The Jimbo Fisher era is officially underway in College Station. Fisher has developed a positive reputation for his work with quarterbacks. He is very hands-on and has a methodical approach to the way that he recruits the position. The good news is that he has a couple of talented options on this roster. The last time we saw Nick Starkel at QB, he was throwing for 499 yards and 4 TDs in the bowl game. They lost that game, but perhaps that’s a thought best served for later. Starkel’s main competition will be Kellen Mond. Both guys had the opportunity to take significant reps last year throughout the season. Neither player should have an inherent advantage over the other due to seniority as this is a new staff and a level playing field. Starkel is more developed as a passer and Mond is a more dynamic runner. According to multiple reports, neither QB has won the job, and their play has been largely inconsistent. Mond has seemingly been riding a wave of momentum heading into the televised scrimmage, but I will be looking forward to seeing how comfortable both guys look in the new offense. My personal preference at this point is Starkel, but I’m also cognizant that Mond was a true freshman that was thrust into a very challenging situation in 2017 and has an intriguing skill set.
The Aggies will return one of the SEC’s most exciting backs but have very little proven depth behind him. Trayveon Williams burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2016. He followed up that season with a respectable sophomore campaign. The biggest change for him will be running behind a fullback. He estimated that 70% of his runs this spring have been with a fullback in the formation and that has allowed him to get one on one with a safety. Williams is deadly when the play is well blocked and he can have some space to work. I believe this style of offense will be a terrific fit for him and I think it’s likely Williams is one of the SEC’s most productive runners in 2018. Cullen Gillaspia is known as Texas A&M’s 12th Man. What that really boils down to is this guy is insane, in the best sense of the word, and will be a joy to watch block as he was recently moved from special teams savant to fullback. The Aggies’ OL wasn’t good last season, but they return nine players this season that have starting experience. RBs Kendall Bussey and Jacob Kibodi both return but neither one has gotten significant work in live games. Kibodi has great size, and he made the most of his opportunities last season. He only had 11 carries, but he averaged 11 yards per carry as a 6’2” and 210-pound true freshman. There are several new recruits that will also be vying for playing time in 2018. Jashaun Corbin is the most exciting of the bunch. He is very versatile and can be a weapon in the passing game. His skill set is most comparable to Williams’ so it will be interesting to see what his usage will be like in 2018. As far as what to expect from a CFF standpoint, Jimbo Fisher generally likes to use a feature back. Over the past five seasons, the leading RB on his teams have all gotten 170 rushes or more in a season. In 2014 and 2017, his RB1 and RB2 have each had 194/132 and 170/150, so it’s possible that two of these guys could get significant volume. Williams is the player that I’m extremely confident in right now, but I believe he would be most effective at this level and the next in a committee approach with a power back.
Similar to the RBs, there is really just one high-value, known quantity, at this point in Jhamon Ausbon. He had a very respectable freshman season last year and will now be looked upon to be the WR1 in this offense. Over the past five seasons, Fisher’s offenses haven’t featured many fantasy relevant WRs. The past three years, no player has surpassed 60 catches or accumulated 1,000 receiving yards. That being said, Ausbon likely has talent that many other players on those former rosters do not. 2017 was an up-and-down season for him, as you’d expect with a true freshman. While the sample size was small, according to Pro Football Focus, he dropped five of his 43 catchable passes which ranked him in the lowest ⅓ of qualifying players last season. Ausbon didn’t show much after the catch in 2017 so improving his explosiveness will be vital for him and his next level stock. Camron Buckley and Roshauud Paul are each talented players that could get some work primarily out of the slot. Paul boasts one of the most unbelievable high school seasons I’ve ever heard of. As a senior, he was awarded Mr. Texas Football after scoring more than 75 TDs as dual-threat QB! Guys like Quartney Davis, Kendrick Rodgers, and Hezekiah Jones still have opportunities to earn playing time, but they will need to hold off players like incoming freshman, Jalen Preston. Preston is listed at 6’2” and 212 pounds and that is before entering a collegiate strength program. He is an exceptional athlete that has some terrific basketball highlights in addition to football. The former Manvel High star will very likely contribute in 2018. How much he contributes will be dependent upon how fast he can transition to life in the SEC. Caleb Chapman and Montel Parker will join Preston this summer, but none of that talented trio of commitments will enroll early. Chapman could be used right away as a jump ball threat in the red zone so perhaps there is a navigable path for him to early playing time as well. Parker displayed fantastic versatility in high school but likely needs a refinement period.
The former staff never used their TEs. That will change with the new sheriff in town. It looks like the catch floor for the TE in this offense will be right around 20 with a ceiling closer to 50. JUCO transfer, early enrollee, Jace Sternberger is the type of TE that Fisher covets. He can block and be an asset in the passing game. TE was a position of emphasis in the most recent recruiting cycle as Glen Beal and Trevor Wood (Arizona transfer) will enroll this summer. I don’t know Beal, but Wood is a talented pass catcher that was underutilized in Rich Rodriguez’s offense.
One of my favorite hires of the off-season was Mike Elko as aTm’s defensive coordinator. Elko did a masterful job at Wake Forest and was most recently at Notre Dame. However, I’m not sure how much talent is on the current roster. I think it’s reasonable to expect Elko to get at least as much out of the team as Chavis did last season but I don’t look at this depth chart and feel fear if I’m an opposing offensive coordinator. LBs Otara Alaka and Tyrel Dodson should be in line for very productive seasons. Daylon Mack is a former 5-star DT that just hasn’t lived up to his potential thus far. We will see if the new staff can get it out of him in a contract year. Landis Durham is an EDGE that led the SEC in sacks last season and should be in line for a terrific second act. There are several corners with incredible length, but I’m not particularly confident about how far along they are at this stage of their careers. Jimbo Fisher was most likely a good hire. I’m not sure if the immediate returns will validate that hypothesis but the university certainly invested in his long-term ability to restore them to greatness.