Four days ahead of the opening of spring practice and the upcoming Maroon & White game on Saturday, April 24, Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher met with the media to discuss how the program has progressed since its Orange Bowl win.
Here’s what we learned:
Following the graduation of veteran quarterback Kellen Mond, who shattered a multitude of records during the 2020 season, A&M is looking for a replacement. For options, Fisher and offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Darrell Dickey have sophomores Haynes King and Zach Calzada, in addition to incoming freshman Eli Stowers. King logged 59 passing yards and 43 rushing yards during his playing time against Alabama and South Carolina. Calzada did not see any playing time last season. Additionally, new recruit Stowers is coming in after leading Guyer High School to the 6A State Semifinal.
Fisher said it is an even playing field.
“Haynes, like I said, from the day he’s got here has [meshed with the offense],” Fisher said. “Zach has really focused himself. Very talented guy who calls now, the things he does, the questions he asks, the meetings, the walk throughs. I think he has it down. Eli Stowers has been amazing how quick he picked [the offense] up.”
In 2020, then-junior wide receiver Caleb Chapman recorded 152 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Florida, but a leg injury he sustained late in the game took him out for the remainder of the season. Since the season wrapped up, the status of Chapman and other players is still iffy heading into spring practices.
Fisher said there are four players who will be out for spring practice.
“Guys that are going to be out for the whole spring will be Chapman, because he’s recovering his [leg], he’ll be healthy by the end of it,” Fisher said. “Grayson Reed, Blake Smith who tweaked a knee … Wydermyer cut a finger on a hand in an off-the-field accident and required surgery on a tendon … those guys will be out.”
The Aggies had an incredibly dominant offensive line last year. Dubbed ‘The Maroon Goons,’ the offensive line unit was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award, which is an annual award given to the most outstanding offensive line in college football. With offensive line standouts such as Carson Green, Dan Moore Jr., Jared Hocker and Ryan McCollum graduating, the Maroon Goons are going to need to make adjustments to continue their excellence on the field.
Fisher said the flair of the Maroon Goons is certainly still present.
“There’s so many young talented players,” Fisher said. “I think that is a really good group of guys there [in the offensive line]. I’m anxious to see how they fit with each other. Like I said, the talent is there; there is no doubt.”
Utilizing extra year of eligibility
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA ruled that all athletes will be given an extra year of eligibility following this year’s athletic play. While some players chose to forgo their extra year and head straight to the NFL Draft, other players such as senior defensive tackle Jayden Peevy made the choice to stay with the Aggies for another year.
Fisher said players staying for an extra year shows a certain level of commitment.
“It shows their maturity,” Fisher said. “Where they get drafted matters. Your contract matters. I think guys saw that they have a chance to still improve and enhance their value going in. I think it's a very good decision for them, not being selfish. I truly believe they can grow. If there wasn’t anything they could get better at, I’d tell them they need to go.”
A&M’s on-campus pro day is set for Tuesday, March 30. Due to COVID-19, there was no NFL Combine this year. NFL teams will send their scouts to Kyle Field in order to observe the players who have declared for the NFL Draft so they can show off their skills with hope to increase their draft stock. In the presser, Fisher shared the advice he gave to his players participating in pro day.
“I hope they perform very well,” Fisher said. “They are getting their shot, and that's what they've worked their whole life for … I tell them, ‘Don't look at the scoreboard, let your preparation and what you do daily in your work habits come up. If you’ve put the work in and you've done it right, you’ll perform well.’”