Jimbo Fisher has 19 freshmen listed on his depth chart — almost four times the number of seniors listed.
This is a stark contrast to the Aggies’ 2018 depth chart, which boasted 15 seniors and only four freshmen.
As the season moves deeper into SEC play, A&M is seeing the effects of its inexperienced roster as the offense and defense are struggling against conference opponents Auburn and Arkansas.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said with a young team like the one he is leading, he relies on the leadership of his five seniors and 22 juniors.
“It’s like parents,” Fisher said on his radio show Wednesday night. “Players look at the older guys — that’s why it’s important for your older players to do things right because what those younger players see is what they emulate, just like kids do.”
Junior defensive tackle Justin Madubuike is one of those guys Fisher is trusting to lead the young team.
Madubuike said he is more of a vocal leader on the sideline and he knows players are striving to improve when they ask questions.
“The more questions they ask, the more I know they’re invested,” Madubuike said. “They want to play, they want to get better.”
Unlike Madubuike, not all players are comfortable in a vocal role. Fisher said it is more important that they comfortably lead by example than feel forced to be outspoken.
“We point things out to guys and we tell them, ‘This is not criticism; it’s feedback — however you take it,’” Fisher said. “‘You can’t get offended by what we’re telling you. Just understand it’s feedback and information for you to improve, and you have to take it that way.’ ”
The mental grind is the most challenging part for the young players to adapt to when transitioning to college football, Fisher said.
“People say, ‘Well, you’re young and you’ll learn to do that,’” Fisher said. “[But] you don’t have to be old to learn that. We have some young guys right now that are doing a really good job of that.”
Junior defensive back Keldrick Carper said a naivete about the difference between high school and college football is what makes the adjustment difficult.
“As older guys, we try to show the younger guys and mentor them and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t going to be easy; it’s a grind,’” Carper said. “We’re in the SEC. It’s going to be tough every single week. It’s not going to come easy like it did before. Young guys are a little naive at some point; they think, ‘I can still get by with how I used to play.’ But it’s not like that.”
The key to improvement is repetition, Fisher said.
“As a coach, people say, ‘What do you do?’” Fisher said. “Make them do it again. ‘What do you do?’ Make them do it again. Until it becomes a habit — until you understand the importance of it.”
As the Aggies come out of the bye week, they are only looking ahead to their next opponent, Madubuike said.
“We don’t worry about what we did against Texas State, against Clemson, against Lamar — those are in the past,” Madubuike said. “If we just take it one day at a time and be the best versions of ourselves that we can be, I believe it will work out.”