Texas A&M begins spring football practice on Monday (and after the way basketball ended the timing couldn’t be better), with 15 practices over the next four weeks culminating with the Maroon & White Spring Game on April 15.
If we’re being honest, there isn’t always a lot we learn about teams in spring football. You have freshmen who have only been on campus for a couple of months, even more freshmen who are months away from arriving, and in the transfer portal era, there are likely more departures and arrivals of upperclassmen to come. Add in the fact that you’re only playing yourself (so every good play for one unit constitutes a bad play for another) and it can be hard to draw a lot of definitive conclusions. That said, there are some important storylines to monitor for A&M this spring as they look to rebound from a disastrous 5-7 season in 2022.
The Bobby Petrino experiment
More than anything, improvement in 2023 may ride (pun intended) on the success or failure of Jimbo’s hiring of offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino. The offense looked downright abysmal for much of last season, so even an average offense could pay huge dividends. As many have stated, this feels like a potentially volatile mix of personalities that will be either a rousing success or an utter catastrophe. But at least from an Xs and Os perspective, all fans’ eyes will be fixed on this new offensive system throughout spring ball. Hopefully the QBs can complete more than 36.9% of their passes in the this year’s spring game (yes I know the wind was a factor but in retrospect this probably should have set off more alarm bells a year ago).
The running back room
2022 bellow running back Devon Achane is off to the NFL, and that means there are a ton of carries to go around. The only question is: who will get the majority of them? The Aggies have traditionally featured one back heavily under Jimbo Fisher, with leads backs totaling at least 170 carries each of the last five seasons. The only season in which a second running back was even close to the starter in carries was when the Aggies had both Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane in 2020. But this is supposed to be a new offensive system, as well a new RB coach handling the rotation in Marquel Blackwell, so we honestly don’t know what we’ll expect. Will we see a true starting running back or more of a committee approach?
What we do know is that the Ags have no shortage of backfield options. Amari Daniels (5.6 yards per carry) and Leveon Moss (4.2 yards per carry) both proved effective in limited work in 2022. They’ll also be joined in the mix by freshman early enrollee Rueben Owens, rated by some recruiting services as the top high school running back in the country. I think it’s also safe to assume you’ll see Earnest Crownover mixed in on short yardage situations as well.
Texas A&M had the top pass defense in the country in 2022, but following departures both to the NFL Draft (Jaylon Jones/Antonio Johnson) and to the transfer portal (Denver Harris/Smoke Bouie/Marquis Groves-Killebrew/Myles Jones/Brian George/Josh Moten), you’ll see a lot of new faces in the Aggie secondary this spring. The returning starters are CB Tyreek Chappell, returning super senior S Demani Richardson and S Jardin Gilbert, which leaves at least two starting spots up for grabs. The odds-on favorites to fill those roles are likely sophomore Bryce Anderson (filling the nickel corner spot vacated by Antonio Johnson), and UNC transfer Tony Grimes (playing the corner spot vacated by Jaylon Jones), but don’t count out players like Jacoby Mathews, Jared Kerr, Deuce Harmon and Bobby Taylor playing their way onto the field. Aggies should also be aware of FSU transfer DB Sam McCall.
Super senior salvation?
Would it surprise you to learn that A&M lost more juniors to the NFL Draft than they did seniors to graduation? Thanks to the return of super seniors S Demani Richardson, TE Max Wright and WRs Ainias Smith and Jalen Preston, the only senior lost to graduation is long snapper Conner Choate. Considering the transfer portal departures (especially at WR), the return of these seniors could prove invaluable. At best, they all make significant on-field contributions. At worst, they’re a stabilizing force that brings veteran leadership and depth that helps injury-proof the roster. Either way, the fact that they’re back is nothing but good news, and their impact will be felt in spring as well as into the 2023 season.
Just 11 months ago, the 12th Man Foundation announced it’s Centennial Campaign, which will fund a $200 million facilities renovation that includes a new indoor practice facility, an academic and wellness center, renovations to the Bright Football Complex and a new indoor track facility. Not long after, a smaller renovation to Kyle Field was announced that will add a level of luxury suites to the south end of Kyle Field.
Fast forward to now, and these renovations are well underway, but spring practice is paying the price of progress. The Aggies’ former indoor practice facility is long gone, but the new one is literally a shell of it’s future self at the moment. While it it scheduled to be finished by the time fall camp rolls around, A&M appears to be without an indoor practice option this spring. In addition, the Kyle Field renovations mean that the Maroon & White game will be played on just half of a field.
While Texas A&M leads the SEC in returning production, they did lose a ton of depth to the transfer portal in December and January. With another portal window coming in May, it’s worthwhile to pay attention to which players appear buried on the depth chart and unlikely to see playing time. It sucks to talk about, but it’s a reality in this current era of college football that you simply never know which players will be around six months from now.
On a brighter note, A&M will likely look to make more additions via the portal in May as well, so the spring game may provide an even clearer picture of which position groups are in need of some supplementing.
What will you be paying attention to most during spring practice
This poll is closed
The RB rotation
Who’s starting in the secondary
Facilities updates (this is an odd choice)
Potential portal players