The first spring for Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M begins Tuesday with more than a little intrigue.
Fisher is taking over a program that has been to eight consecutive bowls and has had five consecutive seasons of at least eight wins. But he also is taking over a program known recently for its late-season swoons and o ne with a roster that has some holes.
Fisher and new defensive coordinator Mike Elko also bring new schemes with them; the one on offense will be more drastic than the one on defense. Fisher is a proponent of a pro-style attack while predecessor Kevin Sumlin favored the spread. That makes the quarterback battle this spring all the more interesting. But there will be a lot of interesting positions battles this spring – and this summer – for A&M.
The good: The wide receivers. Yes, despite the departures of Christian Kirk and Damion Ratley, the Aggies’ Nos. 1 and 3 receivers, respectively, A&M should be fine on the outside. Last season, A&M ran a lot of four-receiver sets; this season, Fisher plans to use a tight end, so depth will be a bit less of a factor. Jhamon Ausbon was the Aggies’ No. 2 receiver as a true freshman last season, and he’s a physical receiver with speed who has the ability to be a go-to guy. Two other sophomores, Camron Buckley and Roshauud Paul, should fit quite well in Fisher’s offense. And four other sophomores – Clyde Chriss, Quartney Davis, Hezekiah Jones and Kendrick Rogers – will be looking to impress this spring, too. Three true freshmen arrive over the summer. This is a young group with a ton of upside.
The bad: The line. Eight linemen started at times for the Aggies last season, and all eight are back. Alas, one reason there were eight starters is that the Aggies never got the push they wanted up front, and coaches were mixing and matching until the end of the season. Line coach Jim Turner returns, so there is some continuity there. But the schemes are different, so the group will be starting over in a way. Junior C Erik McCoy might be the only guy assured of a job. How the line comes together with all those returnees plus touted early enrollee Colten Blanton will be a big story this spring.
The newcomer to watch: TE Jace Sternberger. Texas A&M tight ends caught a combined 12 passes in the past three seasons under Sumlin, and while Fisher’s offense isn’t tight end-centric, the position figures to get more use. Sternberger is a JC transfer who enrolled in January and will go through spring drills. Fisher has made use of three-down tight ends in the past – i.e., tight ends who can block as well as catch – and if Sternberger shows this spring he can handle that kind of workload, he should go into summer camp as the top guy at the position. A&M is bringing in grad transfer Trevor Wood this summer (ironically, he’s transferring from Arizona, where Sumlin now is coach), but a good spring from Sternberger could mean Wood will be viewed as a backup.
The veteran on the spot: RB Kendall Bussey. Texas A&M returns leading rusher Trayveon Williams, but backup Keith Ford was a senior, meaning the door is open for Bussey, a junior, to potentially nail down the No. 2 spot during spring football. A&M signed three running backs in the 2018 recruiting class, but they arrive this summer. Bussey needs to show something this spring; if he doesn’t, he could end up as an after-thought this fall.
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