McGee to start Texas A&M's opener against Arkansas State

Updated: August 14, 2008, 6:46 PM ET
By Tim Griffin | ESPN.com

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Senior quarterback Stephen McGee has claimed the starting quarterback position for Texas A&M's Aug. 30 opener against Arkansas State, coach Mike Sherman announced Thursday.

McGee, who has posted a 16-11 record in two years as a starter and led the Aggies to bowl games in each of the last two seasons, beat back the challenges of sophomore Jerrod Johnson and redshirt freshman Ryan Tannehill during fall practice to earn the job. Sherman had set open competition before training camp for the starting position.

"It was a heck of a race," Sherman said. "It was tough decision because at different times different guys did different things. But in the end, I thought Stephen was the most consistent. He didn't throw an interception all camp."

While playing in a run-heavy option attack last season under former A&M coach Dennis Franchione, McGee passed for 2,311 yards and led the Aggies with 899 rushing yards. But after breaking state passing records at Burnet High School before coming to college, McGee believes he is better suited to Sherman's pro-style offense.

"I've always viewed myself as a passing quarterback and had taken on the label of a quarterback," McGee said. "I know I can throw the ball with anybody."

The quarterbacks learned of the news during a meeting Wednesday night. McGee took every snap with A&M's No. 1 offense during a Thursday morning practice that stretched nearly three hours.

"It just gets some people off my back," McGee said. "A lot of people say I'm an option quarterback who can't throw. They [A&M coaches] obviously know I can because I went out there and earned it."

Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 229-pounder, has been compared to Vince Young and Randall Cunningham because of his size and athleticism. He led the Aggies to six touchdown drives in eight possessions last season -- mostly against opposing teams' substitutes.

"It wasn't really a surprise," Johnson said. "Going into this, Coach told me I would have to do a super ... job for me to start. I felt like I had a fair shot. Coach gave me every opportunity and I understand his decision."

Tannehill worked with the wide receivers during much of Thursday's practice, although Sherman said he still considers him a quarterback. Tannehill could see action at both positions, Sherman said.

The A&M coach said he was careful to tell McGee that the promotion was only for the season opener.

"I told him it was his job for today and he's got to keep holding onto it," Sherman said. "Nothing's set in stone other the fact that he's the starter in the first game, now."

Tim Griffin covers college football for ESPN.com. You may contact him at espntimgriff@yahoo.com.