What are Fisher's top personnel priorities for next season?
Texas A&M landed one of college football’s top coaches when Jimbo Fisher decided to leave Tallahassee and head to College Station. The move didn’t come cheap for the Aggies, but the program is willing to spend big money to make a run at a national championship or playoff berth. Fisher replaced Bobby Bowden at Florida State in 2010 and guided the program to an 82-23 record in his tenure. Additionally, the Seminoles won the 2013 title and finished 10th or better in the last Associated Press poll four times.
For every new coach, the to-do list after the initial press conference is pretty standard. The head coach has to recruit, implement scheme changes, build a staff of quality assistants and coordinators, discuss potential NFL Draft impact with juniors and work on any facility or support staff requests. Needless to say, that’s a lot.
While every coach has those goals in mind, it’s never too early to look at some of the personnel concerns surrounding a program and a new coach for the upcoming year.
Here’s an early look at three personnel question marks for Fisher to address in 2018:
3 Priorities for New Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher in 2018
1. Kellen Mond or Nick Starkel?
Fisher is inheriting two talented quarterbacks. Nick Starkel opened 2016 as the starter but suffered a leg injury against UCLA and missed the next six contests. He returned on Oct. 28 against Mississippi State and completed 8 of 15 passes for 133 yards and a score. Starkel ended the year with 10 touchdowns to 1,294 yards and five interceptions on 142 attempts. Mond’s numbers were similar to Starkel’s totals, as the San Antonio native threw for 1,375 yards and eight touchdowns. However, Mond is bigger threat on the ground, as he added 340 yards and three scores on 89 attempts in 2017. Fisher’s offenses are usually built around a pocket passer. Will that hold true in College Station? Or will Fisher adapt and utilize more read plays to get the quarterback involved with the rushing attack?
2. Fix the Offensive Line
It’s a bit of a cliché, but in order to win in the SEC, you have to be strong in the trenches. And that’s especially true in the West Division with matchups against LSU, Auburn and Alabama – three teams that have no trouble churning out talent on the defensive line. Texas A&M’s offensive line struggled to find the right mix in 2017 and it showed in its performance. The Aggies averaged only 136.1 rushing yards and 3.6 a carry in SEC contests. Additionally, this unit gave up 27 sacks and ranked 107th in adjusted line yards according to Football Outsiders. However, only one player that earned a start in the trenches is slated to depart. Getting this unit on track is crucial to developing an improved rushing attack and giving Starkel or Mond time to attack downfield.
3. Develop the Young Talent on Defense
Former coach Kevin Sumlin certainly didn’t leave the cupboard empty for Fisher. Of the Texas A&M defenders that recorded 20 or more tackles this season, only two are slated to graduate – safety Armani Watts and defensive lineman Zaycoven Henderson. Fisher didn’t announce a defensive coordinator at his first press conference, but it’s safe to say he will aim for a big name on this side of the ball. The Aggies return linebacker Tyrel Dodson (97 stops), end Landis Durham (8.5 sacks), and a handful of freshmen that saw major snaps in 2017, including safety Derrick Tucker and linebacker Anthony Hines. The Aggies gave up 5.5 yards a play and 28.7 points a game last season. Considering what returns for 2018, Fisher should be able to get this group playing at a higher level.