TEXAS A&M UNIT ANALYSIS - OFFENSIVE BACKFIELDOver the next week or so, TH will take a closer look at Texas A&M's personnel - kind of an expanded version of our regular "key matchups" feature. We'll start with the very best unit on the A&M team - the offensive backfield.
As we discussed earlier, A&M is fond of two base option sets - the I-formation, which resembles Nebraska's legendary attack under Osborne, and a more hip zone read option, which looks a bit like a run-centric version of Oregon's spread. In either of these and other formations, the trigger man for the Ags is quarterback Stephen McGee (right).
McGee took over for a gimpy Reggie McNeal in the last two games of 2005 and stunned eventual national champion Texas with 108 yards on the ground in the Aggies' 40-29 loss. He is big (6'3"/208) and fast enough to have run the 400 meters in high school. A review of A&M game tape shows that he's tough as well, and can take punishment with the best of them. For his age (RS sophomore) he is exceptional with ball fakes and he seems to read his blockers very well - a must in the zone read option. He has a tendency to take on tacklers, which could eventually get him into trouble with shoulder and arm injuries.
In the passing game McGee broke an A&M record this year with a 61.7 completion percentage; he threw for 11 scores and only turned the ball over twice with interceptions. He can throw the deep ball, though it's not his strength. Very mobile, he has the ability to move the pocket horizontally though too often he tucks the ball under and runs.
A&M's running backs are the best that Cal has faced this year by a long shot. No team in the Pac brings two talents like Jorvorskie Lane and Michael Goodson to bear on opposing defenses. Lane is a 6'0", 274 pound sophomore/man-mountain who looks a little like the late great Craig Heyward. Like Heyward and fellow FatBack Jerome Bettis, Lane has great feet and good balance for his size. He is 26-29 on 4th down conversions in 2006, and scored 19 touchdowns this year - most from short yardage situations. He can also block a little:
You watch Lane, and you wonder how he doesn't get more attention. And then you realize he's sharing time with Goodson (below), who may well turn out to be the most talented back to appear in this year's Holiday Bowl. Goodson, a 6'0"/192 true freshman, averaged 6.9 yards per attempt and made many Aggies (and me) wonder why he only had 114 carries in 12 games. He did have some issues with ball security, coughing two fumbles up in the opening win v the Citadel. Goodson is fast, but also possesses excellent instincts for a freshman. He's a different style back than Marshawn as a freshman (much more of an upright glider than a slasher) but the production is awfully similar.
The forgotten man in the mix is Courtney Lewis, a senior who led A&M in rushing last year. This year he has only 46 carries for a 4.7 yard average, though he's one of the best third-string tailbacks in the nation. The fullback when A&M goes from the I is Chris Alexander, who was voted All Big 12 despite carrying the ball 11 times in 12 games. He is a devastating lead blocker whose talents are best utilized when A&M runs a traditional I-formation offense.