Texas A&M football: Five things to watch as spring drills start

COLLEGE STATION – A new era has arrived at Texas A&M, thanks to the addition of an old coach in former Atlanta Falcons, Arkansas and Louisville head Bobby Petrino, who will call up the offense under his new boss, Jimbo Fisher.

Spring drills start on Monday, and here are five things to watch leading up to the April 15 spring game at Kyle Field — or at least half of Kyle Field (more on that in a bit):

New dynamic

For the first time in more than two decades, Fisher won’t call plays in his offense, or at least that’s the idea of ​​bringing Petrino, 62, on board from UNLV, where he had just agreed to be offensive coordinator after being head coach at Missouri State for three seasons.

Petrino, serving only as offensive coordinator for the first time in more than two decades, will begin installing his scoring plan this week. It has been described in its most basic form as an adaptable approach focused on “just feeding the stallions,” according to an ESPN analysis. Coming to the first player to watch in spring drills: Conner Weigman.

All eyes on Conner Weigman

Fisher entered last spring with three quarterbacks vying for the job: Weigman, fresh out of Bridgeland High, Haynes King and Max Johnson. Due to injuries and ineptitude, Weigman, a five-star prospect, ended up starting four games to go in the season and threw eight touchdowns with zero interceptions.

Overall, the Aggies were terrible on offense under Fisher in 2022, ranking 101st of 131 Football Bowl Subdivision programs in scoring (22.8 points per game), but it wasn’t on Weigman, a latecomer looking to save a 5-7 season.

King has moved to Georgia Tech and Johnson is the backup, so this will be the first spring the gig is a miss for Weigman, and he has fresh eyes on his approach to Petrino.

Grass defensive line

Signing top-ranking defensive linemen has been Fisher’s greatest strength since arriving from Florida State six years ago, thanks to line coaches Terry Price and Elijah Robinson.

The defensive line is one of those positions in need of serious maturing, however, and even with a handful of five-star rookies the Aggies were one of the worst defenses in the nation last year against the run, ranked 123rd nationally in allowing 209 yards per game. on the ground.

This spring will be pivotal in the continued growth of former five-stars Walter Nolen, Shemar Stewart, Shemar Turner, LT Overton and Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy.

Personnel changes

Fisher, entering his sixth season at A&M, hired running backs coach Marquel Blackwell from Mississippi to take over for Tommie Robinson, whose contract was not renewed. Fisher also promoted Bryant Gross-Armiento from defensive analyst to secondary coach after linebackers coach Tyler Santucci left to become Duke’s defensive coordinator (A&M defensive coordinator DJ Durkin will now coach linebackers).

Dameyune Craig will switch from quarterbacks coach to receivers, while James Coley will switch from receivers to tight ends. Fisher, trying to bounce back from a losing season that included a home loss to Appalachian State, has a lot of moving parts to fine-tune and adjust starting Monday, and that’s just for his coaching staff.

About Kyle Field

The A&M spring game to wrap up practice at 3 p.m. on April 15 will look very different this year, and it’s sure to keep away some fans who don’t care to watch football’s version of halfcourt basketball.

Thanks to construction on the south endgame stands as A&M adds suites that should be ready for the start of this season, the Aggies will play their spring game on the north half of the field.

Too bad A&M can’t use one of nearby College Station, A&M Consolidated, or Bryan High School for the game, but that’s apparently against NCAA rules for a spring game.

In keeping with the midcourt spirit, A&M should make the game “make it get it” and “win by two.” At least the modified spring game is free to fans (as it has been for the most part) and the concession stands will be open, midfield.

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