While many students returning to campus have been gathering around Aggieland with abandon, the Texas A&M football team is taking more precautions.
The Aggies held their first practice of the season Monday night after a month-long delay to the start of fall camp.
The start of the season may still be over a month away, but the start of practice provides some clarity to a time that is otherwise shrouded in uncertainty.
Over the summer, the team has been taking weekly COVID-19 tests in order to maintain as much of a “bubble” environment as possible, Fisher said. Now that classes have begun, Fisher said they will increase testing to twice per week.
The team does not currently have any positive cases, Fisher said.
“We had a couple guys quarantine out of precaution for another thing but they tested negative,” Fisher said.
Fisher said the team’s health is due to their willingness to follow the guidelines set by the NCAA, SEC and the athletic department.
“Our guys have done a tremendous job over the second half of this summer understanding how to do that because it was a learning curve,” Fisher said. “That’s why I think we’re free right now.”
A&M gave its players the option to opt out of the season if they were concerned about their health and safety, and Fisher said quarterback James Foster is the only one to do so. Foster previously announced he would enter the transfer portal on July 25, but when the 2020 roster was released on Monday, his name was still on the list.
Fisher said amid the uncertain times, his coaching staff has been a huge help to him.
“I have been able to lean on them when other things have happened,” Fisher said. “I made between 40 and 50 season plans now that everything changes every other day and practice plans and all that. You’re back and forth doing a lot of things administratively and you feel very comfortable when you’re out of that room, the guys that are in there and know what to do and how you want it done, offensively, defensively, special teams, and from that standpoint it is really [beneficial].”
Fisher said the focus for the team in fall camp is developing their depth at all positions in case of injuries or illness.
“You’re going to have to build your depth; you’re going to have to have guys ready,” Fisher said. “One day you could be a third-teamer, the next day you could be a first-teamer. We don’t know what’s about to happen. Hopefully nothing happens to anybody.”
According to A&M’s new schedule, the Aggies will open their 10-game, conference-only slate at home on Sept. 26 against Vanderbilt before facing Alabama in Week 2. The full schedule can be found here.
Fisher said the overall schedule doesn’t matter to him since A&M would have to play all the teams anyway, but the full SEC slate increases the level of difficulty.
“Things are what they are and they do what they do and you can’t worry about that,” Fisher said.
The focus is more on preparing to play, rather than preparing for specific opponents, senior quarterback Kellen Mond said.
“I never really cared what the schedule is,” Mond said. “I never tried to care about certain things you can’t control. We’ve always known playing in the SEC is going to be a difficult thing. It brings certain challenges but you look in the past and we’ve played great teams each and every year.”
As far as the precautions students should be taking on and around campus, Mond said they not only play a part in the season happening, but how well the team will do if it does.
“I look forward to them having as many fans, as many students at our games,” Mond said. “As football players, we depend on those people. If they can stay healthy, they’re only going to help us out as much as possible.”