HOUSTON--The term dual-threat quarterback has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Few players embody that term more than Texas A&M senior Reggie McNeal. Though he may be more well-known for his running ability, coach Dennis Franchione is quick to point out that McNeal can throw the ball a little bit. The Aggies finished 20th in the nation in total offense and second in the Big 12, behind only Texas Tech, in passing offense.
And Franchione says he's better now. So good, in fact, that the A&M coaching staff named McNeal the team's most improved player in the spring.
"I just think overall Reggie's been very purposeful about growing as a quarterback," the coach said. "He's a better leader than he's ever been, he's more mature...There's not an area that stands out, it's the total quarterback in all areas that led our coaches to vote him to that accolade."
McNeal isn't a concern. A&M knows what it has there. However, without the departed Terrence Murphy, McNeal is searching for a new go-to guy for the upcoming season. He doesn't seem all that worried about it.
"It's a group thing," McNeal said. "Our whole receiving corps, everybody can make plays. All of them, you just give them the ball, they're going to catch everything in the area. It's something that they work on because they don't want to drop balls. It's going to be probably one of the most talented groups of receivers I've ever had to throw to."
While the passing game makes McNeal a more effective runner, he may not even need it. The quarterback's scrambling abilities are so deathly to defenses that Franchione jokes his best offensive play call is a pass that is well covered.
"Sometimes the worst thing that happens to our opponent's defense is pass called," Franchione said. "They're all droppoing into coverage, doing a great job covering downfield, and Reggie pulls it down and starts running. This guy ran 4.30 on pro day last spring. I haven't seen many guys get timed at a 4.30. He's got great speed to go make plays. I also jokingly say that he overcomes my coaching some days because he can take those plays that break down and turn them into big plays. If there's any doubt about what to do, put it in number one's hands and let him do his stuff. He does it very well."
It's that ability to turn a broken play into a successful one that is most damaging to defenses. The Aggie defenders in attendance on Tuesday insist there is no way to game plan around that ability.
"I don't think you can game plan that because that's just playmakers making plays," said safety Jaxson Appel. "When their playmakers make plays, your playmakers have to make more than theirs to win the football game."
"When you've got a versatile quarterback like that, you don't know which angle to come at because he can beat you so many ways," said Archie McDaniel. "I've seen week in and week out game plans that I thought should have worked and they didn't. He's just one of those type of guys that can beat you either way."
McNeal will most assuredly enter the 2005 season with a target on his back. Though he was passed over as the all-Big 12 preseason quarterback for Vince Young, defenses will most certainly be planning their attacks for the play of McNeal. And as for the choice between him and Young, don't think you'll get McNeal to comment.
"Between me and him, we don't even talk about that," McNeal said. "That's nothing to us. That's what all the writers and everybody else tries to make it. But when I talk to Vince and he talks to me, that's not even something that we talk about."
"If I need that to motivate me, I don't need to be playing."
"Hands down, he's my quarterback," McDaniel said. "I'm going to say he's the best."
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