The Detroit Lions' scout didn't believe his stopwatch. "Uh, can you run that again, Reggie?" he asked during Texas A&M's Pro Day in March. Aggies quarterback Reggie McNeal had just been timed at 4.30 seconds in the 40-yard dash on the indoor track, to the wonderment of the 40 or so teammates looking on. Obliging the scout, McNeal sprinted again--and scorched the track again. On his second go, the watch read 4.28, giving McNeal the two fastest times of the afternoon.
"I've never been around a more talented quarterback than Reggie McNeal," third-year Aggies coach Dennis Franchione says of the 6'2", 206-pound senior. "He's got a great arm, and he's obviously very fast. Sometimes the best thing that can happen is to call a pass play and hope all the receivers are covered. That's when Reggie will take off and really make a play."
Texas A&M has 20 starters back, but none will be more important than McNeal, an electrifying talent who's a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate. Last year the Lufkin ( Texas) High product set A&M records for passing yards (2,791) and rushing yards by a quarterback (718). He also owns the Big 12 mark of 213 consecutive passes without an interception. McNeal could put up even better numbers this fall. The Aggies have four starters back on the line, three receivers with starting experience and junior running back Courtney Lewis, who's back to full strength after being hampered by nagging ankle injuries in '04. "Our offense has a ton of weapons," says McNeal. "If we stay healthy, we're going to be very difficult to defend."
Texas A&M last won the division in 1998, and since then Oklahoma and Texas have dominated the South. This may be Franchione's best shot yet at breaking through. "We have five tough road games, and there's always Oklahoma and Texas on the schedule," Franchione says. "But our program is certainly headed in the right direction. Plus, we've got something that nobody else has: Reggie McNeal." -- L.A.