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General Sherman: Dave South Shall Rise Again

Yes, I know William Sherman didn't say that. But his wikipedia page failed to give me any other ideas for a headline, and anytime you can remind me of Dave South it brings a warm, albeit confused, smile to my face.

"He makes the catch! Touchdown! . . . . . incomplete, he dropped it. First and goal at the twelve."

It absolutely kills me that the Aggies have been so bad for so long that they own double scoreboard on us and you can't find a single one willing to talk trash. It only took one beatdown for OU fans to hook up phone lines to their outhouses to flood Hornfans with hastily assembled electronic chicken scratch praise for Bob Stoops.

I was a member of Websider for a few years, and they were so desperate for any success that they started talking women's basketball smack. When you've sunk so low that you fake pride in the world's least popular mainstream sport, yet you can't find your way over to a Longhorn website to mix it up a little over their two wins, that just goes to show how deep in the hole this fan base is.

Granted, they've been through a lot. Mack obliterated RC Slocum with early recruiting (funny to think that we're now the last ones to offer, generally) and making Texas the 'it' school in the state again. RC probably has a dart board with Mack's face on it in his den. Of course, he has to get Kevin Sumlin to throw the darts for him.

The post RC era was a resounding failure, although only so compared to the expectations of the regime change. The bronze statue of Slocum fell, the Aggies cheered, then six months later you had stories on the news quoting Cletus Bumblescrew:

"Ya know, maybe we ain't had it s'bad."

The irony of the shift from RC to Fran was that they hired almost the exact same coach. Both have the personality of the very desk from which I slave, both value toughness and coachability, and neither one stood a chance amidst the vast expanse of the recruitocosm. It takes more than the ability to coach, which both men certainly have, to compete in this region.

The few big names they did get - Reggie McNeal! Jorrie Adams! Justin Warren! Jason Jack! - turned out to be bigger recruiting wins for us than them. We had essentially switched places. Suddenly we were the media darlings who always landed in preseason top 10 lists without actually having won anything, and they were a school with visions of former glory and just enough talent to fool the fans into thinking they had a chance to succeed.

Sadly, those days are gone now, as most fans are so jaded and bitter than they can't even recognize, much less appreciate, the excellent job Fran managed to do with his talent level. Yeah, it was his fault the talent wasn't there, and A&M was right to fire him, but he got the absolute most out of what he had. Back to back 9 win seasons is nothing to sneeze at when you're running the option with Stephen McGee and you had pick a flame out insurance salesman as your DC. Those guys schooled us three years in a row, shut down team after team defensively in the second half, and pulled out close wins seemingly every week. Talent wise A&M went into every conference game 50/50 and won their fair share. It's not what they wanted, but a worse coach would've had them 6-6 both years.

The point is, Fran was an excellent coach that wasn't the right fit at the right time. Bring him in in 1989 and he wins at least one championship. In 2004, and he goes down as a roadkill stain on the highway.

This is why the hiring of Mike Sherman is confusing to me. Yet again they go with a boring choice, a safe, solid coach with a decent resume. He's shown nothing so far to suggest that he can recruit with his direct competition, outside of the yearly role as placeholder for a few second tier candidates who are counting down the days until OU offers them. He's already bought into the Aggie mystique, which should endear him to the fans and any farmer's son that manages to grow up to 6'5 300.

His first challenge, then, is to somehow keep Texas and OU from devouring the top 30 players in the state, and keeping the SEC and Big 10 from picking off the leftovers. A&M used to be the place that the academic and personality risks went, but Oklahoma State has become so desperate that they are quickly eating into that market share, too.

Can he get his? He can sell his NFL experience, that he coached Brett Farve, and he can honestly try to sell Aggieland as a positive (meaning he doesn't roll his eyes the 40th time he has to explain what hullabaloo means). He doesn't have the ring that Mack, Stoops, and Miles can show off, and he isn't salesman enough to overcome Texas' already enormous saturation within the state. On top of all that, he has to create all the momentum on his own since the previous staff left a perceptual wake of failure and snack cakes.

What bothers me, just from a football fan standpoint, is that A&M hired a west coast offense coach to come into a situation where he is left with a team built entirely around running the football. The receivers are awful, the two best players are running backs, the QB can't throw, and the OL can't pass block.

Fran was wise enough to focus on what his team could do. This is why they won what they did. What I am most curious to see is if Sherman can overcome his biggest obstacle, changing his own offense to fit the talent.

Stephen McGee was built to fail in the west coast offense. He is just the perfect antithesis of what you need at that position. No accuracy, no quick decisions, and no ability to strike downfield when the opportunity arises. He can scramble, and he's the master of the dump off, so at least he has those as a last resort.

But it's not just McGee. His backup, for a time, was current WR Terrance McCoy, and his backups now are Jerrod Johnson and Tommy Dorman. If Sherman is organizing an office potluck, these guys are the ones bringing ice and cups. They fit the mold for a Fran QB, but not one that will have to play from under center with a FB and TE.

A&M's spring practice is underway so there is probably some word about what the offense looks like so far, and I would like to hear that word. If he just comes in and pulls a Callahan, i.e. running an offense irrespective of your talent, then he'll find himself exactly as fired as Billy was.

Whether or not he can adapt is the key. Can he take a team built to run out of the spread and figure out a way to apply his principles to their strengths? Or did A&M just cast Denise Richards to play its nuclear physicist?