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Griffin, Johnson represent Big 12's best and brightest young QBs

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The "Battle of the Brazos" should be interesting the next couple of seasons.

Bitter former Southwest Conference rivals Texas A&M and Baylor both are struggling through disappointing 2008 seasons with first-year coaches. But neither team appears to have many worries in the short term with the quarterbacks they currently have on hand.

Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Jerrod Johnson and Baylor freshaman quarterback Robert Griffin have been noticeable bright spots in seasons for both schools that haven't had many highlights. And their personal battle Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium should be an interesting one featuring two of the Big 12's more spectacular athletes.

For all of the talk about Heisman candidates Graham Harrell, Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, the two quarterbacks with the brightest futures in the conference might be Johnson and Griffin.

"It will be exciting to watch us progress over the next several years," Johnson said. "I'm impressed with what they are doing at Baylor and I like a lot of the things they do. They are very creative and Robert is a heck of a player. It should be a good matchup."

Johnson has already cut a wide swath through the A&M record book, tying the single-season record for touchdown passes and notching two of the four highest single-game passing efforts in school history.

Griffin leads Baylor in rushing (688 yards) and touchdowns (11) and has passed for 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is the first player in Baylor history to run and pass for 10 touchdowns in the same season.

Interestingly, Johnson's presence at Texas A&M before him made the Aggies turn away from recruiting Griffin as a potential quarterback when he was being recruited.

Instead, they decided to offer Griffin a scholarship only as a safety -- a slight that made him commit to Art Briles first at Houston and then follow him to Baylor when he took the Bears' coaching position.

"I wasn't interested in playing anywhere else but at quarterback," said Griffin, the nation's youngest quarterback. "I don't have any grudges or hard feelings towards them. I just decided to go someplace else."

Both quarterbacks had long interceptions streaks that recently were stopped. Griffin set an NCAA freshmen record with a streak of 209 passes to start his career before he was intercepted in the Missouri game.

And Johnson went 213 attempts before he was intercepted last week by Oklahoma. His streak matched the Big 12 record set by Texas A&M's Reggie McNeal and later tied by Kansas' Todd Reesing.

Difficult opponents led each quarterback through arguably their worst performance of the season last week. Griffin struggled through a 6-for-19, 71-yard effort in a 42-21 loss to Texas where he was sacked three times and intercepted once.

Johnson was removed in the third quarter in a 66-28 loss to Oklahoma after he was intercepted twice on successive passes. He finished that game by completing 11 of 31 passes for 162 yards with two interceptions and three sacks in what was also his worst game of the season.

"Their defense was good and we were a little out of synch," Johnson said. "With Oklahoma's offense, you can't start out slow and hope to build as the game goes on. You've got play perfect and we just didn't execute as well as we would have liked."

Despite those recent struggles, both young quarterbacks are excited about the chance to turn around their seasons around this week while they build to 2009.

"We're not just preparing for 2009," Griffin said. "We're looking towards the future, but not just saying we're playing for next year. We're looking to finish out with two wins and build on that for next year."