Before I get going on this “analysis” I must fully disclose I’m a Max Johnson fan. I remember watching him at Kyle Field in 2020 and thinking LSU had a chance to beat us if he started that game. Thank goodness Coach O couldn’t figure that out. Part of that was TJ Finley looked so bad but I thought Max Johnson had some quarterbacking chops about him. We obviously saw what Max Johnson did to us in 2022. I think the kid can quarterback.
I don’t know what’s going to happen at quarterback for the 2022 Aggies. I don’t think Jimbo Fisher knows either. He’s got too many unknowns to pin down how quarterback is going to play out for the 2022 Aggies. Haynes King doesn’t have enough snaps. Max Johnson doesn’t have enough snaps in Jimbo’s system. Conner Weigman doesn’t have any snaps in any college. Lots of unknowns and variables.
In addition, Jimbo isn’t sure how strong his offensive line is going to be. He doesn’t know what capabilities his receiving corps has. He also doesn’t know his full running back situation. Lots of unknowns on the offense outside of just who’s taking the snaps.
I think it’s only between Haynes King and Max Johnson for the 2022 starter. I know Conner Weigman is the next coming of Johnny Football. I get that. However, even Johnny Football didn’t start his true freshman year in Aggieland. I know the promise of a backup quarterback is always the most exciting thing for a college football fan. That means hope springs eternal with Weigman.
For 2022 I don’t necessarily want Conner Weigman taking snaps. Sure, Trevor Lawrence won Clemson a title as a true freshman but I don’t think that’s what we’re looking at for the 2022 Aggies. That Clemson team was much different than this Aggie team. If Conner Weigman beats out of both King and Johnson then so be it. I don’t have a problem with that. I just don’t think you can make any analysis where Weigman gets significant playing time in 2022.
We’ve been hearing about Haynes King for 2 seasons. The problem is we don’t have a body of work to truly know what he can or can’t do. We know he’s extremely fast. Devon Achane says he might be the second fastest guy on offense which is quite a statement. Achane knows speed.
King is the son of a coach and won a state title in high school. He looks the part and talks the part. He just hasn’t played the part. Not saying he can’t. I think he can but we just haven’t seen it yet.
Max Johnson is the son of an NFL quarterback. He’s 6’5”/220. He’s left-handed which is rare from a success standpoint but he’s the prototypical quarterback from a physical standpoint. If he’s right-handed people are drooling over him. He can throw the ball and is much more mobile than people realize. He’s taken a lot of snaps in football games so we have a body of work we can get some information from.
Max Johnson’s biggest problem is he played 2 seasons for a crappy LSU football team. Those 2 seasons were so crappy it got a coach fired who had won a national title less than 2 seasons before he got fired. That’s crappy. Max Johnson didn’t have a lot to work with. LSU was tied for 111th in the country last year in sacks allowed. They averaged 3 sacks a game so Johnson didn’t have much time to throw for the most part. I don’t know what Max Johnson looks like with a better team but a quarterback is often the product of their surroundings. You need time and targets.
There’s not a lot of disappointment from LSU fans that Max Johnson left. They feel he didn’t do enough to win more games as the LSU quarterback. Like I said, most college football fans always believe the backup quarterback is always the better quarterback. Maybe Max Johnson is the LSU equivalent of Zach Calzada. I don’t see that. I think Johnson is everything Calzada was physically but with a much higher football IQ.
I also know getting Max Johnson also helped get his younger brother Jake Johnson. He’s a five star tight end. No doubt it helped but I don’t think that’s the only reason Max Johnson came to Aggieland.
Here’s What We Know From Games:
- Haynes King has started 2 football games. None of them in the SEC and only played one full game.
- Haynes King’s one full game was against Kent State where he was a 64% passer with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
- Max Johnson has started 14 games with 10 of those being SEC games. He’s played in 3 other SEC games.
- Max Johnson is a 60% career passer at LSU. He’s 58% in the SEC. 57% in SEC starts.
- Max Johnson has thrown 35 career touchdowns and 7 interceptions. That’s an outstanding 5 to 1 ratio. In career SEC games he’s thrown 22 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. In SEC starts it’s 20 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. That’s still an outstanding 4 to 1 ratio.
- Max Johnson has played significant snaps in these stadiums – Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama.
What Else Do We Know:
- For whatever reason Jimbo has never felt comfortable naming Haynes King the definitive starter. After the loss of Kellen Mond, it was clear the next starting quarterback would be Haynes King or Zach Calzada. It always seemed like Haynes King was the front runner, but Jimbo would never definitively say it. After watching Calzada last season it’s a little concerning to me Jimbo never named Haynes King the definitive starter much sooner in the process.
- Jimbo convinced Max Johnson to come to A&M. This has lots of variables because Johnson didn’t know his future at LSU with the coaching change. However, Jimbo likely convinced Max Johnson he has a legit chance to start at Texas A&M in 2022. Johnson didn’t announce his transfer intentions until after Brian Kelly was hired. Myles Brennan was already in the Transfer Portal. Brennan was LSU’s other quarterback so Johnson’s competition was leaving. Brennan decided to stay once Johnson left and Brian Kelly got there but before Johnson left it looked like Max Johnson would be the incumbent quarterback at LSU for Brian Kelly. Max Johnson didn’t care. He decided to transfer. Max Johnson didn’t come to A&M to back up Haynes King. He believed he could win the starting job. Max Johnson may wind up never taking significant snaps at A&M but Jimbo convinced him he had a legit chance to take significant snaps at A&M. Does that mean Jimbo doesn’t have full confidence in King? Maybe. Maybe not. I think it means Jimbo wants as much quarterback talent on his roster as he can get. Max Johnson is confident he can win the keys to the Aggie offense.
- Coming out of Spring 2022 there’s still not a clear leader at quarterback. Haynes King clearly has the most time in Jimbo’s system and took the first team snaps in the Spring. However, Jimbo talks as if it’s an open competition. I think he’s saying that because there’s no definitive leader.
What Does Jimbo Want To Do in 2022?:
There’s a bigger variable in all of this besides each quarterback’s ability. I believe King and Johnson are different quarterbacks. I believe King to be a decent passer with excellent speed. Not sure how elusive King is as a runner but he has raw speed. That brings a different element for attacking a defense. A running quarterback can do real damage to a defense. I think King can run every bit as good as Kellen Mond and likely much better. We saw how Jimbo liked to use Mond’s legs to keep defenses honest. Jimbo already has a blueprint of what he can do with a guy like King.
I believe Johnson to be a superior passer with better mobility than most people realize. Johnson can make throws. He did it against A&M in the 2021 game. That last touchdown pass that beat us was as good as it gets. That was the second great touchdown throw he had it in that game. Couple that with the fact Michael Clemons was hammering on Johnson the whole game and that pass looks all that more impressive. Johnson didn’t back down.
Does Jimbo believe he finally has the receivers to attack a defense downfield? Does he have faith in Ainias Smith, Evan Stewart, and Moose Muhammed to repeatedly get open? Does he think he has a deep threat? Does he trust his offensive line to give his quarterback time to throw?
If the answer to those questions is “Yes” then I think Max Johnson wins the job. He’s simply the better passer. If the answer is “No” then I think Haynes King wins the job. Jimbo will hopefully turn King into an improved 2020 version of Kellen Mond. That’s not a bad thing, people. 2020 Kellen Mond lost one game all season to Alabama. I think 2022 King will be better than 2020 Mond if that’s the route that Jimbo goes with.
I think we’re going to be fine at quarterback in 2022 but these two quarterbacks are different style players. A lot is going to depend on what kind of offense Jimbo thinks he can and wants to run.
What To Watch For:
Jimbo has a saying – “Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying.” That goes for how he handles playing time with his quarterbacks.
Zach Calzada played in zero games in 2020. Haynes King took the backup snaps in 2020. Zach Calzada didn’t get any significant snaps in the first game of 2021. King was always well ahead of Calzada in the quarterback hierarchy the past two seasons. JImbo said there was a close competition but his actions clearly indicated King was his quarterback all along. Calzada’s play in 2021 showed us why.
In game snaps mean everything to Jimbo when it comes to quarterback snaps.
I do believe at this point Jimbo is giving King the job to lose. He’s also telling Johnson he can win the starting job but his room for error is small. Johnson must be perfect to take the job. King knows the system and is a solid quarterback. I don’t think either guy is going to let the other guy win it during the off season. It’ll be decided on the field early in 2022.
The first two games of 2022 will give us a good indication of where things stand. This is assuming Jimbo doesn’t declare a definitive starter at some point over the summer. I don’t think he will as he’s not going to truly know what he has until there’s some game action against a non-Aggie opponent. Even if it is Sam Houston and Appalachian State.
I expect Haynes King to start each of these games. The big indicator will be when Johnson gets his snaps. If Johnson gets snaps in the first half of those two games then he’s neck and neck with King. If he doesn’t get snaps until the second half when the game has been decided then King is clearly the starter. The timing of snaps for Johnson will tell us what’s going on in Jimbo’s head.
If Max Johnson takes the first snaps of the first game then he’s the definitive starter for 2022. Jimbo will believe he’s the guy going forward and King is the clear backup. In that scenario Johnson can still play himself out of that position but if Johnson takes the first snaps of the season then that’s the horse Jimbo would prefer to ride.
I think the first 3 games will decide who the starting quarterback is for the rest of the 2022 season. We get a nice couple games at home and then a Miami team that’s in the first year of a new coach. That gives Jimbo the perfect scenario to decide which guy to ride the remaining 9 games.
I think we’re going to see King and Johnson share snaps in the first two games. How that happens I’m not sure and that doesn’t really matter. Maybe it’s 2 series and 2 series or 1st quarter and 2nd quarter. I think you’ll see Johnson in the first half of both of those games though. That means there is no definitive starter for Jimbo to start the season.
I think at some point in the Miami game Johnson goes in the first half and doesn’t come back out for the rest of the season. At least as a starter.
I have nothing against Haynes King and hope he’s successful. Jimbo didn’t just go get Max Johnson for the depth chart though. Max Johnson didn’t come to College Station because he likes wearing maroon on the sidelines. Jimbo and Max Johnson both believe he can be the starter.
I think Max Johnson will be the Aggie starter after the Miami game.
As long as whatever starter wins football games I don’t care who it is. I just want Aggie wins. My hunch tells me Jimbo thinks that’s Max Johnson for 2022. Which obviously means Haynes King will be our starter for the whole season…
The Jimbo/Saban Comments:
My quick thoughts are I don’t have a problem with any of it. Both coaches made their comments to weaponize their fan bases. Saban did it to spur more money from his boosters and Jimbo was standing up for his. Nothing more or less.
It’ll all get settled on the field but this makes for some great theater. I’m a little nervous because Jimbo just wrote some big checks he and his team need to cash but let’s be real. Bama has always been the target. Might as well go at them with everything you got.
To be the man you have to beat the man. Dusty Rhodes wasn’t afraid of Ric Flair and Jimbo ain’t afraid of Nick Saban. It’s risky business but Jimbo’s clearly up for it.