will emerge from a mostly unproven group of receivers that's had to learn a brand new offensive system?
As long as the Aggies play with effort - and win - Sherman won't have too many complaints.
``When it's kicked off out there, it's a players' game and the players have to play to their level,'' Sherman said. ``It's a huge responsibility on them to show up on Saturday and (there is) no reason they shouldn't play their hearts out.''
There are many other things Sherman should be able to count on Saturday.
M's career leader in completion percentage (58.8 percent) and needs 111 yards passing on Saturday to become just the fifth quarterback in school history to reach 5,000.
McGee can hardly wait to try out the new offense after two years taking a beating in Franchione's option-oriented attack.
``The versatility of the offense and what we've been able to do so far, the way we can mix up stuff and move people around, it's really fun to be a part of a system like that,'' he said. ``And the fact that you turn on the TV and Joe Montana is in the huddle from the 1980s and he's calling the same plays you're calling. That's pretty cool.''
And if the offensive line opens holes, the Aggies should get some big plays out of the backfield. Junior Mike Goodson leads a trio of talented runners, who will all get opportunities to run pass patterns, too.
Goodson rushed for 711 yards in 2007 and said a 1,000-yard season is realistic in Sherman's offense. Redshirt freshman Bradley Stephens and true freshman Cyrus Gray, both former prep standouts in Texas, have also impressed coaches in fall practices.
``We've got an arsenal,'' said Goodson. ``Everybody's rolling really good right now.''
M's defensive line, Arkansas State's offensive front is short on experience with only one returning starter. But the one is left tackle Matt Mandich, whom Sherman said will play in the NFL.
The Aggies ranked 92nd in pass defense last season (255 yards per game) and their new scheme under coordinator Joe Kines will get an immediate test from Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard. The junior threw 16 touchdown passes last season and averaged 203 yards passing.
Red Wolves' coach Steve Roberts said his main challenge is preparing to play a team with no film to break down. Sherman hasn't been a head coach anywhere since 2000 and that was with the Green Bay Packers. Under Sherman, the Aggies have scrapped just about everything Franchione had in place.
M having a new coaching staff. We don't know exactly what they're going to try to do. We don't have a history of what they will do in the college game. We've taken a look at a lot of film from coach Sherman's previous stops.''