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 (10� sacks). If they can get help from Farris & Co., the Aggies should give Kameryn plenty to cheer about.