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NFL Draft

Texas A&M’s Victory A Microcosm Of Why Jimbo Fisher Was Hired

  • The Draft Network
  • October 10, 2020
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Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012 and have been trying to prove they belong ever since.

That’s how it goes when you step into college football’s toughest tiger pit: you go 8-5, a lot, and eventually, you get tired of that. Head coach Kevin Sumlin was never able to get Texas A&M over the good-not-great hump, and as such, he was supplanted in 2018 by Jimbo Fisher. The messaging in College Station was clear: we’re swinging for the fences. 

Today, they finally hit their home run. No. 4 ranked Florida came into town, sporting the fifth-best offense in all of college football in points per game, and Texas A&M kept pace with them all the way to a game-winning 26-yard field goal as the clock expired. It sealed the Aggies’ first top-five win at Kyle Field in almost two decades.

The engine of the Texas A&M offense was sophomore running back Isaiah Spiller, who carried the ball 27 times for a whopping 174 yards (6.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, including this game-changing, go-ahead rumble on 4th-and-2.

Spiller’s 174 yards is the most he’s ever produced against a Power-5 opponent, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Florida defense proved it’s susceptible to physical running when they got bullied by South Carolina and running back Kevin Harris, who also hit the century mark on the ground—Spiller, at a healthy 225 pounds, feasted on the gaps wrenched open for him by the future NFLers on the Texas A&M offensive line. Right tackle Carson Green and right guard Jared Hocker both had quality outings on Saturday, but the real star was another sophomore: left guard Kenyon Green, who was the man Texas A&M ran behind when they absolutely needed one. 

Green was the highest-ranked recruit in the 2019 class for Fisher. The 15th overall prospect and a top-three OT recruit according to 247 Sports, Green highlighted the first top-five recruiting class for Texas A&M ever. That class not only also included Spiller, but 4-star tight end Jalen Wydermyer (5 receptions, 53 yards), 3-star wide receiver Chase Lane (5 receptions, 52 yards, 1 touchdown), and 3-star athlete Ainias Smith (9 touches, 76 yards). 

When Fisher was hired by Texas A&M for a famously bold $75M commitment, they weren’t necessarily hiring his 25-12 record over his last three years—they were hiring his recruiting success. Only twice in eight years at Florida State had Fisher failed to reel in a top-10 class, and the Aggies needed his success in Florida to translate to Texas. So far, Fisher is two for three: both that 2019 class and the incoming 2020 class ranked in the top 10.

Recruiting is only the first battle—development, gameplanning, and decision-making are all critical parts of coaching, and those are some areas in which Fisher has been recently enduring failures. But he was on point Saturday. The reshuffling of the backfield to feature Spiller while working Smith as a slot/gadget hybrid has worked perfectly to open up the running game while maximizing Smith’s space ability. The fourth down aggressiveness on the Spiller touchdown literally tipped the scales of the game—it was Texas A&M’s first lead. And the quality play of Kellen Mond in a huge home contest was marked.

Indeed, it was a record-setting day for Mond, the mercurial Aggie quarterback and potential NFLer. Mond is now the career-leader in passing yards among Texas A&M quarterbacks, passing Jerrod Johnson with 8,03. But perhaps even more importantly: Mond’s game was a statement performance for the league.

Mond’s game against Florida doesn’t erase his past failures—but he couldn’t have had a better game on a bigger stage, playing mistake-free football and never giving Florida the opportunity to build an insurmountable lead. He took the easy throws when he had them, and when the big plays were there, he hit.

Mond is, of course, a recruiting holdover from before Fisher’s era. But the offensive line that he’s grown with over the last few seasons, led by 2019’s star Green, gave him time and a successful running game, and the weaponry from that storied 2019 class has helped the Aggies endure opt-outs and present multiple playmakers—opening up the offense for Mond’s playmaking instincts.

Things aren’t perfect yet in College Station, but for today, they might as well be. Fisher and Mond, for at least this brief flash, delivered on their billing when Texas A&M committed to them as their heralds into a new era of SEC competitiveness. Florida was arguably the second-best SEC program coming into the day, behind the Alabama team that handled A&M last week, and Texas A&M did more than just belong: they brought home the statement win. With this in their pocket, recruiting only gets better and momentum within the program only grows.

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