Jimbo Fisher isn’t a fan of the word “reconstruction.” Good programs are constantly losing talent and falling behind. Big ones stay safe regardless of who leaves during the off-season.
Texas A&M doesn’t consider its 5-7 season in 2022 to be a rebuild. Instead, Fisher views it as a learning experience for his players and staff. As a result, the coach is giving up his play-calling duties in his sixth year for the first time since 1999 in favor of new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino.
Even with Petrino’s arrival from UNLV, the Aggies remain a mystery in the SEC. How much will the offspring of the historic recruiting class improve in 2022? How quickly can freshmen adjust to college life on campus? Can Texas A&M survive after massive player withdrawal?
Fisher takes the “new year, new us” approach that enters offseason workouts. Currently, Texas A&M has lost 24 grantees to the transfer portal after being upset 38-23 at the then-No. 5 LSU at Kyle Field in November. Cornerback Jaylon Jones, running back Devon Achane and defensive back Antonio Johnson were all drafted for the NFL as well.
Typically, programs can sustain the exit of one or two transfers. Twenty-four is almost unheard of, even in today’s college football arena, ruled by NIL and boosters who pay big bucks to sign a player long-term.
Several names wouldn’t see the 2023 field for Texas A&M anyway. Others were. The worst part? Three former players — cornerback Denver Harris (LSU), wide receiver Chris Marshall (Ole Miss) and defenseman Smoke Bouie (Georgia) — could all be reasons the Aggies are unable to win the SEC title next December.
Marshall and the Rebels will host the Aggies in Oxford on October 28, while Harris and the Tigers will take on them at Tigers Stadium on November 26. Bouie won’t meet Fisher and the Aggies during the regular season, but should both teams win their respective divisions, the Bulldogs would be the only program preventing A&M from potentially making the college football playoffs.
All is not lost for Texas A&M. From a starter’s standpoint, the Aggies aren’t going to replace much. Veterans such as linebacker Edgerrin Cooper, offensive lineman Layden Robinson, tight end Max Wright, safety Demani Richardson, and defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson all announced their intentions to return for another season. The Aggies are still waiting for receiver Ainias Smith to make his decision on whether to return for season five or get drafted in April.
On the younger side, Texas A&M should expect more maturity from Class 2022 members, who made an impact this past fall. Quarterback Conner Weigman is scheduled to go into the season as the Aggies’ starter and is committed to honing his craft this spring. Weigman is not expected to play for the Aggies baseball team for a second straight year to focus on football.
Weigman isn’t the only standout in his class. Receiver Evan Stewart should take on the new go-to weapon after leading the Aggies in receptions (53) and yards (649). Tight end Donovan Green is likely to increase his rep count after totaling 22 catches and two touchdowns as a freshman. Ditto for Noah Thomas, who became a focal point late in the year when Weigman took over QB1.
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In terms of new faces, the Aggies added three names via the portal with numerous representatives at their respective schools. North Carolina cornerback Tony Grimes was a two-year starter for the Tar Heels. UTEP wide receiver Tyrin Smith finished last season in Conference USA with over 1,300 yards for the Miners. Defenseman Sam McCall played both safety and cornerback during his lone year at Florida State and could be a rotation at both places under sophomore coordinator DJ Durkin.
Rueben Owens will be the freshman supervising on campus this spring. Owens, a five-star El Campo player, averaged 1,781 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns and should be an immediate candidate to take over Achane as the Aggies’ lead rusher.
Fisher might not be finished in the transfer portal either. The same goes for players currently on the Texas A&M roster. Wave two begins May 1, and the Aggies would be stupid not to target a linebacker or offensive tackle.
While the veterans remain on the roster, the youngsters will determine the outcome of next season. Texas A&M hasn’t won a conference title since RC Slocum stood on the sidelines in 1998.
Will 2023 be his year?
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