Despite running their streak of Southwest Conference games
without a loss to 29, finishing with a 10-0-1 record and ranking
No. 8 in the final AP poll, the Aggies could not make a fourth
straight appearance in the Cotton Bowl last season because of
NCAA sanctions. Instead, five schools with records of 4-3 wound
up sharing the conference title, and Texas Tech ended up playing
in Dallas on Jan. 2. "It was so disappointing to see all these
teams go to bowls and get rings they didn't deserve," Texas A&M
linebacker Keith Mitchell says. "Then they came back and bragged
With their probation ended this year, the Ags can have the last
word in the SWC and once again play in Big D. The only thing is,
they have no interest in going there. Coach R.C. Slocum&Co. have
set their sights on the site of the bowl alliance championship
game, the Fiesta Bowl; indeed, a photo of Sun Devil Stadium in
Tempe, Ariz., adorns the A&M locker room. And with talent galore
at the skill positions, a wealth of speed on defense and a
schedule watered down by those mouthy pretenders to their
conference throne, the Aggies stand a good chance of projecting
themselves into the national title picture.
Corey Pullig is back for his fourth straight season as the
starter at quarterback. He is 6'3" and 205 pounds, with a strong
right arm, a sharp mind and keen leadership skills. "He's gotten
much better at throwing the ball every year," Slocum says. "I'd
say he's similar now to Kerry Collins at Penn State last year."
Pullig's efficiency rating of 134.8 ranks 11th among the
nation's returning starters, but his most telling number is
87.5: That's his winning percentage over the last three years.
"The only stat I'm real worried about is W's and L's," Pullig
says. "And I've done plenty in that department already."
At his disposal Pullig has a pair of flankers with genes to
burn: Aaron Oliver, the son of ex-major-league slugger Al, and
Kevin Beirne, the son of ex-Houston Oiler receiver Jim. The
split end is junior Danny McCray, a two-time All-America as a
400-meter man in track. But there is a more vital part of A&M's
Mac-Attack: tailback Leeland McElroy (page 46), a Heisman Trophy
contender who carried only 130 times as a backup last season but
still gained 707 yards and scored nine TDs. He also racked up
301 yards on a mere six kickoff returns. "We're going to keep
handing it to him or tossing it to him until he tells us he's
too tired to go again," offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger
August 4, 1995
If McElroy does need a breather, Slocum has four freshmen
running studs from four states in his stable: Sirr Parker from
Los Angeles; Eric Bernard from Tulsa; Michael Jennings from
Aurora, Colo.; and D'Andre Hardeman from Galena Park, Texas.
Anchored by junior guard Calvin Collins and senior tackle Hunter
Goodwin, the offensive line promises to be more mobile than last
season's. It will also benefit from the return of line coach
Mike Sherman, who came to the Aggies in 1989 but spent last
season at UCLA.
In former Aggie defensive end and ex-LSU assistant Phil Bennett,
A&M will have its third defensive coordinator in three years.
But Bennett has no plans to tamper with the ultra-aggressive
nature of the so-called Wrecking Crew, which ranked fifth in the
nation in total defense last season. On the contrary, his main
challenge may be keeping his explosive charges from accidentally
smacking into each other. "Those guys are unbelievable," Pullig
says. "There's not one guy on our defense you're going to be
able to outrun."
The heart of the unit is a quartet of linebackers who average
4.59 in the 40 and are led by senior Reggie Brown (6'2", 232
pounds) on the outside and sophomore Trent Driver (6'3", 222) on
the inside. "Reggie just makes a bunch of good plays," Slocum
says. "Blitzing, tackling guys out in the flat, pass coverage,
chasing down the ball going away from him, things like that. The
pro guys love him."
Driver, a blue-chip prospect in 1994 from Cleveland (Texas)
High, has already made an impression on his new boss. "You look
at him in drill work and he's not bad," Bennett says. "But get
him in a team situation and he's something to behold." Backing
up the 'backers is a secondary that has three returning
starters, including solid cover corner Ray Mickens.
On a team that's solid on almost every front, A&M's only glaring
weakness is the anemic nature of its SWC opposition. True, the
scarcity of quality foes will mean a real shot at an undefeated
season. But with no top-ranked teams to knock off, any loss will
send the Aggies into a death spiral in the polls. "If we win
all our games, we're going to be in there--1, 2 or 3," says
Slocum, who enters his seventh year at the helm. "We'll have a
shot to play for it." The "it" is understood around College
Station, where running roughshod over a dying conference is no
longer enough. In the '90s, only Alabama, Florida State and
Miami have won more games than Texas A&M. Those three schools
have rings to show for "it."
"Four or five years ago it was premature for us to talk about
the national championship, and I downplayed that kind of talk,"
Slocum says. "I felt we had to establish some credibility. We've
done that. Now it's the next logical step for us."
THE DATA BOX
Head coach: R.C. Slocum
Career college record: 59-12-2
Seventh year at Texas A&M (59-12-2)
1994 RECORD: 10-0-1
SWC record: 6-0-1 (ineligible for conference title)
W at LSU 18-13
W Oklahoma 36-14
W outhern Mississippi 41-17
W Texas Tech 23-17
W at Houston 38-7
W Baylor 41-21
W Rice 7-0
T at SMU 21-21
W at Texas 34-10
W at Louisville 26-10
W TCU 34-17
Final '94 ranking: 8 AP, ineligible for CNN/USA Today
Lettermen lost: 24
Lettermen returning: 39
Returning starters, offense: 4
Returning starters, defense: 7
Sept. 2 LSU
Sept. 23 at Colorado
Dec. 2 Texas
PLAYER TO WATCH
While picking a college in 1991, Hunter Goodwin had three
priorities: winning, hunting and fishing. Since he had
experienced only five victories in his four years as a two-way
lineman at Bellville (Texas) High, and since his family had long
hunted and fished in the southeast part of the state, Goodwin
decided on Texas A&M-Kingsville. But after gaining all-conference honors as a tight end in his second year at the
Division II powerhouse, he felt ready to bag even bigger game.
Goodwin headed to A&M and showed enough promise as a redshirt on
the scout team to earn a scholarship for '94. But he is no
longer a tight end. After beefing up 35 pounds, to 285, the 6'5"
Goodwin begins his senior year as the Aggies' starting right
tackle. In preseason conditioning, he set school records for an
offensive lineman in the vertical jump (33 inches), the 20-yard
shuttle (4.37 seconds) and the power clean (352 pounds). Without
much ado, the Aggies reeled in a keeper.