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Texas A&M season review

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After the disappointments of the Dennis Franchione era, Mike Sherman was counted on to provide a healing nature that would unite all of the elements of the Texas A&M program.

That idea lasted less than one game. The Aggies' 18-14 season-opening loss to Arkansas State signaled that Sherman would be struggling through a lot of disappointments in his first season.

And he did as the Aggies limped home with a 4-8 record that marked the fourth time in seven seasons they have failed to make a bowl trip. In the process Texas A&M failed to beat any of its five South Division rivals for the first time in the school's Big 12 history.

Sherman did find some young skill players that will help him in the future. Sophomore quarterback Jerrod Johnson emerged as a capable quarterback after he was thrust into the lineup by two early injuries sustained by starter Stephen McGee. Freshmen receivers Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller provide hope for the future. And running back/kick returner Cyrus Gray developed as the season continued.

The A&M defense was another story. The Aggies ranked no higher than 107th nationally in any of the four major defensive categories, bottoming out in a season-ending three-game losing streak where they were outscored by a combined margin of 156-58.

Offensive Most Valuable Player: QB Jerrod Johnson. Despite learning as he went, Johnson provided one of the biggest statistical seasons in school history, passing for a school-record 21 touchdowns and 2,435 yards. In the process, he also passed for a school-record 419 yards against Kansas State.

Defensive Most Valuable Player: DB/LB Alton Dixon. After arriving at the school as a defensive back, Dixon moved to linebacker midway through his senior season to shore up an area of need. He led the team with 94 tackles, notched two tackles for losses and broke up two passes.

Turning point: After jumping to a 14-3 halftime lead against Arkansas State in the opener, the Aggies were shut out in the second half in the 18-14 loss. That loss showed that the Aggies wouldn't overmatch any opponent on their schedule and that Sherman's first season in the Big 12 would be a difficult adventure -- as it ended up being.

What's next: Sherman will face a huge rebuilding job in the nation's most difficult division. All of the other South teams are on upswings, which will make it difficult for the Aggies to return to relevance very quickly. And that's even with a strong core of young players headed by Johnson, Tannehill and Fuller. And the early departure of top running threat Michael Goodson makes it that much tougher.