With Spring Practice hitting its full stride it’s time to talk a little football. I take Spring Practice reports with a grain of salt. Everything I’ve read is pretty much what I’ve expected. Jimbo Fisher actually coaches football and coaches more than anyone on his staff. Anyone that’s paid attention to Fisher in the past knows this. He doesn’t stand around clapping and offering encouragement with hollow words. Fisher gets in player’s faces offering ways to improve as a player. Jimbo Fisher is an actual football coach that understands the game and works directly with his players.
Some people say Jimbo is not a “CEO Coach” like Sumlin. Actually, he is a “CEO Coach.” He just happens to be the type of CEO that happily goes on sales calls looking to close more deals, meets regularly with the R&D team to see what’s being worked on digging into any issues with the team, understands the current HR issues to see how he can improve things, and a host of other activities related to his organization. He’s more interested than just earnings calls and going to conferences to talk on panels. CEO’s can get involved in the details and Jimbo is one of them. One coach loves to coach football along with handling everything else a head coach must do. The previous coach just liked to be the figurehead of a major organization hoping his assistants and players figure it out while he claps and says words. So yeah, things are different. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s been paying attention.
I won’t take much stock in practice reports until bullets start flying in September. Starkel will likely remain as the starting QB throughout the Spring, Summer, and Fall. It’s his position to lose although I’m sure Mond and Blumrik will get a chance to unseat him. There’s no Johnny Manziel on this team so get that out of your mind. Our offensive line continues to be a major work in progress lacking overall talent and depth. We’re converting from a spread offense to a more traditional pro-style offense. That presents a challenge we won’t know the reality until live action. Defensively we have starting talent but are still lacking overall depth. You just hope that Jimbo’s overall ability to actually be a coach is an improvement from the last coach.
From this point forward Jimbo must win and recruit in consecutive steps. This is what doomed the last four coaching regimes. You must continually both win on the field and in recruiting. R.C. stopped wining and his recruiting fell off which only made winning harder. Fran had the Cotton Bowl his second season and some decent recruiting classes with star talent but he could never do it consecutively. Same thing with Sherman. He had the 9-4 season but then went 6-6 blowing multiple first half leads. Sumlin had the 2012 season but then went 9-4 and never improved from there where his recruiting also fell off.
You can recruit all you want but if you don’t win your recruiting will fall off. The best recruiting tool is to win and continually win. The top recruits want to play for winners because winning on the field is all that matters. Jimbo was brought here to win football games on the field and nothing else. The belief is A&M just made a $75 million investment for a national championship. Anything less than that will be a disappointment. Winning a national championship is EXTREMELY difficult with the new playoff system but that’s what Jimbo was brought here to do.
Ideally Jimbo wins a championship in his first five years at A&M but that seems difficult considering the state of the program. I’ve come up with what I think are eight achievable steps based on the current state of A&M football, his pedigree, and the potential for the football program at Texas A&M. He can certainly improve on any of these steps and I hope he does but at minimum I think he needs to do the following 8 things to put Texas A&M in contention for the national championship over the next 10 years. To me these are reasonable steps and can be exceeded for a coach like Jimbo Fisher.
Step 1 – Close 2018 Recruiting Class:
This is done and Jimbo did a fine job. The class only ranked #17 nationally but the way Jimbo closed it was solid. The recruiting momentum was dead upon Sumlin’s departure. Not because Sumlin left but because there was just nothing to sell at Texas A&M. I’m convinced Leon O’Neal would have left A&M for good had it not been for Jimbo Fisher. Most people don’t realize it but Bobby Bowden’s last 4 years included Top 10 classes in 3 of those and the other was still Top 20. Florida State was struggling on the field but Bowden was still recruiting talent. Jimbo just had to keep it going at Florida State. At A&M he’s having to build it but he got off to a good solid start. Now he must win on the field to keep it going.
Step 2 – 8 regular season wins in 2018 Season:
I believe 8 regular season wins is the minimum for 2018. The West will take a step back in 2018 due to coaching changes except for Arkansas who should improve but we still have enough to beat them. The only acceptable losses I see for 2018 are Clemson, Bama, Auburn, and LSU. Clemson, Auburn, and LSU are all winnable games but I’m not sure we have the talent on the offensive line, at QB, and depth on defense to win those games. Don’t forget we’re going from a spread team to a pro-style offense so there’s going to be an adjustment. Even with that adjustment we must win 8 games. The learning curve isn’t that big and there’s enough talent to beat everyone else on our schedule. We get Kentucky at home from the East so the schedule is setup well.
The ideal realistic scenario is we beat LSU and win our bowl game winding up at 10-3 with a TON of momentum going into the off season. I’m all for doing better than that but if Jimbo pulls off 10-3 winning our last two games against LSU and the bowl game he’s going to have A&M sitting pretty. At minimum though he must go 8-4 and ideally win a bowl game putting us at 9-4.
Step 3 – Top 10 Recruiting Class in 2019:
It’s early but Jimbo currently has a Top 10 recruiting class. Lots of things can change but if Jimbo keeps doing what he’s doing and wins on the field he should have a Top 10 recruiting class for 2019. Most importantly though he must sign kids he can develop. I think he will based on how he’s been recruiting so far. He looks for football guys and not just numbers guys that look the part.
Step 4 – 10 regular season wins in 2019 Season:
10 regular season wins likely puts us second in the SEC West which should be the main goal for 2019. I’ll give Jimbo a little rope here just in case Stidham stays at Auburn for his final year or Eddie O pulls off something amazing in Baton Rouge. I don’t think either of those things happens so 10 wins puts us behind Alabama in the SEC West which would be perfect for Jimbo’s second year. We go to Clemson so that’s a wildcard right now but either way 10 regular season wins should be the minimum goal here building on the 2018 season.
Step 5 – Top 6 Recruiting Class in 2020:
At some point just being in the Top 10 won’t be good enough. To win a national championship you must recruit at the highest level. Jimbo needs to be knocking on the Top 5 at this point. Even better if he’s there.
Step 6 – Second in the SEC West in 2020:
Ideally we’re already second in the SEC West in 2019 and focused on winning the SEC West in 2020. If not, the 2020 season needs to be about being the clear second-best team in the SEC West. Nick Saban could be gone by 2020 making wining the SEC West easier but I’m not going to assume that. Saban will outlive us all and still be coaching Bama at 120 years of age. Seriously. Until he’s gone from the game I’m assuming nothing because he’s the king of college football. To think otherwise is foolish. If Saban is in Alabama you’re chasing second place.
Step 7 – Top 5 Recruiting Class in 2021:
Jimbo continues to build an elite recruiting school. Coaches can say all they want about getting “our guys” in a recruiting class but if you’re not consistently getting a Top 10 class you won’t win a national championship. “Our guys” means you’re picking from the second tier of athletes and not the true elite. The higher the ranking the better as it’s about being elite. It’s easier to coach when you have talent. That’s the difference between Nick Saban and Bill Snyder. Jimbo needs to be Top 5 at this point.
Step 8 – Win the SEC West in 2021:
Ideally we’re repeating as SEC West champions and poised for a national title run here. If Saban is still at Bama Jimbo needs to beat him for the SEC West in his fourth season. A&M isn’t chasing anyone else but a Saban lead Bama team at this point. Ideally Saban is gone and Jimbo has replaced him as the class of the SEC West. If that happens we’ll be on track to maintaining a status of an elite national football program. Once that happens every year will bring about a chance for a national championship. That’s what we’re paying Jimbo $75 million to do. It could take 4 seasons to get there and that’s okay. We just need to get there.
I have no clue if Jimbo gets there. Anybody that pretends they know is being a fool. Based on his pedigree and short time at A&M all of that looks VERY attainable. He wasn’t brought here to build ever so slightly on what R.C., Fran, Sherman, and Sumlin left. He was brought here to elevate A&M to a level we haven’t seen since the early 90s. Actually even better as we never really sniffed a national title from 85-95 which were the prime years of Aggie football. I hope he does better than those 8 steps above. I think it’s very possible but at minimum those are the steps I’d like to see over the next four years.
Let’s hope Jimbo Makes Aggie Football Great Again.
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