Per the Houston Chronicle...
No Excuses: COACH FRAN ON THE CLOCK
By John P. Lopez
COLLEGE STATION — To the east are the LSU Tigers, 2003 national champions and the biggest thing Louisiana knows.
To the north is Oklahoma, home of the Sooners, the national champs of 2000 and contenders just about every year but this one. And to the west are the Texas Longhorns, who are likely on their way to the national championship game and at a place in the program's history that's as impressive as any.
These are the walls closing in around Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione. They are hindering the plans he had for the Aggies, more suffocating than any notion that he is in over his head or hasn't developed R.C. Slocum's leftovers.
And they are the walls that must be broken down before it all comes tumbling down.
Time not an ally
He's got one year. Maybe less.
Combine the depths to which the Aggies have sunk with the heights to which their biggest recruiting and football rivals have ascended, and it's clear that Franchione no longer has the luxury of chipping away at those walls.
Aggie fans aren't patient. Franchione can no longer afford to be, either, because as he's staying true to the diligence of building something grand, he's getting passed up by the likes of Texas Tech, TCU and perhaps even Baylor.
"I don't know if there's anything that anybody wants to listen to," Franchione said when asked what he could tell A&M fans about a 5-3 season that is fast going on 5-6. "If I say one thing, it's an excuse. If I say something else, it's this. So I don't know if there is anything that I can tell you that somebody won't take wrong at this point in time.
"I can't worry about that. I've got to worry about marching ahead and getting this team ready to play again."
Shades of Sherrill
Franchione once wished he could coach at a place like Texas A&M, where spectacular passion for football is part of the culture and losses like the 42-14 debacle against Iowa State last Saturday at Kyle Field are unacceptable no matter the circumstances.
He's feeling the — we'll call it "passion" — from every side, because the giant that Jackie Sherrill once awoke nearly 25 years ago is sawing logs again, and it's not for Bonfire.
We mention Sherrill because that's the name a dwindling number of cup-half-full Aggies will mention, recalling the three miserable seasons he had before launching the program to unprecedented success.
The difference: In every direction from his Rudder Tower offices in the middle of campus in 1982, Sherrill saw recruiting plums ripe for the picking. LSU was bad, Oklahoma was in another conference and the Longhorns were beginning a long slide.
From where Franchione is sitting in the Bright Complex overlooking Kyle Field, the view is not nearly as rosy.
If those walls could talk, they'd tell you what Franchione won't say but has become obvious. Coach Fran already is playing for next year, because it will be the most important season of his coaching life.
He's torn the redshirts off nine true freshmen and has 14 freshmen on the two-deep roster for Saturday at Texas Tech, which is like throwing up the white flag for 2005.
He has probably already made the decision to fire defensive coordinator Carl Torbush. And a couple of other assistants responsible for putting the Wrecking Crew on disability leave shouldn't feel too good, either.
This is no time to chip away at the walls. Rather, it's time to be daring and aggressive, qualities which Franchione once was known for. This is as overmatched, overwhelmed and directionless an A&M team has looked in nearly 25 years.
Many of Franchione's troubles have been self-inflicted, but not all of them. Tactical mistakes against Clemson, Kansas State and Baylor aside, Franchione's biggest miscalculation might have been overestimating the grit and ability of his team after last year's improvement.
He also has been too true to the traditional class-system pecking order.
Running back Courtney Lewis, for example, is a fine back. But Jorvorskie Lane is better. Yet Lane had just four carries in the Iowa State loss.
The reality Franchione must face is that except for a one-sided win over under-manned SMU, the Aggies have not played a complete game yet. That's all on Fran.
The 2002 recruiting class he inherited was a weak one — 10 players from that group either never stepped foot on campus or have left — but there's no time left for excuses or patience. From here, freshmen such as Lane and tight end Martellus Bennett should be on the field, regardless of their youth. Franchione needs to play his best players.
Freshman defensive backs such as Devin Gregg should stay in the mix, young offensive linemen need their reps and the Aggies should start blitzing when they step off the bus. If they're worried about pride being damaged with a blowout, pride left the building around the third quarter of the Texas State game.
The only thing Franchione has left to hang his future on is a core of freshman and sophomore classes with promise, and an incoming class of 17 commitments that the staff believes could be great — no one more so than 6-7 Humble quarterback Jerrod Johnson.
Franchione has shown what he can do with someone else's players. He has to show what he can do with his — or by the fall of 2007, someone else will.