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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Fisher, Aggies ring in football season at SEC Media Days

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Sports writer Ryne Ryskoski breaks down the winners of the early signing period in the SEC.

College football is here.
Well, sort of.
For many, the SEC Media Days signify the beginning of the college football season. When head coach Jimbo Fisher took the podium on Thursday, July 21, the final day of the four-day event at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, it was clear that he felt the same way.
“We know this time of year, when I get to come over here, it means we’re ready to play ball,” Fisher said. “That’s the funnest time of our life as coaches; we get back to coaching, doing the things we got to do.”
Even more evident was the faith and confidence Fisher has in his team for the upcoming 2022 season. Two years removed from a 9-1 season with a No. 4 finish, and one year after a disappointing 8-4 season, the fifth-year head coach is all in on the team’s goal of a conference championship — or even a national title.
“When you’re talking about winning national championships, it’s not just understanding how to handle the expectations, it’s organizing and structuring the team to get to those points,” Fisher said. “I think we’re really right now at the beginning of that stage where we can do it consistently. I’m excited about the future of our program, I really am.”
Junior offensive lineman Layden Robinson, one of two players to accompany Fisher to the event along with senior defensive back Demani Richardson, echoed his coach’s expectations for the team.
“The goal for this team is to compete for the National Championship,” Robinson said. “Nothing has changed. We know our standard. Our standard is to be the best that we can be each and every day. We want to rise to the occasion, especially when the lights are the brightest. We just want to rise up this season.”
Standing in the way of the maroon and white achieving this goal are Nick Saban and Alabama. Winners of seven of the last 10 conference championships, the Crimson Tide have developed a stranglehold over the Southeastern Conference in the past decade.
But, the Aggies’ matchup with the Tide in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Oct. 8 will have added significance beyond SEC West superiority. Fans will have the game highlighted as the on-field conclusion to the highly publicized quarrel between Fisher and Saban that arose in May when the latter accused A&M of “buying” its top-ranked 2022 recruiting class.
Fisher was hit with multiple questions regarding the status of his relationship with Saban, and, regardless of what fans may think, made it known that the pair’s conflict has been resolved and they’ve moved on. Saban made similar comments on Tuesday, saying he has “no issues” with Fisher.
“Listen, we’re great,” Fisher said. “Two competitive guys that go at it. We all learn from things we do in our business. Two competitive guys on a topic that is very — everywhere, as they say. I have great respect for Nick [Saban]. Unfortunately, our thing went public. Sometimes that happens in this world. Nothing is private anymore, is it?”
A notable absence from the Media Days was senior wide receiver Ainias Smith, the Aggies’ third player to speak to the press. Smith was pulled over Wednesday morning, arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, unlawful carrying of a weapon and possession of less than two ounces of marijuana.
Fisher had no comment on the team captain, who has been suspended per athletic department policy.
Fisher touted that multiple areas of the team where A&M once struggled last season have now become strengths, such as their quarterback and offensive line. With crucial players now recovered from their injuries, coupled with the incoming freshmen, the Aggies have built up depth in positions where it lacked a year ago.
In the quarterback position, A&M now has three reliable options where they had just one healthy player on scholarship last season, current Auburn junior signal-caller Zach Calzada. LSU junior transfer Max Johnson, sophomore Haynes King and freshman Conner Weigman are set to duel for the spot in fall camp.
“I think [the quarterbacks] are learning off each other,” Fisher said. “I think they’re doing a great job of watching each other and being very competitive with each other, but also helping each other. It’s going to be a fun battle. At the end of spring, you finally saw Max [Johnson] starting to grasp what we were trying to do. You saw Haynes [King’s] health come in. Really in the last month, I’ve seen his feet, the way he’s throwing the ball, he’s really jumped out at me. Conner [Weigman], so natural and effortless. Last year, we needed three.”
The Aggies’ head coach was just as impressed with the look of the offensive line, anchored by Robinson, sophomore offensive lineman Reuben Fatherree and sophomore center Bryce Foster. Additionally, former Boston College and Colorado State head coach Steve Addazio comes to College Station to lead the group as the team’s new offensive line coach.
“I’m very excited about our offensive line,” Fisher said. “Coach Addazio has done a tremendous job. But, he and Layden [Robinson] and Bryce [Foster] and [redshirt freshman] Trey Zuhn now playing at left tackle along with some of those other guys and the battles that are going to be had, size, athleticism, I think Steve [Addazio] has done a great job. What we struggled with early last year, I think it’s going to be a really big strength of our team.”
With the arrival of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC no later than 2025, there has been much talk on how to arrange and organize each of the 16 teams’ conference schedules. One suggested format involves each team having three permanent opponents to face each season in order to keep existing rivalries in place
On that note, Fisher emphasized the Longhorns and LSU as two preferred opponents for the Aggies, with the third spot all but confirmed.
“You want Texas … when that schedule comes in, definitely because of that rivalry,” Fisher said. “I think LSU is a great rivalry. But that’s probably our two biggest. Then Arkansas goes into that, too. But, I don’t know if that was one of our three that they equated to us in what we did. I think the third time on our gamut, if I am not mistaken, was Mississippi State, another [SEC] West team.”
The press conference wasn’t all football, though. One reporter marveled at Fisher’s ability to speak so fast, opening the door for a priceless impression by the coach of a slow talker.
“Got to get the thoughts out,” Fisher joked. “How long you want to be here? If I talk slow … I give you lots of information in a short amount of time. I’m a reporter’s dream. Daggum, huh? How can you all be complaining about that? I could be slow and drawn out, let me think about it, where we’re going, what we’re doing. You want me to do all that?”
Fisher himself marveled at the downpour of rain in Atlanta, something the state of Texas hasn’t seen in quite some time.
“One thing today, I actually saw rain,” Fisher said. “That’s the first time I saw rain in three months. It’s been 100 to 106 [degrees] in College Station for three months. I didn’t know rain existed. I thought it went away. I hope y’all can push some of that rain our way. That’s the biggest news of the day for me, that it does rain again. I didn’t know if it did. Excited about that.”
Fisher is just as excited for the return of football to Aggieland as he is for the rain. With the healthy, talented and experienced roster that the team has, Fisher said the 12th Man should be too.
“I’m as confident about this organization as I have been at any time since I’ve been here,” Fisher said.

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