Get it done, Jimbo Fisher.
By hook or by crook, get it done.
The Texas A&M brass decided that the former Florida State head coach was worth $79 million more than that cyborg Lee Majors played on television back in the ’70s before he became the Fall Guy. No one can ever say the Aggies aren’t after championships, even though Nick Saban might coach until he’s 125. They opened the vault and cut a massive upgrade check after Kevin Sumlin failed to get over that eight-win hump in his last four seasons.
Some believed the Aggies overpaid for Fisher’s services, especially since it wasn’t a huge secret that Fisher was interested in a change of scenery after a decade-plus in Tallahassee, Fla. Those same folks should be reminded that no price is too steep when a school lands the coach it seeks. Texas A&M got its man.
Fisher talks fast, and the people who brought him here are believing he will win fast.
With 48,129 at Kyle Field, his first Maroon-White game was about like any other spring football game across the country: good plays, bad plays, eternal optimism from all corners and fans taking it about as seriously as you would expect them to take a football game in April. Very seriously. For the record, the White team won 30-24.
“At the end, guys made plays to win the game instead of not making plays to win games,” Fisher said.
His wish list could probably fill a full page in this publication, but if you want to start with two must-haves in season No. 1, it would a sturdier defensive line and more playmaking behind center.
If the Aggies were still playing in the Big 12, quarterback would be priority one, but this is the SEC, where running the ball and stopping the run are usually the order of the day.
A&M will have to be better on the defensive line to take that next step. The SEC chews up teams that can’t stop the run, and the Aggies allowed 4.1 yards per carry in 2017, which put them in the middle of the pack in the conference. Fisher wasn’t happy to see one of his two starting quarterbacks (Nick Starkel) dumped on his carcass on the first play of the scrimmage, but his new defensive coordinator had no problem with it because it came courtesy of senior defensive tackle Daylon Mack.
“I made (the quarterbacks) semi-live,” Fisher said when asked if Mack was supposed to put hands on a QB.
The Aggies have been waiting for Mack to emerge for three years, and the Gladewater product has been largely inconsistent. If he can find himself this fall, Mack could be a game changer up front if A&M gets what it expects from his senior classmate Kingsley Keke, who played some of his best ball at the end of last season.
The Aggies will go only as far as this defense will take them, and players like linebackers Tyrel Dodson and Otaro Alaka will have to step up in the most physical football conference in the country.
I’m sure many of you believe quarterback should have been the top priority, but anyone who knows their SEC history understands that championships won in this conference haven’t always been won behind all-everything quarterbacks.
The best QB in the stadium was standing in the end zone when kicker Daniel LaCamera came up short on a 61-yard field-goal attempt to end the half. Johnny Manziel fielded the kick and burst to his right as the fans came to their feet upon recognizing the familiar gait that won at Alabama and crushed Oklahoma in a Cotton Bowl. The Heisman Trophy winner, who just finished up his two-game season in the Spring League in Austin, was in town to participate in a halftime flag football game with fellow A&M alumni.
As for the players who still have college football eligibility remaining, Starkel was better on this day than Kellen Mond, mostly due to the spectacular play of tight end Jace Sternberger, the spring team MVP who caught eight passes for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and wideout Jhamon Ausbon, who caught six for 124.
There isn’t a Manziel or Jameis Winston on this roster, so expect to hear terms like “game manager” and “decision making” this fall. Starkel completed 25 of 39 yards for 373 yards and the aforementioned touchdowns, while Mond was a a solid 19-for-26 with three scores.
The Fisher era has begun. The checks have cleared. All that remains are the wins. At least that’s what they’re saying in Aggieland.