Aggies QB Johnson ready for another step forward

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Jerrod Johnson says improving on his eye-popping numbers in 2009 won't be an exercise in the complex. His 30 touchdown passes were more than any other quarterback in the Big 12 and all but four quarterbacks in all of college football.

The result: A sudden status as one of college football's premier passers and some early Heisman buzz. Neither will matter if he can't improve on his team's 6-7 record, and if it happens naturally, his own numbers.

Doing both means going back to basics for his own game.

"I have to work on my fundamentals, as soon as I got to college that’s what they said, and I think as a quarterback, you can never be too solid fundamentally," Johnson said, stressing his team's record landed higher on his priority list than breaking any team passing records.

For the offense as a whole, the hard stuff is over. Rookie mistakes made. The task now becomes polishing a high-flying offense that gained the fifth-most yards per game in college football last season.

"We know exactly what we’re doing. We know this offense," Johnson said. "It’s just fine-tuning and tweaking the rough edges off a pretty good moving machine. We feel we left a lot of points on the field, and we feel we can capitalize on it this year."

The one thing that could prevent that is the three new starters in front of Johnson and his two star running backs, Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray. Though the Aggies return eight starters on offense, the three who left were on the offensive line.

"I’ve never been through a spring football when there wasn’t a concern with the offensive line. I don’t ever remember as a line coach or head coach, in minicamps or spring drills, where everyone wasn’t worried about the offensive line," said coach Mike Sherman, a 30-year veteran of the profession. "We’ll find the right five guys by the time the season starts. That position probably takes more development than any position."

Sherman stressed that "showing up" won't be good enough anymore. He expects his team to take steps everywhere, including on offense -- Johnson included.

"Jerrod’s familiarity with having one more year in the offense will make him a better quarterback," Sherman said. "Our biggest concern is trying not to do much more than we did last year because then we may handcuff him at the same time."