July 24, 2007

McGee still willing to take punishment

SAN ANTONIO Dennis Franchione would like to protect his budding star at quarterback.

Stephen McGee will have none of it.

The Texas A&M coach has begged his quarterback to slide or go easy on his body, but the second-year starter McGee is having trouble getting on board.

McGee has won his share of physical battles on the field, and now he appears to have won a battle of wills with his head coach.

"I don't think I'm going to win the battle on him taking people on," Franchione said. "I've tried. That's Stephen McGee's persona."

McGee was one of only five quarterbacks in the country to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 500. Not all of those yards were easy. The junior played with little regard for his body, pushing for extra yardage and throwing blocks for teammates.

Yet he rarely sat out of practice.

"If I'm in the huddle and I can't do something first, I couldn't ask my teammates to do anything," said McGee, who is also on track to get his degree in finance in the next two weeks. "That's just part of being a leader. If a guy sees me make a block, maybe he can go a little further and little bit longer. That's the only way I know how to play the game."

McGee led A&M to nine wins last season, including one over rival Texas in the regular-season finale, in his first year as a starter.

After the Aggies went 3-12 on the road in the first three seasons under Franchione, McGee turned the tide with a 4-0 road record last year. He set a school completion percentage record (62 percent) and threw only two interceptions in 313 pass attempts.

Not bad for a quarterback who barely threw a pass during the preseason.

McGee tore a muscle in the back of his throwing arm on the second day of fall camp and didn't throw again until the week before the opener.

"As much as anything, he missed the pocket presence, the feel for the rush, how to move in the pocket, and as a result I think as coaches we were probably trying to make sure that he didn't sit in the pocket and take a beating," Franchione said. "Fall camp is such a pivotal time, especially for your first-time starter. Essentially had he been a senior, it maybe wouldn't have been quite as big an issue, but being as young as he was going into the season, it does have to have an impact on him."

Dual threats
Stephen McGee was one of five quarterbacks last year to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 500 yards.
Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan3,031-26521-7
Matt Grothe, South Florida2,576-15622-9
Chris Nickson, Vanderbilt2,085-15694-9
Stephen McGee, Texas A&M2,295-12666-4
Bobby Reid, Oklahoma State2,266-24500-4
The Aggies put more emphasis during the spring in protecting McGee and helping him find his secondary targets. Now, Franchione believes he could be even better as a passer in 2007.

And as much as the injury may have played a role in McGee missing second and third options and taking more hits than coaches would prefer, the quarterback is just as stubborn about not making excuses as he is about Franchione letting him play his way.

"There's no excuses for anything," McGee said. "I'm not looking for excuses. That's irrelevant. There's no injury that's going to make up a good enough excuse."

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.


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