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The keys to success: Texas A&M’s Fisher goes in-depth on roster, coaching hires

Slinging the ball is especially important in the Texas A&M football team’s offense and being creative in how playmakers get the pass is equally vital.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher noted the multiple ways the Aggies are doing that while addressing reporters at the Southeastern Conference Media Days July 21. While quarterback Haynes King will be the signal caller, the coach pointed out the various weapons at his disposal thanks to veterans and newcomers who are expected to contribute in 2022. He signaled out several receivers: juniors Kenyon Jackson, Chase Lane and Devin Price, sophomore Moose Muhammad and true freshmen Chris Marshall, Evan Stewart and Noah Thomas.

“Evan Stewart is evolutionary,” Fisher said. “These young freshmen I’m really excited about. There’s some really good guys — three guys I’m extremely high on. You saw Evan was the MVP of our spring. I’ve never had a freshman come in and do that. You have Chris Marshall and Noah Thomas who I think are both highly, highly gifted skill guys who can jump in there.”

The value of the tight end in Fisher’s offense is obvious thanks to the Aggies signing three in the 2022 class: Donovan Green (6 feet 4 inches, 235 pounds), Jake Johnson (6-6, 245) and Theodor Melin Ohrstrom (6-5, 255 ). This group, however, will be led by senior Max Wright, who changed positions and has “done a really nice job,” Fisher said. He also was equally happy with Blake Smith, a former quarterback who is showing all the important traits for a tight end, and redshirt freshman Fernando Garza, who was injured.

“(Wright is) very physical, learning to become a receiver, good hands, consistent with what he’s doing,” the coach said. “Blake Smith is a guy who has really good ball skills, a big body, athletic, very instinctive of the play, learning to be physical at the line of scrimmage, which is very important. Garza is a very big bodied guy who was hurt in the spring and we haven’t seen as much of but has talent. Jake Johnson — that’s Max’s brother — is very talented, great hands, great routes, great understanding and played very well. Didn’t play in the spring game cause he got hurt right at the end but played very well. Then you have (Theodor Melin Ohrstrom) who came over from Sweden, who I think is extremely talented, can really run, tremendous ball skills, double-move guy and has versatility. And Donovan Green … was a great basketball player, catches it so effortlessly, can run and play. But now they got to play in this league. They’re very talented. I’m very excited. All those guys will have a chance, so we’ll see.”

The coach noted his offense has produced 4,000-yard seasons long before he took over the Aggies, dating back to his days at Florida State when Jameis Winston was his quarterback from 2012-14. And while Fisher feels good about the receivers, he noted there’s always room to get better.

“We need to throw better,” he said. “At Auburn, LSU and on those days, we were throwing it everywhere. We have to throw the football better and we know that and we will and we know how to do it, so we’ll get it down.”

Fisher also didn’t hold back his praise regarding new offensive line coach Steve Addazio, someone he is familiar with dating back their days while coaching in the state of Florida. He noted Addazio has always recruited well and has developed players to be their best.

“I coached against him when he was at Florida,” Fisher said. “They had a couple of guys who got drafted high, but a bunch of guys who were just blue collar guys with their schemes, their toughness, their physicality. The way they blocked us, the way they got after us, the physicality they played with, the consistency they play with. Our guys hated playing those guys. They were so fundamentally sound but tough. He’s tough love, he loves to coach hard, be hard, be physical, but he puts his hands around them and loves them hard when they’re off the field, and I think our personalities match. He has a great passion for being an offensive line coach and recruiting. I just have great respect, I know how he thinks for many years. They battled us, they did a great job. Sometimes they didn’t have as much talent as we had, but they played great games and did a great job against us. I have great respect for him.”

Another new addition to the Aggies staff is defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, another former Gators coach who battled Fisher and was most recently the co-defensive coordinator at Mississippi.

“They had great players, but they had great defenses. His teams were hard to go against, he was very sound, multiple, did different things. As his players’ talents changed, they changed what they did. It was very difficult to go against at different times. What I love is he’s always been a four-down guy, but he went to a three-down package at Ole Miss because of the personnel they had, which shows me how good of a coach he is and what he does being able to adapt to his personnel. I think he has diversity and knowledge and wisdom (because he’s been) around a long time. He did a great job for us in the spring.”

With so much talent, Fisher was asked how he managed a locker room. He noted communication and being clear on what is expected and reminding players that programs look for the best and most talented athletes all the time.

“We’ve always recruited at a high level at different places I’ve been, whether it was LSU, whether it was Florida State,” he said. “Competition, honesty and the best players play. If you’re the best player, you’ll play and it’s about competition. I think great players respect that, and I think it makes them raise their game. I think honesty and communication are the keys. I think that’s what you have to do as a coach. It’s our job to make sure they understand what we do, how we communicate with them. I haven’t seen a rule in the rule book that says freshmen can’t play, but I haven’t seen one that says they have to play. That’s all up to them based on the competition and the opportunities they have. That’s where you have to be in your locker room always on top of things and have a fresh line. Kids can talk to you, you can talk to them. As long as you communicate, you can always work out every problem.”

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