Five Questions Before Texas A&M Spring Football
Texas A&M is just two days away from their first spring soccer practice ahead of the April 15 spring game as the Jimbo Fisher/Bobby Petrino era will begin and hopefully avoid clashes and burns as most media assume is the case.
In Fisher’s sixth season with the Aggies, roster changes will certainly be a headache, particularly around the linebacker depth chart, but key returnees like Ainias Smith, Demani Richardson, McKinnley Jackson and Layden Robinson offer experienced leadership in a young team in need of even play Structure on both sides of the ball.
Recovering from the memorable (for the worst possible) 5-7 2022 season is obviously at the forefront of everyone’s minds, but for drastic improvements to materialize spring training is about “fixing the fixable”.
Here are five questions ahead of Texas A&M’s Maroon and White Spring Game on April 15.
After the departure of running back Devon Achane, how will the running back’s depth map change?
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
As we bid farewell to Devon Achane, who ended his memorable aggie career with 2,097 career rushing yards and 38 touchdowns and 1,102 yards and 8 touchdowns in the 2022 season, the future is now the present and well known, but not well – household names fill out the 2023 Texas A&M running back depth chart.
After Achane missed two games last season through injury, sophomore running back Amari Daniels and backfield freshman back Le’Veon Moss shared a sneak peek at the depth chart for 2023. Compared to Achane (which is tough), Daniels is a balanced runner with great vision, while Moss has the size advantage to thrive on pass protection, which is key to Jimbo Fisher’s pro-style scheme.
Incoming 5-star running back Reuben Owens throws a wrench into the conversation in the best way possible, showing speed, quickness, balance and size. Owen’s primary concern is his youth, knowing it can take time for Fisher and Petrino to learn offense, but simply put, he’s just too skilled to stay off the field. Here’s how the depth chart presumably precedes the spring drills:
1st Team, Juniors, Amari Daniels
2nd Team, Sophomore, Le’Veon Moss
3rd team, freshman, Reuben Owens
Is there a quarterback controversy between Conner Weigman and Max Johnson?
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Yes, I used the word “controversy” when describing the current quarterback depth chart despite Conner Weigmans’ late rise last season (896 passing yards, 8 touchdowns), but listen to me. Max Johnson, who started in three games last season before a hand injury sidelined him for the rest of the year, actually looked like one of college football’s worst offenses because of Johnson’s consistent steady hand and smart decision-making.
After returning to now Georgia Tech quarterback Haynes King, the wheels completely fell off before young Weigman’s debut against Ole Miss on Oct. 29, throwing for 338 yards and 4 touchdowns, essentially cementing his place as the starting signalman for the season 2023 and beyond. What separates Wiegman and Johnson is almost entirely trait-based, while Connor only adds more offense due to his accuracy, touch, and field of view. However, Max Johnson is by far the most valuable backup in the SEC and a proven asset in the quarterback room. Here is the suspected depth map before spring:
1st team, sophomore year, Conner Weigman
2nd Team, Senior, Max Johnson
How will the wide receiver depth chart develop after Ainias Smith’s return?
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
When the news broke that wide receiver/running back/return specialist/all-rounder Ainias Smith would be returning for his final senior season after suffering a devastating injury last season, the joy was great, but there were new questions in Refer to Texas A&M’s wide receiver depth chart heading into the 2023 season.
Before Smith’s announcement, the depth map may have looked like this:
Z Recipients: Sophomore, Noah Thomas
X Recipients: Sophomore, Evan Stewart
Slot recipient: Senior, Moose Muhammad III
With the naked eye one would have to rely on the veteran status of Muhammad III. left in an almost unhealthy way, and his off-slot versatility wouldn’t be used to consistently push the ball down. So putting Smith back in the slot, holding Stewart on the X and putting Muhammad on the Z drastically opens up the offense to put pressure on the secondary due to the collective speed and athleticism this unit offers.
Three names to keep in mind as you examine the depth map are newcomer Raymond Cottrell, UTEP transfer Tyrin Smith and forthcoming returnee Jalen Preston. Cottrell’s size (6-2, 203lbs) makes him an immediate candidate to play snaps on both the X and Z, while the speedy Tyrin Smith could handle return duties while assisting Ainias Smith in the slot . Jalen Preston’s return is still in doubt, but if he does return, he’ll thrive most sharing snaps at the Z-Fielding Kickoff Returns.
How problematic is the lack of depth for the linebacker?
First off, I don’t want to turn into the “Doom and Gloom” author detailing Texas A&M’s current linebacker depth chart, but folks, it’s not pretty. The positive? Will (weak) linebacker Edgerrin Cooper and middle linebacker Chris Russell return for 2023, after which things get pretty muddy.
Behind Cooper, defensive coordinator DJ Durkin will most likely move second-line Martrell Harris as a weak reserve side, while new linebacker Taurean York is currently scheduled to directly back up Chris Russell at middle linebacker, but hope remains that a proven starting level of players might linger over the next few months be added to the transfer portal.
As fans know all too well, linebacker position has been one of the worst recruiting areas under both Kevin Sumlin and Jimbo Fisher over the past decade, particularly the loss of 2023 5-star linebacker Anthony Hill Jr. in the past Fall, it’s officially “work with whatcha got” time for a unit that may be struggling early on.
Will we finally see some explosiveness in Bobby Petrino’s first season as Texas A&M’s OC?
Missouri State Football head coach Bobby Petrino walks to the sidelines during the Bears game against the University of Central Arkansas at Plaster Stadium on Saturday, September 11, 2021.
Bobby Petrino, for those who don’t know, is one of the premier offensive heads in all of football, college or the NFL, with a career spanning nearly 40 years. Okay, so to avoid you getting gaslighting, Petrino is a fairly controversial new signing due to his very checkered past during his stints as head coach with Arkansas and the Atlanta Falcons, but at the age of 63 he has a chance to sit back in the coaching ranks of the Getting to Division 1 is all that matters, helping the Aggies win football games.
Now how much will offense improve under Petrino’s tutelage? Referring to a previous article that discussed which scheme will be deployed next season, head coach Jimbo Fisher’s base pro-style system will remain in place, but to take full advantage of quarterback Conner Weigman’s skills in the bag and the Passing game with one of the deepest and most dynamic wide-receiver units to open in the country, it’s time to spread it; Spreading formation, ie.
From a passing perspective, Conner Weigman’s ability to get the ball out quickly coupled with all three putative starting receivers (Ainias Smith, Evan Stewart, Moose Muhammad III) is route running, ball skills, fast option routes, stick routes and slants paired with a sprinkle of go routes offer the most consistency for pushing the ball down the field, coupled with an efficient running game to create a balanced yet explosive offense for the first time in Fisher’s tenure.
For all of this to work, the offensive line that will bring back all five starters, including center Bryce Foster, right guard Layden Robinson and right tackle Reuben Fatheree, should drastically improve both pass and run protection, and if so, we . Look forward to quite an offense in 2023.
Story originally appeared on Aggies Wire