COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M added UTEP fast receiver Tyrin Smith from the transfer portal in January. UTEP may add Smith again.
“Tyrin may or may not be here with us for a while and where he is,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said on Monday, the Aggies’ first day of spring practice. “…he’s debating whether he wants to stay here or go back, which has happened in recruiting sometimes during transfers.”
Since Smith left UTEP, starting back and team leader A&M receiver Ainias Smith has announced he plans to return for another season after missing much of last year with an injury, creating more room crowded to the internal receiver.
The Aggies also entered spring practice minus a handful of starting offensive linemen, mostly due to injuries: center Bryce Foster, center Matthew Wykoff, and tackle Trey Zuhn. Fisher also said tight end Max Wright, another senior leader, and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Hunter Erb will not take part in spring drills due to injuries.
Foster, who is also recovering from an injury that sidelined him at the end of last season, is competing in the shot put for the A&M track and field team this spring, so he will miss his second straight spring training while competing for the Coach Pat Henry’s track team.
Finally, on the injury front, Fisher said junior defenseman Deuce Harmon and tight end Jaden Platt will miss the start of spring training but will return before practice concludes. Spring game is April 15th.
The Aggies finished 5-7 last year with Fisher calling plays on one of the worst scoring offenses in the nation (101st of 133 Football Bowl Subdivision schedules). After the season Fisher fired offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey, who was more of a consultant than an actual offensive coordinator, and hired Bobby Petrino to manage the offense, although Petrino really managed the offense is debatable after Fisher’s first visit with the media in more than three months.
When asked whether Petrino, the former Atlanta Falcons, Arkansas and Louisville head coach, or Fisher will call the plays, Fisher first replied, “We’ll look into that as we go.”
Fisher went on to add, “Schedule me to make calls, schedule me to call plays, I have no problem with that.”
Fisher and Petrino, who has been the head coach at Missouri State for the past three seasons, practiced against each other in the Atlantic Coast Conference when Fisher was at Florida State and Petrino at Louisville for the second time from 2014-2018 .
“I’ve known him for a long time,” Fisher said of Petrino, who hasn’t been made available for an interview. “We have great mutual respect. When we spoke (this winter)… we thought it would be perfect for what we’re trying to do, what we believe in and what’s going on.”
Fisher also addressed the multi-position coaching changes he made for the second straight season. Fisher’s longtime assistant and protégé Dameyune Craig will transition from quarterbacks coach to wide receivers coach, where he coached before switching to quarterbacks entering the 2022 season.
James Coley will return from wide receivers to tight ends, which he coached before switching to wide receivers a year ago. Fisher did not keep running back coach Tommie Robinson and hired Marquel Blackwell from Mississippi to coach a group led by five-star signing Rueben Owens.
“Bringing Marquel in as running backs coach, he was the best comeback of our guys and what we thought was our most productive group,” Fisher said again referring to his staff in the offseason.
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 the linebackers.
Amidst all the trades, Fisher elected to retain offensive line coach Steve Addazio after the offensive line was the weakest link on the team last season. The Aggies had eight false starts, for example, in a 30-24 loss at South Carolina, another example of the overall ineptitude down the line.
“I think he’s a great coach, a very productive coach and has done that for a long time,” Fisher said of Addazio, a former head coach at Temple, Boston College and Colorado State. “I think he’ll do a great job.”
A&M opens its sixth year under Fisher, whose job will be at stake despite his long-term contract if he doesn’t produce at least one winning season in 2023, on Sept. 2 against New Mexico at Kyle Field, which is currently under construction refurbishment in the south terminal area with the addition of suites.
The Aggies and Petrino’s new offense will then get a quick test earlier in the year with a Sept. 9 game in Miami by the ACC. A&M defeated the Hurricanes and then first year head coach Mario Cristobal 17-9 last September at Kyle Field.