Junior quarterback Mark Farris knows the storyline has been played out before: Coveted high school quarterback gets drafted by a major league team and decides to play baseball, only he's buried in the minors, quits after a few seasons and returns to his other love, football. For example, Chris Weinke, a former first baseman in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, performed so well in the role that after batting .248 over six seasons, he went to Florida State and won a national championship and then a Heisman Trophy at 28.
Farris, now in his second season as the Aggies' starter after five years in the Pittsburgh Pirates' system, would love to do the same. "Am I really the second coming of Chris Weinke?" jokes Farris, 26, who is married and the father of a six-year-old daughter, Kameryn. "Actually, I think the whole age thing is way overplayed, but what can I do? Of course, it would be great if it all turned out the way it did for Weinke. Like him, I came back to play and be part of something special. Remember, no one predicted Oklahoma would win it all last season except for Oklahoma."
The Aggies don't have the firepower to match the Sooners' turnaround, not with the departure of bulldozing fullback Ja'Mar Toombs and crafty wideout Robert Ferguson to the NFL. Still, with 11 returning starters A&M should be in the thick of the Big 12 title chase when November showdowns against Oklahoma and Texas roll around. The Aggies should get quality rushing yards out of sophomore Richard Whitaker and junior Joe Weber, who will have an All-America candidate, center Seth. McKinney, helping clear a path for them. At wideout, senior Bethel Johnson returns after finishing second on the team with 42 catches (440 yards).
The Wrecking Crew defense, which gave up 17.8 points per game in 2000, will rely on junior cornerback Sammy Davis (four interceptions) and junior nosetackle Ty Warren (16 tackles for loss and five sacks) to help it improve on last year's 7-5 finish. "Don't be fooled for a second by our record last year," says coach R. C. Slocum. "A couple of key losses [to Colorado, 26-19, and Oklahoma, 35-31] did us in and weren't a true reflection of what this team was."