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22 Texas A&M For the Aggies, a touch of family values and a heaping helping of healthy living will add up to big improvement

Starting quarterbacks at major colleges typically attract devoted
fans. But few boosters have the rooting interest of
seven-year-old Kameryn Farris, whose dad is Texas A&M's Mark
Farris. One reason that Farris, 27, pulled the plug on a minor
league baseball career in 1998 was to be closer to his young
family (Mark and his wife, Neocia, also have a four-month-old
girl, Kendyll). "It's been a good experience for my family, and
especially for Kameryn," says Farris, a shortstop who in 1994 was
a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates. "There aren't many
kids who will remember their dad playing college football."

Last year's A&M offense was easy to forget, thanks largely to
injuries. Top wideout Bethel Johnson ruptured his spleen in the
second game and missed the rest of the year. By the seventh game
of the season, all four scholarship tight ends had suffered
season-ending injuries, forcing A&M to press a freshman defensive
lineman into emergency service. Six freshmen, only one of them a
redshirt, started at least one game on offense. After winning
seven of their first eight games, the Aggies lost the last three
of the regular season. Yet when looking back, Farris turns
strangely optimistic. "As banged up as we were, we were still
able to finish 8-4," he says. "Hopefully we can build on that
this year."

One reason for hope: All those kids who were forced into action
last year are now veterans. Johnson will give his senior year
another try, and sophomore Terrence Murphy and junior Jamaar
Taylor emerged in his absence. Senior speedster Dwain Goynes will
move from receiver to running back and will be a change-of-pace
complement to tailback Derek Farmer. Four starters are back on
the line.

The Aggies know that their season hinges on how the offense
performs, because, as coach R.C. Slocum succinctly puts it, "We
are going to play good defense." Seven starters are back on the
traditionally stingy unit, led by senior Ty Warren (first-team
All-Big 12), who moves from tackle to end this year; senior
cornerback Sammy Davis (five interceptions); and senior outside
linebacker Jarrod Penright (101/2 sacks). If they can get help
from Farris & Co., the Aggies should give Kameryn plenty to cheer
about. --P.M.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID J.PHILLIP/AP TOPSY-TURVY With 39 catches in '01, Taylor shined in a shaken-up offense; imagine what he'll do with healthy players around him.


2001 RECORD: 8-4 (4-4, T3 in Big 12 South)
FINAL RANKING: not ranked


Total offensive yards per game for the Aggies last season, the
fewest since the team averaged 276.2 in 1972.

An opposing coach's view

A solid defense will give the offense time to catch up

"Tailback Derek Farmer can be an All-America or just a regular
guy. It all depends on the play of the line, which has no
stars.... Mark Farris has the skills, and he's highly
competitive. But the Aggies had three new offensive coaches last
year, and it takes time for a quarterback to adjust.... Brian
Gamble won't be a first-round pick, but he's a tough linebacker
who makes plays.... Up front, you have to double Ty Warren. When
they go to a third-down package, they move him around. You'd
better know where he is."

Strength: 19th

Sept. 7 at Pittsburgh
21 virginia tech
28 louisiana tech
12 at Baylor
19 at Kansas
Nov. 2 at Oklahoma State
29 at Texas