The Texas A&M football program has a busy spring ahead of it

The cold front that hit the Brazos Valley this weekend is more suited to soccer than diamond sports. Fittingly, the Aggies open spring football practice on Monday.

This begins Jimbo Fisher’s sixth season at Texas A&M, by far his most important. He came to A&M to win championships and the Aggies appear further from that than when he arrived considering A&M recorded their first loss since 2008, 5-7 last season. Even Kevin Sumlin managed to win 7-5 before winning the boot, because after six years with Sumlin at the helm, Aggie fans were weary of the 8-5 seasons that should have been. And if Fisher goes 8-5 next season, the chilling reality would be that it could be time for another change.

Give Fisher his right. The program is in much better shape than when it arrived, but so is Mike Sherman and Sumlin. The common thread is that A&M remains a sleeping giant. Fisher better wake it up now.

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It starts with the offensive, which has struggled a lot in the last two seasons. A&M averaged 22.8 points for 100th place in the country and 360.9 yards for 92nd place last year. Fisher fired his offensive coordinator — sort of.

A former quarterback and offensive coordinator, Fisher has been calling games throughout his 13 years as head coach, but his 13th year has not been a happy one. It was time for a change. He fired offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey, who was with him for five seasons. Dickey and the rest of the offensive assistant coaches put together game plans and provided input during games, but play-calling was Fisher’s baby.

What could be the keyword. Fisher replaced Dickey with former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, a great play-caller that A&M can attest to from his three wins over the Aggies with Petrino’s offense averaging 37.7 points and 485.7 yards in those games. If Fisher’s play-calling has become obsolete in the age of rush offense with today’s up-and-coming whiz, is Petrino too? Probably not. Petrino’s problem is his baggage, which doesn’t matter if he’s helping A&M win games.

But can Fisher and Petrino coexist? Will Petrino have carte blanche to carry out the crime or will Fisher have the final say? These are questions that will not be answered until autumn. Some were surprised Fisher retained offensive line coach Steve Addazio after the Aggies averaged just 141.5 yards per game last year to rank 79th in the country. A&M also allowed 25 sacks, and its much-maligned quarterbacks were often under pressure. Those are also reasons to fire someone, and Fisher ran off running backs coach Tommie Robinson.

Some won’t be sold to DJ Durkin as defensive coordinator after Mike Elko did such a great job for four seasons before being hired as Duke’s head coach. But with the offense struggling so much, it was hard to gauge what the defense was or wasn’t doing in 2022.

One thing is for sure. It will be a busy spring with many questions to be answered. Fisher has not met with local media since the early day of the signing on Dec. 21. Monday’s press conference could be quite lengthy, but at least the focus won’t be on the past year.

• Robert Cessna’s email address is [email protected]


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